The 2016-17 WACC VISTA Team participated in a National Day of Service in honor of Dr. King by organizing service projects or volunteering for existing events in their communities. VISTA members rolled up their sleeves to make applesauce, shovel mulch, read to kids, collect food donations, and ask neighbors what their dream is for their community. Read all these stories of service below!
Laurne Terasaki – Food Security Coordinator, University of Washington
A group of 40 students from UW built a quarter mile gravel path in Seattle’s Volunteer Park. The gravel was frozen in two solid piles, so half of the team chipped away with shovels and pick-axes, while the other half spread out loosened gravel, pruned vegetation, and prepared the landscape.
Participating in National Days of Service allows VISTAs to build comradery, engage with the community, and reminds us about the impact that direct service can have: a clear, walkable path can encourage people to spend time outdoors, access the tennis courts along the path, and gives volunteers a sense of investment in their own community.
Greg Gormley – Peer Navigator Coordinator, Spokane Falls Community College
SFCC’s AmeriCorps members and the Associated Student Government organized an event sorting and packaging food for distribution around Eastern Washington at Northwest Harvest in Spokane Valley. Fourteen volunteers participated in the event, and 2,750 pounds of food was sorted and/or packaged, all of which will be distributed locally to those in need.
This volunteer opportunity, more than anything else, helped our group learn more about an organization that does a lot of good in our community. The volunteer coordinator, Katie Huckabee, did a great job explaining how Northwest Harvest was different than a food bank, and how their role is vital to food access for those where it may not be readily available.
Hilary Beardslee – Community Outreach Coordinator, Gonzaga University
Five AmeriCorps members who serve at Gonzaga’s Center for Community Action and Service Learning volunteered at the Spokane County United Way’s MLK Day Resource Fair. As part of a social media campaign for the event, we asked rally participants about what their dream was for our community. Ten students from Eastern Washington University decided that their dream is for “Unity.” Another couple’s dream is to “build a beloved community in Spokane.” After the campaign, the AmeriCorps members participated in the MLK Rally & Unity March. There were several speakers at the Rally including Mayor Condon, Dr. Back Taylor, President of Whitworth University, Phil Tyler, President of Spokane NAACP, Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, and Reverend Happy Watkins.
There were approximately 2,500 people who attended the event, including 20 Gonzaga students who chose to participate even though classes do not begin until the 18th. They were recruited through collaboration with Kennel Cares, a service oriented branch of the Kennel Club which is dedicated to connecting communities through service and sports. I have been attending the Unity March & Rally for the past three years, and this is the largest crowd I have been a part of to date.
Brian D’Auteuil – Sterling Meadows Education Coordinator, Western Washington University
We had a really fun time with the kids at Sterling Meadows on Martin Luther King Day! The Bellingham Reading Corps members and I planned a three station event in the community center here at Sterling Meadows. First, the kids helped paint an “Under the Sea” mural that we are donating to a shelter for families in the process of transitioning homes. The kids also worked on individual art projects related to diversity or MLK Day. After all the paintings had been completed, the kids enjoyed playing outside with all of the volunteers. Lastly, we read biographies about civil rights leaders like Helen and César Chávez as well as diversity-themed children’s books with the kids while they enjoyed snacks donated from Woods Coffee and Domino’s Pizza. The kids can enjoy rereading their favorite books from this event because copies will be donated to the Sterling Meadows library.
This event brought together students of all ages as well as volunteers from across the community. We had thirteen elementary school students, three middle school students, and one high school student attend the event alongside nine AmeriCorps members. Alderwood Elementary School’s principal, Micah Smith, and his kids, participated, as did a school counselor!
Danielle Dobias – Parkland Education Coordinator, Pacific Lutheran University
PLU’s Center for Community Engagement and Service teamed up with the Diversity Center to plan a student service project at the Hilltop Urban Garden for their 2nd Annual Food Sovereignty Day of Action. Many of the twenty PLU students who participated spent the majority of the morning working in the garden, while a few stayed back at Peace Community Center to do seed plantings and paint rocks and signs for HUG. Those who worked at the HUG farm began digging out a path for their newest project, which focuses on a large portion of the garden being dedicated to the Black Lives Matter movement. Others deconstructed an old fence, spread hay to protect new plants or trimmed strawberry plants that would later be donated. Around noon we took a break for lunch and met many people from the neighborhood who are very invested in the garden and their community.
Overall, it was a wonderful, extremely productive day! Becoming more familiar with this project will lead to many new, exciting opportunities throughout the rest of my VISTA year. Prior to volunteering, I was especially looking forward to getting involved with HUG because their garden is located on my street. After speaking with many of the garden coordinators, I was able to connect with some people who are very dedicated to and involved in this project and my neighborhood. We have spoken about ways to connect PLU students to the garden on a more consistent basis with the potential of them taking over their own portion of the farm. Not only have I now found a volunteer opportunity that I plan to regularly get involved with throughout the rest of my VISTA year, but I’ve also established some ideas to potentially help my efforts transcend my time in the neighborhood while simultaneously connecting PLU students to opportunities outside of their university community.
Rachelle Mills – LinCS Coordinator, Western Washington University
Bellingham Parks, Bellingham Pubic Works, the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association and many community volunteers teamed up on January 16th to help restore salmon habitat along a new segment of the Bay to Baker Trail. The work party enhanced the area by planting native trees and shrubs along the trail adjacent to Squalicum Creek. The turn out this year was an estimated 200+ volunteers, ranging in age from toddlers to retirees. My favorite part of serving on the work party, was seeing my kids and those of other people getting their hands dirty and having a blast while giving back to this wonderful community we all share!
Naomi Farrell – Guided Pathways Coordinator, Everett Community College
I collaborated with two other AmeriCorps members in the Diversity and Equity Center on a National Day of Service event with LINC NW, Washington State University (WSU), and Everett Community College’s (EvCC) Black Student Union (BSU) and Student LIFE. As a collective, we organized a morning celebration that included coffee and snacks, collaborative art pieces, and a civil rights slideshow accompanied by an empowering playlist. Our sponsors gave short speeches concerning the need for service work, but also the humbling pleasure that comes from being in community and giving back to our community.
After the morning celebration, we connected a total of 45 volunteers with three local organizations: HopeWorks, Imagine Children’s Museum, and EvCC’s Early Learning Center. I co-led 17 volunteers at EvCC’s Early Learning Center where we painted a chalk-board wall and chalkboard easels, swept and tidied outside play areas, washed all windows, wiped down surfaces, and pulled weeds and dead plants in their vegetable garden. Following this, my co-lead had us all consider just how much we were able to do, and how much of an impact this small act will have on the ELC staff, and more importantly for the children who will return to a clean and organized center. And, to conclude, we each went around the circle and shared a word or phrase that encapsulated our experience from the day. Some of the words were: community, purpose, connection, love, and service. The word that came up for me was: light.
All in all this was a tremendous experience which could not have come together without the contributions of all of our sponsors and the volunteers who came out to spend a few hours giving back. As I was pulling weeds, and trying to penetrate the frozen dirt to remove the roots embedded in the ground, there was no frustration, there was only a sense of joy. This experience has renewed my passion for community and for being in service of others, and I know it did the same for those who showed up.
Ashley Vaughan – Palouse Fresh Food Project Coordinator, WSU Pullman
The Palouse Fresh Food Project hosted a SLO (sustainable, local, organic) Food Drive during Martin Luther King Jr.’s National Day of Service. The food drive focused on quality of nutritious foods over quantity and starting conversations with community members about food insecurity in our community. This year’s recipient was the Council on Aging & Human Services (COA), a local organization that works to empower people through transportation services and nutrition programs. They also oversee ten food pantries around Whitman County.
The food drive was hosted at Dissmore’s IGA in Pullman with a total of 17 student and community volunteers from 9AM-6PM. The volunteers collected a total of 665 lbs. of nutritious foods and quality hygiene products, collected $24.00 in cash donations, gave out sustainable tote bags, and started conversations about local resources and needs of the community. COA will distribute the donations around Whitman County.
The volunteers were interviewed twice, once by the Pullman Radio and another by a WSU Communications course. Jessica Brierly, an AmeriCorps member from the City of Moscow Arts Department, stated that the food drive holds special meaning to her because it honors minority groups, which fits in with the National Day of Service.
Chris Davis – STEM Bound Coordinator, Pierce College
On Saturday January 14 at Trinity Lutheran Church, Hal Meng and Lisa Alba, from Center Food Preservation Arts showed Pierce College students and community members the art and science in making and canning applesauce. Eighteen volunteers chopped, peeled, and cooked apples to make over 35 half gallon jars of applesauce. This was to support emergency food systems, food banks, and feeding ministries. Volunteers also helped out Trinity’s Food Bank by repacking food items. Kris Hay, a community member said, “This event was fun! I didn’t know that there so many steps in making applesauce! I would definitely do this again!”
Ann Nguyen – Cordata Elementary Coordinator, Western Washington University
The 19th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Human Rights Conference at Whatcom Community College was an amazing event that exemplified the work of Martin Luther King, Jr. through all the wonderful and impactful keynote speakers and workshops. I attended the “I’m Not a Racist – Blind Spots and Hidden Biases of Well-Intentioned Folks” workshop, hosted by Kim Harris. The workshop intended to demonstrate that everyone has biases, especially ones that we are not fully aware of. The class got to take the Implicit Association Test created by Banaji and Greenwald and we talked about why we got the results we got and what we can do with our hidden biases.
The second workshop that I attended was “Community Care and Cooperation”, hosted by Lulu. This workshop talked about the subjects of self-care and community care, from an anti-ableist perspective. We were split into smaller groups so that we could have a deeper discussion on ways we can prevent “burnout” within our professions and how can we make things more accessible for those with a disability in order to have a more inclusive community.
Both of these workshops were super beneficial, informative and applicable to my VISTA work. My site has a very diverse group of students, and I believe it’s very important for all staff members, including myself, to be aware of our hidden biases so that all of our students are treated with equal respect and compassion. And in order for us to best serve the communities that we’re in, we need to be able to take care of ourselves first.