AmeriCorps Week: Impact Stories!

In honor of AmeriCorps Week, we wanted to share the impact our JV AmeriCorps members are making on the communities they serve! Around 120 of our JV AmeriCorps members are completing two or more capacity building projects throughout this service year. These projects address organizational gaps and enhance the quality and scope of services to address local priorities, primarily in the areas of homelessness, domestic violence, and at-risk youth, as well as disaster/emergency services, the environment, mental and behavioral health, disability, legal services, and others.

JV AmeriCorps member Brian Thurow (Hays, MT ’15-16, Juneau, AK ’16-17) serves as the JCAP Program Specialist at Aiding Women in Abuse & Rape Emergencies (AWARE), Inc. Below is a description of his capacity building project,  Men Choose Respect Curriculum Implementation.

“My capacity building project involves the implementation of a new curriculum for the Juneau Choice and Accountability Program (JCAP), a state-certified Batterer Intervention Program operated by AWARE. JCAP is transitioning away from a crisis intervention program model to a more prevention-oriented program model. In an effort to better suit the needs of our participants and our community at large, JCAP will be implementing an adapted version of the Men Choose Respect curriculum.

There is a need for a curriculum that aims for systemic, community-based change to end men’s violence against women, rather than an intervention-based curriculum that addresses the violence after it has been perpetrated. The implementation of the new curriculum will be a permanent structural change to the Juneau Choice and Accountability Program. Once the new curriculum is adapted, and the new contracts and paperwork created, the resources needed to facilitate the program will be available to any new staff.”

JV AmeriCorps member Dawn Thomas (Wenatchee WA ’16-17) serves as the Community Outreach Specialist & Healthy Lifestyles Educator at Columbia Valley Community Health (CVCH). Dawn’s capacity building project is called Retinal Eye Exam Flow.

“My project involved creating a flow for eye exams and communicating that flow to Primary Care Physicians, Medical Assistants, Radiology, and members of the patient services team. At the outset of this project, the percentages of CVCH’s diabetic patients that were not receiving annual retinal eye exams were fairly high. The process I helped create will hopefully begin to lower that number, by increasing communication about eye exam availability between providers and the radiology department. Establishing a process for same-day retinal exams is important for CVCH as we move forward in attempting to reach short and long-term goals for quality whole-person care for diabetic patients.

Dawn Thomas (middle) with her Wenatchee community mates

I have been able to be the point person for communicating about the schedule and helping to develop a flow that works well in order to get patients seen for their eye exams. I also conducted eye exams in the month of December, and will begin conducting them again in March onward, helping for me to see the “on the ground” work of planning, conducting, and completing these eye exams. We established a flow for same-day eye exams, getting radiology more comfortable with doing walk-ins of these just as they do for other types of exams.”

JV AmeriCorps member Tricia Tyson (Yakima, WA ’16-17) serves at the Yakima Neighborhood Health Services. Her capacity building project is called Depot Job Match.

JV AmeriCorps members Tricia Tyson (right) and Aleina Tanabe

“I planned, designed and implemented a new program to connect individuals experiencing homelessness in Yakima with employment opportunities. I meet with clients and identify barriers for employment, obtain Social Security and ID cards, and identify employment-related programs that would interest clients. I created the infrastructure for a sustainable project to hire the most vulnerable homeless in a temporary, transitional employment program in order to lay the groundwork for future employment. I find this project uniquely benefits my clients as they feel a sense of empowerment and increased self-respect as a result of working, increasing mental health and overall well-being. Fundamentally, it helps transition clients off the street and into housing by providing them a routine and source of income.”

JV AmeriCorps member Joy Macatangay (Aloha, OR ’16-17) is the Children’s Activities Coordinator for Monika’s House Shelter/Domestic Violence Resource Center. Her capacity building project is called Creation and Implementation of Trauma Informed Structure into Kid’s Club.

“A trauma informed curriculum and positive reinforcement system for Kid’s Club was developed and implemented with the Children’s Advocate at Monika’s House. The Domestic Violence Resource Center works with individuals who have experienced vast trauma in their lives. Monika’s House tries to be as trauma informed as possible and this includes the aspect of consistency.

The curriculum and positive reinforcement system were necessary in order to provide consistency for the kids. A binder has been created containing the curriculum and positive reinforcement system for Kid’s Club. It includes directions explaining the rules to go through with the kids at the beginning of each Kid’s Club, how to perform an appropriate time out, an explanation of the positive reinforcement system, the time line for Kid’s Club, and a wide variety of activities that whoever is implementing Kid’s Club can go through and choose from.

With these directions, Kid’s Club can be executed easily in the future. The program has become more trauma informed in order to better serve the clients staying at Monika’s House. It has also been improved to be more organized and clear about the proper procedures for everything with the curriculum and clear instructions outlined in the Kid’s Club binder. Because of this, the Kid’s program is running a lot smoother.”

These impact snapshots are just a few examples of the amazing service our JV AmeriCorps members provide their organizations and the communities in which they live and serve. We are proud of the hard work and determination our JV AmeriCorps members showcase each and every day. Thank you to all AmeriCorps members who are ‘getting things done’ across the country!

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Celebrate National Service This AmeriCorps Week

AmeriCorps Week is upon us! From March 4 – March 11, JVC Northwest and organizations across the country are showing our appreciation to current AmeriCorps members and alums, thanking our community partners, and sharing AmeriCorps’ impact on individuals, communities, and organizations throughout the country!

AmeriCorps Quick Facts

AmeriCorps, a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service iheartnationalservice_120x90(CNCS), engages more than 80,000 Americans in intensive service each year at 21,600 unique sites including nonprofits, schools, public agencies, and community and faith-based groups across the country. Since the program’s founding in 1994, more than 1 million AmeriCorps members have contributed more than 1.4 billion hours in service across America while tackling pressing problems and mobilizing more than 2.3 million volunteers for the organizations they serve.

JVC Northwest/AmeriCorps Partnership

JVC Northwest has been an AmeriCorps Direct Grantee since 2010, and we are grateful for our seven years of collaboration with the CNCS/AmeriCorps. This partnership has provided a range of benefits to our overall program:

  1. partner agencies are able to host JVs at a reduced rate
  2. our program has expanded to new communities allowing us to serve more people
  3. members face fewer barriers to service thanks to the education award received at the completion of a successful term of service, and much more!

JV AmeriCorps members serving in Billings, MT

JVC Northwest currently places 142 AmeriCorps members in 21 remote, rural, and urban economically challenged communities throughout Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. Our members serve at nonprofits, schools, and community health clinics. Our program’s focus areas of service include disaster relief, economic opportunity, education, environmental advocacy and stewardship, food and hunger, and homelessness and housing.

Our JV AmeriCorps Members’ Impact

JV AmeriCorps members are a visible testimony to the power of service and actively address critical community needs. Below are some examples of our JV AmeriCorps members’ impact on communities they serve.

Aberdeen, Washington – With the service of ‘13-14 JV AmeriCorps member Jonathan Strain, Catholic Community Services of Aberdeen, WA began a Youth Works Program to connect youth to meaningful employment experiences/training. Jonathan took the program from 0 students, schools and internships to 5 schools, 16 students, and over 20 internship possibilities. Students reported overwhelmingly positive experiences, with several making plans to pursue further education and training as a result of their participation.

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American Red Cross of Alaska volunteer looks at the after effects of a wildfire

Anchorage, Alaska – During the 2014-2015 service year,  JV AmeriCorps member Anna Nilles served at the American Red Cross of Alaska in Anchorage. Throughout the service year, she responded to 50 disasters, assisting 196 individuals primarily through single family fires, a shelter created for flood victims, and an assistance center following a wildfire.

Billings, Montana –16-17 JV AmeriCorps member Haley Ehleringer serves as the School Program Specialist at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Yellowstone County in Billings, MT. Haley is responsible for ensuring the effective delivery of the school-based mentoring program that connects 50-55 at-risk students in grades K-8 with high school mentors.

Follow the Impact & Share Our Story

JVC Northwest believes National Service is an important American value which solves local problems, unites communities and creates a generation of leaders. From March 4-11, follow our blog and AmeriCorps’ Facebook page as well as #AmeriCorpsWorks and #IamAmeriCorps on social media to learn about AmeriCorps amazing impact on members, individuals we serve, communities, and more!

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MLK Day of Service 2017

“Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.”

– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

To commemorate the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service 2017, AmeriCorps programs throughout the country participated in providing service in their communities. These are just a few of the stories of how our JV AmeriCorps members served!

JV AmeriCorps members located in Juneau walked from house to house installing smoke detectors and educating residents about house fires with the American Red Cross.

’16-17 JV AmeriCorps members in Juneau volunteering with the American Red Cross.

Alaska – JV AmeriCorps members in Juneau and Anchorage walked from house to house installing smoke detectors and educating residents on fire safety with the American Red Cross. Our Anchorage JV AmeriCorps members’ service activities were featured in the Alaska Dispatch News–  read the article here! In Bethel, JV AmeriCorps members hosted a showing of the documentary, For the Rights of All: Ending Jim Crow in Alaska. Additionally, members created an “I have a dream” board for interested parties to disclose their dreams.

Oregon – Woodburn JV AmeriCorps members Marit Olson, Jared Harris, and Emily Curran spent the day weatherizing homes through the Community Energy Project with Hands On Greater Portland. Meanwhile, in Hood River, residents were blasted with snowy winter weather, so in response to the weather, our Hood River JV AmeriCorps members teamed up with Providence Hospital’s Volunteers in Action to shovel care receivers driveways.

In Hood River, residents were blasted with snowy winter weather! Our JV AmeriCorps members located in Hood River teamed up with Providence Hospital’s Volunteers in Action to shovel care receivers driveways!

’16-17 Hood River JV AmeriCorps members shoveling care receivers’ driveways.

Washington  The JV AmeriCorps members in Grays Harbor carried on the tradition set by last year’s JV AmeriCorps members by picking up garbage throughout the Aberdeen and Hoquiam neighborhoods. In Tacoma, a few of our JV AmeriCorps members spent their time getting their hands dirty in the garden! Blair Bellis and Benjamin Feiten volunteered at Hilltop Urban Gardens where they composted, painted signs, and prepared the gardens for spring. At L’Arche Farms, Elizabeth Nawrocki recruited and coordinated volunteers for completing tasks throughout the farm.

Idaho – In the Boise community, JV AmeriCorps members Mariah Ertel, Mary Franz, Mary Haggerty, and AnnaMarie Marsilio spent MLK Day volunteering at Big Brother Big Sister of Southwest Idaho. Our members tackled various responsibilities assigned to them, such as organizing a storage facility, taking inventory, and reorganizing t-shirts.

According to Mary Haggerty, “Serving on Martin Luther King Jr. Day with my community knowing that so many other communities, not only in JVC Northwest but across the country, were serving others filled me with peace and hope. Hearing about and seeing so many people spread light made the ideal of a bright future tangible.”

Jared Harris, Emily Curran, and Marit Olson, spent the day weatherizing homes through the Community Energy Project with Hands On Great Portland.

’16-17 JV AmeriCorps members Jared Harris and Emily Curran weatherizing a home in Portland.

Montana – School was still in session in Hays, Montana, so our JV AmeriCorps members spent time educating their students on the history of Martin Luther King, Jr.. JV AmeriCorps members located in Missoula volunteered at the Poverello Center where they focused their day on homeless outreach.

Thank you to all who participated in MLK Day of Service 2017!

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AmeriCorps Milestone: One Million Strong

October 7th marks the day AmeriCorps celebrates an exciting milestone, exceeding one million members! Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest is proud to partner with such an amazing and impactful program that provides services to the most vulnerable across the country.

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A Brief History:

Back in 2010, JVC Northwest began our partnership with AmeriCorps by receiving a three-year National Direct AmeriCorps award from the Corporation for National and Community Service. Through this partnership that continued on in 2013 with another three-year grant, JVC Northwest was able to serve more people and increase our reach to more communities. 134_15-16photocontest_jvinservice_tutoringnook In 2016, we are pleased to report we received an additional three-year National Direct AmeriCorps Grant, which allows us to expand our program to support 142 AmeriCorps members (up from 135 in previous years) serving in 22 locales, including opening up a new community in Woodburn, Oregon. These 142 AmeriCorps members serve in rural and urban areas across Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington providing intensive service in the areas of disaster services, economic opportunities, education, environmental stewardship, healthy futures, and veterans and military.

AmeriCorps Benefits to Members:

Throughout the service year, full-time JV AmeriCorps members receive a living allowance that funds their housing costs, food, utilities, transportation to and from the service site, medical co-pays and deductibles, and other costs that may incur. Upon successful completion of their service year, members receive an Education Award.

Not only does AmeriCorps benefit members through a monthly stipend and Education Award, the program offers true personal and professional development and enlightenment for their future endeavors:

FJV AmeriCorps member Amanda Pena (Gresham, OR ‘15-16 ) served at Catholic Charities of Oregon as a Case Specialist.pena-amanda Amanda shared, “I have never felt more loved, supported, encouraged, pushed and needed in a position than I have this past year of service. I was entrusted with great responsibilities and given true opportunities to grow and help grow this organization. I feel so respected and valued for my ideas and skills and potential, and I am forever grateful for this placement and the personal/professional development it has given me.”

JV AmeriCorps member Jesus Espinosa (Portland, OR ’15-16) served as the Ventanilla Outreach Coordinator at Wallace Medical Concern. espinosa-jesusJesus had this to say about his AmeriCorps experience: “The entire staff at Wallace has been incredibly supportive and allowed flexibility in my position to cater to my strengths. I’ve been able to grow tremendously in 12 months and feel fortunate to have been able to leave a small mark in the clinic by the implementation of a new program aimed at increasing literacy in children of low-income families. My year of service exceeded greatly all my expectations and I will apply much of what I’ve learned to my future career in the health field.”

 AmeriCorps Benefits to Agencies

There are also countless benefits to the agencies where AmeriCorps members serve:

According to Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC) in Seattle, WA: “The impact of JV AmeriCorps members cannot be overstated, for the agency or for the clients served. The members bring new energy, thoughtful insights, valuable experience in other work, and volunteer positions to the agency, as well as much-needed and highly appreciated help to the staff in this very challenging day-to-day work. To the clients, the members bring willingness, compassion, and a commitment to do their very best to help DESC’s most vulnerable clients get the information, resources, and consistent, caring support they need to stay alive and continue moving forward in their lives, to the best of their abilities.”

YWCA Missoula in Missoula, MT: “The YWCA Pathways Program offers crucial crisis intervention services to victims of domestic and sexual violence 24 hours a day. It is the largest program of the YWCA Missoula, operating with a limited number of employees but providing services to a large amount of women, men, and children in the community and outside of Missoula County.

JV AmeriCorps members are invaluable to the Pathways Program and we could not provide ’round the clock services without them. 150_15-16photocontest_jvinservice_tutoringlittlegirlThroughout their one-year term of service, they impact individuals on a micro level and our community on a macro level. They might serve with an individual over the crisis line and help them solve a current crisis situation. They might serve with a woman at the shelter for several weeks setting short and long term goals with them, safety planning and providing personal advocacy, and connecting the woman to valuable resources in the community to start building a life free of violence for herself and her children. They also serve with children that have witnessed or experienced violence and are able to provide therapeutic play and a safe environment to kids that have often never been able to be true kids before. Some of these impacts can be measured in numbers (e.g. how many women and children stayed at the shelter), while others can only be measured in emotions and moments of safety, empowerment, and happiness.”

THANK YOU

JVC Northwest wants to thank all the past, current, and future AmeriCorps members who pledge a year to ‘get things done’ throughout the country!  Also, we want to thank CNCS, partner agencies, stakeholders, and all those involved in making the JVC Northwest and AmeriCorps partnership a success!

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JVC Northwest Receives AmeriCorps Grant

Exciting news:

Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest is Recipient of AmeriCorps Grant!

Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) Northwest has been awarded a three-year (2016-19) National Direct AmeriCorps grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). The grant will support 142 AmeriCorps members in 22 locales throughout five states of the Northwest enabling JVC Northwest to expand its impact in addressing locally identified challenges. Connor Kelley

“AmeriCorps is an indispensable resource to help meet critical challenges facing our communities and nation,” said Jeanne Haster, Executive Director of JVC Northwest. “We’re thrilled that the Corporation for National and Community Service believes in and supports the important service JVC Northwest AmeriCorps members offer to urban, rural and remote communities throughout the Northwest. During their service, our Jesuit Volunteer (JV) AmeriCorps members develop important civic and leadership skills that last a lifetime.”

americorps photoSince 2010, JVC Northwest, our partner agencies, JV AmeriCorps members, and community stakeholders have collaborated in our AmeriCorps program, engaging 135 members in full-time meaningful service opportunities in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. This grant increases our JV AmeriCorps member numbers from 135 to 142, enabling us to open a new JV AmeriCorps member community in Woodburn, Oregon.

In addition to the grant funding, CNCS provides $5,775 Segal Education Awards to americorps photo 2AmeriCorps members at the end of their successful service term. The Education Awards help pay for further educational and vocational training or pay back qualified student loans. AmeriCorps engages more than 75,000 members in intensive service annually to serve through nonprofit, faith-based, and community organizations at more than 21,000 locations across the country. These members help communities tackle pressing problems while mobilizing millions of volunteers for the organizations they serve.  Later this year, the one millionth AmeriCorps member will take the AmeriCorps pledge, committing to “get things done” for America.

Thank you!

We thank each of you for your continued support in this mutually beneficial collaboration of CNCS, partner agencies, JV AmeriCorps members, stakeholders and JVC Northwest!

Power of Place: Community & Education in a Remote Setting

JV AmeriCorps member Hopey Fink (Hays, MT ’15-16) serves as Academic Support Specialist at St. Paul’s Grade School. Below, Fink shares her experience providing educational assistance to students in the remote setting of Hays, Montana.

There’s a lot of “far” between here and other places. This unintentionally profound observation of a first grader has been ringing in my ears since September, when she pointed to a plane flying across the big sky over the playground at recess and mused about the distance to its destination. As a JV AmeriCorps member serving as the Academic Support Specialist at Mission Grade School on the Ft. Belknap Indian Reservation in Hays, Montana, I have had the opportunity to reflect on the unique beauty and the particular challenges of living in a remote place – the joys, the struggles, and the stories that fill the spaces of far between here and other places.

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A horse outside a classroom at Mission Grade School

Nestled in the grasslands at the base of the Little Rockies an hour and a half from the nearest large town, Hays is a village of about seven hundred people, mostly enrolled members of the Gros Ventre and Assiniboine tribes. It’s a place where horses frequently wander along the main road, where elk and deer meat are normal neighborly gifts, and where the whole town watches high school football games from pickup trucks pulled up to the field. Like many rural communities across America, it’s a place where the bonds of family run strong but also where cycles of poverty and addiction test these bonds. In January, the Ft. Belknap tribal council voted unanimously to declare an official state of emergency regarding the abuse of meth, a drug that directly or indirectly affects the lives of many of the children at Mission Grade School.

In my tutoring placement, I work one-on-one and in small groups with students from kindergarten through sixth grade. Every day, I see the brightness and potential that these children and youth offer to the community. At the same time, I have also seen how the injustices in rural communities like Hays are intergenerational, and the paths to justice must also be intergenerational.

One place I have witnessed the power of generations working together has been at our school’s weekly Honor Night Book Club, which aims to support family involvement in student literacy. Honor Night is an evening of games and fun in the school gym held every Thursday for students who have attended school, done their homework, and maintained good behavior all week. Fink, HopeyWhen relatives come to pick up their children, they are invited to choose a book and read aloud for five minutes. If they spend this time, each child can take a book home. Seeing kids discover the enjoyment that even five minutes of reading with their grandmother can bring is a reminder of the importance of involving families in education, especially in a community where many, if not most, households are multi-generational.

I am learning more and more that education extends beyond the pages of our textbook readers. If it is to be an effective tool against the systemic problems that are particular to this reservation community, education needs to encompass the values and wisdom and stories that Native families have passed from generation to generation in this place. A rootedness in this land and a respect for culture and tradition are things that I, as an outsider, cannot teach in the same way that I can teach times table tricks or phonics practice.

My JV AmeriCorps community mates and I have stepped into a nearly fifty-year legacy of Jesuit Volunteer service in Hays. Each day I am humbled by the sense that this place– these prairies and pines and these stories of wounds and hope that are woven into the fabric of this community- has existed long before us. I am grateful for the ways that I have felt welcomed into sharing some of the uniqueness of this place, whether that be on hikes in the canyon or in the circle of the sweat lodge.

Hopey (second from the left) with her JV AmeriCorps community mates

The distance between here and other places cannot only be measured in miles. Hays is a lot of “far” from the nearest Wal-Mart, sure. But the struggles of rural poverty and addiction, along with the struggles of many Indigenous people to preserve their ways, are also far from the minds of most people in America. In coming together across ages and in honoring the traditions of family and culture, the “lot of far” between here and other places can seem less daunting. Recognizing the power of place, in all of its vastness and remoteness, might allow generations to work together to break harmful cycles that are specific to this community. I am thankful for the opportunity to learn from this place as a JV AmeriCorps member and to work with people in Hays to effect change- starting with times tables tricks and phonics practice.

AmeriCorps Week: Life as a JV AmeriCorps Member

This AmeriCorps Week, we’re highlighting JV AmeriCorps service throughout the Northwest. JV AmeriCorps member JP Ideker (Hood River, OR ’15-16) serves underprivileged students and their families throughout Hood River County, OR.

My service placement at Oregon State University (OSU) Extension Service has given me the opportunity to meet, learn from, and be with some incredible people. Through service with the SNAP-Ed program conducting healthy food demonstrations, I’ve gotten to meet community members at food banks, K-5th graders (who always make me smile) at elementary schools, and several professionals at nonprofits working to address food insecurity and promote healthy eating.

James (third from the right) and his Hood River community mates

JP (third from the right) and his Hood River community mates

Through service with the Juntos college and career-readiness program, I’ve gotten to learn from local Latino families and students about the obstacles that the Latino community faces in pursuing higher education and the history of the Latino population in Oregon. Through service with the ASPIRE high school mentoring program, I’ve gotten to be with Latino high school students as they navigate college, scholarship, and financial aid applications.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about my definition of service and how this year has helped shape my understanding of such a broad concept. I think meeting, learning from, and being with the people we “serve” are key elements of true service. By meeting people where they are, learning from their stories and experiences, and choosing to be with them, we begin to share our lives with others. It is this sharing of experiences that best reflects the word “convivir” (to live together) that so many Juntos families have used to describe their favorite parts of the Juntos program. The word “convivir” has become an integral part of my year with OSU Extension, the Columbia Gorge community, and the JVC Northwest AmeriCorps program.

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Natalia Fernandez and JP present at a workshop

It is difficult to choose a single great story that best describes the past seven months in Oregon, but there are many small, daily shared experiences that have been life-giving, peace-filled, and almost painfully soothing. These daily shared experiences take several forms, including cross-country skiing with our support families, waking up at 7:00 AM and finding a crockpot full of tamales my GED students left at our back door, helping a family fill out a FAFSA application for the first time, and having a high school student lend me their favorite book to read.

I am incredibly thankful to share this year with a new community and have them share it with me as well. From sitting down with families in their homes to hear stories about their immigration to Oregon and their traditions, sharing pozole and chicken tinga with Juntos families before the college workshops begin, and seeing elementary school kids’ eyes light up when they try the healthy food of the month, I’m left with daily reminders of the goodness around me.

I feel lucky to get to meet, learn from, and be with the Columbia Gorge community for another five months, and I look forward to all the lessons this year has to offer. Service as a Jesuit Volunteer AmeriCorps member so far has taught me a lot about the value of shared moments in that there’s a certain intangibility to the beauty in them – in daily handshakes, smiles, stories, new fruits and vegetables, and college workshops. I’m thankful for this intangibility, this community, and a shared life.