Fighting Poverty with Passion
If you’re not a real New Orleanian until you’ve been spread out on the hood of a police car, I’m proud to report I’m finally a real New Orleanian! I’ll let your imaginations run wild for now, but feel free to broach the topic next time you see me. (And no, I wasn’t on a movie set, protesting or the least bit intoxicated at the time.) Oh, what I wouldn’t give for visual evidence of the moment, decked out in my AmeriCorps VISTA T-shirt, getting the third degree. #badboy #trynot2laugh
Anyway, that hasn’t been the only madness this month, known for its alternative spring breakers, among other things. YRNO has had college groups from the University of Vermont, Texas A&M-Commerce, the University of Virginia, USC Upstate, Eastern Kentucky University, Princeton and New Mexico Tech volunteering with us, most filling up our bunkhouse. I’ve loved scheduling them and it would be awesome if my AmeriCorps experience eventually led to a staff position as a volunteer coordinator at a New Orleans rebuilding organization! In the meantime, we’ve got more helping hands from UCLA and Elon University on the way. Aside from building houses, we could build our own bracket. March Madness, indeed!
In terms of bunkhouse payments and cash donations, having these groups and others has been very good for YRNO coffers. Speaking of which, I recently began compiling a donor database so that we can (fingers crossed) establish a solid core of regular supporters. And as long as we’re talking finances, this week we officially received the $44,000 we were expecting from our winning Super Service Challenge videos. Suh-weet!
Of course, that doesn’t mean we’re not still applying for grants. Our latest submissions were to the Entergy Charitable Foundation, Starbucks Foundation and BCM, and we have more to work on in the coming weeks. For those who knew me in a past life, I’ve come to love grant writing as much as I enjoyed grading beat memos. As I tell my YRNO colleagues, I need a win bad.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that I miss writing about basketball though. Not doing any this month in particular is super tough. Memories of my old self became that much more real when I saw the 2013 Associated Press Sports Editors awards lists released with my name included. Publishing YRNO’s quarterly e-mail newsletter and blogging with a March Madness theme will have to suffice, I guess. The ultimate “side-gig guy” can’t have any as a VISTA!
YRNO has gotten more good press since my last field report, starting with a follow-up story by WWL-TV’s Bill Capo about the numerous donations we received after we were burglarized in January. We were also named one of the 10 best family volunteer vacations by USA Today. On another subject, I want to give a “shout out” to our spring semester intern Katie Morgan, a Tulane sophomore who’s been working on a historical web site photo project and sprucing up some of our outdated marketing materials. Good job, Katie!
An even heartier congratulations goes to Vincent Ilustre, who’s stepping down from his position as Executive Director of the Center for Public Service to assume the role of Senior Director for Regional Campaigns in the Office of External Relations and Development as of April 1st. We had a farewell party for him yesterday at the CPS offices with plenty of VISTA representation, giving me the opportunity to make my obligatory field report free food mention. Vincent’s a 1998 Tulane graduate, so it’s especially great to see young folks making waves. Way to go, big guy!
Lastly, it has been a weepy month for Saints faithful, with several fan favorites leaving the fold. I had actually met three of them who were actively involved in community philanthropy—Roman Harper, Malcolm Jenkins and Lance Moore, who’s pictured at right with me and pal Jim Coningsby. On the bright side, I attended my first New Orleans Mardi Gras parades—Endymion and Bacchus—and caught beads from Cameron Jordan at the latter.