Fighting Poverty with Passion
It’s nearly impossible to fathom that I’m already three-quarters of the way through my AmeriCorps term. I have a broken clock in my room that runs at double speed, and that’s what my life feels like right now. Must I stop having so much fun to slow it down?
The news of the month is that my grant writing drought has finally come to an end! Thanks to the Starbucks Foundation for their forthcoming support of YRNO’s Free Enterprise Leadership Team—a group of local high school students that oversees the purchase, rehabilitation and sale of blighted New Orleans properties in return for potential scholarship money. I needed a win bad, and got it. No doubting I’m a successful VISTA now. It feels fantastic!
The chase for funding never stops in the non-profit world though. Our next goal is to get online donations on May 6th, which will be the first ever GiveNOLA Day, when every dollar donated to YRNO and numerous other organizations will be increased with additional “lagniappe” dollars and cash prizes provided by the Greater New Orleans Foundation and other sponsors. If you’ve been thinking about giving to YRNO, that’s definitely the day to do it, via our page on the GiveNOLA web site.
In other news, YRNO made it through “March volunteer Madness” getting an incredible amount of work done on our properties and generating beaucoup revenue from our bunkhouse. But I think my fondest memory will be the last night when a group of students from Elon University invited me to have a homemade dinner with them. Very flattering. Beyond my already established affinity for a free meal, I love meeting new people and shooting the breeze.
Believe it or not, April has been almost as “mad” as March was in terms of volunteers at YRNO, just without so many of them staying in our bunkhouse. Highlights included area teens helping out with our special Global Youth Service Day projects, as well as adult groups from the Newcomb-Tulane College Dean’s Advisory Council and the Tulane faculty and staff, with the latter adding a generous financial contribution to our cause. Merci!
It was also my pleasure to meet a good number of Tulane students at the Spring 2014 Public Service Internship Fair. YRNO is looking for interns to execute a kind of auditing project whereby we’ll survey staff, volunteers, service learners and others about their experience with our organization, so we can get better! We got a dozen sign-ups at the event and are hopeful that some of them will ultimately work with us. Regardless, I had an enjoyable time chatting with potential candidates.
I met even more folks at Tulane when YRNO Executive Director Will Stoudt and I spoke to Karyn Van Buren’s Business TIDES class, with the engagement arranged by Nick Tringali of the Center for Public Service. Among the things we discussed was how we complement each other at work, as Will is a natural leader and I have no leadership aspirations. Anyway, it was just great to be back in the classroom after my years as a journalism school adjunct, not to mention securing an honorarium for YRNO. On a related note, much love goes to Judy Vitrano and her TIDES class, as they organized a Jazz Fest ticket raffle to benefit YRNO.
Also very exciting was another trip to the WWL radio studios to cut a public service announcement. Will and I had been there in January to do the same after YRNO had been burglarized, but that spot quickly became dated, so we were invited back by production manager Jim McCutcheon to produce a second one about our organization. I dreamed of working in radio from a young age and began my career in that field before moving on to other things, so it’s always a thrill to return. I wrote last month that it would be awesome if my AmeriCorps experience eventually led to a staff position as a volunteer coordinator at a New Orleans rebuilding organization, but I often think about being in the radio biz again too. Almost any job (other than sales) appeals to me, including office receptionist! I’d love meeting and greeting everyone who came into a radio station! #schmoozer
On the Tulane VISTA beat, big ups go to Jakita Allen, our fearless leader who was among three recipients of the first annual Joseph Massenburg Memorial Award for Excellence in National Service, presented by Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Massenburg was the AmeriCorps NCCC member who was killed April 1st, 2013 while serving in New Orleans. VISTA teammates Tom Zolot, Amy Biedermann, Erin Ricketts and I were all on hand to support Jakita as she received the well-deserved honor. Her latest undertaking is the AmeriCorps Pen Pal Project, in which I am an enthusiastic participant. Soon enough, she’ll officially be a full-time Tulane CPS employee. A true VISTA success story!
In closing, my tag line this month is inspired by a separate set of Saints. My hoops obsession began at age 5 when my father started taking me to the games of his alma mater, Siena College. Since then, the school changed its nickname to match a certain beloved New Orleans football squad, and a couple of weeks ago the “other Saints” won the College Basketball Invitational—a largely-ignored c-list tournament to be sure, but an exhilarating moment nonetheless. I was proudly sportin’ the colors alongside my VISTA peers (Maggie, Erin, Natalie and Chao are “saints” too!) at our monthly service project just hours after the win, and I think the crew at Walk-Ons pegged me as crazy for requesting Siena vs. Fresno State on the big screen three times in a week. Of course, they’re right.