#NationalSelfieDay Summer Challenge

j.By:  Jadea Asante, Ready Corps

With the temperatures steadily increasing and the smell of barbeque in the air, it’s safe to say that summer is here. It’s easy for millennials, like myself, to get wrapped up in the same mundane routine. Going to work, looking for work, taking a summer class, and being glued to our cellphones; incessantly refreshing our feed to stay connected. What would happen if this summer we disconnected from technology and made real life connections with people in our communities?

Amazing things happen when we volunteer. Naturally doing good makes us feel good, volunteering boosts self-confidence and happiness.  As millennials, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to find the “perfect” job, that internship that will jumpstart our career or even getting accepted in our dream school. Although focusing on achieving goals is great all that pressure can leave us feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Volunteering is a great way to relieve stress and put thing in perspective.  

Living in a digital world its second nature to click a blue button to acquire new friends, but through volunteering you can meet amazing people in person. Through my own personal experience volunteering with Jersey Cares I have been able to meet likeminded individuals from all walks of life. 

Volunteering with Jersey cares is easy, fun, and meaningful. This summer I challenge you to put the phone down and go out and impact your community.

 

“A Visit from Super Volunteer”

Adapted from “A Visit From Saint Nicholas” by Clement Clarke Moore

JCD2017‘Twas two nights before Jersey Cares Day, when all through the state,

Not a volunteer was stirring, not quite this late;

The supplies were delivered to the sites with great care,

In hopes that the volunteers soon would be there;

 

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of new classrooms danced in their heads;

And the team in their t-shirts, and I in my cap,

Had just settled down for a much-needed nap,

 

When out in the parking lot there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from the floor to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a dart,

Tore open the blinds and threw them apart.

 

The moon on the white stripes of the parking lot,

Gave the shine of mid-day to my parking spot,

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a school bus filled chock full of volunteers.

 

With a driver so happy and full of good cheer,

We knew in an instant it must be “Super Volunteer.”

More rapid than eagles his helpers they came,

And he laughed as he shouted and called them by name:

 

“Now, PAINTER! now, ARTIST! now, SKETCHER and BUILDER!

On, SORTER! on CLEANER! on, SWEEPER and PACKER!

To the buckets and brooms and big mounds of dirt,

Get to it! Get to it! (But no one get hurt!)

 

And then, in a twinkling, I heard around the state,

Volunteers starting work – man they’re so great!

As I pulled out my phone and was turning around,

In the door “Super Volunteer” came with a bound.

 

He was dressed in work clothes, from his head to his foot,

And he was splattered in old paint – even his boots,

A hammer, paint brush, and gloves hung from his belt,

A bottle of water and a hat – so he wouldn’t melt.

 

The stump of a pencil, he held tight in his teeth,

To sign in volunteers on the clipboard beneath,

He was armed with a sharpie and a roll of trash bags,

Ready to answer questions and solve problems we had.

 

He was friendly and cheerful, a picture of health,

And I smiled when I saw him, in spite of myself;

A wink of his eye and a nod of his head,

Let me know quickly that I had nothing to dread;

 

He joked and we laughed, but went straight to our task,

He completed the projects – we didn’t have to ask.

Then sending a text to all of his team

He winked and he nodded and disappeared it seemed.

 

He jumped on his bus and to his team gave a shout,

And they all waved and smiled as they headed out,

But we heard them exclaim as they drove out of sight,

“We love volunteering, It just feels right!”

Forty Days of Service – One Volunteer’s Journey

For some people, turning forty can be an impetus for change; for Nyree Anderson Miscia it was a call to action. She has committed to forty days of service leading up to her fortieth birthday and we caught her at the midway point of her journey to ask her a few questions.

If you are interested in embarking on an “epic” journey like Nyree’s or just looking for a single day of service with your friends and family, check out http://www.JerseyCares.org for hundreds of exciting opportunities where you can find your purpose.

Q: What inspired you to do 40 days of service in a row?

A: To me turning 40 is a big deal. I feel more fulfilled by helping others, therefore I wanted to ring in 40 with something big.

Q: You are on day 20 how is it going so far?

A: It’s going great. Today I was in Paterson at a women’s shelter spending time with children. I’ve also done a beach sweep with Jersey Cares. I’ve been meeting a lot of great people and learning about all the organizations I’ve been fortunate enough to work with.

Q: What has been your most rewarding nyree-2experience?

A: There have been two standout projects that have been most rewarding. Saint Anne’s Soup Kitchen in Newark, being able to cook and serve the food to people was very fulfilling. Second, Mentheny School in Gladstone I got to spend time with six nonverbal students and we got to talk about election and they got to have a mock election. Seeing how they communicate was fascinating.

Q: What have you found most surprising?

A: This may sound strange (laughs) but at Selective Seconds in Belmar there was a piece of furniture that looked horrible, by the time we refurbished it, it looked brand new.

Q: How have your family and friends reacted to this news?nyree

A: Some people think I’m nuts, some want me to come over and do their chores. In all seriousness, people have been very supportive, people have told me I’m inspiring them. People who I haven’t talk to in years have reached out on Facebook to show their support. People are so surprised how many places there are to volunteer at.

Q: What would you say to people who are thinking about volunteering through Jersey Cares?

nyree-3A: Jersey Cares is a great organization. They have a variety of organizations to work with. Even if people don’t want to go to Newark or Paterson, you can volunteer for them behind the scenes doing admin work in Livingston. You can also volunteer everything from time to money.

Q: What advice would you give to people who want to undertake the same type of challenge?

A: Plan it. Make sure you give yourself some leeway. Make sure your schedule is flexible, somethings don’t always go as planned.

Q: Anything else you would like to add?

A: I’ve learned to never be bored. There is always something to do. I am shocked how much attention this is getting; a newspaper might do a story about me. This has been a ton of fun being able to give back and dedicate time to others has been so rewarding. Remember, every little bit counts.

It’s Alive…

frankenstein-halloween-vector_21-58629591By: Samantha Castagna, Jersey Cares Corporate Service Manager

Frankenstein Day, really?  Who knew that there was a day celebrating Frankenstein?  The author of Frankenstein, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, was born on August 30th, 1797 (which would have made her 219 this year) and so Frankenstein Day was born as well. Mixing elements of both the gothic and romantic movements, Mary Shelley created a work of science fiction that has inspired others’ stories, plays, and films for years succeeding Frankenstein’s initial release.  There have been no less than 52 movie and television adaptations of this classic as well as millions of printings of the novel.  The word itself has wound its way into the American lexicon.

While Jersey Cares was founded a whopping 175 years after Frankenstein’s first publishing, we have a few things in common with this enduring piece of literature:

1.            Much like Dr. Frankenstein, our volunteers and staff are always creating – creating change in the community and creating new ways to serve and get involved

2.            Similar to Frankenstein’s monster, our volunteers – coming from all walks of life – contribute a little bit of themselves to every project, ultimately coming together to be a huge force of good in New Jersey’s communities

3.            As Mary Shelley’s story has inspired many, creating a legacy within the literary and art community, Jersey Cares strives to inspire volunteers across the state to be the change in their community, creating a legacy of service across the Garden State

No matter what you may think of Frankenstein, you can’t deny how pervasive and influential it’s been through the years. For this, we are happy to celebrate Frankenstein Day and look forward to creating a similar legacy for volunteerism.

 

Barringer High School ServiceWorks Capstone Project

serviceworkswithasmileBy:  LaRhonda Boone, AmeriCorps VISTA

As a ServiceWorks AmeriCorps VISTA, I’ve often visualized my scholars as glowing embers; a tempered heat, reserved, uncertain and at times even uninterested, but you can still see a glow, however faint. Depending on their circumstances and perspective, some are also quite charred but it never bothered me because I understood the importance of time; of the trust and rapport needed in order for more free-flowing conversations. I knew that the flow, coupled with the realization that someone genuinely cared about what they had to say and about their thoughts on issues in their community could actually make a difference. “The embers will glow until they catch,” I once wrote. “And then there will be fire.”

“I’m tired of all the shootings,” yelled one student in the middle of a brainstorming session when they were trying very hard to finalize their Capstone Project. “Yeah, me too. It’s all over the place,” chimed in another. Other thoughts popped up here and there, but everything always came back to gun violence. Always. It’s a grave topic with an enormity that can be hard to grasp no less actually address, and it certainly showed on their faces at times but, “we’re not trying to cure cancer in a day,” I reminded them. “What can we do, here, now to make a difference even in just one person’s life?”

I don’t remember the exact moment, but I do know that the embers began to burn a little brighter. The heat intensified at the prospect of doing a school assembly; of having some type of discussion around gun violence that would be engaging and not just another adult droning on to students. There was a crackle of excitement when one suggested ordering bracelets that could be handed out to all of those in the audience with a message that would encapsulate the theme of the day: It Starts With a Smile – ServiceWorks, they all agreed.

There was plenty of ServiceWorks project planning and ServiceWorks project development in the interim, but I did my best to fan the flames when the idea of creating videos to highlight gun violence and its effects was thrown on the table. “You can absolutely do this,” I urged. “You just need to think it through.”

In the end, my ServiceWorks scholars created two impactful videos: one that depicted images of people in mourning and crime scenes of violence juxtaposed against gun violence statistics of their city. It also included voice overs of interviews with people of various ages discussing the problem. The second video was a brief, filmed dramatization of gun violence scenarios that the class acted out (see combined videos here: Barringer HS Capstone Video). Both videos preceded three former gang members who spoke with raw honesty about the dangers of gang life and alternate routes to take which can truly create different and better options (see small clip here: Barringer HS Capstone Speaker). The energy was one of quiet captivation. The 120 students in the audience (glowing embers in their own right) absorbed it all as they watched and listened to stories of pain and tragedy but also to the possibilities that stand behind better choices.

As a ServiceWorks VISTA, I absolutely loved watching my scholars literally see, firsthand, their Service actually Work; to see them eye the many students who felt compelled afterwards to approach our speakers to spend a little more time talking.   I was excited for them and truthfully, quite proud. I also saw what I already knew, and that is that embers do glow. Embers do catch so that there is fire. And fire, well — it spreads.

AmeriCorps Navigator’s Log – Final

IMG_3770

LaRhonda Boone, AmeriCorps VISTA

In honor of AmeriCorps Week, today we conclude a multi-part series entitled “The Navigator’s Log,” created by LaRhonda Boone, an AmeriCorps VISTA serving with Jersey Cares’ ServiceWorks program in Newark, NJ. ServiceWorks helps youth ages 16-24 to develop workplace skills through specialized training and to gain leadership experience by designing and implementing community service projects. You can learn more about Service Works here.

Every volunteer’s story is unique, and while LaRhonda’s story, which is still being written, is her own, she provides us with insight into what it is, can be – and at times hopefully won’t often be – to be a volunteer.

Navigator’s Log Lovedate 041.2-16.3.34B 

Stations. We have come quite a ways from the classroom setting where our scholars have had countless discussions about their community and the problems that plague them. They are tired of the cycle of drugs, violence, poverty, educational inequities, etc. and as we are moving from theory to practice, they now want stations. Yes, stations. Let me explain.

For our MLK Day service project, our site partnered with a grassroots organization to provide for the homeless within our borders. The day included having four tables called “stations” that held coffee and donuts, a meal, clothing and toiletries; bags of toiletries that our young people assembled and handed out. Inspired by their experience, they have decided to do something similar for their ServiceWorks Capstone Project. They have entitled their project, “Caring & Sharing” and will utilize their school space to create provision stations, but instead of tables, they will have rooms; one room to obtain a meal, one room for clothing, another for toiletries, and finally, a large open space to eat and commune together.

There is much to do as we continue with the development and planning process, but the scholars are abuzz. “Maybe we can include some kind of counseling services,” expresses one and “I can cook the food myself,” shares another. They have a concept that they will transform into beautiful action and I am excited to see them see it — to see their Work turn into Service.

Invested energy. Watch out and hold on.

Thanks Sally

By Michelle R. Dee, Senior Director of External Affairs

Today is International Women and Girls in Science Day but I am not a scientist. I was fortunate to be raised in a house, however, where no one ever told me that there was something I could not do because of my gender. I was lucky enough to be born after Title IX became the law of the land and girls had access to the same sports boys did.   I was always told that I could be whatever I wanted. But, there were still things that “women didn’t do,” at least in my mind.

Then, in the summer of 1983, right Ride-sbefore I started high school, it happened. Sally Ride. I remember clearly several things about her.

  1. Her name – coolest name ever for an astronaut.
  2. The spacesuit – not a great look.
  3. She’s a woman – going into outer space.

Sally Ride did not inspire me to go into STEM, but she inspired me. A scientist who was a woman going into space told me that a woman could do anything. I don’t think I actually had those thoughts then, but I do remember feeling like the world was opening up in front of me. Maybe I would have felt that way anyway because of my young age, but looking back, I truly think that it was the result of a conflagration of events. My age, the times, the sacrifice of the women before me – and undeniably that single spark of inspiration that allowed the world to open up. To this day, Sally Ride still matters to me.

Maybe I would have done the things I have done without the inspiration I had, but I doubt it. I did not become a scientist but I chose things that I may not have pursued: played sports, served in the military and had careers that I chose, not those that were chosen for me. Currently, I am fortunate enough to work for an organization whose sole focus is to #makeadifference. Every day at Jersey Cares we look for ways to inspire and motivate people, young and old. We aren’t going into space anytime soon, but maybe, just maybe we can help a volunteer provide a spark to a young person and the world will open up in front of them as well.

Thank you Sally Ride, and all #WomenInSTEM, for opening doors for me that I didn’t even know existed.