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?
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!
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!
Now that we are into October, Keepsacks is growing closer and closer. There are donations arriving, hygiene items being inventoried, and blankets being sorted. In just a couple short weeks, there will be many volunteers gathered in the East Peoria High School cafeteria finishing blankets and putting together hundreds of hygiene kits. There will be breakfast, lunch, and a raffle for volunteers, along with a sense of pride in a day of volunteering.
What is Keepsacks?
Keepsacks is an annual event where AmeriCorps members and volunteers from the community get together and make hundreds of fleece blankets and hygiene kits to deliver to shelters in the Peoria Area. From there, these blankets and kits are given to families, children, teens, and adults to give them something that’s not only their own, but something to give them comfort. Times are tough right now, especially with the government shut down and more people without pay. Food is going to be harder to put on the table, some heat will be shut off for those who need help the most, and these people will be turning to anyone for help. That’s where we step in. For months we have been getting things together for this and on October 19 we will donate all of these items to those who need it the most.
If you are in the Peoria Area, we ask you to join us from anytime starting after 8:30. Pick up for the shelters begins at 3:30 and we will need help then also. There will be breakfast, lunch, and drinks for volunteers and a raffle for prizes as a thank you. Or if you would like to donate items, there is still time to donate any of the hygiene supplies or fleece for blankets. Feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Although the temperatures will be reaching 83 today, which is just hot enough to make me happy, there is rain the forecast. I hate to tell ya, but it’s the truth. Even though we haven’t had rain for a few days, the water has only receeded a small amount. Roads are still closed, houses are still evacuated, and people still need help. Today, the AmeriCorps team will be going through a Red Cross training to help with disaster relief. Hope packages will be distributed soon to families who may be back in their homes but still need assistance due to water damage. If you would like to help volunteer, you can contact the local Red Cross chapter at 677-7272 or email AmeriCorps at Americorps@chail.org