What Volunteering at Vanderman Meant to Us:

Posted by: Rebecca Russell and Stephanie Celifie

Volunteering at Vanderman was one of the best decisions we could have made this year. From the first day volunteering, we (Rebecca and Stephanie) connected with the residents and workers so well. The residents were happy to see some new faces at the facility. They were making jokes and asking us questions about our lives. We were hooked instantly. When our designated days to volunteer came up, we couldn’t wait to catch up with the residents. We had many responsibilities and joined in many activities with the residents.

Some of our duties included resident transportation from their rooms to the recreation room serve refreshments, and handing out snacks. Tuesday and Wednesdays were reserved for games and movie night. Responsibilities during game nights included rolling dice for those who needed the help, played as mediator during disputes if any confusion arose, and handed out prizes for the winner. During movie night, our responsibilities included keeping residents company and creating conversation. On Thursdays, the residents baked all sorts of cookies and made holiday chocolate lollipops. Our role during this time included helping the residents combine ingredients, roll cookie dough into balls, placing on trays, and decorate with sprinkles and frosting.

Our involvement with the residents seemed to have an impact on their lives. The residents always asked when they would see us next and they would get excited every time they saw us walking into the recreation room. They were interested in our lives and loved to exchange stories. The employees even noticed how involved the residents were becoming after we began spending time with them. Our community service at Vanderman Place helped the residents cope with needing assistance because we made them feel independent by the activities we included them in. We were improving their lives as they were improving ours.

Volunteering at Vanderman taught us many things about ourselves and about life. We learned just how precious our time is and it should be spent with family and friends. The wisdom we gained from sharing stories with the residents will help us become better people. Our level of patience, acceptance, understanding, and even our ability to laugh and have fun were strengthened. This experience has meant a lot to us because we are giving these individuals something to look forward to every week and that is such a rewarding feeling. We hope future volunteers continue the work and dedication because we realize how happy it makes the residents.

National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week

From November 16-22nd is National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.

To kick off the event, there will be a documentary shown called, “Storied Streets,” an intimate look into personal stories of Homelessness in America. The showing will be on Sunday 11/16, 7:30 PM, at the Student Center Theater.

On Tuesday and Wednesday (11/18-19), Habitat for Humanity will be hosting a Shack-a-thon, a demonstration on what homelessness feels like. Students can participate by building their own shelters to raise poverty awareness.

Wednesday, 11/19, Rochelle Ripley from Hawking, Inc. will be discussing what life is like on Indian country today by The Cheyenne River Indian Reservation 6:00 pm at the Student Center Theatre.

Thursday 11/20 is “Make the Movement! Zumba Class”. Admission is donating travel size toiletries or new pair(s) of socks to benefit No Freeze Hospitality Center. The Zumba class is at 7:00 PM at the Sports Center Dance Studio.

From Wednesday and Friday 11/19-21 is “Fill the Van! Food Drive” Help is fill an entire Eastern van with food! The van will be at the Student Center Patio each day from 10:00 AM-3:00 PM.

Public Service Panel Tells Students How They Can Give Back After College

By Michael Rouleau

Willimantic, Conn. – On Oct. 30, a panel of speakers from various national and international service programs spoke with Eastern Connecticut State University students in the President’s Dining Room. The lunchtime event was organized by the Center for Community Engagement (CCE) and featured Eastern alumni and current and former participants of Public Allies, Peace Corps, AmeriCorps VISTA, Teach for America and AmeriCorps NCCC. Each of the programs vary in project/service type, qualification and commitment, but all focus on positively impacting the communities in which they serve.

Eastern alumna Kimberly Sanchez ’09, a representative of Public Allies, spoke of how the program engages students and young leaders in work with nonprofit organizations. During her two terms with Public Allies, Sanchez has worked with Connecticut College to develop innovative teaching and learning techniques that foster active citizenship in greater New London communities.

The Peace Corps, a two-year service program that places volunteers in developing countries throughout the world, was represented by Kathryn Fidler and Eastern alumna Olivia Grajeda ’78. From 2002–04, Fidler served as a youth development volunteer in the Philippines and as a nonprofit program director in South Korea. Grajeda spent two years serving in a hospital as a community health organizer in Albania.

AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), which focuses on expanding community programs that alleviate issues related to poverty, was represented by Eastern alumni Max Goto ’13 and Christopher Brechlin ’09. Amid his second VISTA term, Goto currently works at Eastern’s CCE as an event and volunteer coordinator. Brechlin, a data specialist, spent his VISTA term managing the measurement initiative of the Nonprofit Alliance of Northeast Connecticut.

Teach for America, a program that assigns participants to education-focused projects within underperforming school districts, was represented by Allyson Iannicelli. During her term, she served in Tulsa, OK, as an early childhood educator from 2012–14.

AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps), a hands-on, team-based service program that assigns teams to different projects within a designated area, was represented by Eastern alumnus Michael Rouleau ’11. During his term, Rouleau performed trail work and forest fire mitigation in Arizona; IRS certified tax preparation in Denver, CO; prototype disaster relief shelter construction in Austin, TX; and watershed restoration in southwest Colorado.

While making money is not a primary draw for these programs, many do offer modest salaries or living allowances, as well as assistance with student loans and other financial perks. Their primary draw is the opportunity to give back to communities while enabling participants to travel, grow, develop professional networks and work in a number of job and service areas.

CLiCK

October 4, 2014

The Center of Community Engagement helped out at a fundraiser hosted by CLiCK (Commercially Licensed Co-operative Kitchen, inc). CLiCK is a non-profit community kitchen/garden that serves healthy and sustainable foods through out the community. There was an art auction and wine tasting to help sustain increase community wellness and small businesses produce products they can create.

Connecticut Congressman Joe Courtney was there to help promote CLiCK because he fought for the kitchen and the agriculture industry. Courtney said that CLiCK was rewarded by the federal government $98,000 for its success in agriculture. “It was a difficult project but people got together,” said Courtney.

State Representative Susan Johnson was also there. She said that agriculture is very important because if it is not supported, then there will be three days of fresh food left if disasters such as hurricanes cut off transportation.

The mayor of Willimantic, Ernie Eldridge, was at CLiCK, as an auctioneer for the art show. His friend, Kenny Morgan had his art displayed at the show. Morgan was known for his art based on his youth in the circus. His son, Adam Morgan (who was helping with the wine) said that he had a stroke and now does his art on the computer.

National Public Lands Day

9/27/2014

Eleven Eastern Students have volunteered for National Public Lands Day. National Public Lands Day is the largest single day volunteer effort across the nation. The Eastern Students worked with CFPA (Connecticut Forest and Park Association) and AMC (Appalachian Mountain Club).

The volunteers worked on a broken bridge in the Narragansett Trail. The Narragansett Trail is part of the Blue Blaze Trail System that runs through Camp Yawgoog. The Blue Blaze Trail is maintained by the CFPA. The volunteers took out the fifteen in a half bridge, and carried eight foot pieces of lumber three quarters of a mile to the bridge site. The bridge site had to be cleared, and the wood had to be measured.

After the bridge was completed, Bob Andrews of CFPA, took the volunteers to a hike. Andrews showed the Eastern Students where they had previously built a lean-to four to five years ago. After the hike, the students went to Button Wood Farms for ice cream.

Poverty Awareness Marathon

9/19/2014

September was the month for poverty awareness. Dr. Charlie Chatterton, a professor of Health and Physical Education, dedicated to raising awareness of issues surrounding poverty by running marathons. He held the 6th annual Poverty Awareness Marathon at Eastern, for which he organizes a route that loops around the campus, which invites students, staff, and faculty to participate in.

On the day of the event, signs with the latest statistics about poverty were posted along the route and around campus. Early on in the morning, Dr. Chatterton was joined by runners and supporters in a small opening ceremony during which all reflect on the importance of bringing awareness to this issue. Dr. Chatterton was accompanied by runners as he runs the marathon. Participants were encouraged to run or walk the entire 26.5 miles or join in or leave as their schedule allows. Runners were asked to register by donating a nonperishable food item which were collected at the starting point. All donations were then given to a local food pantry.

Individuals participated by:

  • Donating nonperishable food. A food drive will be held with a goal of 462 items to support the local Covenant Soup Kitchen and Food Pantry. This number represents the 46.2 million people in the U.S. whose income falls below the poverty level.
  • Volunteering to read to children. Participants and campus community members will be invited to volunteer and read to children at the Child and Family Development Resource Center (CFDRC) on campus. This will be to represent the 16.1 million children experiencing poverty in the U.S.
  • Donating a children’s book. Children’s books will be collected, to be donated to local children’s programs.
  • Making a cash donation. All proceeds will go to the Covenant Soup Kitchen.

“This was the 6th Annual Eastern Poverty Awareness Marathon, and number 57 as part of my Take Strides to Brake the Cycle of Poverty Marathon initiative. It took five hours and twenty-Eight minutes, but we had stops along the way to visit the Child Development Center to run with the kids and at exchange point every 1.2 miles.”-Dr. Charlie Chatterton, ECSU professor of Health and Physical Education said that 667 miles were completed, 561 cans of food were donated, and $200 was raised. “The Swim Team runs in the marathon every year. It is a good caused to raise awareness because no one is aware of the poverty line. Even students who go to Eastern are in poverty.” -Abby Arisco, Senior of ECSU, and Swim Team Member.

To look at photos at this event, check out our Flickr account! Poverty Awarness Month

Warrior Welcome Day of Service

On August 27, 2014, Student Leaders from the Center of Community Engagement, Student Orientation Counsel (SOC), and freshmen participated in the Warrior Welcome Day of Service. The goal for this program is to get new students involve in the community as early as possible to give appreciation and understanding of the relationship between the university and the town of Willimantic. During orientation, students filled out interest cards and many of them checked community service.

The first event of the day, was cleaning up Eastern Connecticut’s Railroad Museum, led by student leader Lily Egan. Two freshmen and one SOC member attended the event. At first, the freshmen did not know what was going on. They helped clean up the Railroad Museum, and had a great time.

“Its not about how many showed up, it is about the dedication that two people showed up and the fact that they became friends in the process” -Lily Egan

The next event was the Covenant Soup Kitchen, lead by student leaders Jalpa Patel, and Melanie Morales. Eight freshmen and SOC members volunteered. “Some volunteered at soup kitchens before, and others wanted to get to know the community” Patel said. “The volunteers enjoyed it and want to do it again at some point”.

At the end of the afternoon, Student Leader Valerie Lewis, lead WAIM (Windham Area Interfaith Ministry). Nine freshmen and one SOC volunteered. At WAIM, people can donate clothes, and the community can buy. WAIM is ran by volunteers and has four staff members. The freshmen enjoyed it, and it opened their eyes about different social classes of Windham. The coordinator, Evelyn Solla, told about the history of the town, and how it has gone down economically.

On the day of the event, 97 freshmen volunteered, and served a total of 137 hours. The event was successful, with the volunteers having fun, and would like to help out the Willimantic Community in the future.

AmeriCorps Mayor’s Day of Recognition for National Service

On April 1, 2014 Mayors in Connecticut, along with other mayors around the United States came together to recognize the impact that National Service Programs have had on their communities. Every year more than 5 million diverse individuals come together to help meet the needs of local communities by participating in various service opportunities through the Cooperation for National and Community Service’s programs. These programs consist of AmeriCorps and Senior Corps which work to serve six crucial project areas within communities; disaster services, economic opportunity, education, environmental stewardship, healthy futures, and veterans and military families.

Local Mayor of Windham Ernie Eldridge kicked off the Mayor’s Day gardening service project at Natchaug Elementary School with the reading of an official town proclamation. This event was sponsored by GROW Windham and united participants from Eastern Connecticut State University, The Windham Area Hour Exchange, Eastern Area Health Education Center, Windham Public Schools and several other organizations in town with service corps members. Participation was also open to the public free of charge. Mayors around Connecticut from Bridgeport to Windham participated in this day of recognition to thank those who have brightened their communities and to encourage others to join and do the same.

On a more national scale, this years Mayor’s Day turned out to be a major success. Participation from more than 1,760 mayors in all 50 states, District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico came together and represented 1/3 of all Americans. The success of the second annual Mayor’s Day of Recognition for National Service more than doubled from the previous years Mayors volunteer list. You can view the full list of the 2014 Mayor’s Day participants here.  (http://www.nationalservice.gov/special-initiatives/mayors-day/2014-participating-mayors)

“We are thrilled by the extraordinary turnout of mayors from across the country for this bipartisan nationwide recognition of the impact of national service. It is a testament to the dedication and effectiveness of all those who serve in AmeriCorps and Senior Corps that mayors representing more than one-third of Americans are joining in this effort.  I commend Mayor Coleman, Mayor Smith, and other mayors across the country for participating in this recognition effort and for working with us to improve lives and strengthen communities through national service.” Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service .

 

AmeriCorps Mayor’s Day of Recognition for National Service

On April 1, 2014, mayors in Connecticut, along with other mayors around the United States came together to recognize the impact that National Service Programs have had on their communities. Every year, more than 5 million diverse individuals come together to help meet the needs of local communities by participating in various service opportunities through the Cooperation for National and Community Service’s programs. These programs consist of AmeriCorps and Senior Corps, which work to serve six crucial project areas within communities; disaster services, economic opportunity, education, environmental stewardship, healthy futures, and veterans and military families.

Local mayor of Windham Ernie Eldridge kicked off the Mayor’s Day gardening service project at Natchaug Elementary School with the reading of an official town proclamation. This event was sponsored by GROW Windham and united participants from Eastern Connecticut State University, The Windham Area Hour Exchange, Eastern Area Health Education Center, Windham Public Schools, and several other organizations in town with service corps members. Participation was also open to the public free of charge. Mayors around Connecticut from Bridgeport to Windham participated in this day of recognition to thank those who have brightened their communities and to encourage others to join and do the same.

On a more national scale, this years Mayor’s Day turned out to be a major success. Participation from more than 1,760 mayors in all 50 states, District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico came together and represented 1/3 of all Americans. The success of the second annual Mayor’s Day of Recognition for National Service more than doubled from the previous years Mayors volunteer list. You can view the full list of the 2014 Mayor’s Day participants here.

“We are thrilled by the extraordinary turnout of mayors from across the country for this bipartisan nationwide recognition of the impact of national service. It is a testament to the dedication and effectiveness of all those who serve in AmeriCorps and Senior Corps that mayors representing more than one-third of Americans are joining in this effort. I commend Mayor Coleman, Mayor Smith, and other mayors across the country for participating in this recognition effort and for working with us to improve lives and strengthen communities through national service.” – Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Alternative Spring Break: Generous Gardens Project

This past spring break proved to be an educational and influential adventure for the eight Eastern students who participated in the Alternative Spring Break: Generous Gardens Project in Greenville, South Carolina. The Generous Gardens Project is a nonprofit organization that grows, harvests, and delivers fresh food as a healthy alternative to canned and boxed food to people who are in need. They also educate individuals on how to create and maintain fresh produce gardens in a sustainable way. South Carolina is ranked ninth in the highest population of hungry people in the United States. Hunger is a very real and significant issue in our world today and the Generous Garden Project works to end the struggle of hunger in the healthiest way possible.“It is a known fact that if people get fresh fruits and veggies in their diet, they think more clearly, have more energy and live more fruitful lives. We are here to fight hunger one garden at a time.”

The students drove 11 hours down to Trinity Church in Travelers Rest, South Carolina where they resided for the week. Everyday from 8:00 AM until about 3:30 PM, the volunteers worked hard planting seeds, making compostable flower pots, making garden beds and laying down leaves, feeding chickens and gather their eggs, sifting through compost, making labels for plants, and harvesting lettuce. Students learned the ins and outs of gardening and volunteering at a community-based garden. The volunteers were able to incorporate the fresh produce from the gardens into their daily meals, which was one of the most enjoyable aspects of the trip for most of the volunteers. This spring break, however, was not all work and no play. One day was spent exploring the city of Greenville, hiking through Paris Mountain and dining at a local Hibachi.

Student Leader Lily Egan commented on her experience at the Generous Gardens Project: “I would never have imagined doing anything else during this spring break. It was truly an honor to be able to work with such open-minded and hard working people. One thing I learned through working at the Generous Gardens Project was that in order to grow you must learn and in order to learn, you must be willing to grow, just like in college and just like a plant.”