Category Archives: Human Interest

Across the Finish Line…

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Dear Friends,

In 60 days, you joined over 500 individuals at 35 meetings in 28 states.  After 30,000 combined miles, we’re finally back and sleeping in our own beds!  What an unbelievable journey with twists, turns, stories, and faces that we’ll not soon forget.  On behalf of ServeNext, it is an understatement to say that we have truly appreciated the opportunity to see the ways that AmeriCorps members (and alumni) are making a difference through their service across the country.   

To all we met along the way – thanks for coming out to our organizing events, hosting us on your couches and futons, feeding us, making us laugh, and helping us better understand what’s at stake in your communities as we continue to build the National Service Movement.       

A special word of thanks to members of our mighty Tour Steering Committee.  For taking a chance on an idea and an organization… for helping us clarify our message before we the road… for making cold calls and convincing people that this was something they wanted to be a part of… for choosing to invest your own precious “free” time in the future of AmeriCorps… thanks for making National Service history with us this spring.  It is an understatement to say that we couldn’t have done this without you.  Thanks for your boundless energy and determination to make this first National Service Express Tour one that will rival all others yet to come.

That’s right, friends… “other” National Service Express Tours!  In the meantime, check out the brand spankin’ NEW! — ServeNext.org — and join the team.  We’ll be in touch. 

In Service,

ServeNext

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Q: Where Are Matt and Sean?

A: In Atlanta, at Be The Change’s Change Agent Academy and the 2008 National Conference on Volunteering and Service.  

Since we last posted, we’ve been on a 16 hour bus ride from Miami to Columbia, had three awesome meetings in Columbia, met an amazing man named Elliiot Epps, taken an hour too long 6 hour bus ride from Columbia to Atlanta and are now attending these great conferences in Atlanta.  

For those of you who don’t know about Be The Change and their Service Nation, check them out.

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We’ll be posting about the conferences this weekend and early next week, including an update about President Jimmy Carter’s closing address on Tuesday!

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Miami Update

Matt and I are in Columbia, SC, officially on the home stretch of the trip. Last night we met with supporters in Miami at Miami-Dade College. Below is a long awaited picture of Matt and I:

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Miami was especially exciting because in many ways it served as “phase 2” of the ServeNext engagement process. Let me explain.

In March, Aaron, Zach, Matt and Patrick (Schmitt, former National Field Director for ServeNext) had a retreat in Miami, during which time they had a roundtable with the start up team at City Year Miami (about 10 people). The meeting was similar to the ones Matt and I have had throughout the tour. And what we saw yesterday was the ServeNext citizen-advocate movement beginning to grow. Instead of only City Year representatives, we had the opportunity to speak with AmeriCorps VISTAs, other AmeriCorps programs, such as Public Allies, a returned Peace Corps Volunteer and a handful of citizens who heard about the event through word of mouth. 

Through a diversified constituency and broader coalitions, we’re able to build strength in numbers. We had a chance to see this strength in Miami, and we look forward to seeing similar action networks throughout the country. We’ll have an update on Columbia and Atlanta in the coming days. Stay tuned!

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ServeNOLA

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Matt and I served in the Upper 9th Ward today (we were “floating” drywall, hence the picture), followed by our ServeNext New Orleans meeting at the Ashe Cultural Arts Center.  At this point, we’re exhausted.  I’ll leave you with a quick story and links to some organizations who are doing great work to help rebuild New Orleans everyday.

Story: Matt, Sean (from Safer, see below) and I went to a local establishment for some Shrimp Po Boys. (They were delicious.)  While driving through the 9th Ward on the way back to the house we were working on, we saw 3 or 4 teams of AmeriCorps volunteers working on homes all throughout the neighborhood.  Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to talk to any of them (we had work to do!), but it was cool to see so many volunteers out and, along with taking part in direct service ourselves, reminded Matt and I of our service “roots.”

I told you it was short.  

Here’s a link fest!

AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps) is a full-time, team-based residential program for men and women age 18–24. Members live on one of four campuses, located in Denver, Colorado; Sacramento, California; Perry Point, Maryland; and Vinton, Iowa.

 

The mission of AmeriCorps NCCC is to strengthen communities and develop leaders through direct, team-based national and community service. In partnership with nonprofit organizations, state and local agencies, and faith-based and other community organizations, members complete service projects throughout the region they are assigned.

Drawn from the successful models of the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s and the U.S. military, AmeriCorps NCCC is built on the belief that civic responsibility is an inherent duty of all citizens and that national service programs work effectively with local communities to address pressing needs.

 

Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans is currently operating 51 programs, several of which are geared directly toward hurricane recovery. Our nearly 1,000 staff members have touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of residents in Southeast Louisiana. As we rebuild our region, we are committed to bring a vision and a hope to those who need our aid.

Green Light New Orleans is an environmental organization addressing global warming and rising energy costs in the New Orleans Area.

Born and raised in Switzerland, musician Andi Hoffmann moved to New Orleans in 1993. He founded the organization in 2006 as a response to the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina. “I had to do something to help New Orleans get back on its feet again”, he said, “And I knew it had to be beneficial to the city of New Orleans as well as to our planet”. “We calculated the pollution we created by touring to Europe and figured out how many CFLs had to be installed to offset the pollution.” With each concert ticket sold at shows in europe people were asked to donate to Green Light New Orleans. The audience immediately suppported the idea and the fundraiser was a big success .

With the support of private donations, sponsors and supporters Green Light New Orleans is rapidly growing to meet the rising demand created by New Orleanians’ desire to save energy and help the planet. 

Hands On New Orleans Do something good. Be Hands On.

Good work happens through Hands On New Orleans. Get started with Hands On New Orleans, and we will connect you with a volunteer opportunity that makes a meaningful, positive rewarding change in New Orleans.

What can you do?

Help re build a home. house. Tutor a child. Care for abandoned pets. Clean a park. Renovate a school. Lead a volunteer group. Learn about and take action on community issues. Whether you are visiting New Orleans, or work and live here, Hands On New Orleans offers a variety of ways to get involved while meeting your availability and interests.

Volunteer for a one-time project . 
Volunteer , or volunteer for a few weeks. 
Volunteer after work, or between classes. Volunteer alone, with family, friends or co-workers.

When you volunteer with Hands On New Orleans, you join people from all backgrounds and experiences. You get a chance to explore issues that shape our community and develop your leadership and job skills. 

SAFER takes the direct approach to rebuilding the city of New Orleans, offering free labor to people who would otherwise be unable to afford the cost of repairing their homes. We communicate directly with our families about their needs and their hopes for their rebuilt homes, and with community leaders and organizations about their plans for revitalizing their neighborhood. We realize that rebuilding can be a huge challenge, especially for homeowners who have few funds or also have the responsibility of a job and caring for a family. SAFER’s approach to rebuilding is to try to make the return home as simple as possible by helping the family in every aspect of rebuilding: applying for loans, getting building permits, and finding skilled labor to repair plumbing, electrical work, and roofing, among other tasks. Once the family is home, we can provide further assistance, such as finding a good daycare or school and getting money donated for groceries, furniture, and/or appliances. 

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The Final Leg

Relevant back stories: Crazy Train, “What’s your name, sweetie?”, The Wrath of Bonnie

After we pulled back on the freeway, the bus was running about 45 minutes behind, which posed a slight problem for Matt and I as we had meeting in Mesa at 6p.  It was looking like we’d get into Phoenix (about 20 miles west of Mesa) about 530 and were planning on cabbing it over to Mesa.  Before we got to Phoenix, however, Deb had one more outbreak in her.

On par with her ongoing saga of “Who’s kicking my seat?” (A: No one), she stood up and yelled at the three rows behind her, “I know the wind’s not moving my chair!”  As this was just before he had headed off to Phoenix, the driver came back and informed Deb that if she didn’t sit down, she’d be joining Bonnie on the road.  This seemed sufficient for Deb, as she sat down and we didn’t hear from her again.

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As we pulled into Phoenix, Matt and I jumped into the first cab we saw and headed to Mesa Community College for our meeting.  The driver was a friendly man named Troy, who was fully equipped with a GPS system in his car and we were looking good.  Luckily we were getting to Phoenix during rush hour, and the freeway was backed up quite a bit. This prompted Troy to give us an offer we (apparently) couldn’t refuse: “I’ll take you off the meter – $40 flat rate – and get you there by six. And I’ll pay any ticket.” Troy had once driven a man from Phoenix to Denver for $1700, so I’m pretty sure he was used to bargaining with his clients.  Matt and I decided let’s do it, and off we went! Roy seemingly disregarded his GPS system at this point, driving us through neighborhoods of Phoenix, through Tempe and to Mesa Community College at about five after six.

This wrapped up our most adventurous trip to date.  Matt liked it so much that he tried to one-up it by getting stuck in Albuquerque and riding through Texas in one go.   

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Part II of the Magical Journey

If you’re out of the loop, read part I before continuing.

After consuming a highway restaurant burrito (it was excellent, and the first of many for me since I’ve been in the Southwest), Matt and I continued on what was soon to be named the Crazy Train.  

Since we had left LA, Deb and Bonnie had had a few run-ins with other riders, nothing major, but enough to switch seats a couple times.  Deb was convinced that someone kept kicking the back of her seat (including Matt) and Bonnie… Bonnie was in another world.  Matt and I had relocated a couple rows back to seats with more leg room, giving us a good vantage point for the fun that was about to ensue. (It also placed us in front of a man wearing a plastic bag on his head, but that’s neither here nor there).

An incident between Bonnie and an older man (we’ll call him Archie) started the fun.

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Bonnie and Archie had a run-in earlier, when Bonnie (during one of her seat changes) sat down next to him, causing a small argument.  Overall, no big deal.  Later, on her way to the bathroom, however, she began yelling at Archie.  The exchange went something like this:

Bonnie: Don’t hit me!

Archie: I didn’t hit you, you bumped me!

Bonnie: And then you hit me!

Archie: Sit down before I slap you!

Bonnie: So you already hit me, now you’re going to slap me!

Archie’s seat mate tried to tell Bonnie to settle down and go back to her seat, which led to a string of expletives to the seat mate, Archie and anyone else who would listen.  Bonnie then took her rage to our driver, telling him that she wanted the police called because Archie had put his hands on her.  The driver, aware that Bonnie had been causing problems throughout the ride, told Bonnie to sit down and be quiet. Bonnie, obviously not happy with this, went on a “F- you” laced tirade (directed at the driver and everyone else on the bus), including the line: “Is there anyone here brave enough to say that he threatened to slap me?”  She then took the law into her own hands, calling the police, which necessitated the bus driver to pull over.  

The view of the Arizona desert is lovely.  It looks something like this:

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After waiting at mile marker 76 for a short time, the driver yelled “All Aboard” (ironic, as it is the first words in Ozzy Osbourne’s classic, “Crazy Train”) and drove us to mile marker 81.  Bonnie was not happy with this either, as the police told her they would meet us at mile 76.  When we pulled over to 81, she demanded to be let off the bus.  The driver allowed her off and she began walking back the five miles to mile 76.  And that, my friends, is the last we heard of Bonnie.  

End of the fun?  Not a chance.  Part three features the return of Deb and a taxi ride from Phoenix to Mesa.  

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Ch-ch-ch-change of plans…

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Sean left last night for Austin.  Since we didn’t really need to be in Austin until Sunday at 2:00pm for our organizing meeting there, I opted to get a motel room in Albuquerque, hang around town Friday night, and take some much-needed down time.  I don’t sleep well on the bus and we had already spent one overnight from Phoenix to Albuquerque, so this was a win-win.  Or so I thought…

After checking into my motel (just $35! – probably becaue it smelled like a $35 ash tray), I checked my pockets for the receipt of my Greyhound Station locker (see photo above) where, at the suggestion of Sean, I stored my big backpack.  I distinctly remember not throwing it out when Sean and I were out for sushi earlier in the evening.  Not in my pant pockets, not in my sweatshirt pockets, not in my laptop bag… not anywhere to be found.  Bummer.  I planned to get to the Greyhound Station a little early the next morning to see what I could do.  I’m sure this has happened to other people before, right?  I mean… right?! 

Luckily I had my toothbrush and toothpaste with me.  Phew.  

I woke up this morning, took a much needed shower with the single bar of soap they included in my $35 ash tray motel room, packed up my stuff, Stopped for coffee and a breakfast burrito (that’s all they eat here in Albuquerque) at a great place called Daily Grind on Central Avenue, and made my way toward the Greyhound Station.  About 10 paces from the entrance of the building, a man named Chris asked me for change to call his buddy.  Chris had no reservations about offering up the fact that up until yesterday, he was in prison for two years.  I let him borrow my phone instead.  Way more inclined to help folks out with what they need than give them money to spend on what they may or may not end up actually spending on what they say they need.  Today, a phone call.  Yesterday, a taco.       

When I finally got inside, I explained my situation and (in short) was told that I’m out of luck… until Monday at 8:00am when Sharon, the Station Manager, gets in.  Apparently Sharon is the only one in Albuquerque who can open my locker.  Totally bummed with about 90 minutes until my bus to Austin is scheduled to leave, I tried calling my boss Zach and then Sean.  Neither answered.  So I made a gametime decision to stay in Albuquerque — with only my laptop, the shirt on my back (and jeans, flip-flops, and hat, if you want to get technical), and about 20 Odwalla bars that our new friend Faith sent to Albuquerque in response to our video tribute (thanks, Odwalla!) — until Monday morning when we could get my locker opened.  Hopefully.  Then it would be a 1 day, 2 hour, and 45 minute ride straight to New Orleans and missing out on Austin altogether, which I was really looking forward to visiting if only for my one of my best friends Bobby’s sake, who attend the University of Texas for his undergrad.  Oh well.

So what did I do in Albuquerque today?  Well, this morning, I caught a $6.75 matinee of The Visitor.  Highly recommend it!  Talked to my fiancee Jody about City Heroes Graduation in Boston… with my friend Ethan about our upcoming trip to Bonnaroo Music Festival… and to my mentor Alex about Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.  I checked into a $45/night, smoke-free motel.  Walked up to the University of New Mexico and picked up some deodorant clothes to get me through Louisiana.  A sucker for Dunkin’ Donuts iced coffees in the hot summer sun, I found a local store (in which employees apparently don’t need to wear their uniforms) and had a nice treat for the walk back.  Now I’m catching up on email and watching Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, which I appreciate on a different level than I did as a middle school student.  I hear next week’s four installment in the tril- uh… in the quadrupoly is getting mixed reviews.  We’ll see.

I’m off to grab some dinner and maybe watch Senator McCain on SNL tonight.  I leave you with this, which came up when I searched for “bus” and “New Mexico” on YouTube.  Cheers, friends…  

 

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