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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Denim Day: A Fashion Statement to Make a Social Justice Statement

Our latest blog post is written by JV AmeriCorps member Lauren Pusich (Boise, ID ’15-16) who is serving as the Outreach Coordinator with Women’s and Children’s Alliance in Boise, Idaho. Below, Lauren shares her experience serving with survivors of sexual assault and organizing the Denim Day event, which challenges victim blaming and creates spaces for conversation.

A study by the Center for Disease Control shows that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner. Serving as a JV AmeriCorps member at a domestic violence and sexual assault nonprofit, I am keenly aware of how pervasive these issues are. In my placement at Women’s and Children’s Alliance (WCA) in Boise, I am constantly in the community discussing these issues.

Lauren (middle) and her community mates attend a screening of the Hunting Ground

Lauren (middle) and her community mates attend a screening of the Hunting Ground

In Ada County where I serve, law enforcement received 4,447 calls for services related to domestic abuse, sexual assault, and child abuse in 2015. I have not attended a single event where I have not had at least one person come up and identify as a survivor. You likely know someone who is a survivor themselves, even if they haven’t shared their story with you, or maybe you yourself are a survivor. Survivor stories are powerful and need to be heard because they are silenced far too often.

One way we can break the silence is through awareness days. In April, the WCA participated in one of the biggest awareness days in its history. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) and Wednesday, April 27 was Denim Day. On this day, individuals were encouraged to wear denim to demonstrate the prevalence and detrimental effects of victim blaming in our society. Denim shows solidarity with an Italian survivor whose rapist’s conviction was overturned when the court ruled that the victim’s jeans were too tight. You can learn more about the history of the case and how Denim Day was established as a global awareness day here.

My service year has shown how often we place the blame on the survivor of an assault or abuse, rather than where the blame lies—with the perpetrator. There are countless cases of victim blaming; mentioning how if that person had just not drank, had not stayed in the relationship, not led someone on, or not worn that outfit, then they would not have been assaulted. With these thoughts, we end up re-traumatizing victims and do not hold perpetrators accountable.

Proclamation by the mayor proclaiming April 27 as Denim Day in Boise

Proclamation by the mayor proclaiming April 27 as Denim Day in Boise

Denim Day helps challenge victim blaming and creates spaces for conversation. One such space was at The College of Western Idaho (CWI). CWI’s Psychology Club hosted an open forum on sexual assault and victim blaming in partnership with the WCA for Denim Day. Attendees heard how victim blaming leads to under-reporting of sexual assault and unlike any other crime, sexual assault victims are more likely to be perceived as lying when they report. Two survivors in the audience shared their stories and how meaningful it was to see the community coming together to talk about these issues. Each time a survivor shares their story, I am reminded of why I choose to serve at the WCA and why I am so passionate about advocating for change. These stories need to be heard. 

We need to create a culture where survivors feel supported when they decide to speak up and eventually prevent the need for WCA services. We need to challenge each other to end the cycle of silence around these issues and how we perpetuate victim blaming attitudes. We need to be there for survivors when they have the courage to speak up and share their stories. We need to have these uncomfortable, but necessary, conversations.

CWI Clothesline Denim Day Two

Former WCA clients who are survivors of domestic abuse or sexual assault participated in the Clothesline Project Display at CWI.

Overall, Denim Day was a huge success with 100 different businesses and organizations participating at 115 different locations not only locally, but across Idaho and even state lines. The JVC Northwest office even participated! Seeing the whole JVC Northwest team wear denim put a huge smile on my face. You can learn more about Denim Day 2016 at the WCA by checking out this newsletter article.

I look forward to participating in Denim Day each year until we no longer blame victims for something that is never their fault. Thank you to those survivors who have shared their stories with me not only on Denim Day, but throughout my year of service. You deserve to be heard, to be believed in, to be supported, and you are never asking for it. Serving as a Jesuit Volunteer continually reminds me how communities can come together to create change and how we can all challenge ourselves to live out social justice in our everyday life.

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.

Social Injustice…is there a vaccine for that?

Cydni Carter serves as a JV AmeriCorps member in Boise, ID as the Services Coordinator for the day shelter Corpus Christi House. She shares a story of initiative and collaboration that exemplifies the unique advantage living in community gives JVs to see and meet the needs of their greater community.

Boise

The 2012-2013 JV AmeriCorps community of Boise, ID together during JVC Northwest’s summer orientation.

One of the most amazing and wonderful things about the placement sites in Boise is how interwoven our service can be. Many of us serve the same or similar people. Carson and I serve at neighboring night and day shelters: Interfaith Sanctuary and Corpus Christi House. Our guests may end up participating in the program where Megan serves, Supportive Housing and Innovative Partnerships (SHIP), an organization that provides safe and sober housing for people in recovery from substance abuse disorders. Both Daniela and Carly are nurses at Terry Reilly Health Services, an organization that provides medical, dental, and mental health services on a sliding scale. Emily serves at Catholic Charities of Idaho as a case manager, mostly with refugees from Africa. She often refers her clients to the services that many of our organizations offer, completing the interwoven JVC Northwest AmeriCorps placement site circle.

Bringing together knowledge and experience from each of our agencies, we are able to see a bigger picture of the problems facing the greater community. This has enabled us to come together in our efforts to bring positive change here in Boise.

About a month ago, Daniela started looking for ways to do outreach in the community. Around the same time, some of the Corpus Christi House volunteers and I were talking about how Terry Reilly used to do outreach at Corpus Christi House. It seemed a perfect fit to rekindle this relationship and bring health services into the shelters.

I brought this idea home to Daniela, and she jumped right on board. We started trying to find a way to make this project happen. Being flu season, it seemed most logical to organize a flu shot clinic. Many of the Corpus Christi guests do not have insurance or have difficulty making their way to Terry Reilly’s clinic, making it difficult to access care, including the flu vaccine.

Boise Carly Bernard

JV AmeriCorps member, and RN, Carly Bernard preps for the event at Corpus Christi House.

With that set, we started the process of planning. My supervisor was supportive from the beginning, telling me to just name a date. Daniela’s end took a little more time. She had to make sure the bases were covered regarding who could be vaccinated at the clinic to ensure both patient safety and Terry Reilly regulations were maintained. She also had to organize staffing for the clinic and order all the necessary components that she and Carly would need to bring. But the ball was rolling, and we were excited.

As the day approached, Daniela came to Corpus Christi House on a Friday afternoon for our weekly Clarification of Thought meeting. This meeting was designed to bring the volunteers and guests together so we can bring up any changes or complaints, listen to the other side, and allow for explanation and questions. She came two weeks prior to the flu clinic just to make an announcement that the clinic was happening. After that, I started to hear that many people did not want the flu shot due to many of the myths that accompany it. Even though I knew that they were just myths, I did not have the correct knowledge to make my guests understand that the flu shot was safe and effective. So I asked Daniela and Carly if one of them could come back the following week to answer questions about the flu vaccine. The Corpus Christi guests asked Daniela many questions during that second visit, about the flu vaccine and a myriad of other health topics. After that meeting it was clear that that many of the guests felt better and less nervous about the flu shot.

Along came the day of the flu clinic. When I arrived at my placement that morning, many of the guests were wondering when the clinic was going to start and where they needed to be. I was ecstatic that my guests were excited! Daniela, Carly, and their crew arrived and set up in our smaller family room and got things going right away. That Monday morning, Daniela and Carly successfully immunized 20 of our guests. Not only were they immunized for this flu season but they also began a relationship with the Terry Reilly Clinic that will continue to provide much needed health services in the future.

Boise Daniela Aguilera-Titus Immunizes Kevin

JV AmeriCorps member Daniela Aguilera-Titus immunizes a guest of Corpus Christi House. Members and community-mates Daniela and Cydni truly made this outreach event possible.

Boise Carly Bernard Immunizes Jason

Member Carly Bernard immunizing one of the 20 clients at Corpus Christi House who received the flu vaccine that day.

I hope that this is the start of an outreach program this year between Terry Reilly and the organizations that work with the community of people experiencing homelessness. It’s also just one example of the ways the placement sites of Boise, the City of Trees, are interconnected and able to come together for the benefit of the greater community of Boise.

A Hidden Gem: Service and Adventure in Boise, the City of Trees

Erin Gorman, JV AmeriCorps Member in the Boise, ID Community, relays her community’s work and play in the surprisingly diverse and active City of Trees.

It’s apparent why Boise is called the City of Trees. This is a view of Downtown from Camel’s Back Park

Greetings from the City of Trees!  Throughout the past 10 (short!) months, the JV Americorps Members in Boise have been busy serving an immense variety of populations throughout our city. It has been a challenging experience with plenty of opportunities for growth. Community meals are saturated with colorful discussions, especially when many subjects, whether it is local legislation or a new agency’s arrival to the Boise area, affect each of our service sites.

Sarah’s placement, at the Women’s and Children’s Alliance (WCA), offers safety, shelter and counseling for those experiencing domestic abuse and sexual assault. Corpus Christi House, where Michelle serves, follows the Catholic Worker model.

Michelle outside her placement, Corpus Christi House in Downtown Boise.

Every day, guests experiencing homelessness can find a daytime center with basic amenities, a light breakfast, and most importantly, hot coffee.

Brendan’s time is split between two agencies. At Catholic Charities, his service focuses on refugees new to the Boise area, especially through the weekly English classes he instructs. At Salvation Army, a large part of his service involves assisting clients with energy bill needs and food security through their energy assistance program and food bank.  I am a nurse at Terry Reilly Health Services, where I interact with patients during office visits and lab appointments.

Sarah, Michelle and Brendan enjoying a sunset on a hike in the Boise foothills.

A large portion of our patient care is funded by a grant specifically for patients considered homeless; this provides for office visits, as well as many medications and lab tests.

Despite the wide cross section of social justice issues each placement encounters, all of the Boise JV Americorps Members find the nature of our service constantly overlapping.

Terry Reilly, the health clinic where Erin is a nurse, recently moved into a new facility!

At Terry Reilly, I administer tuberculosis tests and assist with basic shelter exams for new residents at the WCA. This also enables me to explain the grant for homeless patients to receive health care, in cases where WCA residents do not have insurance. Similarly, Michelle often refers patients to Terry Reilly, conveniently located a few blocks from Corpus Christi. If my patients mention needing help paying utility bills, I’ll recommend contacting Salvation Army. Despite Boise’s small size, the social justice issues surrounding each individual we serve are multi-faceted. The opportunity to expand our utilization of resources has been guided by much interaction between organizations. One such group is the Homeless Coalition. This is a monthly meeting Michelle attends with representatives from many community organizations serving the homeless, including the WCA, Terry Reilly, and Corpus Christi. Discussion includes review of programs and resources, as well new agencies, creating a network facilitating communication between participating agencies.

Sarah, Michelle and Erin, overlooking the city and some foothills.

One unexpected perk of living in Boise is vibrancy of life in the city itself. We are surrounded by incredible natural beauty: from the unique high desert landscape of sagebrush and rolling foothills, to the towering trees lining the Boise river and the greenbelt bicycle “highway”—which makes bike commuting a breeze! Steep canyons, hot springs, white water rafting, mountain biking, and skiing are all within an hour’s (sometimes minutes’) drive from Boise! In spite of our busy schedules, we have still have found time to enjoy these unusual advantages of living in such an active city.  Generous friends (especially native Boiseans!) are so enthusiastic in sharing equipment and experience with us.  Boise is incredibly invested in conservation of these natural resources, especially in regard to the foothills and Boise River. The focus on local businesses and economy is also admirable for a city of its size (just over 200.000 people in the city itself). Initiatives like “Buy Idaho” and “Think Boise First” have created conscientious consumers out of all of us, and encourage shoppers to consider local options for everything from housewares and home services to groceries and restaurants. The farmers’ market, local record stores, eateries, shops, and even our grocery co-op emphasize sourcing goods from as near as possible.

Hot Air Balloons over the Boise River — an autumn tradition in Boise!

It has been quite the adventure exploring the many opportunities Boise has presented to us. Although we have each grown as individuals this year, what is perhaps even more gratifying is seeing the productive changes in our patients’, guests’, and residents’ lives. Trials and tribulations transform to triumphs. Sick patients get well with much needed care. Residents fleeing for their safety find new hope and independence. Refugees learn to navigate American culture and language. Guests find housing, jobs, and new avenues for success. While every story is not always one of success, together

we have each been able to impact Boise in small ways through these individuals. Many people we engage with  fall through the cracks of a system beyond their or our control, and this paints a greater picture of who every JV Americorps member serves, regardless of their city or placement. We remain motivated through small achievements and improvements, and having the support of community has been immensely important to share this journey with.

The Boise JV Americorps Members (Sarah, Brendan, Michelle and Erin) in McCall, ID at the winter carnival!

AmeriCorps Works: Impact Map 2010-2011

For the final day of AmeriCorps Week, we built an interactive map of the impact JV AmeriCorps members had in the last program year, 2010-2011. We’re still gathering information for the current program year, but judging by how much JV AmeriCorps members did in 2010-2011, the results are going to be incredible!

Click on the badge below to link to the interactive map. After you’ve opened the map, click on the placemarkers to see the breakdown of the impact JV AmeriCorps members had in their placements. From domestic violence to environmental stewardship, from Sitka to Portland, one thing is clear from these numbers: AmeriCorps Works!