Building a Home; Building a Dream

Brianna Solis, a mother of two, wiped a tear from her eye as she unlocked the door to her new home in the community of Covey Glenn. “I keep thinking that one day I will wake up and it will all be a dream” said Solis. But, it’s actually a dream come true.
When First Story, a Northwest non-profit, dedicated a new Spokane Valley home in late September, it did more than provide a beautiful, affordable home to a deserving family. Indeed, the dedication ceremony also showcased the talent of local youth, members of NEWESD101’s AmeriCorps YouthBuild program, who built the house.

Youth in the NEWESD program have long been involved in the construction and rehabilitation of affordable housing in the Spokane area. This, however, was the first constructed in partnership with First Story, a non-profit based in Bend, Ore. Students, under the supervision of trained professionals, built the home from the ground up. The home is located in the Covey Glen community near Barker Road.

YouthBuild students learned many new skills while building this home and appreciated the opportunity to be part of such a valuable mission. “Our partnership with YouthBuild allows us to transform the lives of at-risk young adults,” said Shon Rae, executive director of First Story, who traveled to the dedication from Bend. “The trainees gain a valuable education, job training and leadership skills while helping a family right here in need in the Spokane Valley.”

“I have learned more while building this house than any other job. I learned about carpeting, roofing, caulking, tiling and many other skills. But, what will be my most prized memory is the memory of today; the day that we get to give this house to Brianna Solis and her family.”
– YouthBuild Member, Marissa Dire

First Story serves families that don’t qualify for government-assisted housing, but still lack the resources to own their own home. The organization is building six homes this year in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

September 11th Memorial Stair Climb

On the morning of September 11th, 2011, 31 New ESD101 AmeriCorps Members assisted 260 fire service members in the Memorial Stair Climb held at the Bank of America Building, located in downtown Spokane. Fire service members convene in high-rise buildings across the United States to climb 110 stories as a tribute to their fallen brothers.
Some used air packs or carried hoses; many in full turn-out gear; others were accompanied by rescue dogs. Each climber carried the photograph and biographical sketch of a firefighter who was lost on September 11, Memorial Stair Climb is not a race, but an opportunity to honor and remember the 343 FDNY members who selflessly gave their lives so that others might live. It was truly an honor for AmeriCorps Members to take part in such an unforgettable event.

“We will never forget that tragic day-innocent lives lost, the bravery of those who responded, and the remarkable spirit of unity and compassion that swept the country in the aftermath,” said Robert Velasco II, Acting CEO of the Corporation of National and Community Service. “We are asking Americans to remember the lives of those lost, pay tribute to those who rose in service, and honor those who serve our country today by engaging in service on the 9/11 weekend.”

The Spokane stair climb was one of approximately 50 memorial stair climbing events that was held across the country.

Celebrating Those Who Serve By Debbie Vogel

This year marked the fifth annual National AmeriCorps Week: May 14-21, 2011. Spokane area AmeriCorps, VISTA, and alumni planned activities which included; a variety of opportunities to serve at local nonprofits, appreciation discounts from vendors, and celebration events.

The week started with two service projects, planting trees at Turnbull Wildlife Refuge and collecting for 2nd Harvest’s Stamp out Hunger event. On Sunday, a fundraiser for Meals on Wheels was coordinated with Applebee’s who generously donated 10% of a participating customer’s bill. The work week then started with a fabulous kickoff to all AmeriCorps with Dutch Brother Coffee donating a free drink to any member who visited any one of their several Spokane locations on Monday. Cup of Cool Water was the service project for the day and volunteers were able to help homeless teens by organizing the clothing bank, cleaning storage rooms, and making cards for youth in the jail system. Tuesday, May 17th offered AmeriCorps another great coffee discount at Chairs Coffee and the service project for that day was at Inland Northwest Baby. Volunteers eagerly assisted in sorting through baby and toddler size clothes for the organization’s upcoming, city wide family event. Inland Northwest Baby provides essential needs such as clothing and diapers to local babies and toddlers in need.

Wednesday members completed a service project at P.E.A.C.H Farms in Cheney. Volunteers drove out to the farm and participated in transplanting seedlings for this organic farm whose mission is to provide local, organic food to low income community members. The vendor appreciation of the day, buy $1 ticket, get one free to see a movie at the historic Garland Theater. On Thursday, May 19th, volunteers could be found at both locations of Union Gospel Mission Thrift Stores assisting in cleaning and sorting for this remarkable international organization. Froyo Earth, a local and enormously popular frozen yogurt business offered the vendor appreciation with buy one, get one free to all AmeriCorps members who visited wearing their AmeriCorps attire on Thursday.

Local celebrities, the Spokane Shock, current champion professional arena football team defended their title against Tampa Bay Friday night with largely discounted group tickets being offered to AmeriCorps members. Those in attendance were treated to an amazing show of a sport that is rapidly growing around the nation. AmeriCorps brought awareness to the Arena crowd with their AmeriCorps attire and a public recognition was made by reader board display and announcements during the game.

The grand finale, the AmeriCorps Week Celebration, finally arrived on Saturday, May 21st at Riverfront Park on a beautiful sunny day. The event began at 3:30 p.m. at the Northbank Shelter with decorations of red, white and blue shining across the park. Music filled the air as The Blissterz, a local band showcasing an AmeriCorps alumni as their lead singer, brought toe tapping and smiles to the almost 100 AmeriCorps, VISTA, alumni and family members who attended to celebrate their substantial service to their communities. The well planned festivities included; a beautiful varying display of art submitted by members, volleyball competitions, random drawings of service appreciation awards, and a sensational talent show. The talent show revealed the amazing talents of current AmeriCorps members that ranged from a solo violin performance, Irish step dance, rap singer, Native American singing and drums, keyboard soloist, gymnastics, and culminating in a sensational fire dance that wowed the audience.

A great feast was also enjoyed by everyone there as O’Doherty’s Irish Pub catered a wonderful BBQ with that was plentiful enough with even the young construction members who could be seen going back for seconds and thirds. AmeriCorps themed cake was served as heartfelt inspiration filled the air as reflection stories and future dreams were told from past and current members.

What could possibly top of a week filled with activities and a Saturday afternoon celebration, a parade of course! The 73rd Annual Lilac Parade, Spokane’s largest and most prestigious parade brought one final opportunity to bring awareness to the vast presence of AmeriCorps during National AmeriCorps Week. Current members, alumni, and family who attended the festivities starting early that afternoon made a point stay and march in the parade with their AmeriCorps attire behind the AmeriCorps banner until the parade ended at 10:30 p.m. Those who marched in the parade found that once again, patience and hard work (the wait in the parade staging with cold winds for over two hours, then actually marching for two hours) paid off as walking through the streets of downtown with thousands of parade spectators seeing and hearing the announcements of AmeriCorps and the mission we serve of volunteering to give back to our communities.
The week-long celebration was a wonderful success to thank those who serve, have served, or support those who serve. Service projects throughout the week provided members the opportunity to get acquainted with and serve a local nonprofit that offers their services to those in need. Generous local vendors supported AmeriCorps tireless efforts with discounts each day in appreciation for their service to the community. And the grand finale on Saturday with memorable festivities showcasing the talents and camaraderie of all those who serve through AmeriCorps will be remembered long beyond the term of 2011.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service 2011

The Spokane Service Team and Reading Corps offered their service in several ways Monday, January 17, 2011. As they have for the past decade, the members of the SST helped setup tables in the Riverfront Mall for the service fair. The day started with donuts, coffee, tables, and camaraderie. The team also helped setup a children’s fair with and for the Reading Corps. From there they went to the INB Performing Arts Center to hear the call to service as offered by the speakers. Unlike previous years, the SST and Reading Corps members were asked to go one extra step to usher the attendants along a secondary trail for the march due to a suspicious backpack, which turned out to contain an explosive device, placed along the original route. No one was hurt, the device did not detonate, and the service fair went off without a hitch. The team closed the event by taking down the tables and chairs before heading home. A job well done!

AmeriCorps Builds Community

New bike racks in the Spokane International District = functional art

Spokane, WA – October 21, 2010

The installation of eight artistic bike racks on September 29th is the latest addition to the ever-improving landscape of East Sprague Avenue in the Spokane International District. Several organizations had a hand in bringing the racks to the neighborhood, including the East Central Neighborhood Council, the East Spokane Business Association, SNAP ,the Spokane Service Team and the City of Spokane.

The East Central Neighborhood Steering Committee allocated Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds for streets-related improvements along Sprague Ave. In directing those funds, the East Spokane Business Association made the decision to purchase the bike racks. Finally, SNAP worked with the City to purchase and install them, through a contract with Spokane Service Team’s job training program. The bike racks are custom-designed for safety, durability and aesthetic value. They can be found on either side of the Sprague arterial, between the Checkerboard Tavern to the west and Northwest Seed & Pet to the east.

Impact Capital partnered with the City of Spokane and SNAP to launch a Vibrant Communities initiative in the Spokane International District in 2009. The Vibrant Communities program works with stakeholders on the ground to strengthen neighborhood commercial districts, increase public safety and cleanliness, create parks and open space, improve educational opportunities and help families build assets.

The addition of bike racks is one of many improvements in the wider comprehensive approach to community revitalization being implemented in the Spokane International District. “They really spruce up the corridor adding functional art,” says Tracy Reich, Director of Community Programs at Impact Capital. “The district is becoming bike friendly with style,” adds Boris Borisov, Impact Capital Program Office.

AmeriCorps Week 2010

By Mark Altmar, AmeriCorps Supervisor

AmeriCorps Week is an annual event created to recognize the efforts of AmeriCorps members, and to raise awareness about AmeriCorps and its programs. To celebrate this year’s AmeriCorps Week, the Spokane Service team held its first ever Service Art Exhibition featuring AmeriCorps members as the artist. The Exhibition was held at the downtown Spokane Public Library during AmeriCorps Week and ran until the end of May.

On May 15th the Service Art Exhibition held its official opening. The gallery featured a diverse collection of art pieces. Sarah Hennigan of Cup of Cool Water, an outreach center for at-risk youth, had youth do a collective painting that displayed the word hope in several different languages.

The Spokane Service team contributed a large 10×25 ft. AmeriCorps sign that could be seen from anywhere in the gallery. Over ten different AmeriCorps members helped to design, build and paint the sign. It was the most prominent piece in the gallery. A true show of team effort, the piece represented the construction volunteer work that many of our members do in the community.

Other pieces by the Washington Reading Corps expressed the tutoring work done by the volunteers. One volunteer in particular, Sandy Lampe-Martin, displayed works of literature, and poetry that was published at this year’s National Service Symposium. Her poems of service reached out to the reader, ushering us to understand the importance of making reading important, not just for the individual but also for the community.

One member took art in another direction by using a more pop culture medium to express his service experience. Gary McKay, a YouthBuild member, staged a live rap performance. Heavy and pained in demeanor, Gary outlined his story in rhyme and rhythm, and told of his struggles to stabilize his life and how he could not have done it without the support of AmeriCorps and his fellow members. His was a truly thoughtful piece, one that took courage and honesty.

The gallery opening was visited by many AmeriCorps members and dotted with curious individuals from the public. The opening event could not have been as successful as it was without the guitar performance of one of our truly dedicated AmeriCorps VISTA leader, Nick Straight. The event was catered and everyone enjoyed the music and food.

In addition to viewing the art works, members were able to meet AmeriCorps members from different programs. It was an opportunity to network and share on upcoming volunteer events. The gallery opening was well received by everyone including the Spokane Public Library, which has offered to host the event next year. Making the Service Art Exhibition a likely annual AmeriCorps Week event.

YouthBuild Candidates Enrolled Quarterly

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Eligibility Requirements:
*Ages 18-24
*Released from high school
*Interested in construction
*Committed to earning a diploma or GED

Call Tim O’Halloran for an application at 340-7822

Martin Luther King Day 2010

When many had a day off from work for the 2010 celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the NEWESD101 had a day on and this year, as in past years, expressed their commitment to Rev. Dr. King’s legacy and dream through community service. Now becoming a tradition on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the Spokane Service Team and its AmeriCorps members volunteered to help setup and take down the annual Community Resource Fair held by United Way and hosted the Washington Reading Corps’ (WRC) Children’s Resource Learning Fair. The members also attended the speeches at the INB Performing Arts Center and participated in Spokane’s downtown march.

The City of Spokane holds an annual march to commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Of the many AmeriCorps members and members that assisted in hauling tables and setting up chairs for both resource fairs, most still had more than enough energy to rally at Spokane’s INB Performing Arts Center to listen to community leaders speak about their dedication to equality and justice. In attendance was the acclaimed Rev. Percy “Happy” Watkins who, for his 23rd straight year in a row, gave a spirited rendition of Rev. Dr. King’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech. The speech’s end was the start to Spokane’s largest ever Martin Luther King, Jr. Day march that began at the INB Performing Arts Center and ended at Spokane’s downtown Riverpark Square Mall.

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” – Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

The mixture of good weather, powerful speakers, and a sea of marchers gave AmeriCorps members a feeling of being a part of something greater than themselves. The morning events gave each a vision of what cooperation could be like, what solidarity really looks like, and that commonality can transcend individual differences when there is a goal that reaches out to everyone, of every background, and of every faith. Even after the energy of the morning settled all the members continued to volunteer into the early evening.

Listen Now:  Flyin By

Written and performed by  our own Nick Straight

Washington Reading Corps VISTA Leader

WRC hosted its 2nd annual Children’s Learning Resource Fair on the 2nd floor of Spokane’s bus plaza. The resource fair was run and supported by individuals from AmeriCorps, AmeriCorps Vista, Spokane Service Team, WRC, Spokane School District #81, and SNAP. AmeriCorps provided a satellite infant clothing bank open to the public, a tile painting workshop sponsored by Habitat for Humanity, and ran a game and information booth for children and
parents. Making the fair that much more exceptional, Nick Straight (Vista Leader) and Kevin Schibel held a free concert. The live music created a backdrop to a truly successful fair. The Children’s Learning Resource Fair doubled its turn out from last year and distributed nearly 400 books that day.

“The AmeriCorps members that joined together on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, all were grateful to honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through their service efforts, presence and support at the Community Resource Fair, INB Performing Arts Center, and Children’s Learning Resource Fair. As members of AmeriCorps team our service and goals change regularly, and it is easy to forget the larger struggle we are a part of, the dreams we strive to bring to reality, the ideas we want to foster and often do not know how or where to start. If anything, Martin Luther King Jr. Day gives us an opportunity to try, as co-creators, to better our world.” – Daniel Ramos III, AmeriCorps Member

YouthBuild Spring Quarter

YouthBuild engages low-income young adults ages 18-24, in earning a diploma or GED while gaining paid experience in construction. YouthBuild members serve their communities by building affordable housing and transforming their lives and roles in society.

“I love YouthBuild. I jump up at 5:00 every morning and hop on the bus to get here. I will be the first person in my family to get an education. I love the people and the staff. This is more than my second home – it is really my first home.” – Dwayne Tolbert, YouthBuild Pioneer

Call Christy Kunstmann or Kari Chapman at ESD101 Riverside Campus for an application at 535-1613

Season Of Service

By Daniel Ramos, AmeriCorps Member

“Season of service”

These three words were spoken by Bill Clinton during his inauguration of AmeriCorps to describe his vision of a new era where community serves community, and serves well. The Spokane Service Team AmeriCorps has taken this idea and put it into action. It is the third year of our Season of Service, a month long of volunteering, where community minded families and individuals pair up with local non-profits to serve Spokane during the holiday season. The goal is to support and strengthen Spokane during one of its neediest times of the year, and assist in making that vital connection between the individual and the community.

Season of Service started out this year with an opening dinner on December 1st. Attendance included individuals and families from the community, AmeriCorps members, and representatives from local non-profits. After a great potluck meal, the representatives from each local non-profit gave a short presentation about how they support and serve the Spokane community and the volunteer opportunities they offer. After the dinner everyone, including the non-profit representatives themselves, were given some time to go around and visit with each other and to sign up for volunteering. The atmosphere of the event was light and open, and created a strong start for Season of Service. Continue reading