Walk For Warmth
The Windham Area Interfaith Ministry hosted Walk for Warmth, marathon to raise poverty awareness. The Center of Community Engagement volunteered to help set up the walk by placing posters around the town of Willimantic about poverty facts. After the mass at St. Josephs, and the walk, The CCE set up a children’s activities table with coloring books and making turkey masks. Victoria Nimirowski , the director of WAIM, said that the Walk for Warmth raised $42,000, which she said it was the biggest year in 23 years of the walk.
“We are very grateful to Eastern, and to the Center for Community Engagement for all the help and support they provide for this event. The students are wonderful to work with, and are always so willing to do whatever is needed”. Victoria Nimirowski, Director of Windham Area Interfaith Ministry
Day of Giving
Eastern Connecticut State University held it’s eighth annual Day of Giving at Hurley Hall dinner. Hurley was filled with hungry people, and volunteers to help with the dinner before the day of Thanks Giving. Transportation was provided by the Center of Community Engagement (CCE).
“This is our eighth Day of Giving. It is a community meal that is a great collaboration between many partners at Eastern,” Kimberly Silcox, Director of the Center of Community Engagement
Student volunteers who were traveling far from the holiday were asked to opt out of volunteering this year, so they wont have to drive home in the snow, though students who live locally were welcomed to stay. “This year is a little different because of the weather. We had to move it up and we sent all of the students home last night so they won’t have to drive in bad weather,” Silcox said. Usually 50-60 students and 300 to 400 community members come to participate each year. Despite the weather, the people who helped stayed strong.
“I think it’s a really great cause and I see a lot of people from the community who get to come out here and enjoy it together” Kaitlyn Murphy, Eastern Student
Student musicians play live music each year. This year was student duo, Max Robinson and Eva Alfonso.
There were also fresh pairs of socks available for anybody who wanted them, from Chartwell’s Safety Shoe Program.
“We put all of the socks together and we’re giving them away to people who want fresh, warm socks,”
Jason Coombs, Director of Chartwells Dining Services
Community members who sat down for their Thanksgiving meal said they had a lot to be thankful for this holiday season.“This is my first time,” said Leonard Maxwell as he sat with a group of friends. Maxwell said he was thankful for “all of us being together.” Andy Eggen said he was thankful for his mom, dad and “living good,” while April Waite, who was with her two children as well as a friend, said she was thankful for her family and job. Waite’s daughter, Symarie Edwards, said she was thankful for her family and her home.
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”; A 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.
Relay for Life
The Windham Community participated in a rally for cancer awareness called “Relay for Life”. “Relay for Life” is an annual event the American Cancer Society holds through out the United States. The event is about cancer survivors and volunteers rallying for cancer awareness, and that cancer is a treatable and preventable disease.
The Center of Community Engagement had over fifty students from Eastern Connecticut State University to volunteer, and participate in the rally.
The event took place on the baseball field at the Mansfield Sports Complex. The Willimantic Community raised $4,639, while the whole Windham Community raised $65,764.69.
Ellen Gillette, who works at Eastern’s IT Department, was a cancer survivor. Gillette has never done a relay before, but her son and daughter had. Eight and a half years ago, Gillette was diagnosed with lymphoma. When she was diagnosed, she had chemotherapy and surgery, which got rid of her cancer, and her lymphoma has not returned ever since. Gillette is still feeling strong and healthy today. She joined Relay for Life with the staff from ECSU as survivors. She planned to be more involved to fight cancer.
“It takes a village to fight cancer” – Ellen Gillette
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
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
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 Education667 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
Student Activities and Community Service Fair
On Monday, September 8th, The Center of Community Engagement was part of the Student Activities and Community Service Fair. The Fair, was to promote clubs across the campus, in order to gain new members. Four hundred and three students signed up at the CCE table.
“It was nice to see people joining CCE and getting involved in the community.” – Lily Egan
There was another table that was with the CCE. Program coordinator, Alyson Iannicelli, started a new program in the CCE called, Jumpstart. Jumpstart is an AmeriCorps program serving low-income preschools working on language, and literacy development. Jumpstart had over ninety students signed up at the Student Activities Fair.
“With Jumpstart as a new program, I was excited to see all of the students interested in joining the community, but also impressed about how they are committed in finding a service program.” -Alyson Iannicelli
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 participantshere.
“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 8am until about 3:30pm 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. On 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.”
Nicole: Better Than a Sister at Saving Money
Posted by: Dwight R. Bachman
Nicole Brooks, a senior majoring in Accounting at Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic, is a busy young lady. She takes classes at Eastern on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On Fridays and Sundays for the past two years, she has worked at Loco Perro, a Mexican restaurant in East Hampton. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, she is engaged in an internship with the United Way’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), which provides tax assistance to low-income individuals and families free of charge.
To boot, Brooks, a wonderfully warm human being from Hebron, is very accomplished academically. Her determination and persistence regarding school has landed her on the Dean’s List every semester at Eastern since she started college in fall of 2011, and last week, she received a letter of initiation into Delta Mu Delta, the Business Administration Honor Society.
Such a hectic schedule would overwhelm most students, but Brooks, who wears a permanent broad smile, manages to juggle school, work, and volunteer work/internships with ease. “I find it best to focus on one thing at a time by writing everything down in a daily agenda. It’s a great tool to stay organized and on top of your schedule.”
Brooks derives tremendous joy from her time with the VITA program, where she interacts a lot with the taxpayers, greeting them when they come in for their appointment; handing out the in-take forms; and making sure they fill out everything. “Then I prepare the individual’s taxes, asking them relevant questions along the way to clarify any uncertainties. I also review taxes prepared by my peers when they are finished with their return to make sure everything is filled in correctly.”
Brooks learned about the VITA program through Maura Cook, who spoke about it during a visit to an Accounting Society meeting. Brooks had already intended to volunteer for the program, during an email exchange with Cook, she learned about training dates for IRS certification and other details of the program. She also found out that she could also serve as an intern with VITA. She sent in her resume, and Cook immediately accepted her as an intern.
“Other organizations often charge a hefty fee for their services that some taxpayers may not be able to afford,” said Brooks. “Just by asking a few questions and punching some numbers into the tax software, I can put people at ease, and in most cases, get them some money back. I like being able to help people and put a smile on their faces. I really enjoy being able to assist people financially, especially in today’s economy.”
Brook recalled her most favorable moment, when she sat to help a very nervous client who was anxious after the client’s sister had prepared her taxes. The sister had concluded that the client owed the IRS more than $1,500. “While I was plugging in numbers and asking her questions, she kept telling me how upset she was, and that she didn’t have that kind of money. Lo and behold, when I finished preparing her taxes, she actually was receiving a rather large refund just under $500! After Barbara Ohlheiser, the site coordinator, reviewed the return and confirmed her refund, the client was so ecstatic that she told us that she would never have her sister prepare her taxes again! I was so happy that I was able to help her and ease some of her worry.”
Ohlheiser is very pleased to have Brook on her team. “Nicole is very competent, dedicated to her work and pleasure to work with. Her strong communication and computer skills help put her clients at ease. Nicole helps make running the site smooth and efficient for me and the other site coordinators, by greeting clients, working through a tax return at a good pace and doing peer-to-peer reviews of her fellow tax preparer’s returns. She is a real asset to VITA.”
Brooks says her time and experience as a volunteer at VITA allows her to not only give back to the community helping those in need of tax assistance, but helps her academically as well. She said it makes her resume more vibrant and also helps her learning and overall education at Eastern.
“I am very grateful to the United Way and VITA for offering this volunteer program at Eastern. “This volunteer experience really sets me apart from others when I begin looking for other internships and jobs upon graduation because I have first-hand experience with preparing taxes, and was certified by the IRS after completing the training program for VITA, something most applicants won’t have.”
Brooks specifically cited Dr. Candice Deal assistant professor of accounting who teaches her Intermediate Accounting III class, and Dr. Richard Silkoff, who teaches her Federal Individual Taxation and is her advisor.
“Dr. Deal is very inspiring because of all that she’s accomplished at such a young age. I look up to her as a mentor and hope to be as successful as her one day. I enjoy Dr. Silkoff’s class because he is very passionate about and interested in what he’s teaching. He also is a CPA. I look to him for advice because I hope to obtain my CPA license in the near future.”
Brooks has been helping others and giving back for a long time. As a freshman at Eastern, in fall of 2011, she served as a member of the Food Justice Committee, a club on campus dedicated to resolving issues with hunger and poverty within the Willimantic community. She participated in several volunteer activities, such as bringing food to various shelters and helped to build a greenhouse at one of the Windham elementary schools so that the students could learn about eating healthy and could grow their own fruits and vegetables. She also participated in the Walk for Warmth on campus and donated canned goods for the cause.
Brooks credits her upbringing with teaching her the value of helping others by volunteering. “My parents have always emphasized the importance of helping others. They would encourage my sisters and me to donate our old books, toys, clothes, and other items to those in need. I am very grateful to my parents for instilling such good morals in me. When I was younger, I participated in a lot of community service through Girl Scouts by volunteering at the local food pantry and homeless shelter. That continued while I was growing up with my involvement in the church.”
Brooks loves her parents so much that she actually moved back home after her freshman year of college. “As a future accountant, I am always looking for ways to save money. Since I live close to Eastern, it just made more sense for me to commute than to take out more student loans for room and board. Plus, my mom is an amazing cook!”
Brooks career goal is to be a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). She would love to be able to assist people with their finances and to help budget their money wisely so they are in a stable financial position and are prepared for any emergencies. “Since I was a little girl, I’ve always been very conscious of where I’m spending my money and how much I’m spending; I even keep a journal of my spending. That is why Accounting is a good fit for me as a major.”
The United Way’s VITA program is obviously a perfect fit for Brooks as well. She is shining as a volunteer and intern there. She is in a class all by herself. She is the real deal. She has set high goals for herself, and holds herself to a high personal standard. She is a rare treat, as she sets the standard by which others should be judged.
“I am determined to do my absolute best at anything that I am faced with, whether it is school or work. I am extremely proud of all of my achievements and will continue to strive for success in my future.” With students like Nicole Brooks, the future for the United Way and the VITA program is bright indeed.
More postings being added as the archive project is completed.