Hello! Thank you for being here! I’m so pleased to welcome you to the presentation and report of the impact of the Ohio Campus Compact AmeriCorps VISTA at The University of Findlay. The picture shown was my first introduction to your great community which I would come to know and love over the next 12 months. It looks like it was kind of a dreary day. And I may have felt a bit dreary that day, having driven hundreds of miles from the comforts of my home in Atlanta, GA where I can order sweet tea at any restaurant and have never own a pair of boots! However, I believe that seemingly dreary, rainy day was only watering the seeds of growth for the experiences I have had here and the sunny days I have soaked up.
AmeriCorps VISTA-a lot of folks don’t know quite what that means because it is such a flexible and adaptable position. The way I feel I can best communicate it is to say that my overall goal as a VISTA is to alleviate poverty and I happen to do that through leveraging University resources (mainly student volunteers) and funneling them to the community non-profits. I’ve worked with The University of Findlay Campus Compact Center for Service and Learning as well as community non-profits, enhancing current and creating new programs to achieve this goal.
Ohio Campus Compact is a non-profit, membership coalition of 46 college and university campuses across Ohio, working to promote the civic purposes of higher education. Ohio Campus Compact (OCC) provides member campuses with a broad range of services -resources designed to increase the effectiveness of their civic engagement efforts. -build capacity to produce self-sustaining programs
This is a small example of the impact of the past VISTAs at UF. -The first Alternative Spring Break trip was started by the first VISTA. This trip led to having a Habitat for Humanity Student Organization which is now one of the strongest organizations on campus. -The Listserv, a weekly notification of volunteer opportunities that currently reaches over 1,000 people, was started by a VISTA -Academic Service-Learning: has grown due to the presence of VISTAs being able to take a good pulse of the community and identify community needs. -Sweet Service Saturdays: started by a VISTA and concept has been continued but partially passed on to Circle K -Service Ambassadors: started as a collaboration between International Education and Campus Compact with VISTA, program where international and domestic students serve together. Program is growing strong, with students presenting at Symposium for Scholarship and Creativity this semester. -Circle K: students worked with VISTA to create new student organization dedicated to a variety of service activities to help with sustainability of service activities.
Service, for me, is about stepping out of my comfort zone and making a connection. It is impossible to help someone else without connecting with them and either sympathizing, empathizing or really understanding what they might be going through. One of the first steps to serving others is knowing them. You were given a nametag when you walked in. My hope is that you will wear the name tag with your name so that others here in the room may get to know you. We are all here supporting the same cause, engaging campuses in their communities. The other item you received was a notecard with the story of a person who has been impacted by this Ohio Campus Compact AmeriCorps VISTA position. The stories are from one of the following categories: students, administration, faculty/staff, community partner, community volunteer, or recipient of services. There is no way I will be able to communicate to you fully the impact this position has had in the Findlay/Hancock County community. I only hope that the story you read will help you to understand a new aspect of this crucial work of connecting campuses to their communities and inspire you to connect with this work in new ways. Every voice and story is important and we must work together to use our unique gifts to better our community.
Since this position is focusing on helping individuals living in poverty, here are some poverty statistics:
As a newcomer to Northwest Ohio, I feel it is my job but also my honor to let you know about a few of the initiatives in this city which I am impressed and inspired by. Too often in non-profit work and in higher education, it is easy to focus on the issues and problems that exist. I have learned from my experience and also from the positive psychology movement that it is important to celebrate the good and build upon assets in an individual or a community. So, I will share some of those assets as I see them: Caring and active faith community- churches actively seek ways to be involved with hunger and housing initiatives. Community Dinners- weekly, people can come to one of 5 churches who rotate this task and have a meal where they are served as equals not as “clients” or with any other label Overflowing Supportive community clubs and businesses- Kiwannis, Rotary, Hancock Leadership, Marathon, Whirlpool, Cooper Tire, Main St. Deli, Bread Kneads…these are only a small portion of the names that are heard on a regular basis as collaborators and supporters of community initiatives and engaging in young people from a grassroots level. Non-profits who work together and collaborate on projects for the common good One example-The Family Center- Innovative and helpful space from The Community Foundation of Findlay/Hancock County where non-profits can save resources by sharing conference space and office resources and community members can receive various types of assistance in centralized location. UF involvement -Campus Compact coordinates volunteer and service learning activities but UF is engaged in the community far beyond that.
A note about gaps: they are not always bad. There will always be gaps in any community. Gaps leave opportunities for service. I’ve done my best to work on projects and programs that will fill some of these gaps with resources from The University of Findlay offering opportunities for students to serve and learn about the world around them. -Community education and awareness about poverty will be an issue anywhere. I found it especially difficult arriving in Findlay from Atlanta, GA, where the face of poverty and homelessness is frankly, unavoidable. In Atlanta, or any other sizable city, even if you choose not to walk on the same side of the street as someone sleeping on the sidewalk, you have noticed them. In Findlay, poverty is different and not always in plain view so communicating community needs can be a challenge. -Though there are many services offered to folks in need in Findlay and Hancock County, there was a need for an all-inclusive source. -There are already many great collaborative projects between non-profits that can only be strengthened -There is a growing movement among non-profits to include the opinions of folks receiving services in the plans to offer services. We sometimes refer to this as moving from a model of “Charity” to “Empowerment” This movement is catching on in Findlay but there is always a need to spread the word. -Diverse groups can be defined in many different ways, from inclusion of new student groups, community partners, elected officials or special causes. In order for work to be sustainable and effective, there must be involvement and buy-in from diverse groups.
Growing programs with over-stretched resources in the Campus Compact Center Opportunities for women to volunteer in women-only environment Opportunity for deeper service reflection-not only immediate community partner needs, but reflection on the causes of poverty and systems that contribute to it, more ways to act. New collaboration with diversity initiatives-economic diversity is a type of diversity New community partnerships Communication between students and recipients of community services Non-profits need more consistent small group or single volunteers, as opposed to one-time big volunteer groups Student involvement in indirect service opportunities including non-profit board committee participation
Some projects show up in both columns because they were a major focus of my work, but Campus Compact and other community organizations spearheaded them.
Campus Compact makes regular visits with community partners to check in on their needs and brainstorm new ways of partnering. This list includes the community partner visits I took part in.
Person to Person Game -similar to Apples to Apples -way to introduce community partners to students in fun and interesting way -game was used to help RAs brainstrom service projects and other student groups to find volunteer opportunities that match their interests -has been introduced to over 100 students so far! Make A Difference Fair -way to bring community partners to campus to connect directly with students -wanted to increase participation this year, so we added a theme “Get Glad, Go Make A Difference!” with smiley face balloons and all! -Introduced student advocates, students who volunteered to stand with community partners, making a direct connection and advocating for them among their peers. -included 25 community partners and was open to all students, faculty, and staff -survey results from students and community partners supported the fact that this event was a success! Many Thanks to the Campus Compact Staff for these projects!
One Matters-idea came from housing consortium Resource Fair Started with a rally Student connection Served over 200 families Mobilized Over 100 community volunteers 1/3 of volunteers were youth including UF student volunteers Help Portrait New kind of service Volunteer Coordination Served over 100 families Mobilized -over 100 community volunteers -over 15 student volunteers Both of these projects were very successful and will happen again! Many thanks to Wendy McCormick, Jen Schwartzlander, Bev Phillips, Erin Rodabaugh, Crystal Weitz, Amy Fisher and the rest of the planning committee and volunteers for One Matters! Many thanks to Nick Powell, Heather Syman, Ron and Teresa Knopf and a great committee for this project!
IELP (Intensive English Language Program) Studied Great Depression as an interesting and motivating way to learn English Fall 2010 was 1 st time class had been taught in this way. For this semester’s project, some students served in the usual ways by sorting and distributing food, but for this project, because of the volume of students involved, a new aspect was added. Another group of students worked one on one with folks in line to complete a survey for Chopin Hall about the Mobile Food Pantries, collecting feedback from folks who receive food from the Mobile Food Pantries. This was a great way for students to learn their course goals-reading, writing, listening while providing a service. They also had the opportunity to interact and work with students from Dr. Diana Montague’s Oiler Experience Class, enhancing their learning. Fall classes (with Dr. Montague’s Class)- 56 students, served 282 families It went well and we continued the project with another class this spring. We did shift the details a bit and had students serve at City Mission, Findlay’s emergency Shelter. Spring classes-31 students served over 125 meals Student reflections were especially meaningful to me In the fall class, during reflection, students asked why there were people waiting in line from 10pm on Friday night in the cold to receive food the next morning One student reflected that he was so thankful to have the opportunity to serve in this way. In his home country, the government agencies take care of the poor and poverty is hidden. This bothers him because, as a Muslim, he feels called to serve the poor and the government takes this opportunity away from him to practice his faith. -In the spring class, I had students approach me after our final reflection asking if they could hold a donation drive on campus for City Mission. They knew of several international students (themselves included) who would be leaving to go home in May and might want to donate their bed linens, clothes, or other household items. I’m working with these students to arrange the donations. Many Thanks to Erin Laverick, Crystal Weitz, and all of the IELP Faculty who collaborated on this project in so many ways!
Idea grew out of need expressed by International GAs for women-only service projects. 22 women attended first brainstorming meeting We planned 4 service projects for spring semester Women of the world tea party with The Heritage Thinking Day with Girl Scouts Culture Day with The Center for Autism and Dyslexia Conversations with Hope House Reflections included conversation about women’s issues, women’s empowerment, building assets in young girls and culture. These service projects recruited students who had never volunteered before as well as gave students new ways to use their gifts and passions. Their service time totaled over 93 hours for the semester! How is this poverty related? If there is a single parent/income household, the parent is likely to be female. The largest segment of Americans living in poverty is elderly women. In Hancock County in 2007, Single-female households with children under 18 have the highest rate of poverty at 38.3%. It is essential for young women at UF to be aware of these issues and act in proactive ways to empower women in the community and decrease this gap. The program was successful and so we are reviewing the year’s activities to make needed adjustments and working toward sustainability for next year. Many Thanks to Samantha Rigsby, Sarah Everly, Shravani Neelam, and Natsue Yonekura for their collaboration and tireless support of this program!
In honor of the work of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I worked with the UF Campus Compact and the Office of Intercultural Student Services with a grant from Ohio Campus Compact to sponsor an MLK Day of Service and Retreat to give student leaders a chance to look at leadership in a different way, through a lens of service. The day began with students volunteering at The Heritage nursing home, interviewing residents about their experiences with the Civil Rights Movement and/or times when they stood up for something they believed in. Students took notes on the conversations and the stories were compiled into a story book that will be returned to the residents, their families and a copy kept in the Black Heritage Library, The Heritage, Shafer Library here on campus, and possibly other locations. Students used the stories they heard at The Heritage, Dr. King and other leaders as models for reflecting on how their diverse gifts can help them to be leaders in service to whatever cause most moves them. Students read parts of Dr. King’s most famous speeches, reflecting on how they can apply those social justice issues such as poverty, war, and violence to their lives as they serve their community. Guest speaker, Robin Walters-Powell, Director of Social Work at The University of Findlay, shared a motivational presentation on her experiences with diversity and service and how students can be leaders by serving even in the most simple ways. The day concluded with students writing letters to themselves about their experiences that day and what they plan to do with what they’ve experienced. Students also each completed a piece of a reflection poster which is displayed in the Campus Compact Center. Thanks to Almar Walter, Pastor Will Miller, Robin Walters-Powell, the UF Campus Compact Staff, Sharinda Welton-Peeler, Jamie Kittle of The Heritage, Jerome Gray and Nina Parker of the Black Heritage Library and Multi-Cultural Center and Ohio Campus Compact for the grant! without the help of all of these sources, the day would not have been possible!
This year, for the first time at UF, the VISTA Assignment Description has included working closely 5 hours/week with two community partners as part of the Poverty Alleviation focus areas. For this VISTA grant term, those areas are Housing/homelessness and Food access/hunger. The goal with this assignment is to strengthen the partnership with organizations who fill these community needs. I worked with our local Habitat for Humanity Affiliate and Chopin Hall, a grassroots food pantry to provide assistance with those “dream” projects that non-profits don’t often get to work on because they are busy with the day to day operations. -I worked with the Habitat ReStore staff and volunteers to plan ReStore’s fall event for United Way’s CarTunes project. Students participating in the Orientation Service Project were placed at ReStore to run this event and help raise awareness of the opportunites ReStore holds. -I worked with Wendy McCormick, Habitat’s director, on the One Matters Project Connect Event. We worked together to coordinate booth registration and location details for the event. -One of my major projects for the year has been developing a Speakers Bureau for Habitat. The goal of the speakers bureau is to educate the community about the work of habitat from the perspective of volunteers and partner families. I worked with Tim Bechtol, Church Relations Chair of the board and Wendy McCormick, director, to develop a training and resources including a powerpoint presentation, inspirational reflection, and a packet of information about Habitat for the speakers to use at a variety of speaking engagements. We trained our first group of 10 speakers in January and they have already begun to impact the community and spread the word about Habitat! I’ve worked very closely with the Habitat for Humanity Campus Chapter here at UF. -Alternative Spring Break Trip to Americus, GA -Act! Speak! Build! Week -Box city-take action sheet -Hunger awareness meal Help develop Board’s Volunteer committee Attend Board meetings Help on builds Will collaborate with Habitat for Humanity Campus Chapter to sponsor a food and furniture drive benefitting ReStore and Chopin Hall starting tomorrow and running through Monday, so be sure to clean out your room, house, cabinet, or freezer and donate!
-Grassroots food pantry/clothing distribution organization -Run by about 120 volunteers mostly ages 60-80 and 1 part-time director -Serves over 300 individuals/week -Located in The Family Center My first project was collecting information and updating a food access brochure to be available in the Chopin Hall lobby. This was quite the challenge for me seeing as I was completely new to Findlay and services such as this are not always regular. Because of the changing and adding of resources in the non-profit world, the brochure will need constant updating but at least the structure is set. I will actually update it again this coming week! One of the things that amazed me most about Chopin Hall, besides the incredibly dedicated and organized volunteers, is the fact that this organization has run smoothly for about 27 years without an operating manual. Marti, the director tells me it has always been on the “dream list” to be able to have a volunteer and operating manual but those are longer term projects, not directly affecting the day to day operations, and therefore not top priority. I was able to work with Marti and key volunteers to develop a comprehensive manual which will be ready soon! As a part of the Academic Service Learning project with the Intensive English Language Program, students worked one on one with folks in line at a Mobile Food Pantry to complete a survey about the MFP. The overall survey results were very positive and appreciative. One of the constant requests from organizations wishing to do service at UF is for projects that can be done on campus with groups. This posed an opportunity for creativity for me. Marti and I had been discussing the state of the Chopin Hall lobby and how we thought it could be more useful to folks waiting there. With feedback from Marti and first person research with folks waiting in the lobby, we decided that UF students could create educational posters about useful topics (GED opportunities, smoking cessation, community resources) to hang in the lobby. This gave the students an opportunity to learn about community needs and use their creativity to provide a needed service to Chopin Hall. So far, a total of 7 posters have been made involving over 40 students! I’m currently working with Marti and other volunteers to create a way for Chopin Hall’s 100+ volunteers to better communicate and stay updated on current happenings. As I mentioned earlier, the food collected from the upcoming drive will be donated to Chopin Hall. This end of year drive when students can clean out their refrigerators, freezers, and cabinets has been on the “Dream list” for Chopin Hall for 2 years and hopefully will be continued!
Some highlights: One group of students from the Technical Communications class taught by Dr. Nikki Diedrich completed a brochure for the trial run of a shuttle public transportation system in Findlay. The brochure was used and distributed to community non-profits and businesses to educate community members about the shuttle system. Highlights from co-curricular service Learning: -FFA Marilyn’s Lifelong Learning Center at the Macklin Intergenerational Institute at Birchaven -a one-time service project for Circle K with Special Kids Therapy has developed into an ongoing partnership -Paying Positive Forward-worked closely with Sarah Everly, planning and presenting project to variety of audiences -Balloon Brigade-there are so many festive events on campus that use balloons to decorate. students noticed that after these events, the balloons are usually popped and thrown away. They decided to share the joy of these balloons with patients at Blanchard Valley Hospital. We made several trips there and so the staff member at the check-in desk and nurses on each floor know the brigade well and could tell us right when we come in which rooms have children or would especially enjoy the cheerful gift.
-We are thankful for the support of The University of Findlay and Ohio Campus Compact -The VISTA grant does not last forever. From year to year, UF Campus Compact has to reapply in hopes but with no guarantee that a position will be granted. -The community and University assets (as previously listed) are available to help this office grow. There is great potential to be realized with steady resources! -A steady and continuous position supported by The University of Findlay is necessary because time and resources are lost when a new VISTA must be orientated every year. -We hope that The University of Findlay will choose to sustain this position based on the impact of the previous 7 VISTAs. There is still much work to be done!
Gwen Stembridge Ohio Campus Compact AmeriCorps VISTA 2010-2011 The University of Findlay Impact Report
10,490 individuals (14.1% of the population) receive government food assistance
2011 Homeless Point-in-Time Count Total-130
Average Home Price- $163,161
% of minors (<18) living under the federal poverty line- 12.6% % of total individuals living under the federal poverty line- 9.8% Unemployment Rate- 10.3% *Statistics retrieved from the websites of Job and Family Services, www.city-data.com, and Hope House