Hello from Petoskey on the Little Traverse Bay of Lake Michigan in the northern part the Lower Peninsula. I am Patricia Brewer and I am serving at Char-Em United Way (CEUW). This United Way covers Charlevoix and Emmet Counties, as does my community partner, the Char-Em Intermediate School District (Char-Em ISD). It has been a very busy few months since PSO in August; I have been working on projects focused on literacy, financial literacy, and volunteerism to support those areas.
In September, I wrote a grant to a local Kiwanis foundation for funds to help with the distribution of books to preschoolers through the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. Each month, this program mails age-appropriate books to children from birth through age five and is sponsored by the Char-Em United Way for this area. The cost of this program is about $30 per child, per year and we currently have almost 1300 children enrolled. In December, a check for $500 from the Kiwanis Foundation of Harbor Springs was presented at a luncheon to my site supervisor and me. Those funds will cover the cost of 200 books and help local children with Kindergarten readiness and to start their lifelong love of reading.
In early October, I sent a survey to all of the school principals in the 11 school districts in our area to determine how volunteers could help their students. The survey asked about the types of help needed-mentoring, tutoring, reading, writing-as well as the time of day volunteers could be best used. It also asked if they had interest in a financial literacy activity for either students or staff and gave them some choices in that category.
As a result of that survey, I recruited community members as volunteers to work in the schools, organized a training session where three Literacy Specialists from the ISD taught methods for working with students, then placed those volunteers in local schools. With this placement of about a dozen volunteers, the CEUW “Literacy Corps” program of in school volunteer placement has reached 115 people out of a three year goal of 150. The schools were thrilled to get this additional help from the community and I was pleased to be able to help connect the volunteers with schools that had indicated a need so hundreds of children can be positively impacted by them. I also made referrals to some of CEUW funded partners, such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters and the Char-Em Financial Literacy Collaborative (Junior Achievement), to meet the needs in the schools.
Recognition of volunteers is also a fun part of my work and I was able to help recognize many of our Literacy Corps volunteers at the local Retired & Senior Volunteer Program annual recognition luncheon in October. Since the RSVP is a program under the umbrella of the National Corporation for Community Service, they are a great national organization and local partner in recruiting and placing volunteers in our communities. I have the honor of serving on the RSVP Advisory Board during my VISTA year and, as the youngest person in the room, got to deliver many pins and certificates to the dedicated volunteers in attendance at the annual celebration. (see picture 0523)
Some of my time has also been spent training representatives of local nonprofits in the use of the “Volunteer Connections” portion of our website, promoting volunteerism to students in local high schools, and writing press releases and newsletters. I have enjoyed the variety of projects in which I have been involved so far and am looking forward to the two big annual fundraising events we are planning for February and April and all of the other adventures awaiting me in 2015.
Each blog post was written by one of our VISTAs!