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.

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

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/.

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

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/.

Wisconsin HealthCorps: Ensuring Healthy Futures Across the State

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.

 

 

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

Maryland Volunteer Generation Fund boosts impact of volunteers in addressing critical community needs

Maryland VGF

This April, in honor of National Volunteer Month, we feature stories of how volunteers are impacting states and the ways in which state service commissions are leveraging the power of volunteers to meet critical local needs through their Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) activities. Learn more at statecommissions.org/volunteer-generation-fund.

MARYLAND. The Maryland Governor’s Office on Service and Volunteerism (GOSV), the state service commission in the “Old Line State,” is a critical part of the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives. Through the use of federal dollars, it funds 19 AmeriCorps State programs in 2016-2017 program year to support disaster services, economic opportunity, education, environmental stewardship, healthy futures, and veterans and military families in Maryland.

Established in 1993, the office advocates for effective volunteer program management and recognizes volunteer service across the state on behalf of the Governor of Maryland. Each year, over 200,000 Maryland volunteers are recognized by the Governor’s Office through activities and services provided by the Governor’s Office on Service and Volunteerism.

The Maryland GOSV also funds ten volunteer connector organizations and Maryland Volunteer Centers through the Volunteer Generation Fund to increase their ability to recruit and retain volunteers in diverse opportunities, as well as increase the organizations’ usage of effective volunteer management practices. The ten Volunteer Generation Fund grantees then utilize these funds to boost the impact of volunteers in addressing critical community needs.

Below is one story written by Maryland Commissioner Krista Gilmore of Cecil County Department of Community Services, who serves as the volunteer and community resource coordinator and has seen firsthand the impact VGF funds are having on Cecil County:

 

“Reflections on Cecil Cares and Two Exceptional Community Volunteers”

By Krista Gilmore, Commissioner, Maryland Governor’s Commission on Service and Volunteerism

Each September, Volunteer Cecil sponsors Cecil Cares, which is a countywide day of service. We asked two of the members of the Cecil Cares Planning Team to share their thoughts on their involvement with the 2016 – and now 2017 – project, and here is what they had to say:

“I would like to start by saying how hard it is to put on paper my excitement for Cecil Cares 2016. I am very passionate about giving back and helping our community. To be a member of the planning team is a huge honor. Last year I, along with other volunteers, helped out at The Fair Hill Nature Center. We worked hard raking, planting, painting, and I had the pleasure of meeting new and wonderful people of our beautiful county (all while helping spruce up the gorgeous Fair Hill Nature Center!). I am very excited for Cecil Cares 2017!! I believe it is a great way to bring our community together for one day to give back. We worked hard, laughed and joked. I went home feeling great not just for doing a good deed but because of all the wonderful new neighbors that I met on that day!”

“Thanks for a successful Cecil Cares Project. As a unique community service project for nonprofits, volunteers and businesses, the work day was exceptional. First, I enjoyed networking, brainstorming and working with a variety of organizations throughout Cecil County who organized, promoted and secured the projects for our day of service. Next, partnering with businesses, religious organizations, schools, county government and nonprofit groups provided a connection for everyone. Finally, as a member of the Cecil Cares committee, a board member of the Fair Hill Nature Center, and a member of St. Mary Anne’s Episcopal Church, I had a front row seat regarding the preparation of this event. The church was a sponsor for one of the projects, and provided a community of volunteers to participate during our day of service to Cecil County. I can’t wait until next year, as we grow this legacy throughout Cecil County!”

In addition to our work on Cecil Cares, one of our goals for Volunteer Cecil is to celebrate volunteerism, and to tell the stories that are often overlooked. We look for people and events to showcase even when they are not included in our formal VGF reports. Two local residents were recently honored for their service: Ralph Young was inducted into the Maryland Senior Citizens Hall of Fame, and Wilma Clay celebrated 25 years of service as a Home Delivered Meal volunteer! We are proud to know them [and] to highlight their service.

To learn more about Maryland’s Volunteer Generation Fund initiative and programming, visit gosv.maryland.gov/our-volunteer-generation-fund-grantees/.

Maryland Volunteer Generation Fund boosts impact of volunteers in addressing critical community needs

Volunteer Mississippi engages 96,000 in volunteer service thanks to Volunteer Generation Fund

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This April, in honor of National Volunteer Month, we’ll be featuring stories of how volunteers are impacting states and the ways in which state service commissions are leveraging the power of volunteers to meet critical local needs through their Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) activities. Learn more at statecommissions.org/volunteer-generation-fund.

MISSISSIPPI. The mission of Volunteer Mississippi, the state commission on service and volunteerism in the Magnolia State, is to to engage and support Mississippians of all ages and backgrounds in service to their communities. Established in 1994 as the Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Service (MCVS), Volunteer Mississippi also administers the state’s volunteer center network with support from the Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF), helping mobilize volunteers in support of state and local priorities.

Last year, thanks to Volunteer Generation Fund support from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the Mississippi Volunteer Center Network recruited or managed an overall total of 96,550 individual and group volunteers that served 875,246 hours for a wide range of causes throughout the state. Of the total number of volunteers, 51,981 were new volunteers who served 472,271 hours.

In addition, capacity building trainings were offered to 1,362 nonprofit participants — resulting in 167 nonprofit partners implementing 3 or more effective volunteer management practices.  The largest number of volunteers were active with programs that served Children and Family Services & Advocacy, Education, Hunger and Homelessness, and Disaster Services. Volunteer Centers hosted food, clothing, necessities and toy drives, and recruited volunteers to feed the homeless, build Habitat houses, read to children, and clean up parks and waterways. Volunteer Centers planned events and engaged 11,708 volunteers in projects for Family Volunteer Day in November; Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service in January; National Volunteer Week and Global Youth Service Day in April; 9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance in September and Make a Difference Day in October, in addition to regional days of service like Day of Caring, Alternative Spring Break, the Big Event, and The Cotton Festival.

This year, 2017 is starting off strong with more than 31,000 volunteer engagements reported – 1,642 of those from Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service educational events, parades, breakfasts and community projects. Volunteer Centers around the state will be recognizing volunteers in the month of April with celebration dinners and lunches, and press conferences. Several Global Youth Service Day events are scheduled, with Volunteer Starkville as the lead agency this year.

To learn more about Volunteer Mississippi’s VGF program and subgrantees, visit volunteermississippi.org/.

Volunteer Mississippi engages 96,000 in volunteer service thanks to Volunteer Generation Fund

Virginia’s Volunteer Generation Fund programs give back, help others from ‘cradle to career’

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This April, in honor of National Volunteer Month, we’ll be featuring stories of how volunteers are impacting states and the ways in which state service commissions are leveraging the power of volunteers to meet critical local needs through their Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) activities. Learn more at statecommissions.org/volunteer-generation-fund.

VIRGINIA. The mission of Virginia Service, the state commission on service and volunteerism in the “Old Dominion,” is to strengthen communities by inspiring Virginians to actively engage, volunteer, and serve. Virginia Service also administers the state’s Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) program, providing subgrants to organizations that mobilize volunteers in support of state and local priorities.

Virginia is now in its third year of programming through the Volunteer Generation Fund.  The VGF program builds volunteer capacity in Virginia through local subgrantees who then work to increase the number of active volunteers and volunteer hours, as well as to strengthen volunteer organizations by incorporating effective volunteer management practices into their program operations.  The biggest overall impacts to date have been increased volunteer capacity throughout the state, improvement in organizations’ volunteer management practices, and heightened awareness of and appreciation for volunteers and the value they bring to an organization and the community.

The Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) in Virginia is comprised of four subgrantees in southwest, northern and central Virginia:

  1. The Appalachian Community Action and Development Agency focuses on volunteer activities for a mentoring program for high school seniors and an early childhood reading program for children of families utilizing local food pantries.
  2. Community Residences supports volunteers who provide assistance to individuals with mental health needs and intellectual disabilities through community housing property management, direct service, community engagement, and volunteer program administration and recruitment.
  3. The Council on Community Services is implementing a school-based volunteer program in the Roanoke Valley –  with the intention of replicating their model in other localities.
  4. The United Way of Southwest Virginia supports the agency’s “cradle to career” focus and provides tutoring for elementary school students who need assistance with reading and/or math skills; enhances middle school, high school and post-secondary achievement among local youth; and assists local agencies with the recruitment and retention of volunteers.
The VGF program also supports special large-scale volunteer day events. In January, Virginia’s Volunteer Generation Fund programs honored MLK Day with service events and projects designed to impact their communties. In Roanoke, the Council of Community Services teamed up with The Advancement Foundation, a local AmeriCorps program, to host a financial literacy workshop. In Scott and Lee counties, Appalachian Community Action and Development’s VGF program collected personal hygiene items and donated to low income individuals and families. In Northern Virginia, Community Residences, Inc., partnered with the Target location in Burke to visit one of their residences to clean up and visit with residents. Volunteers also worked with the Tysons Corner Maggiano’s to prepare meals for home residents and teach them cooking skills. In Abingdon, the United Way of Southwest Virginia recruited volunteers to participate in a celebration that included a discussion on race relations in Southwest Virginia, followed by a unity march. Volunteers also painted and repaired the Charles Wesley Church parsonage. Click here to read the Bristol Herald Courier’s newspaper article about the MLK Day service projects.

In February, the United Way of Southwest Virginia became a certifying organization for the President’s Volunteer Service Award. Organizations and individuals in Southwest Virginia can now nominate outstanding volunteers for this award which was created by the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation.

In March, the United Way of Southwest Virginia celebrated the companies and individuals whose contributions to the organization in 2016 had a direct impact on the lives of working families in Southwest Virginia at the 2017 Impact Awards in Abingdon. The awards acknowledged volunteers, individuals, employee groups and corporations who lent their outstanding support to volunteer efforts, the campaign, and impact initiatives. The Volunteer of the Year in Education award went to Kent Berryman for his volunteer service with Smart Beginnings, an United Way program that works to improve access and quality of service to families with small children. The Volunteer of the Year in Financial Stability was presented to Virginia Cooperative Extension – Southwest District for their regional efforts in preparing students for their future with initiatives such as reality stores and career fairs. The Volunteer of the Year in Health award recipient was Chris Owens who has been instrumental in her leadership with the Healthy Community Action Team (HCAT) in Smyth County. Click here to view a full listing of the award recipients.

To learn more about Virginia Service’s VGF program and subgrantees, visit virginiaservice.virginia.gov/.

 

Virginia’s Volunteer Generation Fund programs give back, help others from ‘cradle to career’