GardenShare Fights Hunger in Rural North Country, NY with Community Volunteers

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This June, we’ll be featuring stories of national service programs operating in the Healthy Futures focus area. National service programs like AmeriCorps and the Volunteer Generation Fund can play a key role in promoting health within a state, from coordinating community gardening, delivering summer meals, to promoting healthy lifestyles, outdoor activities, and fitness. Learn more at nationalservice.gov/focus-areas/healthy-futures. #HealthyFutures

NEW YORK.  GardenShare is a locally-led nonprofit seeking to end hunger and strengthen food security in northern New York State, and is a recipient of the New York State Commission on National and Community Service’s Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) grant. Gardenshare’s mission is to solve the problem of hunger in St. Lawrence County by strengthening the food system to benefit residents across the rural county.

At GardenShare-supported farmers markets, VGF-supported volunteers provide education and information to low-income consumers about the benefits of buying fresh fruits and vegetables.

In addition, GardenShare has announced its second year of offering “double dollars” at farmers markets to consumers who receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Last year, this program increased the SNAP benefit use at farmers markets by 70%, and GardenShare plans to expand this program this year to reach a larger population. This allows low-income individuals and families to purchase twice as much produce if using their SNAP benefits, and is an important step towards their mission of making fresh, healthy food available to everyone.

GardenShare’s mission and activities exemplify the Healthy Futures focus area of national service. Last year, more than 500 volunteers contributed to capacity building efforts, and provided 8,000 meals for individuals and families in rural, upstate New York.

Learn more about GardenShare and sign up to volunteer at www.gardenshare.org.

Learn more about the NY Commission on National and Community Service’s Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) program here.

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AmeriCorps Members Promote Healthy Futures in West Virginia as Community Health Developers, Lifestyle Coaches

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This June, we’ll be featuring stories of AmeriCorps State service programs operating in the Healthy Futures focus area. AmeriCorps programs often play a key role in promoting health within a state, from coordinating community gardening, delivering summer meals, to promoting healthy lifestyles, outdoor activities, and fitness. Learn more at nationalservice.gov/focus-areas/healthy-futures. #HealthyFutures

WEST VIRGINIA. The West Virginia Community Health AmeriCorps Developer (WVCHAD) Program is an AmeriCorps State program funded through the Volunteer West Virginia state service commission and operated by the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department (MOVHD). The mission of the department overall is to provide access to quality health care and education for core public health services, including preventive health, for citizens residing in Calhoun, Pleasants, Ritchie, Roane, Wirt and Wood Counties in West Virginia. This mission is accomplished through partnerships, collaborative relationships, community involvement, stakeholder input and guidance from a diverse Board of Health comprised of two members from each of the counties and cities served by the department.

One key way MOVHD accomplishes its mission is through AmeriCorps. WVCHAD  AmeriCorps members serve as Healthy Community Developers offering lifestyle programs including: Chronic Disease Self-Management, Diabetes Self-Management and National Diabetes Prevention Programs. These programs have proven to decrease weight, blood pressure and medications.

On top of all that, some WVCHAD AmeriCorps members focus on healthy outcomes in times of disaster! This done by assisting the state’s Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) coordinator on Emergency Preparedness presentations to local organizations, giving talks and demonstrations at health fairs and other community events on preparedness, and recruiting Medical Reserve Corps volunteers.

WV Community Health Developers serve year-round and statewide across many sites. In its fifth year, the WVCHAD AmeriCorps program is meeting critical needs in the Healthy Futures focus area.

Too many West Virginians are struggling with chronic disease. The West Virginia population as a whole is at high risk for diabetes, stroke, heart disease, cancer and early death because of physical inactivity, substance use and poor nutrition. Per America’s Health Rankings 2015 Annual Report, West Virginia ranks 47th in the nation for overall worst health determinants which are defined as the range of personal, social, economic, and environmental factors that influence our health. This report also grades West Virginia 50th in the nation for diabetes, drug deaths, heart disease, high blood pressure, and smoking and poor physical health days, 49th for obesity, and 47th for physical activity.

By leveraging the power of AmeriCorps members to serve in local communities, West Virginia is improving health outcomes one West Virginian at a time. For example, one health program offered by WVCHAD Healthy Community Developers is a walking class. One participant started out very slowly and worked her way to walk one mile, three times per week, with her AmeriCorps Lifestyle Coach. Several months later, she came to the class so excited to share, “I was able to stand long enough to cook a meal for my family for the first time in over 10 years!”

The WVCHAD program is currently recruiting for its fifth cohort of AmeriCorps members in the 2017-2018 program year! Learn more and apply today at serviceyear.org/movhd/.

Wisconsin HealthCorps: Ensuring Healthy Futures Across the State

WI Health Corps collage

This June, we’ll be featuring stories of AmeriCorps State service programs operating in the Healthy Futures focus area. AmeriCorps programs often play a key role in promoting health within a state, from coordinating community gardening, delivering summer meals, to promoting healthy lifestyles, outdoor activities, and fitness. Learn more at nationalservice.gov/focus-areas/healthy-futures. #HealthyFutures

WISCONSIN. The Wisconsin HealthCorps is an AmeriCorps State program funded through the Serve Wisconsin state service commission and run by the Wisconsin Primary Health Care Association (WPHCA) and the Wisconsin Public Health Association (WPHA). In 2010, these organizations came together to create the Wisconsin HealthCorps because they recognized the impact AmeriCorps members could have on the health outcomes of Wisconsin’s communities.

The program places individuals who are interested in public health and health care professions in community-based, health-focused organizations across the state. Each AmeriCorps member serves 1700 hours over one year, providing culturally competent health education and assistance to individuals in accessing and navigating the health care system.

The program aims to:

  • Increase access to primary health care
  • Advance evidence based community health initiatives
  • Promote health care for all regardless of race, income, gender, or age
  • Develop the next generation of health care leaders

The program’s multi-site design allows for AmeriCorps members to view the health care system through multiple lenses. Each of the program’s 22 members are placed in a variety of host sites across the state, ranging from Public Health Departments, Community Health Centers, and health-focused non-profits. This diversity in host sites provides the members with unique experiences and opportunities to help them gain a better understanding of the health care challenges facing our communities.

Whether a member is serving in a Public Health Department working to bring different stakeholders and organizations together to address community wide public health issues, or whether a member is serving in a Community Health Center assisting individual patients by connecting them to resources within the community, each member is working towards the same goal — increasing access to health care for all Wisconsinites.

Wisconsin HealthCorps AmeriCorps members give so much to the communities they serve in. The program is currently recruiting for its eighth cohort of AmeriCorps members in the 2017-2018 program year!

Learn more and apply today at wihealthcorps.wordpress.com/.

Recognizing and Leveraging the Power of Senior Corps to Help Older Americans

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By Brianne Fitzgerald, Volunteer Iowa & Emily Steinberg, America’s Service Commissions

Did you know May is Older Americans Month? According to the Administration for Community Living (ACL), which leads the national celebration each year, older Americans more than ever before are working longer, trying new things, and engaging in their communities. They’re taking charge, striving for wellness, focusing on independence, and advocating for themselves and others.

One key example of this notable trend? Senior Corps. Last year, 245,000 seniors aged 55 and older gave back to their communities as Senior Corps volunteers, serving an impressive 74.6 million total hours. Collectively, these Senior Corps volunteers helped 845,000 additional older adults, according to the Corporation for National & Community Service (CNCS) which administers the Senior Corps and AmeriCorps programs.

At the state level, Governor-appointed state service commissions are also taking note of and partnering with Senior Corps to “get things done” for local communities. For example, Volunteer Iowa which is the Hawkeye State’s designated commission on volunteering and service, is proud of its strong involvement with and support for Senior Corps programs, including the Retired Senior Volunteer Programs (RSVP).

In July 2016, Volunteer Iowa announced an award of $279,000 in state-funded RSVP grants, leveraging over $1.2 million in federal funds, and supporting 5,498 RSVP Senior Corps volunteers.

This program, along with federal and state funding for AmeriCorps, is helping generate and support over 41,000 community volunteers working to improve hundreds of local nonprofits, schools and communities throughout Iowa.  Volunteer Iowa has over 7,000 National Service positions in the state, with 5,500 of those as Senior Corps volunteers.

And every dollar in state funding to RSVP leverages $27.80 in additional funding. Senior Corps work truly matters in Iowa!
RSVP connects volunteers age 55 and over with service opportunities in their communities that match their skills and availability. From building houses to immunizing children, from enhancing the capacity of nonprofit organizations to improving and protecting the environment, RSVP volunteers put their unique talents to work to make a difference. Volunteer Iowa supports Senior Corps members with training and networking opportunities and recognition events. Iowa is beyond grateful for the work that the RSVP volunteers are doing within the state.

In 2016, in Iowa alone:

  • 3,800 young Iowans were tutored by Foster Grandparents
  • 830 local organizations benefited from Iowa RSVP volunteers
  • 1,000 homebound seniors were assisted by Senior Companions
  • 362,355 hours of service were completed by Iowa RSVP volunteers

Continuing to support Senior Corps programs in the state of Iowa is a priority for the state commission.  Volunteer Iowa believes that RSVP provides and will continue to provide vital capacity-building services to non-profits and communities by building the infrastructure for volunteering overall. Volunteer Iowa recognizes how important it is for the state of Iowa that RSVP is well-positioned as a community resource for volunteerism and volunteer management, especially in areas where volunteer centers do not exist.

We believe that providing capacity building services is an activity that builds on RSVP Director’s skills and aligns with the current activities of programs in working with sites and partners, and will continue to position RSVP for secure funding so we can continue to serve Iowa’s communities moving forward.

Thank you to Senior Corps volunteers — and all older Americans who are making the time to volunteer — for taking the skills and wisdom you’ve learned over your lifetimes to make communities stronger!

To learn more about Volunteer Iowa’s Senior Corps RSVP grants, click here.

To learn more about Senior Corps and Senior Corps Week, click here.

Learn more about Older Americans Month here.

 

 

Celebrating our volunteers

By Rachel Bruns

National Volunteer Week (April 12-18) encourages us to celebrate the service of volunteers and recognize the contributions volunteers make in meeting the social mission of our organizations.

ASC Board Members and staff during the 2014 December Board Retreat.
ASC Board Members and staff during the 2014 December Board Retreat.

As a membership organization, America’s Service Commissions (ASC) is dependent on numerous people that provide their time and expertise to make our work possible. I’m guilty of often not thinking of these people as “volunteers”. I think this happens, because their time benefiting ASC is so connected to their work, it’s not black and white whether their time with ASC is for work or as a volunteer. When I think about it, this is what makes me even more excited about our work and role as a membership organization. We get to help people do great work in local communities, while learning and growing to advance the field as a whole. It truly embodies the phrase “a rising tide lifts all boats”.

By volunteering with ASC, countless individuals are doing their part to lift the entire field of national service and volunteering, which in both the short and long term benefit their state and communities. To use one of my favorite cliches, it’s a win-win.

I’m guilty of letting the day-to-day challenges of our work get me down and I occassionaly have the thoughts “why am I dealing with this?”. Reflecting on the tremendous engagement and support from our membership and volunteers, provides a much more positive response to that question.

Thanks to the countless individuals who have volunteered with America’s Service Commissions, past and present. The list of board members, committee chairs, and committee members is endless. We truly are “uniting states in service”. Thanks to our network for modeling the service we encourage in others.

 

 

Meet ASC Board Member: Nicky Goren

NG Headshot Small %28Kolb%29Nicola Goren is president of the Washington Area Women’s Foundation and in 2013 was named as one of Washingtonian’s Most Powerful Women. Nicky  previously worked at the Corporation for National and Community Service in roles including Acting CEO, Chief of Staff, and Associate General Counsel. Nicky joined the ASC Board of Directors in 2013. 
1) How did you get to where you are today? Honestly, by always working hard, by being open to opportunity, by being willing to step outside my comfort zone, and by being in the right place at the right time!
2) What is the best advice you’ve received? The best advice I ever received was from my mentor, and former General Counsel at CNCS Frank Trinity — always be current, authentic, and direct.  Those words have served me well.
3) What keeps you motivated? Feeling like I’m part of a team of people who are working together to make positive change in our communities.
4) In one word what would you describe as your greatest strength? Bridge-building
 
5) How do you prepare yourself when you know something is going to be controversial or challenging? My legal training has led me to conclude that you can never be over-prepared.  When dealing with a controversial or challenging issue or situation, I try to look at the issue from all sides and anticipate roadblocks, reactions, and where other people might be coming from, and try to be prepared to both listen and respond appropriately.

Meet ASC Board Member, Kelsey Pettus

Kelsey Pettus is a Youth Commissioner for Volunteer Mississippi and represents Youth Commissioners as a Board Member for America’s Service Commissions.

Pettus1. How did you get to where you are today?

Currently, I am a student at the University of Mississippi where I am a part of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. My parents have instilled in me the importance of hard work and determination. Because of their love and support, I have been able to achieve many goals that I have set for myself, and I am determined to reach future goals. I give my parents full credit for the person that I am today, and I am so thankful for their encouragement.

2. What has been your best moment so far serving with your state commission?

Two years ago, I was given the honor to serve as Chair for the Governor’s Initiative for Volunteer Excellence (GIVE) Awards. The GIVE Awards give Volunteer Mississippi and the Office of the Governor the opportunity to honor those who have made a difference in their communities and the state of Mississippi through service each year. I was so honored to be able to meet some outstanding people and thank them for their service and leadership in the state of Mississippi. Their stories inspired me to become more involved with certain service opportunities that are presented throughout my community and the state of Mississippi. It was truly an inspiring and memorable experience, and I am so thankful that I got to be a part of it.

3. What keeps you motivated?

As a student at the University of Mississippi, hearing the success stories of mentors, teachers, and older students is what keeps me motivated. I aspire to one day attend medical school and become a practicing doctor, so when I hear stories of people older than me who have worked hard to reach their goals, I am motivated to continue striving towards my own goals. The great hope that I have for my future and the love and support that I receive from my family and friends are enough to motivate me to one day become successful.

4. In one word what would you describe as your greatest strength?

Determined