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Fighting Poverty with Passion

Field Report: YMCA Educational Services (YES!)–Stephanie W.

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Corporate Cup friends! Emily W., myself, Gumbo the Dog, Ms. Jocelyn, and YES! student, Darrell!

Corporate Cup flew by without any major hitches! There is great satisfaction in seeing plans come to fruition especially when you hear the positive reviews during and after the race. See photos here and check out our new Corporate Cup Facebook page! Now that I’ve seen race day and the few months leading up to it, I have a better idea of what to plan for and expect leading up to 2017’s run. But before we leave 2016 behind, there are still some loose ends to tie into pretty bows—that is, handwritten thank you cards. Having our students write the cards enabled me to talk to and learn a little more about them. It was touching! In addition to thank you cards, we are also preparing for our annual fundraising campaign heading into the New Year. Shameless plug: please follow the link to our donation page and make a gift to our 2017 campaign here. 🙂

Reflecting on 2016

Here are a couple highlights of some things I’ve come to realize as a VISTA here in New Orleans. One reflection comes from working with YES! and interacting with other non-profits; the other is through my time with other VISTAs in this program.

It’s no secret that starting, running, sustaining, and growing a non-profit organization can be difficult. Non-profits run and function like any other small business but the defining difference is that non-profits address the deeply-entrenched and basic needs of people in our communities, without the benefit and advantage of profit. Last week, I attended a meeting for local United Way agencies in my supervisor’s place. The group had originally formed as a way for human-services-oriented organizations under United Way’s umbrella to become acquainted with, collaborate, and share resources with one another. But eventually, representatives of United Way stopped attending. The meeting I attended addressed the group’s desire to move away from being solely attributed to United Way, who has fallen into distrust with many organizations because of their exclusivity. The nature and climate of non-profits is overly competitive especially when it comes to grants. When organizations attempt to set themselves apart from one another, they are unintentionally distancing themselves from one another. This is a great disservice to the people we claim to serve. After all, the people we serve, more often than not, need services from multiple sources. It is a shame when organizations turn away individuals without providing sufficient referrals or resources because they are not associated or familiar enough with other nearby organizations. If we do not create consistent and comprehensive service, what good can we expect to do in the long-term? One positive of that meeting was that there was a desire to bring more organizations into the group to create a more unified voice for non-profits. However! I am interested to see how a group like that would be able to determine how each area of service could get a fair share of the “pie.”

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Moving to New Orleans was one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever made, albeit slightly harder to execute. This is where Tulane’s AmeriCorps VISTA program saved me the headache and stress of finding housing. Little did I realize that I was putting myself in an environment that I hadn’t experienced since living in a cramped college house with nine other people. Actually, let’s be honest, I haven’t been so social in my life since senior year of high school. Until recently, I used to look forward to watching Jeopardy with my cat after work. Although I miss Seattle in ebbs and flows, I am so grateful to have the support from all of the friends I’ve made because of VISTA. This current VISTA cohort is made primarily of recent and fairly recent graduates, so their high expectations, aspirations, and goals are inspiring. I truly appreciate being around like-minded and highly-motivated individuals who remind me that I should slow down my pace on the path to living the life of a bitter old cat lady.

Finishing 2016

Later this month, I will be taking a trip back to Seattle. I plan to bring a relatively empty suitcase and leave with a full suitcase. Things to do while I’m there:

  • Never let go of my cat
  • Hangout with as many friends as possible
  • Eat as much of my mom, aunt, and uncle’s cooking as possible
  • Go to as many hot pot, Szechuan, Korean barbeque, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, and Japanese restaurants as possible
  • Possibly drive around the Olympic Peninsula
  • See my favorite tattoo artist before she moves back to Sweden
  • Hike around the Cascades, weather permitting.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

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2 comments on “Field Report: YMCA Educational Services (YES!)–Stephanie W.

  1. Tulane VISTA
    December 13, 2016

    Hmmm, seems like non-profits are dependent on the goodwill of their donors and must compete to remain attractive to the donor group. It’s as though the donors are the customers. What happens to the clients, who at one time might have been thought of as the customers, when the donors leave? Is it time to turn the non-profits to the market model?

  2. Jack Styczynski
    December 13, 2016

    Jealous you got a picture with Gumbeaux!

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This entry was posted on December 13, 2016 by in VISTA Field Reports.

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