AmeriCorps is getting ready for Thanksgiving! This year we are taking cards and handprint turkeys to the hospitals while also having a food drive at the Children’s Home to donate to shelters! How do you like to help and give back for Thanksgiving?
Keepsacks for Kids is approaching quickly! On October 18, AmeriCorps members will join forces with those in the community for the projects FIFTEENTH year. Our goal is to make 1,000 blankets and 1,000 hygiene kits to then deliver to 30 different shelters in the tri-county area. If you would like to help we are still in need of plenty of donations!
Fleece blankets come in two sizes, 1.5 yards or 2 yards depending on child or adult and then is fringed and tied to be delivered. We are collecting donations of fleece (uncut and untied), blankets that have already been made, or monetary donations to go and buy the fleece.
Hygiene kits are going to kids, teens, and adults both male and female. These will be filled with toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, 2 in 1 shampoos, body wash, soap, combs, brushes, feminine hygiene products, band-aids, and other items that are often needed. We are accepting any of these items, along with monetary donations, and tube socks that double as bags for the items.
If you have any questions or you would like to help, please contact either Natalie or Rebecca.
Things have been crazy here in Peoria… Well, Washington. We have all of our members hard at work doing many different things. We’re coming up on FIVE MONTHS since the tornado ripped through Washington, East Peoria, and Pekin, Illinois. With the weather warming up, rebuilding and renovations have started and THIS is getting everyone’s spirits up. But with how busy things have been, the blog has been a little bare. Sorry about that! So here, is a bit of a recap of events for Fostering Transitions, AmeriCorps.
November 17 was the day of the tornadoes. Things were pure chaos for the weeks that followed. People were desperate to find a place to stay, they were contacting insurance, and gathering their possessions that were still there. We were setting up shelters, gathering donations, and getting them where they needed to go. Within the first few days, AmeriCorps had taken over all donations and had a distribution set up in Sunnyland Plaza. We had three stores there plus a few other warehouses to store everything that came in. The Midwest is known (by disaster aid organizations) for our generosity and it definitely showed! The three stores included the general store, an overflow area, and a strictly clothing store.
Today, nearly five months later, we still have two of the stores at Sunnyland Plaza and a warehouse or two. The stores have changed so much in this time though! We have gone from everything on pallets on the floor, to shelves, and an actual organized store! Not only this but we now get fresh produce brought to us every Friday and we are able to provide that for those in need as well. We really have come such a long way. We have gotten so many clothes we don’t know what to do with all of them. We’ve clothed those who needed it here locally and have sent clothes all over the world now to those in need. Hopefully soon we will be out of the clothing business as it’s not needed as much anymore. We still have our clothing store open and it is available for anyone. The general store has transitioned to a long term facility meaning that you have to have some sort of documentation to show that there was property damage. For example, customers must have a FEMA acceptance letter, and insurance document, or a Red Cross card. We serve about thirty families in a day and are still open four days a week. Everything is completely volunteer run. We have a few of our AmeriCorps members stationed out in Washington instead of other sites. I for example am stationed at The Children’s Home normally but since the tornado, I go to the office to turn in time sheets and for meetings, and the rest of the time am in Washington. But other than our AmeriCorps members, everything else is done by pure volunteers from all over. We have had girl scout and boy scout troops, Church groups, College groups, people from Washington, people from all over Central Illinois, and also from many other states. We have had donations flood in from very giving high schools, churches, and other people. We recently had 110 prom dresses delivered to us so that girls don’t have to worry about the HUNDREDS of dollars that prom costs. Through this, we have met some really amazing people. Although this all came from a tragedy, so much good has come from this!
We have celebrated many different things this year as AmeriCorps, such as MLK Day, Black History Month, Women’s History Month, HATCH, Child Abuse Awareness Month, Autism Awareness, Mayor Day, and many many others. We have been recognized for our service by the city of Washington and in just a few days, we will be recognized for our service by the city of Peoria as well. These are very big things for our program and we are all very proud of what we have done.
Not only have we been in Washington and celebrating wonderful things, but we still have many members who are hard at work at after school programs around the city. We have members who have finished half of their terms and are now in the home stretch of finishing up hours. We have members at the Dream Center, Salvation Army, and Friendship House. Because of our members involvement in these programs, we have children who’s lives are being changed by a positive influence that they may not have otherwise. AmeriCorps is really an amazing program!
Not only is our program and all the members amazing but we have a few AMAZING leaders. I would like to take a moment to talk about our Team Member Coach, Natalie. Natalie is a full time employee at the Children’s Home meaning that she has A LOT of stuff to do on site. But since the 18 of November, with the exception of maybe a week, and Sundays, Natalie has been in Washington EVERY SINGLE DAY. On some days she is both at the office and then at the donation center. She works from early in the morning to late into the evening every single day. She has made so many connections with those in the community and has befriended those who come in. She knows people by name and can always be the person to calm someone down. She heads the volunteers and makes sure that everything is being done correctly. She handles the stress and unfortunately the drama, very well. Natalie has really made an impact in Washington and touched hundreds of lives. Natalie has made me incredibly proud to be able to say that she’s my superviser. She has always been an excellent role model to all of us but now, working in this setting with her, I can say that she definitely has made an impact on my life and has set the standard for the type of person I want to be.
So, although we haven’t had much time to blog about what’s going on, we have been hard at work, getting lots of things done! Hopefully, I will be able to keep you more updated as time goes on!
Have a wonderful Monday!
November 17, 2013 has become a day that will not be easily forgotten by those who live in Central Illinois. Around 10:30 to 11 a tornado ripped through multiple areas in the areas surrounding Peoria. Washington getting the brunt of the storms which reached nearly 200 MPH winds while there were touchdowns in Pekin, East Peoria, Marquette Heights, and Roanoke. Devastation is widespread. There was luckily ONLY one fatality in Washington, but six throughout Illinois. Governor Pat Quinn has been going throughout Illinois assessing damage and visiting with the communities effected the greatest, seeing what the needs are and trying to lift spirits as best as he can. Volunteers are still being asked to stay out of the area, especially Washington, until they can determine what needs to be done and who can be of the most help. Stay tuned to news and radio reports, FEMA reports, and reports from American Red Cross, as they are the sources you should be listening to.
What can I do to help?
As of right now, Red Cross is asking to go online and make monetary donations, selecting that the funds be sent directly to the tornado relief. Although there will be needs in the next few days to weeks, once everything has been assessed the shelters will know exactly what they need. Right now, the area has been flooded with donations of all kinds, which is wonderful, although there is no areas to store anything yet. Again, stay tuned to see when they will be accepting donations and what they need.
What is AmeriCorps doing?
Today, our members gathered together at the Agency and put together everything we had including sleeping bags, blankets, hats, gloves, scarves, and hygiene items. We haven’t sent them anywhere as we are still waiting to hear where there is a need. We have also not been mobilized. We are ready and we are on call for when we are needed but until all of the damage has been assessed, we will not be sent anywhere. There are other AmeriCorps groups that are coming from Missouri and other states to help and once they have arrived, our AmeriCorps team will help them in whatever ways we can, be it lodging, transportation, or guidance as they are not familiar with the area. We will later be put in charge of volunteer groups at emergency child care places that have been opened, or at shelters, or food pantries, or with animals. Wherever we are needed we will be.
How can I stay updated and in the loop?
The past couple weeks have been very busy with lots of events and preparation for such. We went to Springfield for the National and Community Service Recognition Day where all of the Illinois AmeriCorps, Vistas, RSVPs, and Fostering Grandparents programs met and heard from a few speakers, were given the chance to give blood, and went through breakout sessions. After that we all met back together and marched down the streets of Springfield to the Capitol Building where we all recited the AmeriCorps Oath. It’s always an exciting event and a good experience for all of the members involved.
That weekend a couple of members helped at the Special Olympics Bowling, another awesome event that can be life changing. Volunteers help the participants bowl, give hugs and high fives, and help hand out awards. It’s an all day event that is not only very special to the teams and coaches participating, but then also for the volunteers.
Then came the Keepsacks Chaos. The office was full of members helping prepare bags for the hygiene kits and also activity bags for children. We were able to send out at least a hundred activity bags with a book, a coloring book, crayons, a toy, and either a beanie baby or a hot wheels car. This was the first year that we were able to put those together and it was a lot of fun working together trying to make these the best we could. We had a need of 1,200 blankets and nearly one thousand hygiene kits this year and we are still working on numbers of how many we achieved. A few days before we did last minute shopping and also got lunch arrangements figured out. The week before Keepsacks was crazy busy, but that’s what we love!
Keepsacks itself was the 19 and a success. We had many volunteers including girl scouts, high school groups, and college groups. Everyone was kept busy assembling hygiene kits, sorting blankets, and even making more blankets! We had close to twenty shelters that we helped this year which is awesome! Like I mentioned before, we don’t have numbers yet but as soon as we do, we’ll let you know!
Now, the upcoming events!
The East Bluff is doing a Deterrence Walk on Wisconsin with police officers, church officials, and those in the neighborhood. At nine o’clock we will take to the streets to show that not only crime happens on the streets after dark! In the past weeks, crime has hit a high and we’re showing the city that we are not going to just lay down and take it. We have people who are proud of where they are from and want to keep it safe. Feel free to join us! We are meeting at the UU church and riding over the East Bluff or you can meet us at the Glen Oak School Parking Lot.
The following weekend on November 2 starting at 9 AM The East Bluff Planting New Growth project is taking place. Many of us volunteers will be planting daffodil bulbs so that in the spring they bloom. This will signify new growth and new beginnings in this neighborhood. We had generous donations and our Vista Zack has done all of the coordinating. There will also be a clean up to get some of the garbage up off of the street. We want those in the East Bluff to be proud of their neighborhood and not be ashamed.
As you can see, AmeriCorps Fostering Transitions has been very busy! We plan on staying that way as we start up our Preschool Literacy Project for the year and also begin working on an AIDs/HIV awareness day. If you have any questions or would love to help us with any of our upcoming events, feel free to let us know!