Friday, August 31, 2012

Feast Down East's Mobile Market brings healthy food to Wilmington residents

Since November 2011, VISTA Olivia Dorsey has been working in Wilmington, NC and surrounding counties to give low-income residents greater access to healthy, locally grown food. Olivia works with Feast Down East, an initiative begun by UNCW's Dr. Leslie Hossfeld that aims to create a "fully integrated local food system" by helping small farmers in the region gain access to various markets, including restaurants and grocers.

Olivia has led the development of a weekly farmer's market in the Rankin Terrace public housing community through a partnership with the Wilmington Housing Authority (WHA). Olivia recruited local farmers to supply the market, which utilizes a 2-tier pricing policy so WHA residents can purchase produce at reduced cost. Since the market began in April, 162 customers have shopped there. Community volunteers have put in 156 hours of service setting up and managing the market.

A recent local news report explores the issue of food deserts and highlights the mobile market project (click HERE if you are having trouble viewing the video below):

WECT, weather

Oliva has worked to leverage other resources to support the project, including applying for permission to accept SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits. She has also partnered with the Food Bank of Southeastern NC to coordinate a gleaning program that gives community members an opportunity to harvest surplus produce from local farms and gardens; and she have worked with the NC Cooperative Extension office in her county to bring Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) classes to WHA youth and families.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

NC Campus Compact VISTA Alum at White House event!

On August 17, the White House welcomed Katharine Baas and more than 150 AmeriCorps Alumni leaders from 25 states. Katharine is a proud alum of the NC Campus Compact VISTA program! She served 2 VISTA terms with Elon University's Kernodle Center for Service-Learning from 2007-2009. 

In the video above at 30:27, Katharine shares a story of one of her proudest AmeriCorps moments: coordinating Elon's first MLK Day of Service that brought together students, faculty, staff and community members.

The White House event included breakout sessions for AmeriCorps Alums to share their stories with leading officials including Wendy Spencer, chief executive officer, Corporation for National and Community Service;  Bill Basl, director, AmeriCorps; Jon Carson, director, White House Office of Public Engagement; Jonathan Greenblatt, director, White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation; and Mayor John Fetterman of Braddock, PA.

Katharine Baas shares her AmeriCorps story with Wendy Spencer, CEO of CNCS.
 "I came in not knowing what to expect and left with a view that I was part of something bigger,” Katharine says of her AmeriCorps experience. “As I look back, I know I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am without AmeriCorps. As an AmeriCorps Alums member, I continue to serve in my community, and my national service experience has benefited my career goals."

A native of Hillsborough, North Carolina, Katharine has built a career in service. She is currently a Senior Admissions Manager with CityYear Miami and served in AmeriCorps with North Carolina Campus Compact at Elon University’s Kernodle Center for Service Learning from 2007-2009 and City Year Miami from 2009-2010. These experiences ignited a passion for student development through experiential learning. Katharine continues as an AmeriCorps Alums leader, encouraging others to look towards service as a pathway to jump-starting their careers by finding an AmeriCorps program they are passionate about.

Since 1994, more than 775,000 Americans have served in AmeriCorps, a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service.  More than 80,000 will serve this year, including the 22 VISTAs of NC Campus Compact's 2012-13 cohort.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

VISTA Profile: Sara Brown

Sara is a 2012-2013 NC Campus Compact VISTA serving at UNC-Asheville. Although she is an alumna of Appalachian State University and claims New London, NC, as her hometown, Sara grew up in the North in New York and New Jersey and is excited to experience city life once more.

SP: What previous work or volunteer experience led you to becoming a VISTA?
SB: I worked a lot with the ACT (Appalachian and the Community Together) at Appalachian State University. We planned major service events across campus, such as Dance Marathon, MLK Challenge, and coordinated Alternative Breaks. We also attended outside service events and maintained and built new relationships with community partners. I decided to do VISTA because instead of it just being an extracurricular activity, I wanted to be able to dedicate all of my time to projects and work with college aged students.

SP: What are you most looking forward to during your term of service?
SB: I'm excited to get a new perspective of how projects are completed and events are executed. I want to be able to work with students who are in positions that I was once in, and be able to offer advice as well as learn a different university's ways!

SP: What is the primary focus of your project? What community partner(s) or populations will you serve?
SB: I will be working with UNC-A's Key Center, community service office. Our community partner is William Randolph School which is an alternative high school that serves low income students and provides them with holistic and vocational education to prepare them for college.

Other fun facts about Sara!
Favorite food: Mac and cheese
Favorite band: Red Hot Chili Peppers

Monday, August 20, 2012

VISTAs & Supervisors Unite at Annual Orientation

At Elon University on August 15, thirty-five (35) VISTAs and supervisors convened to build relationships and share ideas at NC Campus Compact's annual VISTA orientation event. The day-long session was packed with team-building exercises, breakouts for VISTAs and supervisors, and directed conversations about regional and project area issues. Participants traveled from the farthest points of the program's reach: from Cullowhee in the west, Elizabeth City in the east, Stauton, VA in the north, and Charlotte in the south. Despite the long drives, everyone contributed energy and ideas throughout the day.

Our 2012-13 VISTAs and Supervisors. No one fell in the fountain.

Sessions were led by NC Campus Compact and Elon University staff and by returning VISTAs. Pam Brumbaugh, Elon's Director of Experiential Education, began the day with a session exploring workstyles and communication preferences that drew on the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) scores of VISTAs and their supervisors. Program officer Chad Fogleman led sessions for supervisors on supporting and sustaining a VISTA's work, and Associate Director Leslie Garvin delivered a training that prepared VISTAs to conduct a SWOT analysis of their projects with community partners. Special guest Mary Morrison, director of Elon's Kernodle Center for Service-Learning and Community Engagement, shared information about some of her office's strategies to sustain community engagement, including the LINCS program which places students as volunteer coordinators with key community partners.

Returning VISTAs Derald "Banjo" Dryman (WCU), Pamela Pate (UNCC), Saarah Abdul-Rauf (UNC Chapel Hill), and Sally Parlier (DTCC) all led mini-trainings for new and current VISTAs. Topics included including living cheap on a VISTA budget, the VISTA health plan, clarifying the VISTA role for your campus and community, and using social media for community engagement.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Twelve New VISTAs Complete PSO!

This week in Atlanta, twelve new NC Campus Compact VISTAs attended their AmeriCorps Pre-Service Orientation (PSO), a four-day training designed to prepare them for their year of service. In addition to meeting each other and VISTAs serving with non-profits across the southeast, our new VISTAs explored theories of poverty and social change, discussed capacity-building and sustainability strategies, and completed workshops on volunteer management and partnerships.

V for victory and VISTA!

Our program coordinator, Chad Fogleman, visited on Wednesday for lunch, dinner, and an evening session on community engagement (along with some games in the grass and a Cheerwine toast for good luck!) At Thursday's swearing in ceremony, everyone signed their commitments and proudly took the same oath taken by all federal civil servants, including the President. After pledging to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States" in their work to fight poverty, our newly minted VISTA members headed out to their service sites, ready to get things done! In the coming weeks, we will profile these new members on this blog.

Brianna (foreground, with glasses)
and Takira (far ground) sign on the dotted line!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

VISTA Profile: Anya Piotrowski

Anya hails from Reedsburg, Wisconsin, but is quite the traveler – she’s lived in four states in the past four years, has moved at least once a year since 2006, and has spent time in Brazil and Mexico! She studied history at the University of Tampa (B.A.) and the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire (M.A.). Anya has been serving as a VISTA at UNC-Greensboro since February 2012.

SP: What previous volunteer or work experience led you to becoming a VISTA?
AP: I spent time living in Brazil as a child and went on a mission trip to Mexico the summer before my senior year of high school. I also went on two Alternative Spring Break trips and an Alternative Weekend trip when I was a student at the University of Tampa. I loved the experiences and ended up becoming very involved with a campus organization that revolved around service! All of the experiences have made me more aware of how lucky I am and have inspired me to serve within any community I live in.

SP: What is the primary focus of your project? Which community partner(s) or populations will your project serve?
AP: The primary focus of my work is food security. I spend roughly 30% of my time working at the Interactive Resource Center (IRC), a day center for the homeless in downtown Greensboro. I am the IRC liaison for the community garden. At UNCG I am planning a full week of events for Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week since UNCG does not have a week of events already established. My on-campus events will be a great way to connect the UNCG community with the IRC in another way.

A recent harvest from the IRC community garden!

SP: What are you most looking forward to during your term of service?
AP: I am looking forward to Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week at UNCG and seeing the fall garden grow at the IRC. I'm also looking forward to the NC Campuses Against Hunger Summit in October, for which I am facilitating a panel discussion. On a personal note, I'm hoping to make it to a Carolina Hurricanes game when they play the Tampa Bay Lightning!

Monday, August 6, 2012

VISTAs Represent at Summer Network Meetings

Two NC Campus Compact VISTAs participated in our recent Network Meetings, held August 1 -3 across the state. We were happy to see a number of VISTA alumnae there as well. Sally Parlier, VISTA at Durham Technical Community College, joined VISTA alumnae Carolyn Byrne (UNC Chapel Hill, '09, '10) and Becca Bender (Lenoir-Rhyne, '10) at our Eastern NC network meeting hosted by Fayetteville State on Aug. 1. Derald "Banjo" Dryman, current VISTA at Western Carolina, joined VISTA alumna Stephanie Richey-Capps (Gardner-Webb, '10) at our Western NC network meeting hosted by Western Piedmont Community College (WPCC).

In addition to our typical professional development and sharing sessions, participants in the West enjoyed a post-meeting tour of WPCC's sustainable farm. WPCC is the largest community college in the state (by land area) and has one of only three sustainable agriculture programs in NC. In addition to battling flying insects and ogling heirloom tomatos, Banjo and I enjoyed feeding goats, chasing chickens, and plucking bunnies! It was a great tour, but I don't think Banjo is ready to leave his office job for a life on the farm just yet.
That isn't a weird mortarboard on Banjo's head. It's a solar panel.