Meet the Member Coach

Hello everyone!

Becca here to update you all on everything that has been keeping us so incredibly busy.  Our program has expanded quite a bit to take on more members and we have had a few staff changes as well.  Natalie, the old Member Coach has been moved up to Program Coordinator! This left the Member Coach position open.  Natalie and Jeff, the Program Director, wanted this position to be filled by an AmeriCorps alumnus who would be able to give insight to the program from a view-point that neither of them had.

So after two years as a member, serving 1,350 hours in total, I moved into role of Member Coach.  I took on this role at the very end of July and have been working alongside Natalie to form Fostering Transitions into our ideal AmeriCorps program.  This includes new sites, a lot of new members, and different project ideas.  As the member coach, I will work closely with the members to make sure that their term runs smoothly and they are using their hours to the fullest potential.  We want to make sure that they are not only serving at their host sites but also at other locations in the community and improving our program in other ways.  We are working on a few different projects and campaigns that we are all very excited about.

I am working with a small group of members on a Pop the Top campaign where we are collecting soda tabs to be donated to Ronald McDonald House.  We are going to be starting within the agency and at our sites and then moving out into the community.  We also are preparing for an AIDs awareness campaign that will be throughout the agency and sites as well.  Coming up for Martin Luther King Day we will be having a book drive that will benefit clients of the Children’s Home but also those in the East Bluff.

I am incredibly thankful to have been offered this role and to be able to remain a part of the AmeriCorps program.  I thoroughly enjoyed my two terms of service and think that our program is incredibly beneficial to the members involved but also to the people that we serve.  Many of our sites would not be able to exist without the help of AmeriCorps.  It is my goal to stay with the program until I finish my Social Work degree that I am working on.

In the coming days, I will be working with some of the new members to do some introductions!

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Gobble Gobble!

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?

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Keepsacks For Kids

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.

Natalie S.
nsalawage@chail.org
309-687-7428

Rebecca I.
rimpens@chail.org
309-687-7422

 

AmeriCorps Makes Front Page

Member Coach Becca and members Laura and T pose while on the peace walk Tuesday night.

Member Coach Becca and members Laura and T pose while on the peace walk Tuesday night.

AmeriCorps members T and Laura along with member coach, Becca, joined a peace walk through the East Bluff Neighborhood where the Children’s Home is located.  This peace walk went along with the third annual Night Out Against Crime where people from the neighborhood come together to make a difference to bring peace back to the area. 

There was a great turn out!  There were people who live and work in the East Bluff, the police and fire fighters that work in the area, and a couple dozen volunteers from Target who helped serve the delicious corn and hot dogs while also helping out with face painting.  The night was full of fun! 

Check out the front page article of the Peoria Journal Star!

http://www.pjstar.com/article/20140805/NEWS/140809533/0/SEARCH

Coming Full Circle: the road to recovery.

On February 9th, at 2:30 pm, I woke up in my car. I had blacked out on impact from an automobile accident while driving my son home from sledding. That day I woke up to a completely different world—a world that was not accessible. Three vertebrae in my neck had been damaged, a disc in my back was bulged, my femur was broken, and my acetabulum (what holds the ball of my hip in place) was broken all the way through. My son suffered wounds to his face from the broken windshield. All I could do was be still—I couldn’t even put weight on the left side of my body. Everything had changed.

I was confined to a wheelchair. My son and I moved back into my mother’s. It was hard to not be able to take care of my son, to bathe or cook for him, but it was being unable to keep up with him that was heartbreaking. I missed his Valentine’s Day party at school, which would have been fun for both of us (I’m studying to be a teacher, and practicing teaching craft lessons with the kids is good for my career goals). That was one of the many things I missed out on while recovering. I also lost a semester of school because hardly any buildings on my campus are handicap accessible.

As the weather got nicer, my son wanted to be outside more. We tried to take walks around the block. I wouldn’t think that rolling around the block would be difficult, but I was wrong. Tree roots, uneven sidewalks, and missing ramps made it nearly impossible to get around. It was very painful to try to navigate around a once-familiar neighborhood. Aside from the terrible pain I felt in my arms from trying to move the wheels, I felt the struggle of trying to keep up with my son.

It made me think about my experiences from Summer when I went with clients of PARC (now known as EP!C) and how wonderful it was to have a place that allowed individuals with disabilities to access nature. For 11 years, Camp Big Sky, a nonprofit organization, has been providing opportunities like fishing tournaments and camping.

On a Thursday morning, Phoebe Johnson brought the bus around and the two of us worked together to board three individuals from EP!C. Every other Thursday clients from EP!C get a chance to go visit Camp Big Sky. After seat belts were fastened and a walker was secure, we took off to Fairview, IL, to enjoy an afternoon of boating and hay rack riding. Sometimes, dependent upon the client, weather, and timeframe, clients would drop a cane pole into the water in the hopes of catching one of the bluegill that linger around the dock.

The route to camp cuts through memories of my childhood. We pass through Farmington, IL, on the main drag in which takes you downtown. I saw the Wareco gas station that I would visit for a cool drink or sugary snack, now all tattered and closed to the public. Right across the street was the doctor’s office I went to throughout my childhood. After we passed downtown, the terrain gets very hilly and you’d think we had found a portal to Vermont. However, we just found a place that the glaciers haven’t completely flattened when the terrain in Illinois was being formed. Clients looked at me, unsure of the shaking and the dips we experienced and I smiled with reassurance and clapped, pretending we were on a wooden coaster at Six Flags. In turn, they smiled and cheered back.

The view is very pleasant seeing ancient blue International Harvester corn bins, big red barns, Swedish quilt-like crests on buildings, and bodies of water. Phoebe made the final turn onto the white gravel road meeting the gate with a bleached bone white cow skull and sign declaring that this was Camp Big Sky. Our bus cleared a drastic hill to the top to where all the volunteers were waiting.

The fun began there. After unloading and slabbing on sunblock, we enjoyed a beautiful day at camp. A red-wing blackbird sang in a barren tree with a glimpse of the moon behind it. Aboard the pontoon, clients were thrilled to see a herd of cows run down to the strip mine lake and playfully moo and swim. We were joined by volunteers who attended a ten week training program, some of them clients from EP!C. One of the volunteer playfully suggested that the craft be dubbed the Burger Barge.

Seated on the hydraulic hay rack ride, I felt like I was transferred back into a time where Illinois hadn’t been settled. Long grass and clovers waved in the wind. An aerial view of the lake could be seen from our seats. Dragonflies of multiple colors could be spotted. The skies really were big and Kool Aid blue. Although bumpy and jolting, we all could have been seated in a covered wagon discovering the ground of the Camp for the first time. I think we all felt as free as the hawk that was flying high above these plains that day.

Although I am no longer in a wheel chair, I appreciate this place and am happy for its existence. I am happy that the client that is in a wheel chair could stroll with me in the tall prairie grass by means of a hayrack ride. I think of how difficult it was for me to go around my mother’s neighborhood and how I was alienated from my own school, and yet there is a place designated for all people to experience nature at no cost to them. I think of all the different people that the camp encompasses and the smiles and memories that come from pulling up a cane pole with a fish on it, or coasting down the lake by the breeze. I intend to take my son out there to enjoy its healing qualities that come from being out there. He is on the autistic spectrum and the owner has invited me to bring him out.

Camp Big Sky is open Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays (with additional days if needed). American Veterans are also welcome to experience the healing quality that recreation and nature can bring. More about the camp can be found at http://www.campbigsky.org.

 

The Lee's Landing dock at Bruce Lake.

The Lee’s Landing dock at Bruce Lake.

Summer Fun!

School is out, graduations are over, and there are big things happening in the Peoria area!  Summer is a good time for community actions and block parties and that’s exactly what is going to be happening!  Come August 5 at 5:00 in the evening, the entire East Bluff is coming together to do a peace walk and then celebrate the summer and a crime free area.  Join AmeriCorps with our friends from the East Bluff Community for the Night Out Against Crime!  There’s always delicious food and fun games along with lots of great people.  AmeriCorps is very excited to be helping for another year and can’t wait to have fun. 

But that’s not all that we have going on.  Ignite Peoria is also coming up in August at the Civic Center.  It’s an interactive art exhibit with visual arts, music, dance, theatre, and different unique arts.  We are very excited to go and see that and we invite you to come as well since general admission and parking is free for the event!  You can join us on August 9th for an entire day of fun!

(http://www.ignitepeoria.com/, http://artspartners.net/ignite-peoria/)

We have many new members starting a summer term and taking on a summer full of camp!  They will enjoy long days with many kids of all ages at a variety of different camps.  The members who are stationed at the Children’s Home will continue to find things to do all summer long while helping with the East Bluff Build It Up (formerly Taking Back Our Neighborhood), and will be visiting a few pre-schools for our literary projects.  Our project from last year where we teamed up with Youth Build has gotten back together and they are currently working on fixing up houses on Frye.  If you know of anyone in the East Bluff that may need some house work please contact Glen Oak Community Church about their In As Much program.

Of course, AmeriCorps would not be AmeriCorps if we did not start preparing for Keepsacks!  Keepsacks is our annual project where we gather fleece and hygiene items in order to make blankets and hygiene kits to deliver to the shelters in the area.  Did you know the average age of a homeless person in Illinois is 9 years old?  This fact breaks our hearts and so we do our very best to help take care of them while their family gets back on their feet.  Luckily, we have a surplus of hygiene supplies left over from our time in Washington to help make our kits but we will as always need donations for blankets. 

Enjoy the sun and stay cool!