Hello All! I’m Katelyn Kovalik and I am serving as an AmeriCorps*VISTA within the Heart of West Michigan United Way Volunteer Center. Nestled in the heart of Grand Rapids, the United Way is a hub for local agencies and nonprofits to gather, collaborate, and examine the complex challenges that our community faces. It has been a true pleasure serving here and being a part of that effort.
The goals of my term are to strengthen the partnership between the Heart of West Michigan United Way and Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS), as well as facilitate service-learning opportunities for K-12 students, and engage community members in volunteerism and resource development that benefits the school district.
September is a busy month! In honor of 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance, myself and fellow Michigan Nonprofit Association Civic Engagement AmerCorps*VISTAs Anita Moore and Jordyn Appel will lead a classroom of 4/5/6th graders from North Park Montessori Academy in an outdoor enhancement project at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans. We were fortunate enough to receive a 9/11 mini-grant from the Michigan Community Service Commission and Michigan Nonprofit Association to purchase work gloves, shovels, rakes, and lesson plan materials. Not only will the students have the opportunity to serve local veterans, but after the project they will be researching the lives of heroes from Grand Rapids who made the ultimate sacrifice protecting our country.
On September 12 is United Way Day of Caring 2014! This annual event is the largest example of corporate volunteerism in Kent County, engaging over 1,000 workplace volunteers. I will have the opportunity to participate in two projects that day: 1) Volunteers from Spectrum Health will visit Coit Creative Arts Academy to make improvements to their playground, including adding fresh mulch, painting pavement activities, and trimming the landscaping, and 2) Volunteers from Amway will be partnered up with students from Sherwood Academy and visit the Grand Rapids Children Museum and Grand Rapids Public Library. Mentors and mentees will spend the day engaging in activities and exploring the exhibits that these locations offer. Not only will I get to assist in the logistics of these projects, but I will also be representing the United Way and sharing with volunteers the incredible combined impact that we can have on education in our community.
Finally, on September 30th I will team up again with Anita and Jordyn to visit North Park Montessori and coordinate a military care package project. Volunteers from G&T Industries and 1st graders from North Park will gather to organize donations that they had been collecting all month. Snacks, toiletries, and entertainment will be separated according to category and shipped off to a platoon serving overseas. Students and workplace volunteers will also include notes of support in the packages, thanking the service members for their commitment to keeping us safe!
What an awesome & inspiring year it has been!
Each blog post was written by one of our VISTAs!