Work for food justice! Apple Corps is hiring AmeriCorps members

AmeriCorps positions teaching nutrition and education in low-income schools in Seattle.Interested in a year of service? Have a passion for food justice? Apple Corps is hiring AmeriCorps Members for the 2015-16 service year!

Apple Corps is part of Solid Ground’s effort to address the root causes of obesity, malnutrition and hunger in underserved communities. National Service members work to promote healthy eating and active living for children living in poverty and experiencing oppression.

Our team is guided by the belief that all people deserve to live healthful lives. In this work, Apple Corps Members serve at elementary schools in communities where there is a high proportion of food insecurity, decreased access to healthy foods, and increased risk of childhood obesity. Apple Corps serves to educate school-age children and their families about nutrition, healthy cooking, gardening and behaviors that promote health.

Apple Corps Members collaborate with Solid Ground staff to teach classroom-based nutrition and healthy cooking lessons to Seattle Public Schools students, using evidence-based curricula, via 10- to 12-week educational units in three elementary schools and nearby community organizations.

Apple Corps is a program of the Washington Service Corps. All service positions run September 16, 2015 – August 15, 2016 (contingent on funding). Visit the Washington Service Corps website for information on requirements and how to apply.

Applications are accepted now through June 21, 2015. For questions, please email applecorps@solid-ground.org.

Paying tribute to the Martin Luther King VISTA program

Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

National Service team members, community builders.

National Service team members, community builders

In 1985, with Dr. King’s words ringing in their ears, Solid Ground (then the Fremont Public Association) launched a VISTA program to develop community leadership and fight poverty through National Service. In 1989, the program was christened the Martin Luther King VISTA Corps.

“The brilliant thing about the program,” remembers Lynn Livesley, one of the initial corps members and current Executive Director of Literacy Source, “was always the attitude that ‘We can do this.’ The glass was always half full. It was always very positive and we got things done. … The idea of bringing literally hundreds of people into this work is ‘power in numbers,’ and working towards social justice by working with the passion and commitment of people who want to see change in our community. It was an exciting time.”

In subsequent years, Solid Ground developed National Service programs to effectively address literacy, develop community-based violence prevention, and support anti-poverty capacity building throughout King County. At one time, we managed the state’s largest group of National Service programs, with 150 AmeriCorps & VISTA members. Backed up by a deep anti-oppression training program, Solid Ground’s National Service programs developed a strong reputation in the community.

 

AmeriCorps Program supervisor Kim Gordon tutoring, circa 1999

AmeriCorps Program Supervisor Kim Gordon tutoring, circa 1999

Lynn Livesley, MLK VISTA, circa 1985. Lynn was later program manager and director of the agency's national service programs

Lynn Livesley, MLK VISTA, circa 1985; Lynn later became Program Manager and Director of the agency’s suite of National Service programs

MLK Corps member Mark Santos Johnson and Deputy Mayor Bob Watt, circa 1993

MLK VISTA member Mark Santos Johnson and Deputy Mayor Bob Watt, circa 1993

Pat Russell, former MLK VISTA program supervisor, circa 1988

Pat Russell, former MLK VISTA Program Supervisor, circa 1988

On August 31, 2014, we ended the MLK VISTA program, marking the end of an era. The Washington Reading Corps, JustServe AmeriCorps and Pathway to Career Corps had closed in recent years. All were afflicted by variations of the same fatal challenge: changing priorities and practices mandated by the federal contracts that funded them.

For instance, changes in the direction of the Corporation for National & Community Service (CNCS) meant that “for the first time in our long history of partnering, (we) were not in agreement (with CNCS) around creating leaders who understood the connection of racism and poverty,” noted former MLK Program Supervisor, Edna Sadberry.

For over 25 years, these programs helped develop countless resources, organizations and leaders in the fight against poverty. More than 2,500 corps members graduated, and former members now hold leadership positions in many innovative and effective organizations including Solid Ground, United Way, Literacy Source, Real Change, YWCA, Seattle Young People’s Project, El Centro de la Raza, 501 Commons, Wellspring, American Friends Service Committee and many others.

“It created a space for a lot of our community leaders to grow,” stated former MLK team leader Nicole Dufva. “You learned a lot and you grew a lot. What it teaches, what it draws your attention to – it can be that starting point for a lot of people.”

Our sadness at closing the program is leavened by our pride in its accomplishments and enduring contributions to our community. Edna, Nicole and Julz Ignacio were the last in a long line of incredibly talented and dedicated staff of our National Service programs. Please join me in honoring their work, the many great leaders who preceded them, and the lessons this agency has learned through their service.

And we shall have to do more than register and more than vote; we shall have to create leaders who embody virtues we can respect, who have moral and ethical principles we can applaud with an enthusiasm that enables us to rally support for them based on confidence and trust. We will have to demand high standards and give consistent, loyal support to those who merit it.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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MLK VISTA program closure means one fewer ‘space for our community leaders to grow’

2013/14 MLK VISTA leaders Julz Ignacio & Nicole Dufva

2013/14 MLK VISTA leaders (l to r) Julz Ignacio & Nicole Dufva

As of August 31, 2014, Solid Ground’s  MLK VISTA program closed its doors due to funding challenges, ending an important chapter in Solid Ground’s history. Since 1989, the program has built strong ties in low-income and communities of color, and its loss will be felt deeply by the Solid Ground community and among some of our most grassroots partners leading the way in social justice work in Seattle/King County. Today, we’d like to honor this work and celebrate some of the achievements and empowerment that MLK VISTA has fostered over the years.

MLK VISTA was a partnership between Solid Ground and the Corporation for National & Community Service. It recruited AmeriCorps*VISTA members, sometimes local (and sometimes not), to perform a year of service in one of around 20 grassroots organizations in our area. “It was a team of AmeriCorps members that focused on leadership development from an anti-racism perspective,” says Nicole Dufva, MLK VISTA Team Leader for the 2013/2014 year. “Members worked in communities doing indirect service,” she explains, meaning members were in charge of large internal projects and also conducted structural evaluations to recommend potential changes (as opposed to engaging in more hands-on direct service activities). This allowed VISTAs to learn more about the how-tos of organizations from an operational standpoint.

The MLK VISTA program’s mission is in direct synchronicity with Solid Ground’s mission to end poverty and undo racism and other oppressions that are root causes of poverty:

  1. All people have the right to food, shelter, social justice and opportunity.
  2. Our community has the resources and ability to end poverty.
  3. Racism perpetuates poverty. To end poverty, we must undo racism.
  4. Community interest, input and ownership are key to the development, growth and expansion of the community. True solutions to community issues are found within its citizens.
  5. Power rests within the citizens of each community’s experiences. Therefore, the best evaluators of a community’s true condition lie in the wisdom of its members.

Organizations that participated in this AmeriCorps/VISTA program in the past year included the Kent School District, Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI), The Queen Anne Food Bank at Sacred Heart, El Centro de la Raza, Express Advantage, Asian Counseling & Referral Service (ACRS), Volunteers of America Food Bank, Jewish Family Service and the University of Washington Foundation – Bothell Youth Court.

Describing some of the specific projects that members worked on while in the program, Nicole says that “one of the VISTAs created a whole mentoring program for LIHI. For El Centro de la Raza, one VISTA provided comprehensive feedback on all of their programs. They also archived their history, looking at all the different pieces of their history. They looked at, ‘How do you save their history for future generations to learn from?’ ”

Members of the 2013/14 MLK VISTA team attend Solid Ground's Stand Against Racism event, 2014.

Members of the 2013/14 MLK VISTA team attend Solid Ground’s Stand Against Racism event, 2014. (l to r): Michelle Jaquish, Nicole Dufva, Edna Sadberry, Meghann Wiedl, Shannon Armstrong & Kate Sedney-Read

With such a wide variety of program focuses, the opportunities for learning and growth while serving their communities were endless. But more than just administrative work, members also “worked on skills on how to address institutional oppression,” says Nicole. In fact, members of the team as well as program staff at Solid Ground would meet weekly for leadership development workshops. During these workshops, she says, topics of discussion ranged from “UIR (Undoing Institutional Racism) trainings, trainings around sexuality and about theRACE: The Power of an Illusion’ video. API Chaya provided training on human trafficking and domestic violence,” Nicole informed me.

After the program’s ending was announced, Nicole took a new position with Solid Ground’s Hunger & Food Resources Department as a Cooking Matters Program Coordinator. When asked what she misses most about MLK VISTA, she says, “I miss the team and the meetings. We always had fun, always had food. The team is like the heart and soul of the program. They really kept me grounded. That learning and growing environment challenged you – your growth with each other and individually. Meetings were a time to unwind with people who were growing in the same way you were.”

In a statement for Solid Ground’s employee newsletter, the “FYI,” former MLK VISTA Program Supervisor Edna Sadberry wrote about the program’s impacts: “This is a program that truly understands the challenges of examining personal biases and prejudices as well as the courage it takes to sit in difficult discussions each week around the sensitive topic of racism and its impact on poverty. You will recognize [former MLK VISTA members] by the probing social justice questions they ask that are uncomfortable to think about.”

MLK VISTAs from 2009/2010

MLK VISTAs from 2009/2010

And MLK VISTA alums really are everywhere. Nicole says, “There are many people in Seattle who have gone through the program. It created a space for a lot of our community leaders to grow. You learned a lot and you grew a lot. What it teaches, what it draws your attention to – it can be that starting point for a lot of people.” And so it was. Former members now hold leadership positions in many different organizations including Solid Ground, United Way, Real Change, YWCA, Seattle Young People’s Project, El Centro de la Raza, 501 Commons, Wellspring, American Friends Service Committee and many others. Given such a strong leadership presence throughout the social justice community in King County and beyond, the absence of this program, although silent, will definitely be heard loud and clear.

Feet First day of service restores Dearborn Park elementary sidewalk

Editor’s note: This article was written by a Feet First volunteer and is reposted from the Feet First! blog.

By Amanda GarberichGroup Working MLK Day 2013

Outfitted in snug caps and down jackets, the volunteers gathered at Seattle’s Dearborn Park Elementary to reflect on Martin Luther King Jr.’s life, the importance of service and community, and the value of maintaining safe sidewalks for students before setting out to restore the school’s Walking School Bus routes. Several volunteers from Seattle Children’s Hospital cited King’s commitment to service as a source of inspiration for the day’s mission.

Dearborn Park Principal Angela Sheffey Bogan was motivated by the second-term inauguration of America’s first African-American president, the live footage of which she’d watched with her family that morning. Another volunteer watched a video of King’s “I Have a Dream” with his son the night before. All agreed that joining altruistic forces to make the school’s sidewalks clean and safe was a fitting way to honor the civil rights hero (and masterful marcher) on this eponymous national holiday.

Volunteers split into groups in order to tackle five neglected sidewalks. These stretches of concrete, on the north and south ends of the Beacon Hill neighborhood elementary school, were steadily surrendering to the tangle of weeds, ivy and litter that’d been creeping over its surface since the city installed the sidewalks five years ago. For the students treading these walkways every Wednesday as part of the school’s Walking School Bus, the leafy debris and vine-like weeds were an eyesore and a safety hazard.

Dearborn Park Elementary is one of four Seattle schools currently participating in a Safe Routes to School (SRTS) initiative supported by Feet First. Principal Bogan, a frequent Walking School Bus “driver,” recognizes the incalculable importance of the weekly tradition. “The value of having a safe and clean sidewalk for my students is immeasurable,” Bogan stressed.

Before & After MLK Day 2013Wielding rakes, loppers, and, in some cases, machetes, volunteers set to work. They swept rain-soaked leaves into tidy piles, trimmed low-hanging branches and encroaching English Ivy, and removed thorny Himalayan Blackberry canes. AmeriCorps member Gordon Padelford and Feet First Volunteer Coordinator Darcy Edmunds (a Solid Ground Apple Corps member) offered tips on tool handling (rakes down, shears down, gloves on). Younger volunteers, some who “ride” the Dearborn Walking School Bus, scoured the ground for litter and used litter pickers to lift bottle caps and candy wrappers with a sense of duty that belied their youth. One neighbor came out and applauded the group as they cleared the sidewalk near an empty lot. The stalwart group worked with systematic efficiency until, just a few short hours later, the sidewalks, once slick with leaves and overgrowth, gleamed in all their walkable, gray glory.

“You might not think that a clean sidewalk would be such a big deal, but a few years ago, I actually saw a little girl lose her shoe in the muck here,” says Jen Cole, SRTS Program Director. “Now there’s a weekly walking school bus, and a growing number of students who walk here every day – it’s great to see a team of volunteers populating the back streets and clearing away the debris!”

kids walkin on clean sidewalk after MLK day of serviceTo volunteer on a project making it easier and safer for people to go by foot, please contact Feet First by calling 206.652.2310 ext. 5 or emailing darcy@feetfirst.org.

This project was made possible by volunteers from Seattle Children’s Hospital through United Way of King County, Solid Ground’s Apple Corps, and the community of Dearborn Park Elementary School. Seattle Public Utilities’ Adopt-a-Street program and Seattle Department of Transportation’s Urban Forestry Division generously provided tools used for this event.

Tell your senators you care about AmeriCorps

Along with cuts to Title X Family Planning programs, on February 19 the U.S. House of Representatives voted to eliminate funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service, which in effect means doing away with the AmeriCorps and RSVP National Service programs. If passed by the Senate, these cuts will impact King County by devastating programs and services that work to prevent violence, increase literacy, build community and reduce generational poverty in our community, including programs at the Seattle Police Department and more than a dozen other local criminal justice system agencies, schools and social justice organizations.

For example, JustServe AmeriCorps Member Antoinette Spillers, placed at the Seattle Police Department, increased dialogue between community and police at a time when several high-profile incidents created significant concern about police brutality and community-police relations in Seattle. Antoinette carried out the canvassing and networking efforts to engage more community members in the Seattle Police Department’s Native American and East African, Muslim, Sikh and Arab Community Advisory Councils. And JustServe AmeriCorps Member Monique Franklin has played a major role at Open Arms in supporting mothers with young children to lead community-driven violence prevention, infant mortality prevention and early childhood education projects.

Antoinette Spiller

JustServe AmeriCorps Members like Antoinette and Monique positively impact our community in countless ways as they work to reduce violence and poverty in King County. Working closely with our partner sites, JustServe AmeriCorps Members have made a difference in the lives of more than 2,000 people in the last few months alone.

Just a few highlights include:

  • ­ Youth Violence Prevention & Intervention: 519 youth at risk of violence or incarceration gained leadership and conflict resolution skills, participated in service learning activities, and connected with positive skill building programs that have shown to reduce the risk of violence.
  • ­Victim Advocacy: 427 domestic violence survivors received crisis intervention services and advocacy through JustServe AmeriCorps Members based at the Seattle Police Department Victim Support Team and the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
  • ­Alternatives to Incarceration: 523 adult defendants with low-level misdemeanors participated in JustServe service activities as an alternative to incarceration – led by AmeriCorps Members based at the Seattle Municipal Community Court Program.

While eliminating funding for National Service programs would be a short-sighted move with dire consequences, this outcome is not set in stone. Please contact your senators to let them know that you care about the health and safety of our community.

In Washington State, contact:

Patty Murray: toll free 1 .866.481.9186 or via murray.senate.gov.

Maria Cantwell: toll free 1 .888.648.7328 via cantwell.senate.gov.

A bipartisan argument for National Service

Cartoon of national service members as superheroesCheck out this recent op-ed by Eric Tannenblatt about how National Service is a strategy that can be embraced by both Democrats and Republicans to meet our country’s most vital community needs: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0111/47652.html.

Tannenblatt, who describes himself as a “lifelong Republican,” notes that:

1) AmeriCorps taps into the strengths and skills of grassroots community members to solve community problems.

2) AmeriCorps is a highly cost-effective program.

3) AmeriCorps has a transformative effect on its participants, “often putting them on a lifelong path of civic engagement.”

Voices for National Service, a national advocacy organization that works to educate the American public and our nation’s leaders about the power and impact of National Service, notes that funding for National Service has been included in the President’s 2011 fiscal year budget. Go to their website to learn more!

(Editor’s note: Tera Oglesby runs Solid Ground’s JustServe AmeriCorps program. JustServe AmeriCorps Members work with youth at risk of violence, support victims of domestic violence, help create alternatives to incarceration, support people coming out of the prison system, and mobilize community members of all ages to get involved in violence prevention.)

VISTA keeps on giving

Cool: Ben Han of the 2009-2010 Martin Luther King VISTA Corps has moved on, but his year of service keeps paying dividends for the International District community.

landscape architects drawing of the new park

Schematic of the International Children's Park

Ben was serving with the Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority (SCIDpda) when he wrote a grant application to the King County Youth Sports Facilities Grant program to help fund the neighborhood effort to redevelop the International Children’s Park.

The SCIDpda website describes the project: “A beloved neighborhood children’s park will be renovated in 2010 thanks to the efforts of the Friends of the International Children’s Park. Since 2006, SCIDpda has been supporting the efforts of this community group to address concerns about safety and usability of the local park, assisting with design development, advocacy efforts and fundraising. IDEA Space, SCIDpda’s community development resource center, works closely with community residents and partners at Wing Luke Asian Museum, International District Housing Alliance, Denise Louie Education Center, International District Community Center, University of Washington, City of Seattle (Parks and Recreation and the Department of Neighborhoods) and InterIm CDA to ensure that the park renovation is a community-driven and owned project.

Recently, the County awarded SCIDpda $30,000 based on Ben’s proposal! Congrats to Ben and to the SCIDpda.

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