Well, the first month of the New Year is nearing its end. How has your year been so far? Have you set out to do what you wanted to do yet? Did you have anything specific you wanted to do this year? Are you getting ready to start a difficult task? If not, and you are okay with it that is fine. People need to move at his or her own pace.
I feel like our AmeriCorps team has been having a splendid year so far. I am not going to spoil anything for you, but we are getting projects done and doing a great job of it. I know the AmeriCorps Access name is not as foreign around here as it was when I first started. People are telling me that they have heard about us. When I go to the libraries the library staff are telling me people are constantly asking about our services. When I am in the office I receive phones confirming my hours of outreach. We are not even half way done with our service yet and we are making a presence in Wake and Johnston County. I am looking forward to see how far this team will go.
Happy 2015 to everyone! I have just finished gathering and tabulating the results from the AmeriCorps Members team service in the first quarter of their service. The results are amazing!
With a total of 190 Customer Comment Cards collected over the quarter, here is a breakdown of the results: 97% said they received “Excellent” customer service satisfaction (helpful, courteous staff); 95% said they received “Excellent” overall satisfaction of services received, and 99.5% said they improved their knowledge of the job search process. Also, the AmeriCorps Members served over 1150 people, one-on-one, with job search assistance.
One big measure of success is that 71 of the people our Members served secured employment. Way to go AmeriCorps Team! Congratulations!
A challenge for our team, however, is to find more volunteers to serve alongside our Members, either in our Service Sites, or during Team/Group Service. So, if you’re interested in helping out, let us know!
Priya’s Profile: Zebulon’s ERC
The Workforce Center at Zebulon’s Eastern Regional Center (ERC) is located at 1002 Dogwood Drive, Zebulon, NC, 27597. We currently have one AmeriCorps member serving at this site: Rick Simms. Rick previously worked as a security guard at the ERC before transitioning to the Access Workforce program this year! The Site Supervisor for Zebulon is Tracy Champion.
The center has two computers for clients to use, which are in a separate office near the main lobby area of the building. This is because the center provides other services to customers that come in, including free access to the health clinic, bill payment services, food stamps, and printing or faxing timesheets for their jobs. The center has a fax machine, printer, and a phone for customers to use for employment-related purposes.
In addition to flyers on hiring events and job fairs, there is also informational material on financial matters from Robin Landsman and customer surveys for people to fill out. The clients who come into the center are very diverse and include a variety of people with very minimum to elementary-level education, former offenders, those who have been laid off several years ago, and older workers. A typical day consists of setting up center equipment, stocking the fax machines and printers with paper, cleaning the facility, and routinely asking clients who come in if they need any employment assistance. The Eastern Regional Center is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m., Monday through Friday. Make sure to stop by and say hello to your fellow AmeriCorps member!
Chelsea’s Chats: Mr. Tom Palmer
This month’s supervisor spotlight goes to Cary’s own Tom Palmer! Tom Palmer is an incredible Manager and Site Supervisor. Last month we were fortunate to have our meeting in the Cary office and get to see Tom’s dedication, humor and caring nature first hand. When he is not providing donuts on Wednesday’s and bagels on Friday’s he passing around bottles of Vitamin C to his members to make sure are as healthy as can be. I had a chance to take a few minutes of Tom’s time and ask him a little about himself.
- Where did you grow up?
Shelby, North Carolina. It is in Cleveland County in the Western part of the state, was mostly textile mills when I was young.
- Where did you go to school? What did you study?
I went to Georgia Military College in Milledgeville Georgia, then to Western Carolina University. I was a Business major, have a BS in Business, concentration in Management.
- Any family members or children?
I’m married, Ginger works at UNC hospital. We have no family, we are both only children, we have no children.
- Tell us a little about your professional interests, career path, and what brought you to where you are today.
Went to work for Burlington Industries after WCU, at the time it was the largest textile company in the world, 90,000 employees, and 100 plants. They moved me a lot, I’ve lived in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina with them. I was sent to Ireland for 3 years, started up a new plant, 600 employees. That was a great experience, got to see a lot of Europe. When textiles began to decline, the jobs went to Mexico and China. I was the Site HR Manager for a three-plant complex, 1200 employees, those plants were closed and I was laid off. I had worked with the Employment Security Commission most of my career, they were a good source for employees. I went to work for them, which was 13 years ago.
- What do you like about being a Site Supervisor? What do you find challenging?
I enjoy my job because we really do help people get back on their feet. I know what it’s like to lose a job, it is stressful. I can empathize with the clients, and enjoy seeing them be successful again. The challenge for me is trying to provide good customer service with a very small staff. The population of Cary is 150,000 and is part of the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area, which is 2 million +. We have a lot of traffic.
- How has your experience been working with AmeriCorps members? How do they fit in to how you run things at your site?
Our AmeriCorps Members are an integral part of our team. We are dependent on them to assist the new clients in our Computer Resource Center, they spend time with them to show them how to navigate the NC Works Online system. They do an excellent job, they really add an important dimension to the service we can provide. They work hard and we are grateful for their efforts.
- What are your hopes and goals for this year at your center?
We have been fortunate in that, in the three years I’ve been here, we have had no complaints. That is a tribute to professionalism of the staff and our partners. I would like to keep that record and be able to continue to have an office in which clients like to come. I tell people we are like the Dentists’ Office……..No one wants to come here, but they have to sometimes. We try to make it as painless as possible.
- Any personal interests or quirky facts you’d like to share?
I like to cook, I had to learn growing up, and I still do. My wife does not, so that works out well for us. I also like motorcycles, I’m restoring a 1972 BMW /5 now. It’s not running yet, it’s a work in progress.
Alex’s Assessment: Cary Creative
The Capital Area Workforce AmeriCorps team completed a service project with the Cary Creative Reuse Center on Friday, January 9, 2015. We assembled craft kits that will be sold to schools as interactive classroom teaching tools. You can’t step into a place so colorful, stocked with every craft supply that you can imagine without wondering, where did all of this stuff come from? I asked a few questions of the director, Betsy Dassau, in order to get a better idea of the non-profit’s origin and goals.
Alex: What sparked your interest in reuse and sustainability?
Betsy: “In October 2009 I went to the First Reuse Connex, the International Reuse Conference & Expo which happened to be held in Raleigh. There, the relationship of Art and reuse connected for me in the form of Creative Reuse. As a lifelong artist, we see things differently and I’ve always used materials that could be called “reuse” – or found objects. Earth Day in college was also a really big thing and I have recycled, reused and composted as my own personal way to be environmentally friendly.”
Alex: When did the center open?
Betsy: “Opened in February 2012.”
Alex: “What were some of the challenges you faced while trying to get the business going?
Betsy: “Every nonprofit faces the challenges of people and money. So did we! We located a place to open in the Town of Cary, but had to pay rent, utilities and other expenses – all with zero budget and with an all-volunteer operations. We want to be self-sustaining, but just made enough money for keeping open through the sales of our materials and the classes and events we provided as a service to the community, and to help raise operating capital. We were also located in a very out of the way place, not in a typical retail location, but we were a destination!”
Betsy: “Two – a coconut shell and a wig! We still have three art objects I guess, that have yet to be identified!”
Alex: How much/many material donations do you receive in a typical week?
Betsy: “Before we moved into our temporary location we could receive anywhere from one hundred pounds, up to over 800 lbs. The average was about 400 lbs./week.”
Alex: What types of classes do you offer?
Betsy: “ We offer all kinds of children, teen, and adult classes, from sewing beginning to advanced and garments to handbags or totes, jewelry making, painting and printmaking, Scrapbook and die cutting, collage and mixed media, puppet making , making bird houses and wind chimes. All of our classes are built around the materials we receive because we want to show folks how they can use this stuff in a creative way- and they start to see things as potential – not trash!”
Alex: Is there anything else that we should know about the Center?
Betsy: We are MOVING into a permanent home in February!! We have signed a lease at Cary Towne Center – space P-7712 – Near the Carousel and where Sears was.
We still are looking for corporate financial sponsors who see the value in supporting our creative reuse center. The BIG difference with Reuse as opposed to recycling is that reuse keeps resources local! It reduces energy consumption, lowers taxes (that otherwise would have to increase to cover the cost of solid waste disposal) and creates 10 times more jobs than landfilling or incineration. We were very cramped for space in our first location, but now we got what we wished for. Now we are facing the challenge of moving into the Cary Towne Center Mall and doubling our space in February. We have to expand our hours (75.5!) to meet the requirements of operating there, so we will need LOTS of steady volunteers. We will need donations of reusable materials as well. We need to raise funds very fast to buy and install a sign before we open for business in March 2015! Our website is www.carycreativecenter.org and our Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/carycreativecenter
Some important facts:
Benefits of Reducing and Reusing
- Prevents pollution by reducing the need to harvest new raw materials
- Saves energy
- Reduces greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change
- Helps sustain the environment for future generations
- Saves money
- Reduces the amount of waste that will need to be recycled or sent to landfills and incinerators
- Allows products to be used to their fullest extent
Clint’s Coverage: Holiday Party & Pics with Santa
Early this past December, a few AmeriCorps Members and AmeriCorps Volunteers participated with The Arc of the Triangle’s December celebrations, the Holiday Party and Pics with Santa. The Arc of the Triangle provides an array of habilitative services to children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) in North Carolina. Between assisting the organizers and the other volunteers, the AmeriCorps Members and Volunteers stayed busy. As one of the first Members to show up, I was assigned the duty of introducing my fellow members to who we would be working with during the Party. Our core duties included preparing the dining area, preparing food, serving food, cleaning up, handing out gifts, and preparing the room with the pictures. I could see everyone was having a fantastic time, especially the dancing children.
I had a chance to interview Jennifer. She is the Marketing Director of The Arc of the Triangle, and she organized the events that we participated in. I first asked her motivation for organizing these events. Jennifer stated, “We understand that to make any life whole there needs to be leisure and recreational opportunities as well. What better event to offer kids with special needs than a day with Santa.” She continued to explain there are different challenges to consider when hosting these events. There can be physical challenges such maneuvering a wheelchair through a maze of a line, and there can be behavioral challenges where a child does not want to wait in line for a long time. So they offered a “fast-pass” to keep the waiting time from exceeding 15 minutes. From there, visitors were able to have a private room to get their pictures with Santa taken.
Planning for these events started as early as September 2014. The Arc partnered with Triangle Down Syndrome Network (TDSN) to host these events. There were many factors to include such as making sure they had photographers and a DJ, and of course finding Santa Claus. October and November were dedicated to the planning and marketing process, and their efforts paid off big time! They had more people come than last year. There were around 450 visitors to come this year. The families that came out were not just from Wake County either. They hope to expand to Party and Pics with Santa to Durham in 2015.
If you want to see what volunteer opportunities there are with The Arc of the Triangle, you may visitwww.arctriangle.org/volunteer to apply. You will have to answer a few questions and be at least 18 years old to volunteer. Some position may require a background check, but volunteers are needed on an on-going basis.
Quincy’s Quotes: What You Can Do
I recently saw American Sniper about a United States Navy Seal Chris Kyle, who accumulated 160 confirmed kills out of 255 probable kills. It was the first time I can recall a standing ovation when the movie ended. The movie received mixed reviews overall. Some media, television host and political commentator called Chris Kyle a sociopath, which I disagreed regarding Chris Kyle because there is a difference between being in a position of following orders and doing your obligated duty which Chris was doing his job. I am attached to our military because I have two siblings who serve our country. There is parity between American Sniper and AmeriCorps because we also serve. We do not serve our entire nation, but we do serve our community by providing job resources. We serve our community every day which brings a greater capacity of gratitude to AmeriCorps. Keep being the best role model and counselor at your populated site. Great job TEAM AMERICORPS!
Blake’s Blog: Little Lines
I work with people; that is my occupation. The settings may change, a few titles and certifications may be added, but in general I help people in need. It is a common occurrence for people to thank me for the work that I do. I try my best not to take it for granted, but people are usually elated when I put forth a humane amount of effort into their lives. I get to hold my head up high, because people constantly remind me, my work is noble.
Being held in such high regard comes with some inevitable guilt. This stems from the fact that most people that I encounter in our centers, do not get a “Thank you” on a regular basis. As with most of my articles, this realization came while working with a client. He did not have finest clothing, he had virtually no computer skills, but he was SUPER intelligent. You know how you can just tell when someone’s IQ could essentially play Ping-Pong with yours? This gentleman had two paddles and could play both sides of the table.
But he was not what a lot of people would consider, “walking a glamorous career path.” In his own words he, “painted those little lines, you see on the road.” After we talked awhile, I blurted out “thank you for what you do!” He looked a little bewildered. Most likely he was thinking “why is he thanking me for putting little lines down on the road?” He himself did not see the value in his work. Which is most likely casualty of working for the sole purpose of obtaining a paycheck. He most likely has never had the time to sit back and think of his work as a craft. Nor has he had the opportunity to gain more skills in his trade.
I arrive at work safely, everyday, because of the back breaking effort he puts in. I can put my brain on autopilot, because his little lines are straight and centered. Admittedly, I have a deep seated appreciation for hands on work. One of my grandfathers owned his own roofing company. And my grandfather on the other side built his own home from creek stones that he collected while traveling the country as a truck driver. I took notes. But, for decades American children have been told “go as high as you can in school, so you don’t have to break your back every day.” I agree with the first half of that statement. We should definitely seek out and obtain as much education as we can. But it should not be to avoid physical labor all together. If you are reading this, you most likely have an astounding thing called the human body. Capable of not only dreaming up a skyscraper, but also building it.
So, if you are stuck in the mindset that there are naturally occurring thinkers and there are naturally occurring laborers, allow me to politely correct you. People may have preferences toward one side or the other, but it is not that cut and dry. Going back to the gentleman who was a part of a road crew. He had had several different trades in his lifetime. When he was done with one trade he had to move to another out of necessity. Instead of being a skilled tradesman in one area he was a general laborer in many. Jack of all trades, master of many.
Back when an economy consisted of kings, queens and peasants; the peasants most likely looked to the royalty in awe. They had all the wealth, they smelled nice, they lived in grandiose castles, and their bodies did not hurt after a day’s work. It is not wrong to desire a more comfortable life. Fast forward to present day, and in our capitalist economy those nice things are said to be within our reach. Yet, we still have some of those archaic beliefs, that if we are tired and dirty at the end of the day, we are living like peasants. Instead we should be gazing upon the skilled laborers in awe of their mastery. Some companies (not all) view these skilled laborers as just an asset. And if these “assets” have a high turnover rate, the companies break down the skill sets to such a degree that we wind up with a heaping load of temporary jobs, painting little lines.
After hearing this gentleman’s story, why would anyone choose to enter such a finicky industry? For one, I think those who have an inherent need to create, can and do find a great deal of satisfaction in this sort of work. Lastly, there is a great demand for infrastructure jobs due to the decrease in skilled laborers. Occupations like plumbers, electricians, welders and carpenters are not going away, and unlike other occupations we cannot just have people in other countries do them for us. So, in all honesty this gentleman was just a few classes away from having not only a job/career, but job security.
Chelsea’s Chuckles: Math Problems
Clint’s Corner: +4 Wild Card of an Employment Advisor
Uno is a card game in which the objective of the game is for players to get rid of all the cards in their hands before the other players. There is a card that most players have come to fear or love. That card is the +4 Wild Card. If you have ever played this game and you are down to your last few cards then you know the sensation of fearing that card being used against you. What does this have to do with Employment Advising? I can never be too sure of what is going to happen or who I am going to see during my library outreach. There are days I go without a single person coming by, and there are times where I do not have enough time to see everybody that comes. For example, at some of the libraries I do outreach at I helped a person file for unemployment, I ended up helping someone shop for a new laptop, and I got to practice my detective skills. All this happened just this January. There is never a dull moment. This is why library outreach is my +4 Wild Card.
I was working with a gentleman to tailor his resume to be a sales manager, and woman came to me and asked what kind of help I offer. So I let her know what I do as an employment advisor. She tells me she is looking for a laptop and wants to know where she could buy one. I am sure she wanted to use that laptop for job searching or something job related, but she made no attempt to explain that to me. In the end, I told her where she could get a reasonably priced laptop that would work for what she wanted. I probably will not see her again, but I hope I was able to help her.
My most interesting outreach experience this month would have to be trying to remember the patrons that were in a library from two weeks ago. Someone had stolen donations from the library. At first I could not remember a single person, but the library staff was able to jog my memory of every person that was there. More specifically, they were able to remind me of the ones they thought were the culprits. The more they told me about who they thought it was the more I was convinced myself. As a result the library has beefed up their security.
Last week felt like a good old standard outreach week. A gentleman came in wanting help with his cover letter. This was interesting; I never have anyone specifically requesting cover letter assistance. So I explained to him what the purpose of cover letter is and he familiarized me with how really feels about his work. Cover letters are a bit more detailed than resumes and they take a while to craft, and he had plenty to work with. I did not have enough time to finish helping him with his cover letter, but he sent me what he came up with the next day and I believe it was the beginnings of a quality cover letter.
There are typical days in our Career Resource Center (CRC), but there is never a typical day when it comes to outreach. These outreaches are like a hand full of +4 Wild Cards. I cannot lose.
Chef Chelsea: Parmesan Crusted Asparagus
- 1 pound fresh asparagus
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1/2 a cup of grated Parmesan
- 1 teaspoon of seasoned salt
- 2 cups of buttermilk
- oil for frying
Trim asparagus by removing the bottom inch.
In a shallow bowl combine flour, grated Parmesan, and seasoned salt. Stir to combine the coating well.
In another shallow dish add 2 cups of buttermilk.
Coat asparagus first in the flour mix, then dip into buttermilk, and then coat in the flour mix again.
Place the coated asparagus on a wire rack. Repeat with all asparagus. Allow asparagus to rest about 5 minutes before frying.
Add enough oil to your cooking pan to cover the bottom 2 inches.
Heat oil to 350 degrees and drop a few pieces in at a time, and fry until golden brown (if you let it fry to long the asparagus becomes mushy).
Remove the asparagus and allow to drain on a wire rack then top off with some more Parmesan and enjoy!
Report: Looking back over the new adventures in the AmeriCorps world, I find that one of the greatest joys to helping people in impoverished areas is their thanks for this group being the Band-Aid for the scars of unemployment. It is not just the help finding the job, but the patience that we use to get our clients through some hard times with even a kind word or two. Patience is our driving force and willingness to go the extra mile in 2014 will empower this team to work even harder to satisfy our clients in 2015.