The Spokane Service Team, Washington Reading Corps and Spokane Public Schools Ready*Corps collaborated together to make Martin Luther King Day a Day on for Spokane.
On Friday, January 16th over 50 AmeriCorps members gathered for a collaboration training on diversity awareness and advocacy models. This was also a great time to make final preparations for Martin Luther King Day.
Martin Luther King Day events started early with the Spokane Service Team setting up tables and chairs for the hundreds of non-profit organizations who participate in the annual Spokane Service Fair in River Park Square. AmeriCorps members also helped children to make signs and posters for the Martin Luther King March extending from the INB Theater to River Park Square. The march was the largest in Spokane history with 1700 marchers warmed by powerful speeches from community leaders including Mayor Verner and the Reverend Happy Watkins.
Following the march, AmeriCorps members operated a youth fair in the atrium of the Spokane Bus Plaza. Fifty-five AmeriCorps members and alumni manned 14 different booths with activities for youth. Projects included folk music, story tables with free books, coloring activities, and activities to teach the history of civil rights. Five hundred adults and 175 youth visited the learning fair.
Youth also had an opportunity to serve. The Spokane Service Team brought donated baby clothes. Youth volunteers sorted the clothes and made bags of essentials to be donated to low-income families through the Mission Community Center. It was a powerful experience for children to know that they were giving a gift to a baby who needed warm clothes.
Pictures of the event are available online:
By AmeriCorps member, Amanda Gauthier
December 2nd kicked off the second annual Season of Service. This month long event encourages families to serve together during the holiday season. At the Orientation dinner, volunteers were treated to presentations from non-profits such as Volunteer Chore Service, Hope House, and the Teen Closet among others. The volunteers were then given the chance to sign up for shifts at the various locations.
The runaway favorite was SpokAnimal. As a SpokAnimal volunteer, your duty was to socialize the animals. This meant walking the dogs around the block enough times to let them burn off some energy and holding the kittens for as long as they would let you. It was hard to tell who enjoyed this activity more, the volunteers or the animals.
Another favorite was Project Christmas Joy. This was an opportunity for volunteers to deliver gifts to children in Sacred Heart. After sorting and dividing the gift bags, the adults delivered the gifts to the rooms, while the children were treated to a tour of the hospital. We delivered to infants, teenagers and all ages in between. This was a powerful experience for all involved.
The final highlight was one of the card deliveries. Throughout December, volunteers (such as children at the YWCA, the University High School SPoCS program, and the Franklin Elementary APPLE kids) created holiday cards. These cards were then delivered to multiple locations. One such location was the nursing home in the VA Hospital. The volunteer group consisted of three elementary school girls, their mom, two high school girls and myself. As we were lead from room to room by a nurse, we chatted with the veterans and handed out cards. This group of volunteers was amazing. By the last few rooms the girls were wishing “happy holidays” in unison and brightening the rooms as they went. We all had a great time visiting with the veterans.
Overall, over 50 people participated in Season of Service. Combined they served over 250 hours at more than 10 locations. This was more than I had hoped for and I hope that many will return and partake in Season of Service 2009.
“You don’t have to move to live in a better neighborhood”
The City of Spokane slogan inspired AmeriCorps members on Make A Difference Day.
The Spokane Service Team building is located in the East Central Neighborhood. It is a community with high poverty and crime rates and it is exactly where we need to serve. The percentage of families living below poverty in the ECN is 14.3% in comparison to 6.4% in Washington State. Seventy eight percent (78%) of elementary students in this community qualify for free or reduced lunch in comparison to 52% in the city of Spokane.
Over 40 volunteers gathered at the Spokane Service Team office on Saturday, October 25th. Volunteers served at eight different sites to clean-up and revitalize the East Central Community.
The Spokane Service Team hosted a Bar-B-Que with live music to celebrate and reflect. Volunteers shared stories of service and brainstormed simple things that individuals can do to improve a neighborhood. Make a Difference Day was a great start.