Hello everyone, it’s so crazy how time is flying by so fast! I only have two and a half months left as a VISTA. I’m proud to say I’ve done this because I know this is something not everyone can or would do. It’s really opened my eyes to what I want to do. I’ve realized I truly want a job doing direct service as I really enjoy working with people instead of being behind a desk. I’ve come to the conclusion that the life of a professional is something that I have to work on every day. One day I think I am doing well and then the next not so great.
I’ve had quite a few things keeping me busy over the last five months. One of our fundraisers is the Instant Wine Cellar and that was in April. My job was to recruit and train 35 volunteers as well as getting silent auctions donations. The fundraiser supports our Volunteer Connections website which is where people can find volunteer opportunities that agencies post. The event’s attendance was lower this year than years prior, but it was still was a successful night.
A big part of my site is giving and helping the community. The United Way has a campaign once a year where money is raised, but the great part about it is that it all stays local. Local organizations can apply by writing a grant and presenting their grant in front of community members at the Citizen Review Panel that is held in May. I was able to sit on one of the panels with three other community members and see how the process works. It was pretty interesting to learn about as grants are a big part of a lot of non-profit organizations.
Another big event for me was Day of Action. It is an event that is held on or near the longest day of the year, that many United Way’s around the country participate in. This year that day was June 21st. The day is spent advocating for a focus an organization has. Char-Em United Way focuses on early childhood literacy, so we had volunteers spend an hour reading to the kids at local bookstores, libraries and daycares. The theme for the day was financial literacy, so I came up with a financial literacy activity for the volunteers to do with the kids if there was time after the story. We were able to get the Depend brand to sponsor 300 literacy kits that provided materials to help kids continue to grow a love for learning with things such as activity sheets, pencil, coloring pages, family resource guide, scissors, eraser, frisbee and a financial literacy activity that they can do with their parents. I recruited a dozen volunteers to help put the literacy kits together and then 35 volunteers to go out into the community; making sure they understand where they are going and directions once they get there.
Right now I am in the process of putting together an interactive poverty simulation for the community members of Charlevoix and Emmet County. Since I got so much out of the one I did at mid-year training, I wanted to share the experience with others. I think it’s an incredible eye opening experience that any person can get something out of. I have written a letter to 87 local and state elected officials and candidates for the upcoming election. I am using the Missouri Community Action Agency Simulation kit from a community partner. The goal is to get 50 people from the community to participate, so I am trying to get the word out the best I can. My site covers Charlevoix and Emmet County and in those two counties 38% of households are living in poverty or are ALICE (Asset Limited Income Constrained Employees) workers meaning they make over the poverty line, but can barely afford the basic needs such as transportation, child care, food, housing and health care. We want leaders in the community to walk a mile in the shoes of that population.
I have helped our social media initiative grow increasingly well. There has been a lot more activity from others and we the number of likes our facebook page has doubled. I am learning a lot more about marketing this way. When the initiative was first started there were just random tips and pictures that was being put on there to get our name out since there wasn’t anything being done beforehand. For the last two months, it’s been changed where what I put relates to our mission with things such as: recognizing volunteer/donors, highlighting partner organizations/ business supporters, highlighting an issue we focus on and a call to action. After I heard at the Point of Light Conference in one of my sessions how important it is to have social media posts relate to your mission, it really put the initiative into perspective.
Before my service year is over I want to get the United We Read Initiative back in full force. The initiative is recruiting and training volunteers to go into the community and read, tutor and mentor to kids in the schools. That is my goal for the next two and a half months. There isn’t much time left now, but I have big things I want to make happen.
Hello everyone! I serve as a VISTA at Char-Em United Way in Petoskey. Char-Em United Way has three main focuses which are health, income and education. The mission statement is “Uniting the people and resources of Charlevoix and Emmet Counties to build strong communities”. We help connect people to community resources and agencies, rather than providing direct service.
A part of my service focuses on early childhood literacy. Along with my fellow VISTA, I help to support the Dolly Parton Imagination Library Program which sponsors over 1,300 children ages 0-5 in Charlevoix and Emmet counties to get a free book every month in the mail. We register children for the program, send out graduation surveys and 3-6 month surveys and send out bi-monthly newsletters to the parents that let them know about things that are going on that they can do with their children. The books are paid for through donations and the annual Toast to Literacy that is held in February. For the fundraiser this year I recruited 25 of volunteers for the event and helped bring in donations for the silent auction.
When I started my service in November I was excited to start an Alternative Spring Break program, but it was a big project for one person. I found agencies that were willing to get projects together for the students to do and made up a flyer, but then I had a hard time getting the schools on board to do one. Eventually it was clear that it was too late to start the program this year, but I’m excited I made a contact from a high school in the area who has a lot of interest and will help me get the details together to have one next year.
I have started a social media initiative for our Facebook at the United Way that I picked up from a social media webinar I participated in: Motivational Monday, Tip Tuesday, What’s New Wednesday, Thoughtful Thursday and Cute/Funny Photo Friday. I really enjoy creating these posts and the number of people that have liked our page has increased as well.
The United Way promotes volunteerism and helps connect people in the community to volunteer opportunities through the Volunteer Connections portal on our website. The annual Instant Wine Cellar event helps to fund Volunteer Connections and I am in the process of getting volunteers to assist at the event. In addition to Volunteer Connections, we recognize a Volunteer of the Month. My fellow VISTA and I interview the volunteers each month and it’s pretty cool to meet these amazing people. We write articles about these volunteers that get published in the Petoskey News Review. It’s helping me become a better writer and I’m thankful for that.
I was just involved with Project Connect, which is an event that connects attendees with health and human services agencies in Charlevoix and Emmet Counties. I contacted local churches to provide information about the event and request volunteers, and I also was a volunteer who helped people register at the door. It was an incredible event and I really was really proud to be a part of it.
I have been at Char-Em United Way for four months now and I have learned a lot so far. I’ve learned that I can grow in the most difficult situation. I am thankful for the trainings and all I’ve learned about myself. This VISTA experience has been a journey for me. There have been some ups and downs and I must say I’ve really grown from them. I am still getting used to Northern Michigan, but I really like it so far. I am pretty excited for the summer time up here and for what the rest of my service year has in store.
Each blog post was written by one of our VISTAs!