|The month of August was a whirlwind over here at Catholic Charities! It took me a little while to get back into work mode after being on vacation in July! I spent most of August working on two things: Oil spill volunteer recruitment and preparation for the fall semester. We’ve still been receiving many phone calls and emails from out-of-town groups wanting to help with oil spill relief. Unfortunately, our volunteer needs for our distribution days are unpredictable, and we often do not have enough volunteer work for all of the people who would like to volunteer. Preparations for the fall semester have been going well. It seems that we are going to have more service learning students this semester than last semester, which is really exciting. I’ve been attending a lot of service fairs, and it is interesting to see how service fairs are handled by each school; the fairs seem to reflect the different cultures and values of each school. While I won’t mention the fairs that were less than satisfactory, I would like to praise Loyola’s service fair. Kelly Brotzman, the Director of the Loyola Office of Service Learning, truly thinks of everything. Even though Loyola’s campus is much smaller than many of the other campuses that I have visited, she remembered to hang up signs to direct the community partners to the service fair. The fair was very well-organized, and there is always a ton of delicious food! This year, the fair was very well-attended, and I believe that we are going to have a lot of Loyola service learners. Kelly really considers the needs of community partners and the fact that many of them will not be familiar with Loyola’s campus. Those little details seem to make a big difference in the relationship between a university and its community partners. It’s been fun planning for the semester and attending all of the fairs, but it will be nice when things calm down a little bit.
I can’t believe that it’s September already! I’m not sure where the summer went, but it still feels like summer here in New Orleans! Some interesting changes have taken place at Catholic Charities this month. Our food distribution days in communities affected by the oil spill have been canceled. Interest in volunteering to help with oil spill relief has really decreased lately, so this cancellation has really made things less hectic for our office because we no longer need to recruit volunteers. However, I worry about the communities that will no longer be receiving our services, especially since the holiday season is approaching. I believe that some of our Christmas toy donations will be going to community centers in these areas, but due to lack of funding and lack of national media coverage, I doubt that they will receive much more assistance than that. Changes have also taken place in our Safe Environment Training policy. All volunteers who will be working with or around children must now watch a 25 minute DVD and a PowerPoint presentation. All in all, I would say that this training takes about an hour, whereas before it only took about 15 minutes. Also, the training may only be conducted by my supervisor. Logistically this has made things a lot more difficult for our office. Our volunteer information sessions now take a lot longer, and I can no longer conduct volunteer orientations by myself, as my supervisor must be there for the training. Last semester, it was really easy for me to meet with students on campus individually or in groups to conduct quick orientations, but now we are a lot more restricted. We have had to turn away many student volunteers because they could not attend one of our scheduled trainings, and logistically, we just cannot meet with them individually. A lot of our volunteers are very dissatisfied with the new process, but there is nothing that we can do about it. In the end, it is worth it, if it keeps children safe. -Jackie Thornton, AmeriCorps VISTA
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