Monthly Archives: August 2014

Your Passion, Your Joy

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Kirsten Overby, AmeriCorps VISTA - Fund Development and Alumni Coordinator

Kirsten Overby, AmeriCorps VISTA – Fund Development and Marketing Coordinator

The best piece of advice I ever received came from my ceramics professor as I prepared to graduate from college: Happy at home, happy at work, that’s all that there is.

Since then those words have been my driving force as I search for the job that fits my conviction to contribute positively to my society, while allowing me to follow my personal passion. Part of that journey has led me to commit to a year of service with Youth Volunteer Corps Headquarters, helping to achieve our mission to address community needs and inspire youth to a lifetime ethic of service.

This summer I had the pleasure of leaving my keyboard to get my hands dirty alongside youth from YVC of Greater Kansas City spending their summer making a real impact at J-14 Agricultural Enterprises, an organic farm on the outskirts of Kansas City, Kansas.

My Job, My Joy

IMG_4604After a morning of pulling weeds from fields of cabbages and repurposing a truckload of 2×4’s, we were lucky enough to get a tour, and a talk, from farmer Joe Jennings. Mr. Jennings spent decades in the military and as a school teacher, and through it all he’s been farming. For Mr. Jennings, farming isn’t his job, it’s his joy.

As we walked the acres of farmland that Mr. Jennings has developed over the years, he began to talk about the value of work, and not only what it does for others, but what it does for yourself. Essentially, your work is your life, so spend it doing something that you care about, something that you love. Mr. Jennings has certainly found that, and he says he’ll never stop. The hard work keeps him active, and keeps him sharp.

The Search Is On

As Mr. Jennings talked to the group of youth, I couldn’t help but recall my college professor telling me those words that have stuck with me as I wander through the early years of my career. I looked at this man and couldn’t help but think that Mr. Jennings loved his work so much that he made his home and his work one in the same. How amazing is that? “Just keep trying new things until you find what you love,” Mr. Jennings told the youth.

IMG_4634And the great thing is that these youth can. One Youth Volunteer at the project was feeling a little hot and tired after a week working outside in the Kansas summer heat, and she ultimately decided farming wasn’t for her. But no worries, she was going to volunteer at another nonprofit—somewhere inside—the next week.

Another youth told me he loves gardening, so he always picks the projects where he can get his hands dirty. Before college, or even high school for some, these youth were gaining experiences and perspectives that could really shape their lives.

I’ll admit, I was a little jealous that these youth were exposed to this wisdom and, given the opportunity to act on it, at such a young age. Because sometimes finding your own passion, and finding your own joy—it takes time.

Mayor Sly James to Speak at YVC Summit

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Make the World Your Canvas Grey-Yellow

Mayor Sly JamesWe’re excited to announce that Mayor Sly James will be a plenary speaker at the YVC Summit in October! Mayor James, who is launching a new initiative on improving resources for youth in Kansas City, will speak at the Saturday morning plenary. Beyond leading Kansas City, Mayor James is also known for his active presence on Twitter and his typical bowtie attire.

We’ve also got a great line-up of workshop facilitators this year. Here are just a few highlights:

Youth Volunteer Workshops:

  • Rich Linden: Known for his energetic and humorous style of speaking, Rich has spoken to 800,000+ people about youth issues over the years. He has produced several videos for social organizations, is the voice on many local TV commercials, and has appeared on “Party of Five.”
  • Chris Miller, former YVC of Greater Kansas City Program Director: Back by popular demand, Chris’ workshop has been one of the most highly rated two years in a row now.
  • Joe Colaizzi, Executive Director of the Kansas City Rescue Mission: Ever wonder what it’s like to be homeless? Joe will take us inside the mind of a homeless person and show us what life is like when you don’t have a roof over your head.

Program Directors/AmeriCorps Member Workshops:

  • Diane Marty, fundraising consultant: Diane made a brief appearance at last year’s Summit, and when she offered some fundraising guidance in one workshop, the attendees were quick to suggest that she lead a full workshop this year!
  • Kim Bastable, Vital Leadership founder:  After a successful tennis career, Kim found herself wanting to give back, so she founded Vital Leadership to mentor youth with leadership and life skills. Kim will be speaking about youth leadership and the motivation of youth and youth leaders.
  • Lisa Hoffman, YVC Headquarters board member:  A media relations consultant with an extensive communications background, Lisa has earned two Emmy Awards for television news reporting. She will combine her love for YVC and her marketing knowledge to provide practical and easy-to-implement ideas for your YVC program.

Those are just a few of the acclaimed speakers that we have lined up. This year, attendees are welcome to attend any workshop, whether it’s targeted for Youth Volunteers or staff.

We know this will be the best Summit yet!

Summer 2014: Service, Sun and Social Media

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#YVCSUMMER Photo Contest

Miles of nature trails mulched. Hundreds of dogs walked at animal shelters. Countless smiles on retirement home residents and kids at low-income daycare centers.

This summer, thousands of youth chose to make a difference in their communities, and their communities aren’t quite the same because of it.

Food banks were able to distribute more food, new community gardens are supplying fresh produce for needy neighbors, and city parks are cleaner. These youth have changed their piece of the world.

All summer we’ve heard incredible stories of youth making a difference in their communities through YVC. This summer we’ve also been following along on social media to see what Youth Volunteers were up to everywhere from New Mexico to Connecticut.

Now that most YVC summer programs have wrapped up, we’ve looked over all of the amazing photos posted online this summer using the hashtag #YVCsummer and were floored by all the great things Youth Volunteers were up to this summer!

We saw photos of Youth Volunteers serving on YVC projects with everything from Civil War reenactment actors to elephants. With hundreds of photos to pick from, it was quite the challenge narrowing it down to two winners!

After much deliberation, below are the two winners of the #YVCsummer Photo Contest:

Western Connecticut - Summer 2014 - 2nd place contest

2nd place – $25: YVC of Western Connecticut (@yvcofwc on Instagram): “BRING ON THE RAIN #yvcsummer #yvcofwc #prattnaturecenter”

Corvallis beach cleanup 7.18.14

1st Place – $50: YVC of Corvallis, hosted by Corvallis Parks and Recreation (@CorvParksRec on Twitter): “Corvallis Parks and Recreation’s YVC cleaned up Beverly Beach today! #YVCSummer”

Thanks to everyone who kept the conversation going online using #YVCsummer these last few months!

Two Paths Diverged in a Wood, and We Mulched the One Most Traveled

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Ben Dillon - YVCKC Team Leader 2014

Ben Dillon, YVC of Greater Kansas City Team Leader

Nine volunteers, four days, and four truckloads of wood chips. Add a dash of games and wildlife exploration, then sauté in the summer sun, and you have the ingredients for a successful (and sweaty) YVC summer project.

Nestled in the rolling hills north of Kansas City, the Parkville Nature Sanctuary hosts more than 30,000 annual visitors on its 3.5 miles of scenic trails. With so many visitors and only one part-time staff member at the sanctuary, it takes a small army of volunteers to keep the trails from deteriorating into a muddy mire.

Enter nine hard-working youth from Greater Kansas City. In 24 hours of cumulative service, each Youth Volunteer moved an average of 50 wheelbarrows of wood chips up a hill. That’s an estimated half-ton of wood chips per person!

YVCKC - Summer 2014 (5)_webBetween trips to the chip pile, volunteers encountered snakes, earthworms, spiders and wild turkeys. They learned the importance of milkweed to monarch butterflies and saw the devastating effects of invasive emerald ash borers. They stumped each other with category games (“Name a movie starting with the letter X!”) and shook off post-lunch lethargy with energizers like Oshka and Octopus Tag.

Most importantly, these nine Youth Volunteers saw the positive impact they can have on a community with just a little time, effort and intentionality. This impact was evident each time a passerby on the trail voiced her appreciation for the revitalized trail.

“There are a lot of things in life that you can’t control,” said Bob Fluchel, the sanctuary’s director. “But one thing you can control is your effort. Your effort this week has made a big difference.”

Thanks, Ben, for telling us about your experience at Parkville Nature Sanctuary! Do you have a great story from this summer? Contact Lacey at [email protected] to share your story!

Spotlight on: YVC of Greater Topeka

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Hampton Roads Spotlight 7.29.2014

August is already here and with it the end of summer. We’re sad to see summer go but we are excited for the beginning of a new school year and a whole new group of after school and Saturday projects!

As we near the end of our YVC Spotlight series on Summer of Service programs, we are going to visit YVC of Greater Topeka. YVC of Greater Topeka has been a part of the YVC network for five years, and they have an awesome program and Youth Advisory Board to show for it.

Abby Schletzbaum, AmeriCorps Team Leader and Elena Blum, YAB member, show us around their fantastic program.

Abby Schletzbaum, AmeriCorps Team Leader:
Greater Topeka - Summer 2014 (34)

Tell us about your summer program:

YVC of Greater Topeka’s Summer of Service program has projects from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Monday, Wednesday and Friday, as well as every third Saturday. We serve a variety of agencies like the zoo, Parents as Teachers, Successful Connections and Arts Connect.

What is the most successful part of your summer program?

The most successful part of YVC of Greater Topeka has been the sustainable growth of our summer program and the recruitment of dedicated Advisory Board members.

How do you select the agencies for your summer projects?

Most agencies have a working relationship with the United Way (YVC’s host organization), so Kim (YVC of Greater Topeka’s Program Director) selected agencies that she knew would be able to host Youth Volunteers appropriately.

How do you celebrate the end of YVC’s Summer of Service?

All Youth Volunteers will be mailed a certificate and a thank you card, and we will be kicking off the fall program with an information table and bake sale (to raise money for the Summit) at the Topeka First Friday’s event.

What has been the most rewarding part of this YVC AmeriCorps experience for you?

The most rewarding part of the AmeriCorps experience has been to develop the capacity of YVC of Greater Topeka to allow more youth a wider variety of projects to serve at, as well as developing friendships with the Youth Advisory Board and mentoring them on how to have sustainable success with YVC and their future service.

Elena Blum, Youth Volunteer and Youth Advisory Board member:
Greater Topeka - Summer 2014 (32)

How many YVC projects have you done?

I have been volunteering since 2012 but this is my first summer doing Summer of Service. I started in June and have done three projects each week.

What is your favorite part of volunteering?

I like meeting new people. I like seeing what I can do to help out the community; I didn’t know there were so many different problems in the community.

What is your advice to first time volunteers?

Don’t be afraid to approach someone new in the group, make it fun!

Ready to tour some other YVC programs? Check out our previous Spotlights on Greater Kansas City, Hampton Roads, Iron County, Plymouth, Calgary and Yellowstone County.

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