Fighting Poverty with Passion
I’ve had a lot of good months as a Tulane AmeriCorps VISTA.
But none come close to the latest.
Without question, the biggest news is that YRNO sold a home to a teacher. Ben Ifshin teaches biology at one of our partner schools—Sci Academy—and we finished up the paperwork on October 3rd. No matter what I do from this point forward at YRNO, I’ll never play a bigger role in turning a house around than I did with the shotgun at 318 South Salcedo. Before I even began my VISTA gig, I helped our Executive Director (and 26th birthday boy!) Will Stoudt find the owner of the property so we could purchase it. Then I coordinated every volunteer group that ever worked on it, including my own Tulane VISTA cohort. I helped generate publicity when we had tools stolen from the site, prompting many donations. I was a witness at the closing. My smiling face in front of the completed house doesn’t even fully express how happy I am to have been a part of the project. On that porch, I greeted many fine folks from across the country (and around the world) who had a hand in getting it done. I’ll never forget it.
On the subject of things I’ll always remember, I had a dream come true last Thursday. To promote the home sale, Lindsey Rousselle and Veronica Ridgley of Gambel Communications set up interviews at WWL radio and WGNO-TV, and I got to participate in the first one! As I’ve stated here before, I previously worked in radio and often think about doing so again. I wake up every day to WWL, so getting a chance to be behind a microphone with Monica Pierre was a huge thrill! We even had a “Cajun country connection,” as I once worked at KEUN radio in Eunice and she’s from Church Point! The interview will air on multiple Entercom New Orleans stations this coming Sunday morning (when my parents will be in town to hear it)!
You know it has been an exceptional month when it takes me this long to mention that YRNO won another grant, my sixth victory in 2014. Bike & Build will support us for the third straight year! While we await word on three more grant applications, our current fundraising effort is the Super Service Challenge. Our goal is to top the $44,000 we won in January, and voting for our videos improves our chances, so we beg you to go here and here and click all the vote buttons!
I haven’t mentioned free food yet either, so I guess this would be as good a time as any. YRNO had a group from Raising Cane’s come and volunteer with us for a gardening project at Carver Prep in Gentilly a few weeks ago. Afterward, Lynn Young and her crew made a generous donation and treated us to lunch at their new restaurant on Chef Menteur Highway. Along with a “shout out” here and on Facebook, I also found a little space for them in our most recent quarterly newsletter. #onelove #corporategroupsarealwayswelcometoo
Thanks to two people, I’ve now been inspired to go above and beyond my work at YRNO. One is my roommate (and 25th birthday boy!) Tom Zolot, who basically volunteers for everything he can, putting me to shame. The second is my cousin Tricia Stampfli, who just keeps fighting no matter how many times cancer kicks her in the rear end. Tricia was the first person who came to visit me after I moved to New Orleans and told me I was going to be a shining star here, so I’m determined to do my best. This month, I volunteered at three of my VISTA peer organizations. I was a parking attendant at the Homer Plessy School gala, manned the Café Reconcile concession stand at a Tulane football game and planted trees with the New Orleans Fruit Tree Project. Big ups to Neal Dixit, Shang (“Shawn”) Wu and Cait Donohue for providing the opportunities!
Don’t worry about all work and no play though. Jack is definitely not a dull boy. In recent weeks I’ve been to several celebratory outings with various VISTAs, including a happy hour at Eiffel Society benefiting Eden House (where Helen Lindau is the VISTA), a trip to the Audubon Zoo and a Pelicans preseason game. I also attended a screening of Amanda Rose Wilder’s award-winning “Approaching the Elephant” at the New Orleans Film Festival and took my first ride on a New Orleans party bus, thanks to an invitation from Teddy Nathan of CPS. The bus ride followed by DJ Soul Sister at Hi-Ho Lounge made for quite the night!
Lastly, although the Saints continue to bungle road games in every way possible, I did have yet another fun experience with a fellow VISTA in the Superdome. Shawn joined me for the rollercoaster win over the Buccaneers. I won’t even bother writing how many straight games the boys have won with me in the dome—just check out my hands in the picture he took afterward. #neveradoubt