Spread Kindness this Holiday Season

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The weather is getting colder and holidays are almost upon us. While many of us will be celebrating, not everyone feels the joy. In fact, the holidays can be challenging for lots of people, including those who are hungry, lonely or sick. You can help! Join our friends and partners at Youth Service America (YSA) for their Kindness Rising campaign and make a difference through service projects or kind acts this year!

Visit YSA.org/KindnessRising follow these three simple steps to help Kindness Rise!

  1. Take the pledge to BE FEARLESS BE KIND.
  2. Start a project or do a kind act in your community! (Already doing a project? Share it!)
  3. Show your impact to be eligible for one of ten $250 grants!

The campaign calls on youth to stand-up for others, be inclusive and make a difference through service projects or kind acts. From providing food for the hungry to visiting with senior citizens, to raising money for kids in need, youth can change the world through kindness.

Downloadable Flyer

Get involved! Use this downloadable flyer to spread the word about the Kindness Rising campaign.

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AmeriCorps Programs in Tennessee Showcase Economic Opportunity

ac_0The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) recently released its 2016 Public Engagement, Outreach, and Education Plan. As part of this plan, they have designated monthly themes throughout the year, centered on CNCS focus areas.

January’s theme focuses on Economic Opportunity. CNCS and Volunteer Tennessee are dedicated to creating economic opportunity through national service to improve the financial well-being and security of economically disadvantaged individuals. You can join the conversation on social media by using #Opportunity.

How are AmeriCorps programs in Tennessee using resources in their areas to improve the lives of these individuals and empower them in their communities? 

  • The Appalachia CARES (Community, Action, Responsibility, Education, and Service) AmeriCorps program at Clinch-Powell Resource Conservation & Development Council works with individuals in East Tennessee to secure affordable and safe housing in the region. AmeriCorps members engage economically disadvantaged individuals in service-learning trainings and programs, empowering these individuals to create positive change in their communities. Throughout this program year, Appalachia CARES seeks to provide housing services and training to more than 2,000 people in Tennessee. 

    AmeriCorps members lead projects on teaching basic financial management skills and household budgeting, while other members focus their efforts around home repairs. These members incorporate energy efficiency into home repairs, performing weatherization projects and teaching weatherization and basic home repair courses to the community.

    One challenge that the AmeriCorps members address is the limited housing and rental market in rural areas of Tennessee. A large percentage of the homes in areas served by Appalachia CARES were built over 50 years ago, meaning most of the available housing requires safety and energy efficiency upgrades. Despite this, the training provided by AmeriCorps members empowers those who receive assistance. They now have the power to make a difference, not only in their own lives, but also in the lives of their fellow neighbors and community members.

 

  • AmeriCorps members at Impact America – Tennessee are gearing up for a busy tax season in Memphis with their SaveFirst initiative. To combat the unethical practices and price gouging of predatory tax preparers, Impact America – Tennessee is partnering with four well-established community partners in low-income communities to provide free, high quality Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) services. Members assist families that are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit, a federal program that will supplement the incomes of more than 180,000 families in Memphis alone.

    Jacqueline Cotter, a current AmeriCorps member with Impact America – Tennessee, gave one person’s account in preparing their taxes: after having a poor experience with a tax preparer, a man was charged more than $300 for a simple return. The following year, he benefitted from Impact America’s tax preparation services, where he left in less than an hour having paid nothing to have his taxes filed.

    AmeriCorps members become certified at the advanced IRS level, training to become site coordinators at the four tax sites in Memphis. Throughout the fall, they have recruited more than 90 college students from Rhodes College, Christian Brothers University, and the University of Memphis to be trained and supervised as tax preparers. The sites, which opened in January, anticipate completing and filing 1,200 tax returns this season, with the potential to service up to 60 families in one day.

 

  • AJ Stephens asked himself the same question many high school graduates do: “What’s my next step in life?” After attending an AmeriCorps presentation at his high school, he was accepted to be a member of the CAC AmeriCorps program with the Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee. AJ joined the CAC’s Conservation Crew, a program designed to give applicants without a degree or professional experience an opportunity to engage in a national service program.

    During his year with the group, AJ was able to remove thousands of pounds of litter from dump sites, provide historic cabin restoration, maintain trails, and natural pond restoration. While the Conservation Crew has since dissolved, the legacy created by these young AmeriCorps members has resulted in a lasting impact, resulting in full-time AmeriCorps members continuing to serve at these sites today. The final members of this group have since gone on to a second year of service, went on to college, or gained employment.

    AJ’s efforts impressed the staff at the Ijams Nature Center so much that they requested he serve a second AmeriCorps term at the organization. He serves in their park management department, maintaining the trails and leading construction projects in order for visitors to have a safe, hands-on experience. He cites that the biggest challenge – having to learn how to do tasks that he’s never done before – is also his biggest success. Through his two terms with AmeriCorps, AJ has gained invaluable skills that he will be able to carry with him after he completes his service.

    What’s AJ’s next step? He has started working with CAC AmeriCorps staff to determine how to best use the two Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards he has earned during his service. AJ hopes to attend college with a focus on the environment.

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    UnknownVolunteer Tennessee is a 25 member bipartisan board appointed by the Governor to encourage volunteerism and community service. Volunteer Tennessee pursues its mission through administration of AmeriCorps grants, training and collaborations and coalitions with public and private organizations interested in volunteerism and service. Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Outstanding Commission Staff Award – Jeanine Yard

The recJeanine Yardipient for the Outstanding Commission Staff Award is Jeanine Yard, who is the Senior AmeriCorps Program officer at Michigan Community Service Commission (MCSC).

“Jeanine is a tremendous advocate for AmeriCorps programs. She takes great care to understand the work being done, the members performing the service, and the impacts that are made for individuals and the community. It’s her passion and commitment that helps ensure that Commissioners will support and continue to advocate for AmeriCorps in Michigan.” — Carolyn BLoodworth, MCSC Board Chair

For more than seven years, Jeanine Yard has provided grant oversite, training and technical assistance to AmeriCorps programs. She spent six years as a Learn and Serve Program Officer at the MCSC, where she provided support and guidance to school districts and community organizations engaged in service learning. Jeanine has 30+ years of experience working with nonprofit management, national service, and youth development programs. Her passion is for developing models and methods for program replications and sustainability, fostering the professional development of AmeriCorps members and program staff, and building partnerships to create lasting community impact.

The staff hold her in great respect because of her knowledge and ability to navigate the complexities of grant administration. Because of her exemplary leadership, she was recently promoted to Senior Program Officer. She maintains strong communication with the AmeriCorps team and entire MCSC staff, helps develop effective staff meetings, and ensures all staff are aware of important issues that impact their success.

Jeanine holds a “big picture” focus and is always considering ways to strengthen not only AmeriCorps programs and Comission initiatives, but also the field as a whole. During her time as a Learn and Serve Program Officer, she co-created a sustainability rubric for schools engaged in service-learning, which took them from planning to implementation to institutionalization. This innovative tool was utilized by other organizations across the country as well as by RMC Research for schools. She has developed several other tools and trainings to help strengthen the national service field over the last several years. She helped design and implement the Education Symposium in October 2011 that brought together national service programs working to increase educational outcomes for Michigan’s youth. Jeanine hopes to replicate this success with Economic Opportunity programs in the future. She excels at and understands the value in bringing together individuals and organizations that have a similar mission and goals.

We commend Jeanine for her hard work! It is greatly appreciated.

 

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: Chester Spellman

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Chester Spellman was appointed chief executive officer of the Governor’s Commission on Community Service, Volunteer Florida, on April 27, 2012 by Governor Rick Scott. At Volunteer Florida, Spellman oversees $23 million in federal, state and local funds supporting AmeriCorps and volunteer programs to meet critical needs in Florida’s communities, and also leads the statewide coordination for volunteers and donations in a disaster for the Florida Division of Emergency Management.
Chester serves on the ASC Board of Directors and recently joined the Executive Committee as 2nd Vice Chair leading Resource Development.
1) How did you get to where you are today? I got to where I am today through a combination of hard work and good fortune.
2) What has been your best moment so far serving with your state commission? I have served as Chief Executive Officer of Volunteer Florida for a little over a year now. The best part of my tenure at Volunteer Florida has been visiting sites where AmeriCorps members are serving and seeing the lives that have been changed through their hard work and dedication.
3) What advice do you have for others at commissions? Or what is the best advice you’ve received? I think the most important thing that we can do in the national service sector is to always place the mission first. We are working in a sector where we have the privilege of making a difference in our communities each and every day. We should never forget why we are here and why we do what we do.
4) What keeps you motivated? I remain motivated by thinking of the programs throughout Florida that we are supporting and the lives that are being directly impacted through the AmeriCorps members that are serving.
5) In one word what would you describe as your greatest strength? Ambition
6) How do you prepare yourself when you know something is going to be controversial or challenging? I take a deep breath, envision the desired outcome and enter the situation with confidence.

Meet ASC Board Member: Lindsay Dolce

DolceLindsay Dolce is Executive Director of Serve Colorado, Governor’s Commission on Community Service. Dolce is responsible for overseeing Serve Colorado’s AmeriCorps State programming and and leading Colorado’s Early Literacy Initiative. Previously,
Dolce has served as Senior Program Manager for the David and Laura Merage Foundation, worked as a domestic relations attorney and was a staff member for United States Senator J. Robert Kerrey and President Bill Clinton. Dolce received her B.A. in English, Political Science and International Relations from William Jewell College, studied at Oxford University and received her Juris Doctorate from the University of Missouri at Kansas City.
Lindsay joined the ASC Board of Directors in 2013 and currently serves as the Vice Chair of the Resource Development Committee.
1) How did you get to where you are today?
A lot of hard work! I grew up in the midwest and from a young age I was taught (and still believe) that if you are willing to work hard, anything is possible.
2) What has been your best moment so far serving with your state commission?
The first time a member said “thank you” to me for providing an opportunity that literally changed her life. This young woman had no direction and no family, that all changed when she became a part of an AmeriCorps program and for the first time in her life she found a family and a home. I will never forget her story as I still carry around a piece of paper in my wallet with her name as a reminder of how important our work is to so many people.
3) What advice do you have for others at commissions? Or what is the best advice you’ve received? 
My advice to others is to practice patience, in every aspect of this job.  The best advice I ever received is to find mentors in the world of National Service whom you trust and go to them at your worst and best moments. There are some true sages in this world upon whom I rely regularly…
4) What keeps you motivated?
 Spending time with members who literally inspire me to find solutions to the everyday challenges.
5) In one word what would you describe as your greatest strength?
Tenacity.  (two words = stubborn tenacity)
 
6) How do you prepare yourself when you know something is going to be controversial or challenging?
I spend some time with my trusted mentors having them pepper me with the tough questions or comments and I overprepare for the situation.  The best preparation requires that you make an effort to think through what the challenges will be and why something will be controversial and then to truly embrace that change and challenge.  It doesn’t mean that  it isn’t sometimes painful but being able to know that the controversy or challenge is not personal is how I ground myself and take on just about any controversy or challenge.
Knowing my boss has my back before I walk into the situation sure does help as well!

Meet ASC Board Member: Jim Snell

Jim Snell%2c ED Volunteer TennesseeJim Snell, Executive Director of Volunteer Tennesse, joined the ASC Board of Directors in 2012. Jim serves on the Nominating Committee and Public Policy Committee. He recently  joined our new AmeriCorps Alums Work Group charged with identifying opportunities for state service commissions to partner with the organization AmeriCorps Alums. 
1) How did you get to where you are today?
I participated in Alternative Spring Break activities in college, which sparked my interest in service.  Not long after graduation, I heard from a friend about a new program that was like a domestic Peace Corps, and I joined the first class of AmeriCorps in a program in Nashville.  I later joined the staff of that program and served as co-director for about 2 years.  The state commission then offered me a spot on their staff as Training Officer.  That led to Program Officer, then Deputy Director and now, Executive Director.
2) What has been your best moment so far serving with your state commission?
Seeing about 200 AmeriCorps members at a statewide event a few years ago building houses for Habitat for Humanity and getting so much accomplished in a single day.
3) What advice do you have for others at commissions? Or what is the best advice you’ve received?
Many good things are possible, but you can’t do everything that you want to do, so select the highest priorities for your state and your commissioners and focus on those.
4) What keeps you motivated?
Knowing that we are enabling AmeriCorps members to make a difference in their communities.
5) In one word what would you describe as your greatest strength?
Stubbornness.
6) How do you prepare yourself when you know something is going to be controversial or challenging?
I gather as many facts as I can and make sure that my position is solidly based on the evidence.  I also try to think about different aspects of the situation and look at it from various perspectives.