Good Day Cohorts. Billie here, reporting from the boondocks as a second year Michigan Nonprofit Association (MNA) Civic Engagement (CE) AmeriCorps VISTA serving at United Way Montcalm-Ionia Counties (UWMI).
As I entered this second year, I was gearing up for our 3rd annual trail run/walk for 2-1-1. Slightly more successful than the previous years, the event was a great opportunity to bring the community out for some fun, while also raising awareness and money for a great cause. 2-1-1 is a free, 24/7 phone line anyone can call to talk to a specialist and get connected to information and resources in their community. Whether they are looking to give or get help, 2-1-1 is available to all of Michigan, even to most states in the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada. This event, along with the annual 2-1-1 Day (February 11…2/11) are the two major fundraisers for the cause. Although the call is free to anyone who uses it, the cost of the service is the responsibility of UWMI and cost can be a struggle for this small nonprofit. Numerous nonprofits participate in 2-1-1 day and help raise money and awareness for the cause. This past February, we had numerous profits and nonprofit agencies participate in 2-1-1 Day, including even two school districts. Some organizations participated by having casual day while the schools participated by having “pajama day”. Teachers and students donated money to the cause, and in return, they get to wear pajamas to school. There were approximately 11 schools between the two districts and they raised over $500.
My biggest “project” this year is cultivating our new community partnership with Montcalm Community College (MCC). Although it had been in the discussion phase for a long time, things really took off in October when UWMI started having a presence on campus two days per week. With students often not finishing their academic careers due to issues outside of school, a group of us wondered how we might be able to change that. Perhaps if UWMI had a presence in the school and could be a face of the community, then maybe we can connect struggling students to available information and resources in their communities. In turn, this could be what keeps the student in school to finish their degree and be more successful. With office space in the Student Services building, information in the weekly and monthly newsletters, presentations given to staff and to students, phone and email contact information, we have been reaching out to students to let them know there is help out there and we can assist them in navigating the course. This also helps foster a greater volunteer base for not only UWMI and MCC, but for the community in whole.
As I am fast approaching the end of my second VISTA year, it is bitter sweet to look back. Although always feeling like I should have or could have done more, I am overcome with pride and joy when I think about what I have accomplished. This journey has been an amazing one, both personally and professionally and I share my stories of National Service with everyone.
Each blog post was written by one of our VISTAs!