Letter from the Editor
During AmeriCorps November team meeting, we were given a choice to deliver a speech about who is the most inspirational person in our life or the thing we are most proud of in our life. With Thanksgiving approaching, I really could not think of a more appropriate time for such a development activity. When we were speaking about our accomplishments and those who inspire us, I know everyone was feeling more than proud or inspired. I hope they were also thankful for their experiences and the people who have impacted their life so strongly.
With Thanksgiving coming this week, I would like for all of you to think about some of the things you are thankful for. I am thankful for my family, friends and all the little things in life I take for granted. I’m also thankful I had a chance to get to know my fellow AmeriCorps members a little better and understand a little bit more. Even if you do not observe Thanksgiving, it is a good practice to sit back and count your blessings.
This year’s AmeriCorps Members are amazing. They are totally engaged in their service, their targeted audiences, and their own growth. Our first team meeting and group service was a great success. Tex Bennett, from the NC Cooperative Extension, led the team in a workshop on the stages of team building. Our team is so together that we breezed right through it. Thanks Tex! We then had a wonderful service experience at the Wedge Community Garden digging in the dirt. Go team! If any of our readers know of opportunities for outreach and/or team service, please feel free to let us know. We are always seeking opportunities to have a presence in the community. This year promises to be one of the best yet for Access Workforce Development AmeriCorps!
Carmen Carroll is the dedicated AmeriCorps Site Supervisor for the Capital Area Workforce Center at Swinburne. She is the One-Stop Manager of the center, overseeing all financial and administrative duties, and all Partner Staff report to her for scheduling and other concerns. She has been a manager for 10 years and also worked as an Employment Consultant for 10 years in the Human Services department. Carmen enjoys working with all of the different partners to make the Center a great place for job-seekers to come and receive the assistance that they need.
On her experience with AmeriCorps Members, Carmen says, “I have very smart staff members that are a pleasure to work with…I adore working with the AC members. This is my 7th year being a site supervisor for AC and I have supervised more than 20 AC members up to this point. Each member has had a unique story, career path, and motivation for serving.” She also continues to be regularly involved with at least 70% of former members. In her experience, they have “fallen in” and learned their duties in the Center, contributing immensely to special projects.
Carmen is from the Central Piedmont region of NC, born in Salisbury and raised in Concord. She attended Appalachian State University (Go Mountaineers!) on a track and field scholarship. Her specialty was the shot put event. She also studied Sociology and hopes to pursue an advanced degree after retiring in 3 years. When she first graduated from college, she worked as a Youth Counselor in juvenile detention and went on to work in eligibility for Medicaid long term care benefits. She recently celebrated her 20th year with Wake County this past September.
What Carmen finds most challenging about her work is delegating assignments. One of the biggest lessons she learned is that coordinating the staff, budget, training, and administrative duties of a Career Center takes a comprehensive team of individuals with a wide variety of expertise. However, she loves taking on difficult tasks and now feels much more skilled at identifying the talents in her staff and guiding them to tasks that are best for them and the Center. She hopes to see the Center acclimate to the Integrated Service Delivery Model, stepping up customer service delivery and making the site a model by which others may follow.
As for her personal life, Carmen stays in touch with her mother who lives in Albemarle, NC, and her daughter, Chloe who works at a major insurance company. She also has a “four legged furry child, a German Shepherd Puppy named Knuddel, who works in the field of furniture demolition.” She calls Knuddel the “German Shredder.” In her free time, Carmen likes to visit estate sales and upscale yard sales. She also enjoys sewing, and has worked on costumes, boat covers, pillow shams, and even patches for the uniform of a Lt. Colonel in the National Guard. Her passions include civil and women’s rights, fighting homelessness, and issues surrounding mental health, substance abuse, and physical disability. She hopes one day to return to the mountains near Boone, NC.
Chef Chelsea – Chocolate Lasagna
- 36 Oreo cookies (regular, not double stuffed)
- 6 tablespoons butter, melted
- 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 3¼ cups cold milk, plus 2 tablespoons, divided
- 12 oz. tub Cool Whip, divided
- 2 – 3.9 oz. packages chocolate instant pudding mix
- ½ cup mini chocolate chips
- Crush Oreo cookies into fine crumbs; make sure there are no large chunks left. You can use a blender or a big Ziploc bag and a rolling pin.
- In a medium bowl, mix melted butter into cookie crumbs using a fork. When the butter is thoroughly mixed in, transfer it to a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Using a spatula, press the crumbs down into the bottom of the dish as evenly as possible. Put the dish in refrigerator while you work on the next step.
- In a medium bowl, mix the cream cheese with an electric beater until it is fluffy. Add the 2 tablespoons of cold milk and sugar and mix well. With large spoon or spatula, mix in 1¼ cups of the Cool Whip. Spread the cream cheese mixture over cookie crust. Return the dish to refrigerator and let chill for 10 minutes.
- In a large bowl, mix together chocolate instant pudding and 3¼ cups cold milk with electric beater or whisk until the pudding starts to thicken. Spread the pudding over the cream cheese layer. Return the dish to refrigerator and let chill for 10 more minutes.
- Spread remaining Cool Whip over the pudding layer and sprinkle mini chocolate chips over the top.
- Allow the dish to chill in fridge for 4 hours and then serve.
This month a few AmeriCorps Access members worked with The Friends of Oberlin and other volunteers to help clean the Oberlin Cemetery. A couple of times a year, Friends of Oberlin will come out to the Oberlin Cemetery to help keep it clean. Over time, the cemetery can get littered with trash and sometimes the plants can take over the place. Well, that is why Friends of Oberlin are there to keep it from looking like it has been forgotten. Ms. Sabrina Goode is the Executive Director of Friends of Oberlin and the organizer of the 2014 Fall Cleanup.
The Oberlin Village was one of the first communities of freed African Americans established in 1866 by James H. Harris, a former slave, after the Civil War. He named the village after his alma mater, Oberlin College in Ohio. The Oberlin Cemetery was established in 1873 by its members. There are believed to be over 600 graves in the cemetery. For many freed African Americans, it was the only place where they were allowed to be buried. Over the years, much of the Oberlin Village landscape has been sacrificed to development. The Friends of Oberlin is a grassroots committee formed in March of 2011 by the descendants of the Oberlin Village founders and the Oberlin community members whose mission is to preserve the legacy and grounds of the Oberlin Cemetery as well as creating a definitive registry of the persons laid to rest.
The cleanup included The Friends of Oberlin, dedicated community members, AmeriCorps Access members and a plethora of interested volunteers. The immediate teamwork that formed among strangers was a sight to behold. There was a willingness to share gloves and tools such as chainsaws and axes. We cleared the trash, trimmed the overgrowth and set it to the side for the city to clear. Ms. Goode was kind enough to provide everyone with water, muffins and hot coffee (my favorite).
The Friends of Oberlin has two cleanups a year. All people who are interested in helping preserve the memory of the Oberlin Villagers can visit www.friendsofberlin.org for more details.
Judicious Jon – Speaking about 500 Bulbs
This past Friday we had our second team meeting at the Swinburne Workforce Center. During the meeting we focused on public speaking in which all of us had to prepare a speech and critique a speech. Because public speaking is a vital part of any career the training will last a lifetime. The speeches were all well-executed and were funny, informative, and poignant. We learned a great deal about ourselves and each other and I look forward to future team meetings!
After our foray into public speaking with did outreach in Raleigh’s Pullen Park. If you have never been to Pullen Park then I suggest you do so! It is a beautiful park that borders NC State and is North Carolina’s oldest public park. We planted 500 flower bulbs on a small peninsula towards the back of the park. The group had a great time planting bulbs and playing in the dirt! Come this spring we’ll be able to see the fruits of our labor.
If you are not happy in your career, education, some other area of your life or if you are just not happy with where your current situation, then I want you to realize that you can make a decision TODAY, and not tomorrow. Start taking the actions and preparation to change your life. Set goals for that action and go from where you are now, to where you want to be. Get in the game! Consider a situation or project you have wanted to start. Whatever you have been waiting for, forget it. Begin now from wherever you are with and whatever you have got. If possible, do it while working for or with someone else first, to learn the ropes. If you have already learned, no more excuses. Go for it! I give Team AmeriCorps first quarter grade an A+. Let’s keep up the momentum. Great job Team AmeriCorps.
Clint’s Corner – Theft in the Work
Okay, so I was helping a client the other day with her resume and I notice this man looking at the desk where I keep most of my personal belongings. As I continue to help the client I was with, the man gets up and goes to the desk and takes my pen. He never asked. I would have said something then and there, but I was busy with someone. Unbeknownst to me, he had left while I was working with this client. The moment I get some free time I return to the desk to see if he had placed it back where it belonged. He didn’t. Then I thought, “Oh, he must have left it at the computer where he was sitting!” He did not. He just got up and walked off with my pen. It was like he had no regard for my personal belongings.
I believe we have all had something stolen from us before, and I know it makes us feel all different types of ways. Some people become relentlessly livid at the person who stole from them. Some people become sad someone would do something like that. Some people just do not care. The item that was taken from them was so insignificant, they realize it really is not something worthy of an upset mood. If you guessed my feelings strongly correlate with the last option I stated, you are correct. It was a pen; they are literally a dime a dozen. I went to the store and checked. Now, if it had been my phone on my desk that he took that would be a different story. I used to do that from time to time, but if people are taking things as nugatory as a pen, then what will stop them from taking my phone? The part that really bothers me was a lack of respect for someone’s belongings.
Now, I just keep my awesome stuff in the back. I know it will be safe there. Well, I hope it will be safe there. There have been no violations so far, but I do not have anything really worth stealing. I have my book bag, some notebooks, a picture of me and my sister, a comb and a jar full of pocket change. The people I am around every day would not want to steal my stuff. We are around each other too much to want to get on each other’s bad side. So, my advice to keep your things from being stolen is to be like a bank when it comes to protecting your assets. Chain your pens to your desk so people can not steal them.
Jovial Jon – Corn
A duck walks into a post office and asks the man behind the counter: ‘Do you have any corn?’ The man answers politely: ‘No, we don’t have any corn here.’ The next day, the duck enters again and asks: ‘Do you have any corn?’ Annoyed, the man answers: ‘No! We don’t have any corn.’ This goes on for a couple of days until finally, when the duck asks ‘Do you have any corn?’, the man gets so upset he yells: ‘NO! For the last time we don’t have any corn, and if you ask again I’ll nail your beak to the counter!’ The next day, the duck returns and asks: ‘Do you have any nails?’ The man answers: ‘No.’ Then the duck asks: ‘Do you have any corn?’
1. What are some things you like to do in your spare time?
I like being outdoors, especially on the beach. I also like going to a new place and exploring with no particular schedule or agenda.
2. What has been the most challenging aspect to being an AmeriCorps member so far? What is the most rewarding?
I think we have had a fairly steep learning curve so in the beginning it seemed that I was supposed to be helping people but I didn’t have the knowledge yet to do that effectively. As I have learned more about the system and available resources, it has been rewarding to refer people to programs that can really help them find work, and to help them get their resumes or applications done. People sometimes come into the center feeling down and overwhelmed, and if we can help them, they leave feeling more hopeful and supported.
3. What is it about working with former offenders that appeals to you as opposed to our other target groups?
My time volunteering with inmates has made me realize that people who end up with a criminal record have often been victims themselves—some type of abuse or dysfunction in the family when they were growing up. I have heard many stories that made me ask myself who I would be today if I had gone through those experiences. Once the sentence has been served, our society continues to punish ex-offenders in numerous ways, so they need help to do things that many of us take for granted, like find a place to live or get a job. Helping ex-offenders is very rewarding because they are usually so grateful to be seen and not judged.
4. What is one thing you love most about your site? What is the one thing you like the least about your site?
I like the fact that the people who come to work in the career center during the week—from other areas in the building or from Wake Tech—all seem to have a good relationship with each other. There is a friendly and open atmosphere. The most frustrating thing is that we can give only limited help when some people need a lot more. That really isn’t site specific, but a system wide thing.
5. Describe one interesting/unusual thing (or more) about yourself or what you have done in your life that the other AmeriCorps members may not know about.
When I worked at Duke I got a Master’s degree in Liberal Studies. My final project paper was on a clinical trial at the Durham VA Medical Center that involved studying the effectiveness of prayer on creating positive outcomes in cardiac patients. Needless to say, that was unusual and very interesting. I remember sitting in grand rounds at Duke Medical Center and seeing the doctor talk about his study, and finding hard to believe that it was really happening. My theme for the degree was studying the science / spirituality interface. I also got to go on study abroad trips to Greece and London.
1. What are some things you like to do in your spare time?
I find that Fishing and reading or watching old Westerns (B&W), old Murder mysteries (B&W) and old war stories, and of course travel.
2. How do you find being the only AmeriCorps member at your site? What is the one thing you like the least about your site?
I am just fine there and have no issues with it.
3. What is one thing you love most about your site?
I like the cooperation from all the staff there, and yet there aren’t enough PCs there to accommodate some of the clients that come in; which means that we have a disadvantage when it comes to servicing many potential clients.
4. Where do you go for your outreach?
Setting up Outreach has been rather a difficult task in that area of Eastern Wake County, especially at this time of year. Even venturing out further in the Johnston County area is rather difficult.
5. Describe the organization, the clientele, etc. What is the most common “type” of person that walks through the doors of your site?
The clients I have been seeing for the past eleven years as a security guard are still coming in for the same reasons, and those reasons are more important to them than trying to get a job. Their electric bill, fuel bill, food bill (EBT), or the Free Clinic; if the client is lucky, one can get free food from the food truck that comes in three days a week.
Priya’s Point – The Tillery Office
The NC Works Career Center at Tillery is located on 1830 B Tillery Place in Raleigh, NC, 27604. The site currently has 4 AmeriCorps Members serving in the Career Center: Natalie Wiggins, Em Wooden, Bridgette Wilson, and Stephanie Rogers. The Site Supervisor is Bonnie Helmink. Tillery is a beautiful facility with 27 computers as well as printers, copiers, and fax machines for customers to use for employment-related purposes. In fact, last month was the grand opening of the Career Center and North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory himself was in attendance to cut the ribbon and give a presentation on the importance of developing a strong workforce.
Images Courtesy of nc.gov
AmeriCorps members spend most of their time assisting customers in the CRC with their job search and 1-1 assistance for target populations. They also work with a variety of other staff including Misty Word (Customer Service), Johanna Santos (Resource Specialist), Jalie Phifer (Talent Development Program Assistant), and their wonderful security guard, Forrest Tucker. The unique aspect of Tillery’s Career Center is the wide variety of information sessions and workshops they host on a daily basis. Some of these offerings include “Resume to Interview,” “How to Get the Success You Want,” and “Social Media for Job Seeking.” Some of them are recurring and most require advance registration. Many of these workshops are also tailored to specific populations, including older workers and former offenders. At Swinburne, we regularly refer our customers to these information sessions.
Another particularly helpful aspect of Tillery’s Career Center is the abundance of specialists on site. Their Veteran Specialist is Houston Campbell (whom we met during training!), and the Center also employs several representatives for Talent Development, Job Corps, the Community Success Initiative, Former Offenders, Older Workers, and Food and Nutrition special programs. The Center is open Monday through Wednesday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., and Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Make sure to pay your fellow AmeriCorps members a visit!
Blake’s Blog – Split
Recently our fearless leader, Deborah, asked me how splitting up my time between two locations was treating me. My immediate response was, “Its great! I get a break from the daily remedial tasks that wear away at your brain.” For instance in Cary, due to the subtraction of “un” from “unemployment” in recent months, our “employment” office gets several hundred questions about unemployment per day. And in Fuquay Varina, due to the substantial amount of services provided in the building, we get a lot of Food Stamp application questions (oh SNAP!).
Being the new guy I spent a lot of my time those first few days, learning the intricacies of NCworks. I had to catch up, right? But I had not prepared for the herculean task of helping someone file for unemployment. Even to this day I am still relatively clueless and in my opinion Darrell and Jon, my AmeriCorps team members, both deserve honorary Master’s degrees in social work.
After I thought about Deborah’s question in more detail, I started to think of how my experiences might be different from the rest of our team. Is it in my favor to be split between two locations or am I going to spend the year spinning my wheels? Time will most assuredly tell, but for now I’ve found that it is more important for me to know the resource than to be the resource. I am a road sign, hoping to someday be a road map. And if I live long enough, maybe I will figure out how to work a GPS into this analogy.
The bigger question is really, “how do we measure our success?” I seem to think it is in the number of people served and not number of government programs mastered. Regardless of where I am, I think I can find solace in the fact my only real objective is to stay client centered and branch out from there.
As we look back over the past events of our team gatherings and meetings, I cannot help but to give God the credit for all the Angels surrounding me in AmeriCorps. As the Senior member of this team, I am honored to be involved with such great people as God has sent to help others, where many have failed. There is success in the actions of this team and love for fellowman that causes the drive to be honest, and emotional at the same time. Coming from so many backgrounds; I have seen so much love in-birthed in my fellow team members, and as we learn more about ourselves and each other, we learn how to help those coming to us with outstretched hands. There is a song that I believe accounts for our team’s future success; “Heaven is Looking Down on Me”