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.
Becca, a member turned staff, will be the first one to say that her mom is amazing! Being a single mom is tough but Kelli has taken it all in stride. At one point Kelli worked four jobs on top of keeping up with two very active kids. She didn’t miss a single baseball game of Becca’s younger brother or a single performance when Becca did color guard in high school. Kelli also takes the title “mom” very seriously and takes in each and every person that walks through her door as if they were her own. There has been more than one occasion where Becca had come home after work to see her friends sitting on the couch with her mom. Kelli loves her children’s friends unconditionally and makes sure she sees them as often as she can. It’s easy to see why Kelli is Becca’s superhero!
As a writer, Becca also admires author J.K Rowling. Harry Potter has been life changing for her and she feels she can relate to some of J.K Rowling’s struggles, which helps Becca accept some things about her life. Not to mention, she would love to be as successful with her writing as J.K is!
Let us know who your superhero is! Be sure to tag us on Instagram and tag it #superselfies!
In roughly four months, the biggest event for Fostering Transitions: AmeriCorps takes place and everyone is already gearing up! Fleece has been bought, scissors are being sharpened, and hundred of donation letters and event flyers are being made. What exactly is Keepsacks for Kids? It is an annual project that collects fleece and hygiene supplies to then make blankets and hygiene kits for all the local shelters. Unfortunately, there is a huge need and we make hundreds upon hundreds of blankets and over a thousand hygiene kits. This is where the community comes in. We need donations. And a lot of them. We need fleece, hygiene supplies, scissors, bags, socks, and even gift cards can be very very helpful! We have gotten pretty creative with how we go about getting our help and this year we’re thinking about having groups sponsor a blanket. You can get together a group of your friends, your family, your coworkers, neighbors, and school mates, each chip a few dollars and make a no-sew blanket that can then go to someone in need.
Right now, it’s hard to think about anyone needing a blanket. The weather has been sweltering hot lately and all you want to do is sit in front of a fan. I get it. But just a couple of months ago, we were all bundled up in layers, still dealing with a polar vortex. There are people without layers who need a little extra. If this is something that you would like to be a part of, feel free to contact us on here. We will be sure to keep everyone updated on what we having going on and will be hopefully starting an Instagram soon so that everyone can enjoy the process with us.
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!
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!
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!
Devastation hit nearly a month ago in the Washington Area, a quick ten minutes from Peoria. That Sunday we all knew we would be called into the office, but we had no idea what this would entail. We had heard stories of AmeriCorps teams being part of the first responders to the Joplin and Moore Tornadoes in the past. Would that be us? Would be in the middle of the mess, picking up the pieces of people’s lives? Could we handle that? Our members are for the most part in schools, doing after school programs and tutoring. We were not disaster relief specialists and honestly, I don’t think emotionally ready for what we could have been asked to do. It was 8 AM Monday morning when members came in, current and past alike. We were ready, up for the challenge. We sorted everything we had in the basement that we could donate, hats, gloves,scarves, sleeping bags, hygiene items, and blankets. Then… We waited. We had to wait for the powers above us to give us the okay. So we waited, ate some McDonald’s… and then waited some more. We were almost disappointed! We were supposed to be there! Instead we were sitting in the office, eating McDonald’s, telling stories of how long we were without power, how windy it was, and how scared we all were for those who we knew who could have been effected.
Finally, we got the call. We were going to Washington and setting up a donation center. Not quite clean up, not quite right in the middle of it all, but the perfect spot for our loving and compassionate members who were in fact trained to take care of people. We headed to Washington and started sorting. We had tables and tables set up, Julie had helped take over for an exhausted Chamber of Commerce member who had be effected by the storm and was now in charge of donations, Natalie lead all of the sorting with some members, Andrew (an alum) photographed every bit of it, and Rebecca made phone calls. We knew that this banquet center wouldn’t last long as a donation center. We had trailer loads of things coming and there was no way that this could be what we needed it to be. Two days later, we moved. We went to an empty warehouse and filled the entire thing with shelves to put items on. Three empty stores became Donation Centers, and that was only the beginning.
Now, nearly a month later, we are still going strong. Three warehouses are filled to the ceilings with donations that are currently being sorted and then used to restock our shelves at Sunnyland Plaza. AmeriCorps has completely taken over donations and will be there for the long run. We were told to expect six months. We never ever would have guessed that we would be there that long, holding victims hands as they pick up what they need, hugging them as they cry, and reassuring them that we are there for them and that this was all for them. There have been some ups and downs and you’ll get that with anything like that. But we have truly seen the best of people and have been so blessed to be able to be a part of this.
This is a newspaper article all about our donation center, and although no members, nor Natalie were interviewed, member Brenton is pictured. For any information feel free to contact us here or on Facebook.
Fostering Transitions AmeriCorps (Facebook page)
AmeriCorps: Getting Things Done!
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?