Keeping up with the Corps Part 2: “Success”

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Most of our AmeriCorps members are halfway through their term of service, and at this point they have had a tremendous variety of experiences within their own projects and across the organizations around the state. From Detroit to Ludington, our members have learned and grown through serving their communities. We caught up with the same AmeriCorps members from Keeping up with the Corps Part 1 to hear their reflections on “success.”

Jaime Junior, Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency

Success for me is an action word. It’s not simply one item or moment in time, but instead is a continuous thing. That’s the message that I pass along to the people I serve: that life is a marathon, not a sprint.

My service has been successful so far in that everyone that has taken my workshops has walked away with something that helps them manage their finances. I have been able to clarify myths about working while disabled and to provide clients with resources for affordable housing.

One tool that I’ve found helpful during my service has been the SMART goals concept. “SMART goals” is an approach to making goals more achievable by making them Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound.

Kate Lietz, Lakeshore Food Club

When the Lakeshore Food Club opened in October 2017, the goal was to assist 300 local families with their basic needs. Since then we’ve grown to more than 800 member households. Though we certainly don’t measure success by how many people we’re serving, I think success can be found in our organization’s ability to adjust to the overwhelming need in this community. We haven’t done it alone—many partners have stepped up with huge donations of cash, hard-to-get food and nonfood items and, most importantly, time.

We like to say we’re a grocery store run on donations and volunteers, and managing the constant flow of volunteers, members, donors and product is an enormous job! One particular area of success for me has been recruiting and training volunteers who now run much of the day-to-day activity of the Food Club. It’s great to be involved with every part of what’s happening here, but it’s even greater to be able to step back and have time to focus on building community partnerships and developing fundraising opportunities.

Making the time to give attention to our existing and potential donors is critical to the long-term success of the Food Club, and I’m excited to be a part of building these relationships. Currently one of my projects is planning a fundraiser: The Ludington Lake Jump. Our goal is to raise $50,000 for the Food Club, and I have no doubt that we’ll also be raising huge awareness for this service in the community. Another small success I’m building toward is creating a partnership with our community garden in Ludington to connect the Food Club to fresh produce while also connecting more people to the skills and knowledge of growing food for themselves.

Amber Weichec, United Way of Saginaw County

To me, our VITA program is hugely successful right now. Even though we had some major setbacks at the very beginning of my service, things have been going as smoothly as I could have hoped for. Training was stressful to organize, but as soon as we got there it went off without a hitch. It was the same thing with the opening day/week of our VITA sites: it was rough getting everything set up and organized ahead of time but the moment that we opened, everything ran smoothly. Our Show Me the Money Day event has yet to actually occur, but I’m honestly not worried because I know that we are as prepared and organized as possible.

I owe a whole lot of my success to the people at my host site. In the handful of months that I’ve been serving at United Way of Saginaw County, I have never once dreaded going in to work because I know that even if I have a loaded schedule someone at the office will be there to put a smile on my face. On top of that, these past few weeks have been absolutely crazy with the VITA and Show Me the Money Day events happening at nearly the same time, and the team I coach in my free time had their State Championship this past weekend. I’ve had so much help from everyone at the office, especially with Show Me the Money Day, and I couldn’t have gotten everything done without them. I am incredibly grateful to the United Way of Saginaw County staff.

Ryan Bond, Grand Haven Main Street

As I now approach the halfway point to my AmeriCorps service year, I realize that getting out into the community is the most significant key to unlocking doors to success. I would not have been able to formulate quality proposals for multiple grants without leaving the office to pursue potential community stakeholders. I did not wait for them to come to me: I reached out to seek advice and feedback from others.

I firmly believe AmeriCorps members should be actively engaged in the fabric of the community. Community engagement is the most crucial component of my role this year, and from my current perspective the only method of success in the future will be to venture out for more community exchanges of ideas. Success does not merely come to you; one must be compelled to endeavor to seek diligently in order to find it.