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A New Year of Service: AmeriCorps 2017-2018

Written by Rebecca Wolfe and Samuel Massion, WithinReach AmeriCorps Outreach & Enrollment Specialists

There are eight new members of the WithinReach AmeriCorps team. We all have different stories and different histories that we bring with us into this year of service. Each of us has a particular sense of self that is now situated within the context of this place—this organization, this city, this country, this world. This year will be a year full of opportunities; a year to expand our knowledge, grow as individuals, and serve our community. WithinReach is an organization with more than 6000 resources available to the people of Washington, specializing in food access, healthcare access, immunizations, transportation, and child development. So, as the new kids on the block, we have a lot to learn. We’re here, though, and we’re really excited about it.

In our training these last few weeks we have talked a lot about the “social determinants of health”—those non-biological, non-genetic factors that affect our health. This includes things like the quality and consistency of our food, our access to medical care, whether and how we are employed, and our level of education. Recent studies have shown that a person’s zip code is as predictive of health outcomes as is their genetic code. We can’t change our genetics, but we can make healthy food and quality healthcare more accessible. One simple interaction—a conversation, an application, or a resource that informs our community and facilitates access to social services—can turn a “determinant” of health into an “influence.” We can provide a bridge to the services that can help mitigate a particular point of stress—preventing unsurmountable healthcare costs, providing travel from point A to point B, or putting dinner on the table that night. These small shifts can make a big impact, changing circumstances for the better and offering hope for a healthier future.

The AmeriCorps team members are some of the first at WithinReach to start our training with our organization’s new client intake system, called REACH. REACH is a screening tool developed by Health Leads for hospital settings, with WithinReach acting as the program’s first non-clinical setting. Using this in conjunction with our iPad technology offers us the tools to identify multiple needs, analyze trends in our area, and to address issues as needed. Now, with the new technology, we have the means to provide in depth follow ups for better client care coordination. REACH fosters a holistic approach to helping clients, leading us in a conversation that makes sure both participants are acting as and being seen as full and whole humans.

This human experience is something that all of us are excited about. We are already improving our social skills, learning new patterns of communication. We are learning not to assume things about our clients, allowing them agency and self-determination as they tell us their story. We are learning to meet people where they are at—physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially. We are learning to listen, seeking first to understand. We are learning to ask questions, to rely on each other, and to grow together in this process. We are learning to take on the attributes of our organizational mission—to be friendly, informed, and responsive. This collaborative experience has already been enriching and rewarding, and we are grateful for it. 

Each of us are planning to pursue a different area of health and social service after our year here. We know that the people we meet and the things that we learn will inform each of our journeys moving forward. And we  all look forward to continuing to learn more from the people  we work with, both in and out of our office.

We know that there is much to be done in this field of work. We know that we cannot help everyone or solve everything, and sometimes that feels overwhelming. We know that we can’t change the world by helping one person, but we can help change something in that person’s world. We can make a difference for the person sitting in front of us. That matters, and we are excited about it.

If you or someone you know is interested in assistance from WithinReach or would like to look for resources in person with one of our AmeriCorps Outreach and Enrollment Specialists, call our Family Health Hotline today at 1 (800) 322-2588

Tags: AmeriCorps   AmeriCorps Outreach   Healthy Connections   Outreach   ServeWA   

A “Day On” With the University District Food Bank

Written by Annya Pintak, Outreach Manager
 On Monday January 16, I had the privilege of spending Martin Luther King Jr. Day volunteering with our AmeriCorps Team as part of United Way of King County’s MLK Day of Service. Our team made it a day ON instead of a day off and participated in a volunteer service project in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
I’ll admit that making volunteer plans for the day of service was a bit of a challenge this year. We initially intended to volunteer for a wildlife restoration project, but the frozen ground cancelled our original plans! At the last minute, I reached out to one of our community partners, Joe Gruber, Executive Director of the University District Food Bank, to see if there was a possibility we could volunteer at the food bank. It turned out that the food bank already had a team of volunteers signed up to spend the day volunteering for MLK Day of Service, but Joe suggested that our team could hold a food drive at local grocery stores and collect items for donations.
Before we can officially conduct the food drive though, Joe mentioned that we had to reach out to the grocery stores for permission and suggested stores in the University District area that have supported these efforts in the past. Luckily, we received permission from Trader Joe’s and QFC in the University Village to set up food drives at their stores, and they were incredibly supportive of our presence there. During the day of service, we set up large bins by the entrance and handed out flyers with a list of donation items to customers as they entered the store. The list included items that the University District Food Bank needed additional assistance in collecting such as baby diapers, soymilk, pasta, bars of soap, cereal, peanut butter, and more.

No one on the team—including myself—had conducted a food drive before, and we had no idea what to expect. I personally anticipated that folks would not be very interested in speaking to us or taking a list of suggested items to donate, but to our surprise we had a lot of interest! Folks were eager to take a flyer and we had many customers come out after their shopping trips with one to two full bags of items. We also noticed many parents with younger children participating in the donation and many of them donated large boxes of baby diapers. We even had a couple of folks mention to us that they were familiar with the University District Food Bank, and we had one gentleman comment that he felt very comfortable accessing the food bank as it was set up similarly to a grocery store. After we completed collecting donations, our team met back at the food bank to sort through the donations together. Our AmeriCorps team is typically at the food bank once a week educating clients on the SNAP (food stamps) program, so it was great for us to help with and experience the operational side of the food bank.

For only four hours of work, our team was able to collect around 450 lbs. of food! It was incredibly uplifting to spend half of the day with the AmeriCorps team and to experience conducting a food drive for the first time together. I am grateful to have a team who is passionate about serving the community, even on a day off!

Tags: AmeriCorps   food drive   MLK day of service   United Way of King County   University District Food Bank   

Ending Stigma Through Education

We asked new AmeriCorps team member Rachel to write about her experience at WithinReach so far. We are so glad she and the rest of the team are with us to serve families in Washington this year! Stay tuned for more outreach stories as their service year continues.
When I moved to Seattle this September to serve as a member of WithinReach’s AmeriCorps team, I was immediately impressed by the number non-profits and agencies working in the community. Seattle is an area rich in resources and commitment to fostering wellness for all. During my service year I look forward to learning more about all this community has to offer and best practices for reaching and serving disadvantaged populations. As someone who is pursuing a career in social work, this position offers a unique opportunity to see first-hand the barriers people face when trying to access the supports they need.
One such challenge I learned about since I began my service at WithinReach, is how misinformation about public assistance, like Basic Food and Medicaid, can prevent people from accessing the supports they need to achieve their highest level of wellness. I have had several clients who have decided not to apply for Basic Food even though they qualified because they think they will be keeping someone else from getting those benefits. One gentleman said, “there are people who need it more than me.” Even after I explained to him that Basic Food is an entitlement program so everyone who applies and is deemed eligible for the program can receive benefits, he still did not want to apply.
Oftentimes the issue is not just inaccurate information, like if you get Food Stamps someone else cannot, but also the stigma associated with accepting public assistance. A common narrative in our country is that people who receive food assistance are lazy and don’t want to work to be able to provide for themselves. However, most of the clients I have worked with just need a little extra support temporarily while they look for job, are not able to work, or are working but don’t make enough to support their families. All of these circumstances are out of their control.
One goal I have for my service term is to help combat misconceptions around public assistance through educating my clients. It is absolutely up to each person to decide if Basic Food and other programs are the best fit for their needs. It is my job as navigator to ensure they have all the correct information to make this decision, and know that they are not harming someone else by accepting assistance.

Tags: AmeriCorps   Basic Food   food stamps   National Service   Seattle   stories of service   

What’s it like to be on the WithinReach AmeriCorps team?

WithinReach podcast
We are recruiting for the next team of AmeriCorps members at WithinReach! Through direct client engagement, education, and empowerment, you can make a huge impact on health disparities and food security in Washington. This AmeriCorps position is great for applicants interested in careers in public health, non-profits, social services, nutrition access, and the healthcare system.

In the first-ever WithinReach podcast, our AmeriCorps Lead Emma chats with current team member Jessica about a typical day on the job, what she’s learned during her year of service, and more!

Learn more and apply today!

Tags: AmeriCorps   Community Health   health insurance   Health insurance enrollment   In-Person Assisters   King County   National Service   Seattle   WithinReach   

Changing perspectives on homelessness in Seattle

Our AmeriCorps Outreach and Enrollment Specialist Team visits over 30 sites monthly to assist clients in meeting health and food needs. Some clients we interact with face homelessness, and over the course of our service year we have increased our knowledge regarding the different factors and experiences surrounding this issue.Recently, WithinReach participated in the Community Resource Exchange hosted by United Way of King County. Along with dozens of other organizations, we assisted around 1,000 people in accessing over 125 services including haircuts, supplies like clothes and blankets, social services and more. At this event, we saw the importance of shedding the stigma attached to homelessness, and wanted to share insight we have gained through assisting clients facing homelessness.
Sydney: Working often with people experiencing homelessness has demonstrated for me the importance of engagement and sincerity when talking with others. Due to the difficult nature of homelessness,  many people I’ve worked with demonstrate a strong desire for validation of the struggles they face. I have had several experiences in which, when asking the usual “how are you?” I have been met by unexpectedly honest answers. This has shown me how valuable it can be to allow people facing hard times to have a chance to be heard and to narrate their own story. Of course, this can be extremely uncomfortable, especially when, as a society, we generally expect a conversation with a stranger to be limited to exchanging small talk. However, as someone lucky enough not to experience homelessness or the many other challenges that both cause and come with it, I feel like my uncomfortability is worth another’s humanity. My ability to lend an ear and show compassion towards people experiencing homelessness can make a big difference in their day.

Anne: There is clearly a great stigma attached to homelessness, and many believe that these individuals are dangerous or unstable but in reality many individuals are experiencing things out of their control. The biggest realization I’ve had regarding clients facing homelessness is there are numerous factors such as domestic violence, substance abuse, mental illness, physical disability, and more. Many are working hard to get out of a bad situation with the cards stacked against them and a little bit of compassion with an open ear can go a long way in understanding where others are coming from. It’s a tough thing to do, but it’s important to not make fast judgments based on the way people look or where they sleep.

Jessica: I used to see, but rarely interact with, people experiencing homelessness. I felt uncertain about how to interact with the people I saw, while simultaneously feeling like I need to “help” or “fix” their situation. I think a lot of people feel this way and it causes them to avoid those experiencing homelessness, for fear of feeling uncertain or uncomfortable. Having the opportunity to work with so many clients experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity has helped me have a better understanding of the factors contributing to this issue. More importantly though, it has allowed me to interact with people experiencing these issues on a one-on-one basis.  After getting a glimpse into someone’s life, they suddenly become much more relatable, and homelessness seems not just like their problem, but something that can happen to anybody. People who live in my community and neighborhood who are experiencing homelessness are just as much a part of my community as those who have permanent homes, and it’s important to treat them with the same dignity and respect.

People tend to feel uncomfortable interacting with those experiencing homelessness, perhaps because it forces us to face our own vulnerability. Rather than shutting down at this experience, lean into the opportunity and engage with the person in front of you. According to King County’s One Night Count, 4,505 individuals lived unsheltered. With such high rates of homelessness, it is difficult to know how to contribute positively to the issue. Engaging authentically with those experiencing homelessness, seeing them as the moms, dad, brothers, sisters, friends, and neighbors that they are, can be one small way to help. You might be surprised at what you learn from those around you.

Check out statistics from King County’s One Night Count.

Learn more about the Community Resource Exchange.

Tags: AmeriCorps   Community Resource Exchange   homelessness   King County   Seattle   United Way of King County   

Goodbye and good luck to our AmeriCorps team!

Our amazing AmeriCorps team will be finishing their service at WithinReach next week. Their work as Outreach and Enrollment Specialists over the past 10 months helped families and individuals all over Washington access necessary nutrition and health resources. We are going to miss this team, but they are off do to more meaningful work in Washington and beyond! Check out where they’re headed, and what their time at WithinReach meant to them:

 

 

Staffphotos-Jessica

 

Jessica Vu:  I’ll be doing another year of service as a VISTA member with Harvest Against Hunger and the South King County Food Coalition. We will be working to develop a farm that will grow produce for 12 food banks in South King County. In my year at WithinReach, I learned the value of engaging your community!

 

 

 

Staffphotos-Kacey

Kasey Johnson: I am applying to medical programs to become a family physician that serves a rural community here in Washington state. I am also planning to continue working with one of our community partners, the Edmonds Mobile Clinic. My year at WithinReach taught me so much; it’s been very exciting to be a part of broad change regarding health insurance and to see how public benefits are distributed and accessed by our community members experiencing poverty. This knowledge will be carried with me as I continue to serve my community and work toward change for its most vulnerable members: the poor and uninsured.

 

Staffphotos-Chris

 

Chris Garrido-Philp: It has been a pleasure to get to know communities in King and Snohomish County through WithinReach. I have learned that the diverse people who access assistance through our state’s programs come from all walks of life. I plan to continue my learning of direct service work and overcoming barriers in the healthcare system through the University of Washington Master of Social Work program this fall.

 

 

Staffphotos-Amber

 

Amber Bellazaire: In September, I will begin a Master in Public Health program at the University of Michigan. I look forward to implementing the knowledge gained through our community-based fieldwork as service members at WithinReach in my future studies.

 

 

 

Staffphotos-Jodie

 

Jodie Pelusi: I hope to use the communication skills/methods I learned in this position to better serve communities in the future while working in the PeaceCorps. I will be in Cameroon starting in the fall for 2 years as a Maternal and Child Health Specialist. I am interested in further developing resourceful methods to  work with community members in creating their own solutions to the health disparities they face. This year has given me the courage to take initiative in my future goals.

 

Staffphotos-Emma

 

 

Emma Lieuwen: I will be staying on at WithinReach and will continue to do outreach over the summer. I have learned there is a great need in Washington for food and health resources and there is plenty of work left to be done.

 

 

 

We are proud to be part of the journey for these future leaders!  If you’re inspired to serve, check out the application to be part of the next wave of AmeriCorps members at WithinReach.

 

Tags: AmeriCorps   Community Health   direct service   Family Health   health insurance   hunger   low-income populations   Public Health      state benefit program   VISTA   Washington state   

5 Ways our AmeriCorps Dare to Reach

WithinReach’s Healthy Connections luncheon is this week! It’s a chance for us to celebrate the positive change we have made for Washington families, and acknowledge our supporters in the community. But our impact extends even further! Since 2009, we have hosted forty-six AmeriCorps and VISTA service members, many of whom have gone on to become incredible professionals and community leaders.

We reached out to five of our AmeriCorps alumni to see where they are now and to talk about how their year of AmeriCorps service at WithinReach helped them dare to reach!

DTR_AC_Kevin

What are you doing now?

I’m the Financial Stability Manager at United Way of Snohomish County, overseeing programs that help families save money and become more financially secure.

How did your AmeriCorps service help you dare to reach?

My AmeriCorps service at WithinReach dared me to go places most people like me never go, listen to stories that mostly go unheard, and to believe in my own ability to make a difference in the lives of others. It dared me to reach past stereotypes and barriers to serve my community with compassion and creativity.

 

DTR_AC_Mira

What are you doing now?

I’m a first year medical student at the University of Washington in the School of Medicine, investigating what makes us sick and what makes us healthy on the individual and community level.

How did your AmeriCorps service help you dare to reach?

My AmeriCorps service taught me to look at the whole person, and dare to question my assumptions of their story, their habits, and their beliefs about their health and happiness. It dared me to listen deeply and laugh often, connecting with and advocating for a patient’s goals for their wellness.

 

DTR_AC_Anisa

What are you doing now?

Alongside finishing up my Master in Health Administration (MHA) degree at the University of Washington, I am completing a multidisciplinary pediatric training program at Seattle Children’s Hospital called the Leadership Education in Adolescent Health (LEAH) fellowship. As a fellow, I am assessing our weight and wellness services and designing processes to improve access, care delivery, and the patient experience for adolescents and their families.

How did your AmeriCorps service help you dare to reach?

With a background in public health, I am particularly interested in using business management as a catalyst for operational and quality improvements that increase timeliness and affordability of care – especially for vulnerable communities that I worked with in the past at WithinReach. My time at WithinReach opened my eyes to many of the socioeconomic structures and institutional and individual barriers that contribute to health disparities. This experience inspired me to “dare to reach” for all children and families, as well as dare them to reach their optimal health.

 

DTR_AC_Donna

What are you doing now?

As a Program Officer for the Foster Care Initiatives team at the College Success Foundation, I work with our Governors’ Scholarship recipients who have experienced foster care. We want to ensure they are connected to and supported by campus and community resources so that they can excel and succeed in their post-secondary education aspirations.

How did your AmeriCorps service help you dare to reach?

Through my AmeriCorps service at WithinReach, I was provided the training and support I needed as I dared to reach my goal of connecting families to food and health resources that would help alleviate the vulnerabilities they face. The experience I gained while serving in the community on behalf of WithinReach continues to inspire me in my daily work and life. Today, “Dare to Reach!” describes my desire to use education and advocacy as vehicles for social justice as I support youth and young adults to become self-sufficient and change agents in helping their communities thrive.

 

DTR_AC_Travis

What are you doing now?

I have the pleasure of working at a homeless shelter for DESC, an organization that values the harm reduction approach. My position incorporates a lot of exciting roles; I help clients navigate the shelter environment, mindfully enforce rules, celebrate client successes, and try to support people who are struggling.

How did your AmeriCorps service help you dare to reach?

It was while serving as an AmeriCorps member at WithinReach that I had my first glimpse of what real need looks like. I saw, for the first time in my life, single mothers struggling to provide for their children, lonely men without food or emergency contacts and far too many young people struggling to access the assistance that they were entitled to. It was staggering to see this happening in my own country. At WithinReach, I had the privilege of helping diverse clients navigate assistance programs. I couldn’t do the work I do now if it wasn’t for what the amazing team at WithinReach taught me. There is nothing stopping us from reaching for a better world.

 

Tags: access   Advocating   AmeriCorps   Assistance   Barriers   change-agent   Community Health   Dare to Reach   DESC   Education   families   Health Disparities   homeless   United Way of Snohomish County   University of Washington   VISTA   Vulnerable populations   Wellness   WithinReach   

AmeriCorps Week: Language is a source of empowerment!

By Noelle Horario, WithinReach AmeriCorps Bilingual Outreach & Enrollment Specialist
Public Health – Seattle King County organized an assistance event in partnership with the Mexican, Peruvian, and Salvadorian consulates at the end the of January to offer a variety of services to families in the South Park community of Seattle. The services provided at the event included everything from concerns about health insurance and health screenings to taxes and other assistance programs folks could be eligible for. This event was catered to account for the various barriers that underserved communities experience when seeking assistance with government and state programs; barriers such as time, site location, transportation and language need, to name a few.
Location-wise, the event was held at a neighborhood information and resource center, a site familiar to many members of the surrounding community as being a welcoming environment. And as far as transportation accessibility, I found the site location to be extremely straightforward and easily reached, having taken the bus myself. The day of the event was scheduled for a weekend, allowing working families and individuals to attend outside of business hours. And finally, service organizations took advantage of their partnerships in order to provide bilingual health insurance in-person assisters (IPAs) for many languages of need, which is how I found myself at the event. Though the need for bilingual IPAs who spoke Tagalog was minimal, I was still able to assist a few individuals and families with their health insurance questions either in English or with the help of some of the volunteer interpreters.

There was one particular client story I walked away with from this experience that enhanced my perspective of language barriers. This client helped me see the other side of this complex barrier by showing me how much language is a source of empowerment.

Mariana** is a middle-aged Latin American woman who approached me toward the end of the event accompanied by a volunteer interpreter. She sat down and prefaced the conversation by saying that she wanted to try to communicate with me independently, but she also wanted the interpreter present in case there was any confusion. Mariana told me that she had recently become self-employed and was having difficulty navigating the exchange to choose a health plan for herself. The interaction was more drawn out than my usual interactions to confirm understanding on both ends; there were occasional tangents in Spanish until Mariana remembered that I didn’t understand. Since it was the end of the day, we weren’t able to complete the interaction with the purchase of her health plan so we exchanged information in order to complete it over the phone at another time.

In the following weeks we exchanged multiple phone calls so I could complete her application, explain the terminology surrounding insurance, guide her through the process of going to Staples so she could fax me her income verification, and finally purchase a plan.

In the months of my service I’ve had a wide range of final remarks from clients after finishing an interaction with them: “Finally,” or “glad that’s over,” as if the service was something I had withheld from them that I had finally granted. However, most of the final remarks are those of gratitude: “Thank you for making this easy for me,” and “thank you for being so kind.”

On my last phone call with Mariana she said, “Noelle, before you go I want to tell you something…” She thanked me first for assisting her with her application, but then went on to thank me for taking the time to understand her. She said that she had always been nervous about speaking English in public for fear of not being understood or taken seriously. She said she truly felt that our interactions had occurred in such a way where she understood what I was telling her and that I understood what she was trying to say.

Before my work with Mariana, I had seen my AmeriCorps service as a way to tear down the general systemic barriers that prevent people from accessing the resources they need. Now, I view my interactions with clients as opportunities to build bridges to resources despite these barriers. The value in our work comes from providing assistance that is personal and empathetic to the difficulties of navigating complicated systems.

**Client name has been changed to protect privacy.

 

Tags: AmeriCorps   AmeriCorps Week   Community Health   health insurance   Health insurance enrollment   In-Person Assisters   Language Barriers   Volunteer   Washington HealthPlanFinder   Washington state   

Being Prepared Over Feeling Invincible: Why Medical Insurance Is Important While You Are Young

By Chris Garrido-Philp, Bilingual Outreach & Enrollment Specialist, WithinReach AmeriCorps
Since the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, a lot of attention has been given to the “Young Invincibles,” or people aged 19-26, and the worry that they would not sign up or use their health insurance. The term “Young Invincibes” was coined by the health insurance industry to describe young adults who are relatively healthy but choose not to have insurance due to the belief that, their chances of getting hurt or sick are slim to none. I am one of those “Young Invincibles” and I’m very familiar with the feeling of rarely getting sick. Even so, I am glad to have insurance and the security that if I do have a serious health issue, I’ll be covered.
Not too long ago I walked into my doctor’s office unable to remember the last time I had been in for a check-up. I didn’t even remember my doctor’s name, let alone what he looked like. I wasn’t avoiding him on purpose; I just never felt the need to go. When I did get sick, it was easily fixed with some fever reducing medication and rest. The appointment reminded me of the importance of regular check-ups and preventative measures. He asked me if my childhood asthma was still manageable and if I needed an inhaler to be safe. While I haven’t suffered a serious asthma attack in years, I was glad he addressed this important health issue; as my new job takes me outdoors on occasion. So, I told him I would need an inhaler for emergencies and he prescribed it for me. I feel so much happier knowing that I am healthy and prepared.
While youth is associated with good health, there are multitudes of conditions that can appear without any notice. Cancer, STDs, neurological disorders, ulcers, and others that can happen at any age, not to mention injuries like sprains and broken bones. When you’re just out of high school or college, ready to face adulthood and get a job, that doesn’t automatically prepare you for full independence. It especially doesn’t provide you with the skill sets you need if you are facing a health problem on your own. Living uninsured is always a risk and can cost people more than they expect. It can result in an exorbitant amount of medical expenses that can derail your future plans; such as postponing college, having a family, starting a new job, finding a new home and more.
Although, paying for monthly premiums can be difficult and expensive, having medical insurance helps manage life’s unexpected moments of vulnerability by reducing your medical costs. Having coverage is also a preventive measure that allows you to discover certain health conditions and treat them before they get worse. Youth may be in a period of perceived invincibility, but life is notorious for changing unexpectedly. None of us are truly invincible, but being prepared and having insurance when we need it brings us closer to the goal of living a long, healthy life.
You could be eligible for our state’s Medicaid program (Washington Apple Health) or a subsidy from the government to help you pay for insurance. Call WithinReach’s Family Health Hotline today at 1-800-322-2588 or visit our website at www.parenthelp123.org for more information.

 

Tags: ACA   Afordable Care Act   AmeriCorps   Family Health Hotline   health insurance   Medical Cost   ParentHelp123   Washington Apple Health   Washington state   Young Invincibles   

Meet our New AmeriCorps Team!

Introducing our 2014-2015 AmeriCorps Team:
Meet WithinReach’s newest in-person outreach team! We asked our team members to send us a selfie and to tell us something they liked about themselves and how they felt it would be a strength for this years service. In the spirit of Halloween, we also asked about their favorite childhood costume with a picture if they had one.
AMBER:
Amber

 “Many of my interests revolve around social justice, health equity, and wellness promotion, which I’m hoping to include as much as possible during this year of service and as I pursue a graduate degree in public health next fall.”

Hometown: Kalamazoo, Michigan
Education: BA in Psychology & English from the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor

My favorite childhood Halloween costume: My favorite costume came at the ripe age of four in the form of a homemade, extremely-fierce lion.

 

CHRIS

Chris

“Something I like about myself is my ability to learn from experience. I am aware that I don’t have all the answers to the universe but I will definitely try to learn about it as much as I can. The good and bad in life can be learning experiences that help in getting a better perspective of the person I want to be in the future.”

Hometown: Lima, Peru (San Borja District); Lynnwood, Washington
Education: BA in English Literature and Political Science with an emphasis on human rights from the University of Washington

My favorite childhood Halloween costume: Little Red Riding Hood. I feel I could trick or treat a lot more than I could later on! One of my great memories.

 

EMMA

Emma

“Throughout my educational career I found enjoyment in learning and discovery. This year at Within Reach, a genuine love of learning and growing will help me as I work in the community with a new set of skills.”

Hometown: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Education: BS in Pre-Healthcare Professions Kinesiology & BA in Spanish from Western Washington University.

My favorite childhood Halloween costume:    I was pretty proud of a hippie costume I had around 8 or 9.

 

ERIC

Eric

“Something I like about myself is my compassionate nature which will be a strength for me in my new position at WithinReach. Demonstrating compassion will allow me to relate and effectively communicate with individuals from underserved/underprivileged environments.”

Hometown: Hilo, Hawai`i
Education: BA in Business, minor in Chemistry from University of Puget Sound; BS in Biology from Seattle University

My favorite childhood Halloween costume: A werewolf. However, the only picture I was able to quickly obtain was me as a firefighter:

 

IRINA

Irina

“I think that I’m very empathetic and am able to easily connect with clients. I also like how having a working knowledge of systems & institutions has helped me to have a broader understanding of some of the barriers my clients face.”

Hometown: Baku, Azerbaijan; Seattle, Washington
Education: BA in Gender, Women, & Sexuality Studies & Political Science

My favorite childhood Halloween costume: Barney. It was the only time I got to pick out my own costume. Every other year of my childhood I was a clown courtesy of my cousin’s hand-me-downs.

 

JESSICA

Jessica

“I think that my abilities as a systems thinker will help me greatly in my AmeriCorps position at WithinReach.”

Hometown: Olympia, Washington
Education: BA in Food Justice from New York University

My favorite childhood Halloween costume: I was once an adorably terrifying clown for Halloween, which embodied what was probably the height of my Halloween spirit and is thus my favorite costume from my younger years.

 

JODIE

Jodie

“I like my ability to relate and chat with many people. I find that having a smile on my face can reflect onto others.”

Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Education: BA in Health Sciences from Virginia Tech

My favorite childhood Halloween costume: My favorite go to Halloween costume as a child was a witch. I was a witch four years in a row.

 

KASEY

Kasey

“Something I like about myself is my interest in working with people—it definitely helps to keep me grounded during outreach. Whether a site is really busy or really slow, connecting with individuals—clients, the site staff, my AmeriCorps team members—makes the experience very meaningful for me.”

Hometown: Ellensburg, Washington
Education: BA in English from Reed College; MA in English Literature from the University of New Mexico; Post-bac work in pre-health studies at Portland State University

My favorite childhood Halloween costume: A princess dress I wore in eighth grade. I do not even know the source of that garment—friend, family, foe—but wearing it, I felt grand. While I have no evidence of that costume, I do have a photo of a very short version of myself with a childhood friend.

 

LAURA

Laura “Being raised in a low income immigrant family whose primary language is Spanish, I believe I can relate to many clients who face language and at times cultural barriers. I love the idea of being a bridge between worlds because at an early age I was that bridge for my parents.”

Hometown: Sunnyside, Washington
Education: BA in Medical Anthropology and Global Health from the University of Washington

My favorite childhood Halloween costume: I remember putting on my mother’s lipstick, eye shadow, and blush, calling myself a princess. So technically I was a very laid back princess in sweatpants, tennis shoes, and sweater.

 

NOELLE

Noelle“Something that I like to do is listen to people’s stories. I find the events and circumstances that brought people to where they are at the time I meet them so interesting. I think the combination of these things would be a strength for the outreach component of my position at WithinReach.”

Hometown: Wheatland, California
Education: BA in Molecular Cell Biology with an emphasis in Neurobiology and a minor in Music from UC Berkeley

My favorite childhood Halloween costume: Princess Jasmine from Aladdin. It was the first costume that I chose for myself and I was very excited about the sequined headband with the half veil that went over your eyes.

 

Tags: AmeriCorps   benefit assistances   Community Health   Public Health      Washington state   WithinReach   

Hitting the Ground Running at United Way’s Day of Caring Resource Exchange

By Lisa Andersen, one of our new AmeriCorps members, working to connect vulnerable families to food and health resources.

As a new AmeriCorps member at WithinReach, a big part of our work is connecting members of the King and Snohomish County communities to the health and food resources they need, and making sure they know how and where to access those resources when they need them. Those resources can range from food banks to medical clinics, and from dental services to cell phones. I learned quickly when I started at WithinReach this September that one of the challenges of my AmeriCorps service will be learning to navigate the huge variety of resources available, and learning to inform the people we serve about those resources in a clear and manageable way.
As you can imagine, the challenge of connecting people to these resources becomes less daunting when all those aforementioned resources are in the same (very large) room. This is one of the many exciting things about the Day of Caring Resource Exchange event, hosted annually by the United Way of King County, where WithinReach was one of many organizations represented.
For those unfamiliar with the CRE: picture an exhibition hall full of people and community organizations coming together to support Seattle’s community of individuals experiencing homelessness. The event is planned with a vision of connecting people in need to resources ranging from library cards to community clinics, new shoes to flu shots, pet care, health care, hair care, and everything in between.
For WithinReach’s AmeriCorps Bridge to Basics team, the CRE was an exciting event for lots of reasons. For many of us, this was our first day of outreach as AmeriCorps members. This means that we were speaking to clients for the first time, describing the work that WithinReach does in the community and what services we could help them find. Communicating a clear, concise, and comprehensive talk while staying cool, calm, and collected is something that I’ll continue to practice, but for a first-day doing outreach, I was excited to see the positive response we received from clients and fellow service providers.
Need more reasons to love the chance to have all of these providers in the same place? Every time that I was approached and asked where to sign up for a library card, or where to get a new pair of shoes, it was exciting to not have to pull out a map. “Right over there!” was about as complicated as directions got. It’s ideal for us as we work to connect people with these resources, and, of course, it removes the barrier of distance between organizations that might prevent clients from being able to locate the services they need. All told, the CRE was an ideal setting to learn about the resources available in our community, because many of those organizations were our next-door neighbors for the day.
I’m excited to learn more from outreach events like the CRE as the year continues. We will be visiting food banks, book stores, community centers, health fairs, libraries, and many other community sites in order to connect families with the resources they need to be healthy. Starting the year with an event like the CRE was like hitting the ground running (Look at all these people! Look at all these resources!) It’s wonderful to be part of WithinReach’s newest AmeriCorps team, serving such a resilient, diverse, and warm community in Seattle and beyond.

 

Tags: AmeriCorps   Day of Caring Resource Exchange   United Way   

AmeriCorps: 20 years of building community and a life-long legacy

Today marks the 20th Anniversary of AmeriCorps. It is hard to believe that this Clinton-era initiative has grown into a major driver of non-profit service delivery all across the United States.

I love AmeriCorps, I’m just old enough to have missed the chance to serve right out of college and while I’m not someone with many regrets, this is one of them. Spending a year working hard (and for a very small stipend and education award) for the betterment of your community is an experience that I believe, if more of us had, would lead to a healthier America. How can you not love an initiative with a pledge “to get things done for America.”

As I reflect on this momentous 20 years, I can’t help but think of all the ways I’ve gotten to interact with AmeriCorps

My Grandpa Carl was a Civilian Conservation Corps (the precursor to AmeriCorps) member in the 1930s. Up to the day of his death, he said he was a democrat because Franklin D. Roosevelt created a program for him to get the skills and work ethic to get a job. With great pride he would say he was an employee of the City of Los Angeles for those 30 year of civilian service and work. He often reflected that if he hadn’t had those skills, he wouldn’t have owned a home, sent his kids to college nor enjoyed the self-esteem he had between jobs. He was always proud of me for the work I did to support the service movement.

For 15 years I have worked in the National Service movement–running a Retired Senior Volunteer Program in Portland; hosting capacity building VISTAs at Seattle Works to help connect more young people to volunteer service; helping to launch HandsOn Networks TechCorps in Seattle while at NPower; and, now, having the honor of watching our AmeriCorps team play a critical role in connecting families to health and food resources at WithinReach. The impact these service members have had on our community are highly valuable and the skills, experiences and networks that have been built will be valuable experiences the take with them throughout their life.

I am privileged to sit on the Governor’s Commission for National and Community Service. In this role, I have the distinct opportunity to help support the service movement in Washington State. Each month, I hear amazing stories of AmeriCorps members making an impact on our community–from environmental restoration; to helping kids learn to read; to building volunteer programs; and supporting returning Veterans in enrolling in college. The work is amazing and we are blessed as a state to have one of the most robust Corps in the country.

Happy Birthday AmeriCorps! I can’t wait to see the impact of the next 20 years.

Tags: 20th Anniversary   AmeriCorps   Civilian Conservation Corps   VISTA   

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