Fighting Poverty with Passion
While this was originally scheduled to be my farewell field report, my VISTA life has been extended by a few weeks since my Louisiana Delta Service Corps replacement will not start at YRNO until September. That gives me the chance to report two more fundraising successes. First, we won another grant from the Starbucks Foundation, this time for our REbuild program, pushing my total grant writing booty past $200,000. Second, I booked an AmeriCorps NCCC team in our bunkhouse for 50 days, generating some extra coin. Great to have nine new brothers and sisters from FEMA Blue 2 around! (I looked up the word “fun” in the dictionary and the photo above appeared.)
On the subject of service kin and farewells, I and fellow members of the July Tulane VISTA cohort have said our goodbyes. This past Friday we had a going away party at the Jackson Brewery Bistro Bar, where I consumed comp jambalaya and other assorted appetizers. The previous week we gave our end of service presentations, and I added a skill share on “how to get rich…slowly,” which was actually an extension of some basic banking advice I bestowed upon YRNO’s summer JOB1 class earlier in the month. Afterward, the VISTA crew was joined by our national director Paul Monteiro for lunch and a discussion of AmeriCorps-related issues. See the photos below for visual evidence of “Professor Jack” at work, as well as one of these many free meals I’m constantly chronicling, which should also include the red beans and rice John Coyle got us last week and the food at the recent Tulane Center for Public Service partnership reception.
Did I party outside the CPS universe? Basically, like it was my last month on the planet. I saw Disco Fries at Masquerade and then a week later did it proper for the Fourth of July, starting off at a Sara Green house party, moving on to the fireworks at the river and then catching up with FEMA Blue 2 for the real pyrotechnics. We began by pinning dollar bills on birthday girl Lauren, warmed up with some blues at Balcony Music Club, picked up the pace with dancing at Café Negril on Frenchmen and then got totally turnt at The Swamp on Bourbon. Have I mentioned Blue 2 is fun? So much that a quintet even came to our VISTA going away bash, and then basketball boy Jacob and birthday girl Rachel joined me for a post-party return trip to BMC. I prefer to recall more dancing and dollar bill pinning rather than the fact they’re both Packer backers!
I also had a terrific time recently at WRKF radio in Baton Rouge, where I was invited by one of my former students to give a research lesson to staff members. Ann Marie Awad has been working at the station since last year and it was great to see her again, not to mention just be among radio folk in general! My compensation? Another free lunch!
Finally, I want to congratulate my brother Mark on becoming a highpointer, which means he’s climbed the highest peak in all 50 states. A few weeks ago he summited Denali in Alaska, saving the most difficult for last. Mark actually had an unwitting role in my becoming a VISTA, as I accompanied him 10 years ago on a climbing tour of five southern states, beginning and ending in New Orleans. I’m convinced that had I not been in town a few months before Katrina hit, I never would have had the passion to join the rebuilding effort here. While the summits I scaled were not very “high” by his standards, they obviously didn’t represent the cosmic “point” of my coming. A belated thanks to my bro should be added to the kudos too, since he also had a witting role in my moving to NOLA, driving me and my meager belongings down from New York two years ago. He’s da man!