Public Spirit January 2011

What you’ll find in this month’s edition

  • Five Resources for Health care on an AmeriCorps Budget
  • Refocusing your Motivation Towards Service
  • MLK Day 2011: What Did You Do For Others?
  • Budgeting, Shopping, and Taxes Oh My
  • The Minnesota Initiative Foundations
  • A Jolly Good Time: AC Member Bond over MLK Day

Five Resources For Health Care On An AmeriCorps Budget

5 Resources for Health Care on an AmeriCorps Budget

Navigating health care is hard enough, but what where do you turn if you need health services that aren’t covered by the AmeriCorps health care? Many clinics offer sliding-fee scale services for low-income families and individuals. Start with these 5 resources.

Minnesota Department of HealthGuide to Additional Heath Care Resources. This site has information about government health care programs as well as sliding-fee scale clinics around the state.

Minnesota Dental AssociationResources for Access to Dental Care. Here you can find dental clinics around the state that offer free or reduced-cost services for those who qualify.

Vision USA: Don’t have eye insurance? Haven’t had a eye exam within two years? You may qualify for Vision USA, which provides basic eye health and vision care services free of charge to uninsured, low-income people and their families.

Mental Health Services: There are a few resources to find Mental Health Services in your area. First is a list of Free/Low Cost Mental Health Services in Hennepin County. There is also free walk-in counseling at Family Tree Clinic in St Paul and Walk-In Counseling Center in Minneapolis. Here is also a Mental Health Services Locator.

Community Acupuncture: Looking for a method of non-traditional healing? Check out Community Acupuncture. It’s more affordable than traditional acupuncture, and many clinics offer sliding-fee scales. Check out the list of Community Acupuncture clinics in Minnesota.

Refocusing Your Motivation Towards Service

Lost in the routine of your service? Recapture your spark with the community you serve.

We all start out the year in a fabulous craze of motivation and enthusiasm. As the year advances, many of us lose sight of the reason we chose service to begin with. Maybe we’ve coordinated one too many volunteers or spent way more time doing fourth grade math homework than what we originally anticipated. If truth be told, perhaps it’s been a long winter and we’ve come across a wintry white dull-drum.  Mohandas Gandhi tells us “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”. From time to time it’s worthwhile to take a step back to summon up the reason we chose service instead of mainstream employment.

If you’ve found yourself lost in your year of service, commit to memory the reason you decided to join AmeriCorps. Find your motivation in the youth you serve, the smiles of appreciation they give you or the daily game of dodge ball you play. Stumble on a new motivation you find in the travel to your site, or a phone call made halfway through the day. Once you’ve recaptured your zest for service it will become apparent in your day-to-day routine why you chose this path.  “In a gentle way, you can shake the world”. –Mohandas Gandhi

MLK Day 2011: What Did You Do For Others?

This year the InterCorps Council of Minnesota worked hard to organize events to celebrate the legacy of public service and non-violence put into action by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

The spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was alive and thriving on January 17, 2011, united with various projects that happened around the state of Minnesota. This year the InterCorps Council of Minnesota worked hard to organize events to celebrate the commitment to public service, put into action by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  All projects focused on the weighty theme of hunger awareness and food security in Minnesota. These projects offered a chance for community members and AmeriCorps members across the state to engage in hands on service and to celebrate this day of honor.

The InterCorps Council of Minnesota (ICC of MN) organized and supported sixteen service projects throughout the state of Minnesota (Brainerd, Brooklyn Center, Clearwater, Crookston, Duluth, Eagan, Grand Rapids, Hawley, Henning, Minneapolis, St. Cloud, St. Paul, and Vining) to address the issues of hunger and food security for Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service (January 17, 2011).

Across Minnesota, over 150 AmeriCorps members and community volunteers came together to provide 434 hours of volunteer service.  Approximately 4,500 pounds were collected and nearly 400 boxes of food were packed for local food shelves. Volunteers also assisted with a variety of garden related preparation, including creating 5,000 seed packets for community gardens and building a compost bin.  Volunteers also engaged over 100 youth in learning activities, raised $70 to support local food shelves, delivered 14 hot meals to home bound seniors, and rebuilt a set of stairs and a donation table for a community organization.

Here are some highlights from ICC-related service projects on MLK Day 2011:

Gardening Matters – Minneapolis

o   35 Volunteers

o   70 Hours Logged

o   Accomplishments:  5,000 seed packets were created by volunteers, which will help serve 600 hub members.  Packets are sold at a significant discount (2-5% of actual price) to community gardeners in Minneapolis.  According to our partner, “It was a great event!   It was fun to see how many people were interested in working to support Local Food Resource Hubs, and it was great to have a mix of different AmeriCorps programs working together and getting to know each other.”  According to one volunteer, “It surprised me to hear about Gardening Matters and the great work that they do with the seeds that we packaged today.  Because they have the ability to buy in bulk, they will be able to sell the packages of seeds to community gardeners for close to 5 cents-an amazing price that will allow families to grow food throughout the summer.  It is so great to know that only a few hours will allow more community members access to fresh, locally grown and sustainable food!”

Second Harvest Heartland – Minneapolis

o   25 Volunteers

o   75 Hours Logged

o   Accomplishments:  Volunteers packaged over 2,000 pounds of food.  The project was featured on KARE 11 news (http://www.kare11.com/news/news_article.aspx?storyid=901012).  According to one volunteer, “At Second Harvest Heartland it was exciting that KARE 11 News came to film a story focusing on the day of service. It made me proud to be doing the work, and even more proud that the service that AmeriCorps does was featured so predominantly.”

Catholic Charities – St. Cloud

o   15 Volunteers

o   45 Hours Logged

o   Accomplishments:  Volunteers repackaged donations, brought donations inside, and sorted donations for distribution.  In three hours, volunteers were able to accomplish what would normally take their staff a week to complete.  One great story to emerge from the project was that as the AmeriCorps members were sorting the donations of household goods, a staff member came in looking for a portable heater for a family in need.  A portable heater had just been brought inside and was available for the family – if the volunteer group hadn’t been there sorting things and bringing them inside, the heater wouldn’t have been found for at least another week.  According to one volunteer, “I had the opportunity to visit the local Catholic Charities; I had only been to the MPLS location. It opened my eyes to the importance of organizations such as these who truly help my community. I also had a good time working with other AmeriCorps member who were apart of Math Corps, a program I was originally not familiar with. I usually serve alone at my VISTA site and it is easy to forget I am part of a bigger picture. It felt good to know I have fellow AmeriCorps serving nearby!”

Hunger Heroes – Clearwater, Brainerd, Henning, St. Paul, Vining

o   9 Volunteers

o   31 Hours Logged

o   Accomplishments:  Individuals signed up to complete independent service projects with the support of the InterCorps Council of Minnesota.  They were provided with a Hunger Heroes toolkit and technical assistance from the ICC.  In Brainerd, three VISTAs volunteered their time with Lutheran Social Service’s nutrition services, while two Reading Corps members in St. Paul launched a two-week food and fund drive to support Second Harvest, collecting 20lbs. of food and $70 on MLK day alone.  In Henning and Vining, one Reading Corps member started to deliver hot meals to four homebound seniors twice a week, while in Clearwater, a Reading Corps member and her two children collected 40lbs. of food to support their local food shelf.

Budgeting, Shopping, And Taxes Oh My

As Mark Twain so eloquently put it, “I shall never use profanity except in discussing house rent and taxes.”  As AmeriCorps members, we truly understand the burden that Mark Twain felt when he wrote that.  The daunting date of April 15 approaches and it’s something many of us find ourselves dreading for the first time.  I figured it would be a good time to discuss this now, and I would like to emphasize in this article the importance of saving, spending wisely, and taxes.

First and foremost, let’s get down to the business of saving.  Where do you bank?  Do you know how much of your money is in your checking account and how much is in your savings?  What is the interest rate in your savings account?  What savings plan are you on… and did you actually read the pamphlet describing it (or like me did you toss it in the back of your car)?  These are important questions to ask yourself, because each one could determine whether you can make a profit this year or end up with spending it all on rent and food.

An especially important thing to know is that this past summer, legislation was passed making it illegal for banks to not offer their customers a chance to put a block on their checking account.  What this means is, like a credit card, your check card will be denied if you don’t have the funds in your account.  This means that you cannot overdraft, and therefore cannot receive any overdraft fees.

Make sure that the next time you visit your bank you do 4 things: Check the plan you’re on and make sure you’re aware of the other types available (you may be spending money to bank and not even know it).  Check how much you have in savings and in checking. Find out how much interest you could be making if you put more in your savings account.  Then make sure that you activate your overdraft block on your check card, saving you from potential overdraft fees.

So we’ve talked about saving.  What about shopping?  We are a society of shoppers.  Anyone who’s seen Confessions of a Shopaholic or The Devil Wears Prada knows this to be true about many Americans.  We, as AmeriCorps members, are not an exception to this, even though we make significantly less money than the average American.  Because of this, the InterCorps Council will be opening up on our Facebook Fan Page an opportunity for you as readers to tell others on how you save money when shopping.  The InterCorps Council will also be offering up opportunities for you to find great deals as well, so follow along!

(Follow us on Facebook here!)

I saved the most dreadful piece for last: taxes.  Fortunately, as AmeriCorps members, not only do we have resources that will walk us through doing taxes for free, we also have resources that will DO our taxes for free.  In the links at the bottom of this article you will find information regarding what you need to bring with you, write down, and who to go to when dealing with taxes.  And even if you plan on filing with your parents (yay for being able to claim dependency), know that this information will be helpful down the road.

http://www.americorpsalums.org/?MBTaxReturns

http://www.accountabilitymn.org/

The Minnesota Initiative Foundations

About The Minnesota Initiative Foundations

The Minnesota Initiative Foundations were created in 1986 as a partnership between the McKnight Foundation and greater-Minnesota communities, and separately address the social and economic hardship of the region.

These six independent non-profits serve all of greater-Minnesota, and help to support local organizations, businesses, and governments through grants, partnerships, workshops, and many other programs.

The Initiative Foundation of Central Minnesota is an organization that sponsors AmeriCorps VISTAs.  They oversee the recruiting, placement, training, and supervision of 20 VISTA members across central MN; but each host site interviews and selects their own VISTAs. Some of the organizations the Initiative Foundation is working with this year are Bridges of Hope, http://www.bridgesofhopemn.org/  Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin, http://www.gslakesandpines.org/ New Pathways Inc., http://www.newpathwaysmn.com/and Rural Renewable Energy Alliance. http://www.rreal.org/

For more information visit www.ifound.org

A Jolly Good Time: AC Member Bond Over MLK Day

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was a success!  AmeriCorps members gathered from all around MN in different regions to serve their community in remembrance that we are all one community.  Along with those ideals, the InterCorps Council’s Social/Networking Committee set up a chance for the AmeriCorps community to bond as well.  Over 20 AmeriCorps members met at Merlin’s Rest Pub in south Minneapolis, and were able to bond with each other not only over what they had done that day, but also over what they do in their own Corps.  The environment was cozy, as the British Isles decor was spot on, with food and drinks to match.  It wasn’t soon after the event began that people who were not in AmeriCorps started filing in.  Unbeknown to this AmeriCorps member, it was the evening of the Pub’s monthly Shanty Pub Singers.  Serenaded by both the amusing and depressing shanty songs, members stayed the whole time visiting.  As one member said, “This has been so much fun! I love that we were able to meet people [from other Corps].”  Another member was heard saying, “I love this music!  What a great place for us to go after our day [of service].”  As one of the sea shantys went, “For tonight we’ll merry, merry be,” the night was certainly merry, and we look forward to more social events in the future!