One day, I called a family that had received a 72-hour eviction notice for failure to pay rent.
I called and gathered the family's information: a single mother with five kids and a job that wouldn't give her enough hours to make ends meet. I filled out the paperwork and sent it to IRCO, hoping for the best but imagining that my job was done.
I volunteered to interpret during the intake process, the first and most time-sensitive step in IRCO’s anti-poverty system. During that process, I learned so much about the family's struggles with poverty, migration, deportation, and domestic violence. Through the entire conversation, though, the woman maintained an incredible humble but poised demeanor, answering questions honestly but without self-pity or fear. It was humbling to see.
In the end they received the assistance and to my knowledge are still in their home.
Blythe O. - Ethos Rural Music Outreach AmeriCorps
Blythe was an AmeriCorps member serving through the Ethos Rural Music Outreach AmeriCorps program, which provides youth in rural underserved communities with opportunities to access music education, programming and to stimulate ongoing support for music education offerings.
Blythe's story of service:
"I was about to start a lesson for a class of third graders. My third graders at Warm Springs are one of the most difficult groups I have, behaviorally. They shout out all the time and are generally always disrupting class, so as they walked in I was bracing myself for another musical battle for their attention.
As soon as they sat down, they started shouting out right away that it was Shirley's birthday that day. Shirley was a very quiet, well-behaved student who I see out around the community a lot, but she hardly ever speaks in class. I have a rule that if it is someone's birthday, we have to stop everything we're doing in order to sing them the best happy birthday song we can possibly manage as a class.
So I told them okay, we were going to stop everything while I went over to the piano, and I instructed them to sit up straight and tall and use their very best singing voices to wish Shirley a happy birthday. We sang the song, clapped to celebrate Shirley, and then I went back to my chair in front of the class to finish taking attendance and start the lesson. Almost immediately afterwards, the kids were shouting out again - this time, "Shirley's crying! She's crying!"
I looked up and there she was with her face in her hands. I said "Oh no! Shirley, why are you crying? Did you not like it that we sang happy birthday to you?"
She looked up with totally red eyes and tears streaming down her face and said, "No, I'm so happy."
Lynda M. - United Communities AmeriCorps
Lynda served as an AmeriCorps member through United Communities AmeriCorps. She served at the Roseburg office of United Community Action Network on the nonprofit's case management program. She mostly worked with clients in the housing program.
Her story of service:
Last year, I worked on the Rental Assistance Wait List for Case Management for a few days. During that time, I contacted and had a bit of connection with a homeless woman. At that time, she was in her 60’s, living in a van with her cat. Her only source of income was from collecting cans and returning them for the deposit. She was bright, funny and optimistic, and I wanted desperately for us to be able to help her, but none of the funding we had available were a good match for her needs, as she really needed to get into long-term housing, not just a deposit or a couple months of rent.
Fast forward a year, I’m helping with the Wait List again and see that her name is still there. After speaking with her, I find that she is still living in the van. She has never been far from my mind and I was delighted to know that she still has a contact number.
I brought her situation to Deana’s (Lynda’s supervisor) attention, and we began to see if she could be helped by any of the available funding. After some frustrating obstacles and barriers, we were finally able to get her in long-term housing. I had the opportunity to meet her for the first time, which was a little tearful, but oh so joyous! I can’t begin to tell you how good it feels to know that I helped get a homeless woman off the street and into a place that she can call home!
Kady K. - Oregon State Service Corps
Kady served as an AmeriCorps members through the Oregon State Service Corps, which is a program of the American Red Cross Oregon Trail Chapter. Kady served at Lincoln County School District's HELP (Homeless Education and Literacy Project).
A story from Kady's service:
During our Back to School BBQ and School Supply Give-Away in August, I ran into a student I had worked with a lot last year in our homework assistance program. She then proceeded to tell me all about her summer in about four long, run-on sentences.
At the very end though, she told me what she was most excited about: Her family had moved again but this time into an apartment! Last year she and her family had moved three different times, living in their RV in the yards of friends. The pure, simple, matter-of-fact joy in her voice was amazing. This was it. This was exactly what the HELP Program was around for. If I had only done one year of service in Lincoln County, I would not have witnessed this: the fruit of our labors.
Hannah B. - Metropolitan Family Service BEST AmeriCorps
Hannah, an AmeriCorps member who served at Gresham High School, finished her term of service last Friday. She served through Metropolitan Family Service's BEST AmeriCorps program.
her story of service:
When I learned that the 100-year-old high school I work at may be getting rebuilt in the near future, I imagined tractors and trucks driving over the community garden the kids in my Service Learning Class had been talking and dreaming about. I started to think outside the box. We want this project to be long lasting and sustainable, not something that will be destroyed in a construction zone.
I approached my fellow AmeriCorps member working at an elementary school less than a mile away. I pitched her the idea of creating this community garden at her school, instead of mine. My students and I could walk to her school one day a week in the spring and help install a garden. She loves this idea, and working as a team, with two school communities behind us, we feel stronger together.
Not only will my high school students get the experience of planning a community garden and helping to install one, but by merging our after-school classes, the older students will get to act as mentors to the younger students. Both groups will benefit from this mentor/mentee relationship, while learning about where their food comes from, nutrition, and the importance of building community.
Maybe the high school students can even make their voices heard throughout the planning process of rebuilding their school by advocating for an intentional space for a garden, a garden that the elementary school students they are mentoring could eat out of one day when they call this high school theirs.
Nathan J. - Resource Assistance for Rural Environments
We installed a 40-foot-by-8-foot mural created by 10 different artists. This was a great project done on very little money and with many donations. The end product was a great sampling of the artistic talents of the Coos Bay area. It was personally rewarding to actually look back and see the physical implementation of a project that I made come about. To take it one step further, a mural has gone up on a different building in downtown Coos Bay. So, our idea is spreading and hopefully will create a movement to beautify downtown!
I really want to be involved in the visioning process of a community and working in economic development. RARE placed me in a community in which the downtown economy needed to be revitalized and the area re-envisioned. I was able to gain some great experience working with the Coos Bay Downtown Association that has actually led me to an Economic Recovery Planner position in southwest Missouri. I feel as though this is the right career path for me and the opportunity RARE provided me is a huge part of the reason I was able to obtain this job.
2013-2014 CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocates) Stories
Columbia Gorge CASA
The Columbia Gorge CASA, which serves Hood River, Sherman and Wasco counties, shared with us this powerful story about how a CASA volunteer helped a young boy get the consistent, long-term mental health services he needed.
A 6-year-old boy was removed from his mother’s care two and a half years ago, along with an older and a younger brother, each with a different father.
This young child has attachment issues and a deep longing to have a permanent home but has, unfortunately, had five different foster placements – most recently he was removed from his biological father’s care due to his father’s drug-use relapse and the tag-along effects of substance abuse.
Because he has been moved several times, mental health counseling, which he desperately needs, has been sorely lacking. He’ll attend one or two counseling sessions and then he’ll be moved, and the process of finding a counselor and setting up appointment dates will begin anew.
While the CASA knows that this boy’s child welfare caseworker is overwhelmed with too many cases and families, she is trying to secure services for him. She wrote a report to the court outlining the counseling dilemma and then spoke in court to the problem, as well. During this recent hearing, the circuit court judge, who knows the case well, ordered child welfare to establish and maintain regular and ongoing mental health services for this child – a product of relentless neglect and instability and uncertainty.
Even though the judge has heard this boy’s case for two and a half years, she was unaware that the boy was in such need – without the CASA’s diligence and voice, this child would not now be receiving long-overdue mental health services.
Every day abused and neglected children are removed from their homes and placed into substitute care because their parents cannot or will not protect them. CASA volunteers work to help find these children safe permanent homes where they can thrive.
Here is a story from Greg's volunteer service:
I am for the child whose uncle wouldn't say no.
My CASA child needed a stable and safe home away from the drugs and violence his mother and father had exposed him to for the majority of his young life.
My child’s uncle, who had always provided respite home for his nephew, stepped up when given the chance and made sure this little boy would have a safe permanent home for the rest of his young life. He put the child first even in the face of having to keep other family members out of their lives.
We worked as a team with the child’s caseworker, the child’s family, and other loved ones to make sure this child had a place he felt safe, a place he could heal, and a place he could be a child.
I am for the child who needed a home and found that home with an uncle that truly loves him.