MLK Day of Service 2016


“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘what are you doing for others?'” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In honor of the 2016 Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, our JV AmeriCorps members participated in restoration projects, rallies, food drives, and more! Check out a few summaries of this year’s MLK Day service activities!

From Laura Paolino, JV AmeriCorps member serving in Yakima, WA:  

Yakima (2)

JV AmeriCorps members serving in Yakima

“Our house participated in a March for Justice on Martin Luther King Day, which was followed by a program held at the Yakima Convention Center where we listened to talks from various members of the community on the theme of service. We heard from a local high school senior, who urged us to “stick with love,” a Reverend who sang “We Shall Overcome,” and the Yakima School District Superintendent, who encouraged the Yakima community to continue MLK’s message of serving others. In an effort to create a tangible action step, he created an initiative called “Yakima Act 1000,” an online platform where community members are encouraged to create teams and rack up 1000 hours of service over the next year (

Following the program, we walked over to one of Yakima’s community centers, where members of the march shared a meal of hot soup, crackers, and coffee. It was a beautiful day filled with music and a strong sense of hope, solidarity, and community.”

JV AmeriCorps members serving in Gresham, OR:

Gresham (1)

Anna Butler (far left) with her JV AmeriCorps member community mates

JV AmeriCorps member Anna Butler (Gresham, OR ’15-16) serves as the Eastside Green Team Education Specialist at SOLVE. In honor of MLK Day, SOLVE hosted a river cleanup event. Volunteers, including Anna and many of her Gresham JV AmeriCorps community mates, removed litter along the Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade. Separate from the day of service, the Gresham community also hosted a viewing and discussion of the film Selma.

From Megan Norris, JV AmeriCorps member serving in Grays Harbor, WA:  


Megan Norris (left) and Lauren McCabe (right) serving on MLK Day

“The Grays Harbor community participated in MLK Day of Service by picking up garbage in our neck of the woods. We live in an area of Aberdeen that is often looked down upon and  referred to as Felony Flats…. the area was where ex-cons were granted housing after incarceration.

As Jesuit Volunteers striving to live eco-consciously, the high amount of trash in the road, on the sidewalks, and in yards where we live has been disheartening this year. From just three blocks we were able to bag 7 full bags of trash. The result of our service was immediately noticeable-the street looks a lot better!”

A huge THANK YOU to everyone who participated in celebrating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

MLK Day 2015!

In honor of this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, our JV AmeriCorps members participated in rallies and celebrations, joined in restoration projects, organized food drives, and more! Check out a few photos from this year’s MLK Day engagement!

MLK-The-Time-is-Always-right-to-do-what-is-rightThank you to current JVs and JV AmeriCorps members, former volunteers, fellow AmeriCorps members, and community members across the country for participating in celebrating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Every Day is Earth Day

Anna Osborn is a second year JVC Northwest AmeriCorps member inspiring others to become environmental stewards. Here she shares how her service this year is making a green impact within the Columbia Gorge community in and around Hood River, OR.

Anna organizing farmer's market materials

Anna organizing farmer’s market materials

I serve at the Gorge Grown Food Network as well as the Hood River Middle School as the Permaculture and Farmers’ Market Outreach Assistant. At the Hood River Middle School, I assist groups of students with different projects around the classroom, garden, and greenhouse. At Gorge Grown, my main focus is food access. For example, I am helping develop the Mercado del Valle, a new farmers’ market being created to provide access to fresh, local, healthy food in the low-income, Hispanic community of Hood River, and celebrate the cultural diversity of this area. My projects also include the Tasting Tables, which is a program that exposes elementary school students to different local fruits and vegetables.

Anna getting students outside

Anna getting students outside

I am also developing the School Garden Network, through which I coordinated the 2nd annual “Every Day is Earth Day” School Garden Symposium on April 22, 2014. I was fortunate enough to spend this Earth Day with over 100 middle school and high school students at the event. The theme for this year’s symposium was Holistic-Farming Approaches to School Gardening and was held at Columbia High School in White Salmon, WA.

Students at the Presentation Fair

Students at the Presentation Fair

The goal of this event was to create a space for middle and high school-aged students in the Columbia River Gorge to share in their experiences with incorporating school gardening into STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) curriculum, as well as learn from the experiences of other students in the Gorge. Through events like the School Garden Symposium, the hope is to create a community of support for school garden programs while providing opportunities for networking and expansion of the School Garden Network of the Gorge.

The sheep shearing station

The sheep shearing station

As an introduction to the day, students heard a presentation by the Yakima Nations Fisheries Program and their efforts to work with students in re-vegetation projects on the White Salmon River. Students then took part in hands-on experiential learning activities with plant propagation, composting cafeteria scraps, sheep sheering, spinning wool, and planting a native pollinator garden. In the afternoon, school groups presented on their own school garden programs in a Presentation Fair.

Kuzco the llama was a big hit

Kuzco the llama was a big hit

Seven schools were in attendance at the Symposium, which included roughly 100 students, and 20 teachers, garden coordinators, and chaperones. Other community organizations also participated such as Master Gardeners, Yakima Nations Fisheries Program, the Department of Natural Resources, the Cascade Mountain School, and local nurseries.

Students planting a native pollinator garden

Students planting a native pollinator garden

School gardens engage students’ multiple intelligences, and students are able to incorporate many different subjects like math, science, and literature into their experience in the garden. Gardening provides them the opportunity to have ownership in a project, and to connect with the natural world. At The School Garden Symposium, it was really moving to see how excited students were to get their hands in the dirt, and how enthusiastic they were to learn about creating their own gardens. There is something really special about learning through gardening, and I am fortunate to see it every day.

Living With the Land

Mary Wood (Sitka, AK) serves as the Living with the Land and Building Community Jesuit Volunteer AmeriCorps member at the Sitka Conservation Society (SCS). Here she highlights the value of giving youth a connection to the natural world.

Mary teaching about rosehips

Mary teaching about rosehips

I am serving in the Tongass National Forest, a coastal temperate rainforest which is the largest national forest in the United States. Most of my time is spent with youth ages 5 to 11 in Sitka, leading the Alaska Way-of-Life project 4-H club, and serving with the Fish to Schools program and Stream Team. I am able to be outside with youth almost every day sharing the importance of our place and our ability to live with the land. My hope is that the youth I serve gain a value of stewardship that will last a lifetime.

The programs I offer through SCS are unique to life in Southeast Alaska. We live in a special place where snow-capped mountains meet the sea, where it rains over 100 inches each year, and where people have a strong sense of community with each other and the land. The 4-H members are engaging in experiential education to get outside, explore the world around them, and learn about how they can live with the land.

A student teaches what he has learned

A student teaches what he has learned

The 4-H motto of “learning by doing” is very much part of my role here. I am walking with the youth, learning the “Alaska way of life” with them every day. We are able to explore the world around us through genuine curiosity. Not growing up Alaskan myself, I do not always have answers, but that is what a strong community is about: finding the answers together. I have been able to improve my sense of belonging in Sitka and lean on community members to share their knowledge of living with the land with the 4-H members I serve. We have pulled in stream ecologists, and mammal and fisheries biologists to learn more about brown bears, whales, herring, birds, and salmon. Living with the land and building community really is the Alaska way of life in Sitka.

Mary poses in beautiful Sitka

Mary poses in beautiful Sitka

In the fall, I did a series of classes that focused on outdoor safety and survival. We talked about water purification, shelter building, first aid, staying warm, and what to bring with you in a day pack. Many of the 4-H members went home and made their own safety kits which they now bring with them to 4-H hikes so they are prepared for wilderness adventure. A 4-H parent told me, “this is a very important series; chances are this class will save someone’s life.” The wilderness is our backyard here in Sitka. Exposing youth to outdoor skills at a young age will keep them safe while they explore the natural environment around us.

Sitkan youth exploring the Tongass with their survival kits

Sitkan youth exploring the Tongass with their survival kits

The future of the Tongass is in our hands to protect for generations of people and wildlife to come. This is one of the most magical places I have ever been to, which I now am able to call home. It is through wild places that we are able to connect to the true beauty of the world and find ourselves. We are able to see how life is interconnected here, how the salmon thrive because of the trees, and how the trees are nourished by the salmon. It always comes back to how we can be stewards of our natural environment and live with the land and learn from the land.

Sitka Goes Hiking

Courtney Bobsin serves as a JV AmeriCorps member in Sitka, AK with the Sitka Conservation Society. She shares a story of JV AmeriCorps collaboration with her housemate and fellow JV AmeriCorps member Nick Ponzetti, an Independent Living Specialist with Southeast Alaska Independent Living.

Sitka Courntey Bobsin SAIL hike

Courtney joined Nick for one of Southeast Alaska Independent Living”s monthly hikes to share with hikers about the role, history, and wonders of the Tongass National Forest.

Sitka, a small fishing town in the middle of Southeast Alaska, is surrounded by pristine forests and beautiful Pacific waters. It sits in the heart of the Tongass National Forest, the largest temperate rainforest in the world. As a JV AmeriCorps member, I serve with the Sitka Conservation Society (SCS). At the Sitka Conservation Society, one of our goals is to engage people in the community with the Tongass. My role at SCS is to help foster a sense of community and help teach people to live with the land. I do this through many avenues including leading Alaska Way of Life 4H club or teaching students the importance of supporting local fishing systems through our Fish to Schools Program.

In January, recognizing a unique opportunity, I was able to partner with my housemate, Nick Ponzetti, the JV AmeriCorps member at Southeast Alaska Independent Living (SAIL). Among other services, SAIL offers a monthly hiking club for seniors to help get them on the trails, experience Sitka’s wilderness, and promote an active lifestyle. Guest hikers, such as injury and fall prevention experts, naturalists, and local tour guides often join Nick on the hikes. I connected with the club as a guest hiker and talked with hikers about features of the Tongass, the history of the forest, and the way we have shaped our landscape. I tried to answer any other questions hikers had including questions on identifying plants, birds, and wild edibles. It was a great experience to share the knowledge I have learned with others in the community.

Furthermore, it was a new opportunity to create a partnership between our organizations. Drawing from both our strengths, Nick and I were able to accomplish much more for older people in Sitka than we could have on our own. My knowledge surrounding conservation in the Tongass, and Nick’s concern for independent living added value to the experience for all those involved.  Through this collaboration, both organizations were able to address needs of the community; SAIL promoted an opportunity to get seniors active and socially engaged, while the Sitka Conservation Society built community and connected people to the Tongass. As JV AmeriCorps members, Nick and I helped construct a beneficial partnership which may have otherwise never existed. Record numbers showed up for our collaborative hike, showing how the goals of any one organization are important, but we can build a stronger community when we work together.

Life in Tacoma

This week, the Tacoma community share their enthusiasm and gratitude at their experiences living and serving as JV AmeriCorps members. From coordinating community gardens to supporting the Food Bank, these JV AmeriCorps members love their placements and relish the community in which they live. 

Hello! Our names are James, Jeff, John, Lauren, and Natalie and we are the Tacoma House of Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest AmeriCorps program. Our house’s name is Thea Jamba, which means “the house where the bus stops” in Cambodian. If you come visit us in Tacoma, don’t bother looking for the bus stop, though! The name was given to the Tacoma house back when it was located on I street, next to a bus stop. The community moved to a new house, and we liked the name so much that we took it with us.

The Tacoma community of JV AmeriCorps members have five chickens that provide them with food in exchange for their care. Says JV AmeriCorps member Lauren McKenna, "The chickens are not only a source of eggs, but also a fun reminder of where our food comes from."

Thea Jamba is located in the middle of a Catholic Worker community in the Hilltop part of Tacoma. The Catholic Workers are an independent group of people who, like the JV AmeriCorps members, live in community and work toward social justice. Needless to say, we’ve become great friends and have dinner with them about once a week. Hilltop is a fantastic community to live and serve in. It’s a very friendly atmosphere, and we’ve learned a lot because there is so much talk of life and experiences within the community. On top of all that, we get to wake up every morning to the beautiful sight of Mount Rainier!

The JV AmeriCorps Tacoma community on Christmas morning. JV AmeriCorps member Natalie Commins (far left), served later in the day at her placement, Nativity House, serving dinner to adults who are experiencing homelessness.

We all think we have the best placements in the best city in JVC Northwest. Natalie’s service placement is at Nativity House, a day shelter for people experiencing homelessness in Hilltop. She always comes home with awesome stories about how she serves her guests. Lauren and Jeff serve at L’Arche, a community where people with and without developmental disabilities live and work together. Jeff serves on the L’Arche farm, where he grows food with the community members with disabilities, called “core members.” Lauren serves in Noah’s workshop, spending time with core members as they make beautiful crafts.

JV AmeriCorps member Lauren McKenna poses with a core member in the midst of their Christmas Party. At her placement, Lauren spends time with core members, making crafts, baking, dancing, going on walks and field trips and supporting members who volunteer at various organizations in Tacoma.

John serves at the Guadalupe Land Trust, which manages community and learning gardens in Hilltop. He organizes the communities in the gardens, and has lasting friendships with many of his gardeners. Finally, James serves at the Food Connection, the food bank on Hilltop. He coordinates the youth programs and serves children in the Tacoma public school system.

JV AmeriCorps member James Harper speaks at the University of Puget Sound to students about hunger issues in Tacoma and about St. Leo Food Connection’s Backpack Program. He coordinates volunteers, including many local college students, who help pack the bags that are sent home with children from local schools for the weekend.

Fr. Bill Bischel, who lives next door to the Tacoma JV AmeriCorps members, speaks at the opening of the Gallucci Learning Garden. Fr. Bix, as he is lovingly known, is a source of constant support for the JV AmeriCorps community in Tacoma.

We hope that you’ve enjoyed learning a little bit about our community in Tacoma- we’ve enjoyed sharing it. In the coming months, we’re planning to use our sunny weekends to get involved in the bike co-op and to spend more time outside with our neighbors. Lauren is even taking gardening courses at the learning garden next to our house! We’re incredibly grateful for this opportunity to live and serve in Tacoma and we’re excited to use these last few months to the fullest.

JV AmeriCorps members from Grays Harbor visited the Tacoma community (and Tacoma’s Bridge of Glass) in December. The Tacoma JV AmeriCorps members love showing them all the hidden treasures that Tacoma has to offer.

Servin’ the Suburbs

JV AmeriCorps members of the Hillsboro community share their varied experiences serving in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon. From stream clean-up to adult literacy courses, they address a wide range of Hillsboro’s challenges. 



Hillsboro JV AmeriCorps members Gina Graziano and Charlie Vogelheim lead a trip with Clackamas High School students at Rock Creek as part of their service with the environmental nonprofit SOLV.

AmeriCorps members in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest Hillsboro “Casa de Paz” are doing well out in the suburbs! While many of our fellow JV AmeriCorps members serve in either very urban or very rural placements, we find ourselves in a suburban setting, one that is not traditionally associated with high need. However, service in Hillsboro becomes more important with each new resident of increasingly-popular Portland. As the city becomes more and more expensive, people who used to be able to afford to live within the Portland city limits are being pushed out to the suburbs, where we are honored to be able to serve in a variety of ways. Although we are all proud JV AmeriCorps members, each of us serves in a very different way, and experiences a unique day-to-day experience. Here’s a brief glimpse into the world of Casa de Paz:

JV AmeriCorps member Gina Graziano samples macroinvertebrates with Gladstone High School Students.

Gina Graziano: SOLV is an Oregon based non-profit organization that brings together individual volunteers, service and conservation groups, businesses and government agencies in activities to restore our natural spaces and provide educational opportunities to encourage environmental stewardship. Established in 1969 by Governor Tom McCall, SOLV is well-known for its annual Beach and Riverside Cleanup as well as its Saturday community tree planting events through Team Up for the Watershed Health Program. I have the great joy, excitement, and adventure of working with SOLVs educational outreach and stewardship program, called Green Team. We work with elementary, middle, and high school science classes throughout the Portland Metro area to engage students in restoration work at stream sites near their schools. This year we are working with 80 classrooms and over 2,200 students. It has been truly life-giving, hopeful, and just plain fun seeing kids connect with nature and be inspired to conserve and protect their creeks and watersheds.

JV AmeriCorps member Lauren Vilardo spends her days supporting foster youth in the skill-building they'll need to live as independent adults.

Lauren Vilardo: The Independent Living Program (ILP) through LifeWorks Northwest assists foster  youths  in Washington County in the transition from foster care to independent living. The ILP helps individuals with goal-setting and skill-building, enabling youths to find jobs, go to college, and live on their own.  Additionally, the ILP provides a stable support system and social network for youths who often move from home to home or from school to school.

Charlie Vogelheim: While working at SOLV, I have been encouraging a lifelong sense of stewardship to both community and the environment to Portland-area students by leading service learning trips at local streams. Students learn about stream ecology and they are given the opportunity to work to improve a local degraded urban stream. Gina and I have lead students in activities such as invasive species removal, native tree planting, stream bank stabilization efforts, and maintenance and monitoring of native species.

Taking a break from pulling invasive English ivy to restore native habitats, JV AmeriCorps member Charlie Vogelheim smiles for the camera.

Kelly Mennemeier: As an AmeriCorps member at the Metropolitan Public Defender, I spend my days going back and forth between the office and the jail, meeting with newly incarcerated clients and preparing them for their first court appearance. My position affords me the opportunity to examine social justice issues from a legal angle. By focusing specifically on clients being held in custody, I am encouraged to consider the societal costs of a punishment-focused criminal justice system, and I push to understand the needs and vulnerabilities that lead my clients into the system, while also working to address the issues they face once there.

Raine Dalton: My placement, Bienestar, is a non-profit working for affordable housing and resident services for farmworkers and low-income families in the Hillsboro area. There is a great need for help with economic sustainability, education, and literacy. As the JV AmeriCorps member, I lead Bienestar’s homework club, teach citizenship classes and adult ESL classes, and help with residents’ taxes. I also help with the summer lunch program. It’s a wonderful opportunity to be able to serve Bienestar because the work is a direct result of the residents’ expressed needs and has a direct impact on their well-being. When my time is done, I will be able to say that I know someone who has a place to live, who obtained citizenship, and who learned how to read.