Public Spirit January 2012

What you’ll find in this month’s edition:

  • Upcoming Events Calendar
  • Letter from the President
  • This Year’s Members & Ambassadors
  • AmeriCorps Member Spotlight Sara Gilman, Minnesota Reading Corps
  • Training & Social Events Recap

Upcoming Events Calendar

January 11, 2012

Intro to Grant Writing Training

January 15, 2012

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Potluck Dinner

January 16, 2012

Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service

January 16, 2012

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Rally

March 10 – 18, 2012

AmeriCorps Week (details to come!)

MLK Day Of Service Opportunities

(January 16th, 2012)

Dr. King once said, “Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve.” We are calling all Minnesotans to take action to help others and make an ongoing commitment to serve throughout the year of 2012. During trying economic times in our nation, we can all serve together to make a difference.

There are multiple sites throughout the metro area and greater Minnesota offering service opportunities on Jan. 16. AmeriCorps members can volunteer for a shift either in the morning or afternoon.

Click this link ( and choose the service site and shift you want to volunteer for on Jan. 16. AmeriCorps members also have the option of signing up to be a Site Lead on MLK Day. If interested, check the box on the registration page and you will be contacted.

For more MLK Day of Service opportunities, including rallies, potlucks, and breakfast, check out our page on MLK Day of Service:

March (11:00 AM) And Rally (11:45 AM)

March starts from Washington Center (310 N 1st Ave W Duluth, MN) at 11 AM and proceeds to the Rally at Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center (350 Harbor Drive  Duluth, MN 55802) at 11:45 AM.

Featured Speaker: Dr. Janet Haynes, University of Minnesota Duluth

Introduction To Grant Writing Training (January 11th, 2012)

St. Paul, MN

Interested in grant writing? Join the ICC at this free training and start your journey in mastering one the most sought-after skills in the non-profit sector.

When: Wednesday, January 11th, 6:00pm-7:30pm (+ Post-training social hour) 
Where: Minnesota Literacy Council, St. Paul, MN
700 Raymond Ave, Suite 180, Saint Paul, MN 55114
See map 
How to Register: Register here for the event.

Registration closes on January 6th, so be quick! This event is FREE.

After the training there will a social hour that all participants are invited to attend.

E-mail educationtraining@iccminnesota.orgif you have any questions or concerns. Hope to see you there!

Letter From The President

Dear National Service Members,

On October 15th, representatives from a variety of AmeriCorps programs attended the InterCorps Council of Minnesota (ICC of MN) kickoff retreat in Minneapolis. At that retreat, those representatives worked together to learn more about the Council and to lay the foundation for creating meaningful and intentional events for AmeriCorps members across the state.

The newly formed Council elected me as the ICC of MN President and Alana Stimes as Vice President. Alana is a VISTA Leader serving with the Sectoral Employment Initiative in Minneapolis, and I am a VISTA Leader serving at the Saint Paul Public Schools Foundation. In addition, Alysen Nesse was elected to serve as the Results and Impact Specialist. Alysen is a VISTA serving at Summit Academy in Minneapolis. Alana, Alysen, and I are excited to work with you in supporting service statewide this year.

The ICC of MN will host a variety of service projects, professional development trainings, and social and networking events. Here is a sneak peek into what the ICC of MN is planning for this year:

  • Building on the success of last year’s MLK Day of Service, the ICC of MN is organizing service projects in every corner of Minnesota with projects focusing on the theme of Economic Opportunity.
  • The ICC of MN is working hard to connect AmeriCorps members with one another by hosting social events. We’re also organizing a bowling tournament, several trainingeventsspeed networking, and more to keep members connected and working together in service.
  • The ICC of MN intends to host events during AmeriCorps Week from March 10-18th. The Council will mobilize members statewide in service projects, a social event, a day of free professional development opportunities, and other events to celebrate national service in Minnesota.
  • The ICC of MN is working to expand our online presence through FacebookTwitter, and our website.

In everything we do, we strive to meet our vision statement, to “promote engagement, communication, collaboration, and education to empower AmeriCorps and the Minnesota community.” I encourage you to contact me at any time with any questions, concerns, or suggestions you may have regarding the InterCorps Council of Minnesota (

We thank you for your continued support and for the hard work you put into supporting national service.

Yours in service,

Ashley Laflin

President, Minnesota InterCorps Council

‘Serving Those Who Serve’

Introducing This Year’s ICC Members & Ambassadors!

Click here for a list of this year’s members and ambassadors!

AmeriCorps Member Spotlight

Sara Gilman, Minnesota Reading Corps by Riley Lindberg

As a member of the Minnesota Reading Corps, Sara Gilman spends her days providing literacy tutoring to students. Minnesota Reading Corps members typically choose to serve students who are either Pre-K or are enrolled in kindergarten through third grade. But Sara is unique among her Reading Corps colleagues in that she serves both of these groups of students.

Last year Sara became the first Minnesota Reading Corps tutor ever placed at her site, Appleton-Milan Elementary School in Appleton, Minnesota. “I absolutely loved it so much that I am back for another year.” But, being the first Reading Corps tutor at her site, Sara had to overcome some challenges.

“At first, it was a little hard to get the program going and to show the teachers that MRC would not only benefit them, but, most of all, the kids as well.“ She said. “By the end of the year the teachers were so excited that we got another grant for the next year so we could incorporate the Pre-K. Now it’s really well received and the teachers have embraced it.”

Sara begins a typical day at her site by working with her Pre-K students. “I work with 19 kids, then take five out for some more vocabulary work. They are a really great group of kids and I love spending time with them.”

After lunch, Sara spends her afternoons providing one-on-one literacy tutoring to 10 elementary students, with each student’s session lasting 20 minutes. “I love to see the progress of every kid that I have had!”

When she’s not serving, Sara likes reading and spending time with her family. When asked what it has been like to serve in AmeriCorps, she says “It has been a great experience so far. I have met some great families in the Appleton community and have become more outgoing.”

Sara also has thoughts for those who are considering serving in AmeriCorps. “Absolutely join. It benefits you and your community so much. I know I would not have met all of the great families and many of my friends if I didn’t join AmeriCorps.”

Training & Social Events Recap

Project Homeless Connect (December 12th, 2011)

AmeriCorps members connect people experiencing homelessness with much needed services

By Naomi Krueger, VISTA Leader at MCC Refugee Services

An African American man in his mid-forties ambled into Hall B, his thick jacket making his 6’ 3” frame even larger. After scanning the filled chairs he found one young woman holding up her folder in the air, a smile on her face. He sat down across from her, setting his rumpled blue backpack on the floor. “Hi, I’m Paul*,” he said. He told the volunteer that he was single, though he had kids in a different state. He stayed in a homeless shelter last night, and has been homeless off-and-on for over a year. His smile was gentle, but he explained that he had a tooth ache and wanted to get it pulled before the day was over. He also wanted to check out the housing services, and apply for social security for an accident-related injury which prevented him from seeking employment. Luckily for him, he had come to the right place.

The December Minneapolis Project Homeless Connect (PHC) was the first large-scale service opportunity that the InterCorps Council offered to AmeriCorps members across the state. It was Minneapolis’ 12th PHC, and each year the volume of volunteers, and the number of guests receiving services, increases. This year PHC received such a large volume of volunteer registrations that they closed the registration early, before many AmeriCorps members had the chance to sign-up. However, at least nine ICC recruited AmeriCorps members participated. Many others were there as service providers with their service sites, or as volunteers that signed up independently of the ICC.

Minneapolis PHC takes place at the Minneapolis Convention Center—this year the booth and services were spread over 4 floors. Guests—people experiencing unstable housing situations—came first into a large hall where they were greeted by hundreds of volunteers in black t-shirts. The volunteers did a brief intake form with the guests to find out what services they would most benefit from that day, and then served as a guide to locate the necessary services. Many guests headed straight for eye care, dental, and medical care. Assessments were made, teeth were pulled, and glasses were given away. Guests could even get their feet treated, massaged, and washed in warm water.

There were opportunities for haircuts, legal counsel, help applying for general assistance or food support, and resources about transitional housing or shelters around Minneapolis. Guests also had the opportunity to speak with employment counselors at a variety of agencies, as well as get information about work-readiness programs, job training, and certification classes for jobs like fork lift operators and certified nursing assistants.

Most of the volunteers at the Minneapolis PHC were middle-aged or retired people—a demographic which many ICC volunteers were surprised about. In a debrief at the Common Roots Café on Lyndale Avenue, nine AmeriCorps members met to discuss their experiences that day. Ashley Laflin, ICC President, said she thought more young-adults would have volunteered.

Ryan Kierczynski, VISTA Leader at Emerge, observed the interactions between volunteers and guests. He said most volunteers treated the guest they were serving as equals. Ryan noticed volunteers laughing and enjoying conversation with the people experiencing homelessness. He witnessed a respect and a camaraderie that was not typical for people of such different walks of life, he said.

As for Paul? He did indeed get his back molar pulled, consulted an expert about his housing options, and met with an advocate for disability related social security benefits—all before lunch. Though his mouth was sore, Paul left with a smile. He said he got what he came for, and would look forward to coming back again. The next Minneapolis PHC will be on May 14, 2012.

*Name has been changed to protect the privacy of the guest.

Living On The Stipend Training Proves Extremely Worthwhile (November 29th, 2011)

By Abigail Spaniol

From 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 29 AmeriCorps members from a wide variety of programs gathered at Merriam Park Library in St. Paul to discuss one thing: how to stretch their living allowance just a bit further.

Did you know that if you volunteer to clean the studios at Core Power Yoga for just two hours a week, you can take a class for free? Did you know that if you want to do something a little more leisurely with that special someone, you can take them to Bryant Lake Bowl’s Cheap Date Night on Mondays from 6 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. and receive two entrees, one bottle of wine and one round of bowling all for only $28?

When members told the group why they decided to attend the training, reasons ranged from just wanting to see what is out there to not being from Minnesota and hoping to learn more about untapped resources.

In addition to learning about entertainment opportunities from D’Souza, members discussed health and wellness with Sarah Ullmer, Director of Education & Training at the Minnesota Alliance With Youth, education and training opportunities with Krista Eichorst, VISTA Leader at the Minnesota Literacy Council, entertainment opportunities with Ashley McVey, tutor for the Minnesota Reading Corps and benefits with Vanessa East, Employment Services Coach for the Minnesota Opportunity Corps.

Programs represented at the training included Sectoral Employment Opportunities, MN Alliance With Youth, Minnesota Reading Corps, City of Lakes and the Minnesota Literacy Council. The training even had an AmeriCorps Alumna in attendance, Gina Sevick, who served with AmeriCorps State and National from 2005 to 2007. She thought the training contained a good mix of information and was a worthwhile event for AmeriCorps members to attend during their year of service.

“As an AmeriCorps Alum, I understand how important it is to take care of yourself-mind, body and spirit, during service.  Most AmeriCorps members are tremendously dedicated to their service, put in a lot of energy and sometimes don’t take the time to focus on themselves.  This can lead to severe AmeriCorps ‘burn-out,’” Sevick said.

 Highly-Attended Grant Writing Training Offers Valuable Insight To AmeriCorps Volunteers (December 19th, 2011)

By Kelly Bresin

On Dec. 19the InterCorps Council of Minnesota Education and Training Committee held its first Introduction to Grant Writing Training at the Minnesota Literacy Council in St. Paul, MN. More than 40 AmeriCorps members were present. The event featured Maria Cote, Senior Development Officer from Admission Possible.

Cote began the presentation by debunking a few myths that are associated with grant writing such as: “Grants are something for nothing,” “All you need is one well-written grant proposal” and “Taking a grant means selling out.” She responded to the last myth by reassuring the members that applying for grants from bigger businesses isn’t “selling out” if the two organizations’ mission statements correspond with one another.

Next, Cote laid out the basic steps for writing a grant:  Research, Apply, Review, Decision and Follow Up. Cote stressed that research is the “Most important success factor.” It’s all about finding grants that compliment the program’s mission and vice versa. When applying for grants, Cote suggested using easy-to-understand language– grant writing is no place to show off one’s knowledge of grammar rules. Once the application process is over, the grant writer must play the “waiting game.” Grant reviews can take anywhere from a week to a year before an organization hears if its funded or denied. However, Cote suggested sending a thank you letter whether or not the funder gives funding, stating that, “It’s a good way to show you appreciated their time.”

Due to the overwhelming amount of members that attended the training, the Education and Training Committee will host the training again on Jan 11. Click here to learn more.