Air Force Video of our Shelter

This is a little feature that the Air Force did on our shelter. It’s a nice visual of where we’ve been for the past week. We’ve been in Jersey City for a little over a week now, and it looks like we will be serving our last day here tomorrow. It’s been a rough week, but an amazing experience.

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Disaster

Hey Blog!

I know, we’ve fallen way behind in posting. I blame a combination of technical difficulties and being irresponsible bloggers.

 

In other news, Moose Three along with most of Atlantic Region NCCC is out on the east coast, helping with the Hurricane Sandy disaster relief efforts. Right now, we’re stationed in an armory in Jersey City that is serving as a shelter. Other teams are in other places, mostly throughout New Jersey, helping Red Cross in various ways and running or helping to run shelters.

 

I’ve been pretty disconnected from the news, so I can’t give you any stats on the disaster. I only know what we’ve seen in driving and working here. In our area, the biggest damage from the hurricane has been knocking out the powerlines and making gas scarce. We’ve seen downed trees, branches and debris all over the place, and gas lines four hours long.  We’ve ended up driving down so many streets without streetlamps, with all the houses dark. It’s eerie. Maybe the strangest sight is that of New York City, right across the water from us, with some buildings lit up and some buildings dead black. Yesterday morning, when we got back to the hotel, there were only a few black skyscrapers.

So if yall at home have been paying close attention, or you’re in close contact with someone in the NCCC corps, you might know that we are getting very close to our graduation date. Our term ends on November 15th, 11 days from today. If things had gone as scheduled, we would be back at Perry Point campus right now, doing paperwork, workshops and celebrations to close out our NCCC journey. It was a huge surprise for us to learn that we had been called out on disaster, with just two and a half weeks to go.

I think my conversation last sunday went a little like this:

 

Heather Mann: “We got the call. We don’t know where we’re going, but Jen says to pack our red bags, we’re moving out.”

 

Me: “What??? We can’t go now, there’s a turkey in the oven!”

The turkey was fine. We ended up not deploying until Wednesday, so we ended up being able to have our last dinner with our wonderful sponsors, SALT, and leaving only a few days ahead of schedule. Since we came to Jersey, things have been crazy. Red Cross has been working around the clock to get supplies and people where they are needed, and where they needed us was working at this armory shelter in Jersey City.

We have over a hundred people here set up in cots on the indoor athletic field. We are so blessed to have a wonderful team of service men and women running the shelter with us, as well as paramedics and dedicated Red Cross shelter managers. Some NCCC teams are the only staff of their shelters, be Moose Three is serving here as support staff, doing whatever is needed.

 

They have us split into two shifts, a day shift and a night shift. Each shift is twelve hours long and has its advantages and drawbacks. I’m night shift, which is much calmer, but shifting to nocturnal is pretty hard. My first day, I was awake for 27 hours straight. Now I’m getting about five to six hours. I’m feeling pretty good, considering. I hope this isn’t incoherent.

 

I can’t say enough how great the people here have been. Red Cross is an amazing organization with so many dedicated individuals. We’re honored to be part of this relief effort. The hours that people have been putting in and the response that has been put in motion is awe-inspiring.

 

Moose Three is living in interesting times.

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Lindy’s Log: City Neighbors weeks 3 & 4

Hi blog!

As always, it got mad busy at the end of the round. We have finished our time with City Neighbors in Baltimore, and we’re back at the Perry Point campus, regrouping for our next adventure.

The first two weeks with City Neighbors we did a lot of little tasks around the schools. Our last two we did more heavy duty tasks–mostly furniture. School opened on August 27th, so we had a big push to get everything into place for the big day. After the first day, we couldn’t work at the schools anymore, since they would be jam-packed with kids.

City Neighbors is working hard to make their “best school you can imagine” dream a reality, this year focusing on replacing their starting-up mismatch of furniture and decoration with a carefully planned selection of new or slightly used furniture. What that meant for us was that we unloaded several trucks–some semis, some smaller FedEx trucks–full of furniture and put them in place. Since the elevators were sometimes broken, this meant some intensive stairway and hallway-carrying. We’re mostly in our early twenties, but all this heavy lifting can have us feeling like old men and women. We unloaded and placed tables, desks, stools, chairs, and lockers.

The lockers were our biggest project–we unloaded sixteen pallets full of them. I think there were over two hundred. The shipment was about two weeks late, so we had to bust it out to get them all in place in time for the school to open. In no other time in my life have I appreciated hand trucks and carts with wheels so much.

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Applying for Americorps

Service spotlight:

Each week the service spotlight will include information on inspiring volunteer opportunities or biographies of people out there serving their community, ways to serve and get involved in your own community, or highlights on current world issues you can help address.

Serving with Americorps

President George Bush, while in office, issued a challenge to the youth of the United States of America: to spent two years, about 4000 hours, in service to our country.  As a result of this challenge, the President’s Award recognizes those who choose to serve above the required 1700 hours to graduate.  There are four levels: Bronze (1800 hours), Silver (1875 hours) and Gold (1950 hours), and the Lifetime Award, available for those who serve at least two years in Americorps and earn 4000+ hours.

Two years isn’t that long, either.  But its enough that if every American devoted two years to national service, we might find ourselves looking at a very different country.  NCCC might not be the way you choose to serve, but Americorps offers many opportunities to serve through State and National Direct, and VISTA as well, giving you the ability to choose what projects and needs you address.  Imagine if every aspiring teacher spent a few years tutoring in a low-income school, inspiring students to achieve more and believe that someone out there cares enough to put their personal gain on hold.  Before becoming a carpenter, contractor or architect, youth could spend a couple years with Habitat for Humanity, gaining skills and insight into the greater problems associated with housing.  How many forests would thrive if the effort put into partying at colleges all over the country was instead put into Summer of Service activities clearing invasive species, planting trees and repairing trails?  And how much more would every American care about these issues if they invested 4000 hours of themselves into making our country, our home, a better place for everyone?

There’s an issue out there for everyone with a little bit of passion and a desire to make a difference.  Americorps isn’t the only way to serve, but at this time, I’m a little biased in favor of it, so now I’m going to walk you through the steps to apply for an Americorps position.

  1. Create an account

Log onto www.americorps.gov and near the top find My Americorps: [login].  At the login page find [Apply to serve] and follow the steps to create a new My Americorps account.

  1. Create an application

(If you’re uncertain whether or not you want to join Americorps at this point, skip to step three and come back here if you find a program you want to apply for.)

A nice feature of the Americorps system is that you don’t have to keep filling out application after application.  Once you’ve prepared an application, you can submit it to as many programs as you are interested in.  There’s a lot of competition out there, so tailoring your application is important for popular sponsors, but it certainly saves a lot of time over typical job hunting.

Look on the left hand side of the portal (that’s what we call the hub of all your Americorps activity) and find the tab marked [Applications].  Click that tab, and you will see an empty page.  Once you’re started, all your applications will be stored here.  Select [Create Application] and begin filling out your information.  Plan several hours to devote to this process, and be prepared to request some references.  These may take some time, because once you enter the information for your references, they will receive an email that takes some time to fill out.  Make sure your references are forewarned so they don’t just toss the email in the junk folder.

  1. Search for programs you are interested in.

Look at the left bar again and click on [Search Listings].  Take a moment to be overwhelmed by the options.  Americorps has a vast number of programs to apply for, so searching may take some time.  Sigh and get over it, cause its time to start your search.

If you are interested in NCCC, then your options are pretty easy.  Check Americorps NCCC and it will pull up the next cycle.  FEMAcorps is also an option now, and though I’m a bit biased towards NCCC, those interested in disaster management should consider reading up on FEMAcorps.

Otherwise, begin narrowing down your options by either location or service area.  If you have a specific non-profit in mind, say, Habitat for Humanity, you can also search for that specific program.  If not, your fastest way to narrow down your options might be to start searching through the results and looking at any that catch your attention.  With so many options, don’t over think right now.  If an opportunity looks like something you’d want to spend a year doing, add it to favorites with the button on the bottom left of its listing.  Get yourself a nice stack of choices that fall within your interests and available start date.

  1. Google it up!

This could be the next year of your life, so you don’t want to end up just anywhere.  Even if right now you think all you want to do is serve, many of the programs are very challenging so it’s worth doing some research and finding the place that’s right for you.  Look up the webpage for any non-profit you are considering.  Read job descriptions carefully and keep in mind, the glamorous parts of the job are generally the smallest as well.  Look for the day-to-day stuff and consider it carefully.  Do you want to be indoors or outdoors most of the time?  If you want to work with kids, make sure you’re not applying for the behind the scenes office job.  Interested in being a caregiver, know whether or not you’re going to be wiping butts, and if you’re comfortable with that.

Narrow down your choices to ones you think you’ll enjoy.  Don’t waste your year being unhappy with your job.  New opportunities are always opening up so if you don’t find one now, wait a month and search again, or expand your options.  Perhaps something in another part of the country will interest you.

  1. Apply.

At this point the process changes depending on where you are applying.  Some programs will want more than just the basic application.  Thanks to the universal application from Americorps, sending it in won’t take too long.  However there will still be interviews awaiting you and possibly some lengthy wait times as popular programs narrow down applicants.  Send in applications to several programs (but again, make sure you really want to spend a year with them).  If you’re applying to a VISTA program its worth becoming familiar with VISTA.

Regardless, its generally a good practice to make contact with any non-profit you might be applying for.  They might have a lot of applications and sending them an email with a letter of interest and ask a few questions, it may give you a leg-up in the “throwing out applications” most popular employers go through (you could also politely call it “narrowing down the field).

From here on out you’re more on your own.  Keep tabs on the applications you’ve sent in through [Submissions] tab and keep checking for new listings every few weeks.  In NCCC, you may not get much warning that you’ve been selected, and all the response deadlines are very short and non-negotiable.  If you’re waitlisted, don’t give up hope.  It’s pretty common.  Several of our CMs this year were selected after training started and given a seven-day warning before arriving at the Point.  Make sure to return all paperwork and confirm your acceptance into the program before the dates give.  At this point you’re just a name on a list and if you don’t make the effort, its easier to fill that spot with someone else than give you a second chance this early on.

Ultimately, if you’re still stuck on applying, find a CAP (Corps Ambassador Program) event with Americorps members, or track down an alumnus from a local alumni chapter, and get some help filling out the application.  Americorps members are a proud bunch and typically more than willing to encourage and help first timers join up.

As a final piece of advice, when you get accepted into a program, do some deep searching and understand your reasons for serving.  There’s no wrong answer here, as long as you have a realistic attitude towards what you will be doing, but you should really make sure you know your motivations and what you’re going to get out of a year in Americorps.  Once you have that answer, write it down someplace safe.  When things get tough, on that day where you think you’re ready to walk away, or are homesick, or simply tired of living off rice and beans, read that answer again and remember, what you’re doing is likely to be one of the greatest years of your life.  At the end, you will be proud of serving your community and value what you’ve done, and that little reminder from when it was as easy as sitting at your computer and dreaming of saving the world might get you through that bad day.

Hope to see you all in the corps some day!  Look for a future blog post to learn more about ways to serve outside of Americorps.

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Pictures!

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Lindy’s Log: City Neighbors, Week 2

Hello, blog!

We’re finished with our second week here at City Neighbors in Baltimore. This week, we spend two of our workdays at City Neighbors Charter School, where we live, and three of our days at CNS, the other City Neighbors location.

At City Neighbors Charter School, we sanded and stained tables, painted, moved furniture, and painted some more. School is only about two weeks away now, so our touch-ups and building improvements have to kick it up a notch to get the school ready to open its doors.

We got to get acquainted with the other location, CNS, which is located about a mile away and they teach Kindergarten through eighth grade, I think. Their building is much smaller than the location we’ve been working and living at. There, we moved some furniture, we worked outside on the playground area, and we moved some more furniture. From the very beginning, Moose three has had a gift for moving heavy things from point A to point B. We’re becoming even more gifted with practice.

Next week: I have no earthly clue. We’ll see! I’ll try to get some pictures posted, or get someone else to post them 🙂

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Lindy’s Log, Baltimore Week 1 (hello City Neighbors!)

Hi Blog!

We’re done with week one back in Baltimore, this time working with City Neighbors. City Neighbors is a nonprofit public charter school. We are helping them to make improvements to their building and to prepare for the start of a new school year.

City Neighbors has kept us busy from day one. This week, we painted a retaining wall, a series of grates inside the school, and the concrete border of the school annex building. We moved 300 chairs out of classrooms in the main building and into the annex, and later in the week we unloaded 300 chairs from a delivery truck and moved them into classrooms.

We moved various pieces of furniture from one location to another and moved furniture around to prepare classrooms to be painted. We also performed a variety of small tasks around the school–weeding and mulching a small entryway garden, sorting and measuring cabinets and so on.

One of the cool things about this project is that we’re living in the Annex of the school, a big building that isn’t being used for classes yet. That means we have a lot of room to spread out. It’s really good for the team when we can all have our own space. We like each other, but personal time is important too. We also have multiple bathrooms, a kitchen sink, access to an oven, air conditioning and a two-lane mini bowling alley. It’s the little things.

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