First-ever Mayors Day of Recognition for National Service

Posted On April 18, 2013 By | 1 Comment on First-ever Mayors Day of Recognition for National Service

On Tuesday, April 8, Mayor Miro Weinberger honored AmeriCorps and other service members and highlighted the value of their national service to the Burlington community during a Mayor’s Office event.  Weinberger joined more than 800 mayors from around the nation offering similar recognition of their cities’ service members during the first-ever Mayors Day of Recognition for National Service, a nationwide, bipartisan effort to:

      • Recognize the positive impact of national service on our cities;
      • Thank AmeriCorps and Senior Corps participants who serve; and
      • Encourage citizens to give back to their communities.

“I am grateful for the dedication and sacrifice of Burlington’s AmeriCorps members, who are helping make our great City stronger, safer, and healthier,” said Weinberger.  “National service demonstrates the best of the American spirit – people turning toward problems instead of away, working together to find community solutions.  Today, as we thank national service members for their commitment, let us all pledge to do our part to strengthen our City through service and volunteering.”

Mayor's day of service_2

The nation’s mayors increasingly are turning to national service and volunteerism as a cost-effective strategy to tackle City challenges.  Key partners in Burlington’s service efforts include:

      • The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), a federal agency that engages more than five million Americans in service through AmeriCorps and other programs; and
      • SerVermont, a State of Vermont commission that administers funding to the State’s AmeriCorps National service programs, AmeriCorps*VISTA program, and promotes, supports, and recognizes volunteerism and community service throughout Vermont.

Joining Weinberger at the Mayors Day event were: AmeriCorps members past and present; Hal Colston, SerVermont executive director; Beth Truzansky, Community and Economic Development Office (CEDO) We All Belong (WAB) AmeriCorps Program director; Samantha Stevens, VNA Family Room co-director; Phelan Fretz, ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center executive director; and Tom Longstreth, ReSOURCE executive director.

Did you know that multiple COTS programs also receive support from AmeriCorps members?  Currently there are 4 AmeriCorps members serving in various COTS programs.  Liz Arthur, Ellen Reader, and Brent Cohens all part of the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board (VHCB) AmeriCorps State program and Gillian Taylor is a part of the SerVermont AmeriCorps VISTA program.

Liz Arthur is a Family Programming Specialist at the COTS Family Shelters:

“My role as the Family Programming Specialist means that I get to play with the children and work closely with the parents. My service is important to me because I am able to give the kids at the shelter new experiences, whether it is swimming at the Y or making smoothies, the children are able to learn from the activities while having fun!”

Ellen Reader is a Community Support Specialist at the Daystation:

“I spend most of my time answering questions, providing information, making referrals to local organizations and resources, and doing a lot of listening. Sometimes there isn’t much I can do, but maybe I can  get a hot meal in someone or give them the toothbrush and toothpaste they’ve been going without or give them a dry pair socks to keep their feet warm. Other times I can get them a bed in shelter or refer them to an organization that can take care of the one thing they need help with.  I look forward to going to the Daystation each morning because I know I’ll be able to make a difference, maybe just for one person or maybe for everyone I meet with that day.

A highlight of my service has been the weekly women’s group I started. It has given me the opportunity to really get to know the women I see on a daily basis. And most importantly, it has given those women a little slice of time to do something for themselves –- to set aside their worries and their stresses and enjoy a nice meal, some laughs, a game, a craft, some yoga, or just some good conversation.”

Brent Cohens is a Housing Resource Center Specialist:

“I worked with an illiterate man who had been living outside on and off for more than a decade before he met with me to apply for housing assistance.  Physical and mental health issues have prevented him from working, and his income was insufficient to afford an apartment in Chittenden County, near the health providers he needed.  When he arrived at the Housing Resource Center, he had secured a housing voucher that would allow him to afford the cost of rent in the area.  However, he could not afford the deposit needed to move into a new place on his limited income.

While helping him fill out the security deposit application at the HRC, he told me that he did not know how to set up the voicemail on his phone — he could not find the pound key to set up his voicemail passcode.  I sat down with him and set up his phone and made sure that he could access his messages.  As it turned out, he had important messages from his landlord.  In the process of testing to see if he knew how to use the voicemail, I called him from COTS and left him the following message: “This is a test.”  Later, he told me he had saved the message on his phone because he wanted to remember how much I had helped him.  He told me he would listen to it again if times were tough. “

 Gillian Taylor is a Social Media & Outreach Specialist:

“I’ve done a lot of work building up existing social media profiles as well as creating a few new ones for COTS.  Keeping our social media feeds current and consistent has been a big part of what I do. And then there’s the creation of the COTS blog, which allows us to share current stories on our services, fundraisers, and other activities with a community of supporters, volunteers, and perhaps even future clients. I’ve also really enjoyed the opportunities to network with new donors and partners. I know I’m gaining professional skills, but at the same time I’m confident that I am providing valuable promotion in new media — it’s rewarding to be involved in these kinds of equal partnerships.”

americorps“National service is fundamental to being an American,” said Hal Colston.  “As economic capital continues to shrink, solving the many social needs that our communities face may best be done through service.  Encouraging our citizens to give back through national service will create healthier communities for all.”

The City of Burlington has engaged in national service for more than 20 years to make our City stronger.  Beginning in 1992 and continuing to today, CEDO has managed national service resources to address our City’s toughest challenges, including poverty and racism.  CEDO launched the WAB program in 2008 with a CNCS grant.  Today, the WAB program continues to work with 15 City departments, schools, and non-profits to create more inclusive workplaces and better serve Burlington’s diversifying community.

“National service provides opportunities for the whole community,” said Truzansky, WAB director.  “Our City is stronger because of the service given by AmeriCorps volunteers.  Agencies are more collaborative and have more efficient systems thanks to the infusion of creative energy by AmeriCorps members, who are able to develop rich, professional experiences that often launch them into meaningful careers.”

There are many national service programs running in Vermont.  Others include Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, AmeriCorps*VISTA, Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition, YouthBuild, and the Vermont Youth Tomorrow Program at the Washington County Youth Services Bureau.  AmeriCorps members serve for one year and receive up to a $12,100 living stipend and a $5,530 education award that can be used to pay for future higher education or qualified school loans.  National service members are all ages and perform many different types of service, from physical labor and direct service with the community to behind-the-scenes help to get organizations to work more effectively.*

*All details from the Mayors Day Recognition of National Service are credited to a media release from the Mayors Office.

Categories: COTS Shelters, Homeless Prevention, Staff and Board, Volunteers
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One response to “First-ever Mayors Day of Recognition for National Service”

  1. The purpose of AmeriCorps State and National is to engage AmeriCorps members in direct service and capacity-building to address critical community needs. The grant applicant designs service activities for a team of members serving full- or part-time for one year or during the summer. Sample activities include tutoring and mentoring youth, providing job placement assistance to unemployed individuals, addressing childhood obesity through in-school and after-school physical activities, and weatherizing and retrofitting housing units for low-income households. AmeriCorps members also mobilize community volunteers and strengthen the capacity of the organizations where they serve.