Devastation.

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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?

This website has everything that you need to know.  Who is involved, who needs what, where you can help, what you can donate, etc, etc.
Also feel free to contact us here at AmeriCorps: Fostering Transitions.
Coordinator Julie S: jsiebert@chail.org
Team Member Coach Natalie S: nsalawage@chail.org
AmeriCorps members: americorps@chail.org
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What We’ve Done and What We’re Doing

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!