Meet the Members: Jessica

Jessica aka “The Creator”

If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.

-John F. Kennedy

Jessica's Super Selfie

Hello, my name is Jessica. I’d like to introduce myself. Although I have blogged on occasion, I don’t believe that we have met. I am a 4th and final-term member on the last leg of my last term ever! Looking at the past four years of my life, I can’t believe it! I have been involved in community service for years. In high school, I was a member of the Key Club, a community based volunteering club. I was also crowned Miss Compassionate Crown, a local pageant system that recognizes individuals for their compassion towards those in their community. I decided that once again, I wanted to be involved in community service and was accepted to be an AmeriCorps member at the Children’s Home in 2009. I have a strong artistic background and I am able to utilize this in my service. Some highlights from past terms include entering clients’ artwork to the HOI and Illinois State Fair (where these contests earned ribbons). It was especially exciting to go with the clients to experience the fair, the food, and to see their work in a gallery. It gave these children the chance to experience the simple, yet wholesome, Americana event that is a local fair.
Voices for Children has selected Children’s Home to have a contest in which they wanted clients to create and design a non-denominational Christmas card that would be printed, sold, and created into an E card. A student I mentored and gave art lessons to was the one chosen to have her card published. I know that was a huge accomplishment for her. To recognize all of the contestants, Voices threw a huge pizza party with three enormous cakes- the clients loved them! I was very happy to work with them for two years to encourage them to go after their dreams and help instill a little confidence in their abilities.
During another term I had the opportunity to work with the individuals at EP!C, a local agency that serves people with developmental delays and/or physical limitations. My timing was perfect as the agency was working on building up their art program ( a project now known as EPICasso). Though I’ve studied to be a teacher, text books can never fully prepare you for what it is like to work with individual people. I learned about special brushes and tools that would allow people with different abilities to be able to create art. I watched a blind man paint something truly amazing. A client who is 94 years young always steals the show with her energy and artistic gifts. One of my favorite events to date was the art gallery showing client artwork. I got to see all the lessons and hard work that I contributed to, framed and displayed in a real gallery where clients and their families could attend. The show was beautifully named, “Kaleidoscope,” as the pieces of artwork were created by so many diverse individuals. I continue to help co-teach these art lessons as well as attend field trips to Camp Big Sky with clients (read the previous post for more about that).
In my past four years, my eyes and heart have been opened to so many people. I have been affiliated with EP!C, the Center For Prevention of Abuse, Peoria Friends of People with AIDS, the Special Olympics, the Sun Foundation, Youth Farm, East Bluff Build It Up, the Dirty Laundry Project, the Washington Tornado Relief Center, and Keepsacks for Kids. Outside of AmeriCorps, I volunteered in Kauai, Hawaii in Koke’e State Park and Waimea canyon where I worked in the rain forest to remove invasive plants and help repair hiking trails.
During my spare time, I enjoy reading, writing, photography, drawing and painting, and traveling. I have been working on a book about quirky things in Illinois and so I enjoy visiting different cities and getting the scoop for my side project. I am a full time mother to a wonderful seven year old boy. Although I am still figuring out my career path, I enjoy helping others reach their full human potential and include art in some fashion. I am currently studying to be an art teacher at Eureka College.

We’re Back!

After 6 months of hard work, we’ve officially closed the Washington Tornado Relief Center. It’s a bittersweet feeling; while we’re thrilled to see people back on their feet, we’ll also miss all the wonderful volunteers and neighbors we’ve met. There’s too much to say about this experience for one post, so for now I’ll stick to the facts:

1. The WTRC was open from November 18th, 2013- May 10th, 2014.

2. During those 6 months we had countless volunteers (and by “countless” I mean, “we’re still counting them!”) who logged over 5000 hours of service time.

3. There were days when we had over 100 people come to the store for help.

4. We worked with many local (and not-so-local) organizations to find, receive, coordinate, and give out thousands of donations.

5. We filled 3 stores at the Washington Plaza in Sunnyland, plus 4 or 5 warehouses, with donations.

6. People from as far away as North Carolina and New Jersey traveled to the WTRC to volunteer with us.

7. AmeriCorps St. Louis came to Washington immediately after the tornadoes to take over the phone/volunteer coordination for us–and they were fantastic!

8. The Salvation Army and Red Cross brought hot food and drinks to us so we could feed our volunteers (and ourselves!) for several days.  The Red Cross continued to bring us hot chocolate and coffee all through the record-breaking cold this winter.

9. There were lots of tears–at first, tears of sadness and shock; but then, tears of happiness and relief as people started to put their lives back together.

10. We celebrated 3 major holidays at the Center–Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. They might be some of the most memorable -and meaningful- holidays we’ll ever celebrate.

 

So, the WTRC is closed.  We’re still helping to make sure the remaining donations (mostly water, perfect for the hot summer coming up) gets to those in need, but we’re no longer in Washington daily.  The people we met, the stories we heard, and the volunteers who gave so much to help those in need will always stay with us, though.  They’ve become a part of our program, a part of our community, and a part of our lives.  And we’ll always be grateful for the opportunity to be part of their story.  We’re sure, no matter what, they’ll stay Washington Strong!

 

 

.Washington AmeriCorps

More on Keepsacks.

Keepsacks

As Becca said in yesterday’s post, our annual Keepsacks for Kids project is coming up quickly.  Now that we’ve started some of our new members (and brought back a few of our old ones) we’re gearing up for this awesome event. Since Becca explained the project already, I’ll just add our request for donations and help with hygiene kits.

Ideally, our hygiene kits will be specialized by age and sex. Our wish list for each hygiene kit includes shampoo/conditioner, liquid body wash, razors and shaving cream for adults, deodorant, hair brush/comb, lotion, face/body wipes, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, mouthwash, wash cloth or hand towel, bandages, antibiotic ointment, cotton balls, tissues, pads and tampons for adult women, and hand sanitizer. Since donations and money are scarce, we know that we should have realistic expectations.  Our most-needed items are listed in the graphic above, but we’ll happily accept any donations that come our way.  We ask that items be unopened or unused, especially if they are hotel-sized travel items.  Things that are individually packaged are best, but items in bulk that can’t be separated are always useful for large families or agencies that cater to many people.

 

We’d love for you to be a part in our Keepsacks for Kids project. On behalf of the hundreds of people who will receive a warm blanket and a hygiene kit this winter, THANK YOU!

Views from the Conference

Some more pictures from the 2013 National Conference on Volunteering and Service in Washington DC.

Becca, Shaquita, and Kiona participating in a service project at the conference.

Becca, Shaquita, and Kiona participating in a service project at the conference.

Shaquita working hard.

Shaquita working hard.

A few of the supplies put together by the volunteers at the conference.

A few of the supplies put together by the volunteers at the conference.

Our fearless leader posing with the "AmeriCorpse."

Our fearless leader posing with the “AmeriCorpse.”

Meet the Members: Gerald

Time for another segment of Meet the Members.  Introducing…Gerald!

Gerald.

Gerald.

Hi my name is Gerald and I have been working with the AmeriCorps team for 9 or 10 months. We have been working on community projects and doing things to help the East Bluff neighborhood out with some of the projects. The AmeriCorps team is dedicated to help out the people that have been down and out or that live in houses that needed fixed up. We help out at the Dream Center, Neighborhood house, and a lot of non-profits in the Peoria area. AmeriCorps is a great opportunity for people to learn job skills and gain job experience for the jobs that they want to apply for in the future. It gives you knowledge on things that you want to know or haven’t learned yet for the people that don’t have jobs that want a job. The AmeriCorps team is happy to help the people that don’t have job because they offer a whole lot that I wouldn’t pass up and I would actually like to do it all again because it was a fun ride here with the AmeriCorps team. The people that I have worked with have good personalities. The person that I worked with the most while I was here would be Natalie and she is very good to get along with and when you’re having a bad you can always go to her and talk to her.  When you are feeling down she is the best person to go to that can cheer you up. It’s been one heck of a ride for me and I would like to do it over again.

Not quite ready for the shot.

Not quite ready for the shot.

An East Bluff update.

Here’s a local news station’s coverage of the projects we’ve been working on in the East Bluff. Check it out!

 

AmeriCorps and YouthBuild, working together to better our neighborhoods!

AmeriCorps and YouthBuild, working together to better our neighborhoods!

Meet Another Member: Alisha!

Alisha, with our unofficial office mascot.

Alisha, with our unofficial office mascot.

Hi everyone I’m Alisha. I’m 20 years old and I’ve been with AmeriCorps for a little over a year. In that time I’ve worked on many projects, a few of them being: helping at the Midwest Food Bank, volunteering at the March Madness Access the Experience, and doing various preschool projects. At the Midwest Food Bank we packaged Tender Mercies to be shipped to disasters areas. The March Madness Access the Experience Field Trip Day, is a day where they change the games for people with disabilities so that they are able to play them too. The game I helped at was called Driveway Knockout. At our most recent trip to the Urban League Preschool we read the book How Full is Your Bucket for kids and then helped the kids do a craft that I designed. The craft was to fill origami buckets with paper water droplets that had stickers of things that made the kids happy. Before we went to the preschool I had to teach all of the AmeriCorps members and Natalie how to make the buckets. My favorite thing about AmeriCorps is all the opportunities to go out into the community and help people. I also like that it gives us a chance to grow as people. I personally have seen changes in myself since joining AmeriCorps. In my free time (wait what free time?) I like to read, hang out with friends, and on rare occasions go horseback riding. My future career plans are to go into the social work field but I’m not sure what part of it. Well that’s me.

Meet a Real Member…

Not to say Natalie isn’t real, she just is the boss lady, not a member.  But I am!  My name is Rebecca, more commonly known as Becca, one of the babies of the AmeriCorps team.  This is my first term as a member and I took on the task of 675 hours, one of the four choices of terms you can have.  I am located at the Children’s Home Agency itself in one of the hottest offices upstairs.  I do a handful of different things here.  I either am emailing or making phone calls offering our services to local non-profits, working on a project for one of our events, making lists of things that need to be done, or building my relationship with the other members of the team.

I’m a Social Work major and have learned so much from being a member by gaining hands on experience that you can’t get from the classroom.  I try to stay busy in my free time when I’m not working one of three jobs or doing homework, by coming up with ideas of what I can do to help in the community.  I enjoy long walks on the beach and watching the stars…. Actually I really like taking naps and eating as much food as I can!

That about sums me up!  Happy blogging!

This is me, freezing at the Peoria Court House for HATCH

This is me, freezing at the Peoria Court House for HATCH

Meet the Members…kind of.

Hello readers! Fresh from a successful night at the TBON Celebration Dinner, it’s back to work for PeoriaCorps.  We’re getting ready for the Great American Cleanup (more on that later), but in the meantime we’d like to bring you the first of many “Meet the Members” installments on the blog. We’ve got about 20 AmeriCorps members in our group, working throughout Peoria. Then there’s Julie, our fearless leader and procurer-of-funding; Jeff, the big boss in charge; and Natalie, the one on the ground (that’s me!).  While our members change every year, the three of us behind the desks stay pretty constant.  I’m the one who usually posts here (though not always; I’ll introduce you to Becca later), and I spend a lot of time with the members planning and implementing our projects in the community.  My job is basically to help the members grow through our service work, Civic Engagement activities, retreats, trainings, and educational activities. I’m lucky because I get to be a part of nearly all our projects in a hands-on way–I’ve worked side-by-side with the members for over a year now, and I love it.

Here I am (on the right) at the 2012 National Conference on Volunteering and Service with one of our former members, Carla.

Here I am (on the right) at the 2012 National Conference on Volunteering and Service with one of our former members, Carla.

So there you go–not quite a true “Meet the Members” post, since I’m not a member, but an introduction to our introductions. Now you have one face to match to what we do here, with more to come soon. If you see any of us, feel free to say hello! Just look for the AmeriCorps logo:

AmeriCorps Background

-Natalie

 

P.S. Here’s another introduction–meet Charles, our friendly neighborhood helper.

Charles, waiting for his daily snack.

Charles, waiting for his daily snack.