Public Spirit, November 2014

Welcome to the First Public Spirit of the 2014-2015 InterCorps Council Year!

Are you all as excited as we are about this year’s Public Spirit?! The Communication Committee’s goal for Public Spirit is to provide a newsletter that is interesting yet relevant, no matter what stage of life you are in. Tucked within this edition of Public Spirit you will find articles covering everything from the highs and lows of your AmeriCorps year of service, to gift-giving on a budget this holiday season. But before we get started, let’s first learn a little more about Public Spirit:

1. Public Spirit is brought to you through collaboration among the InterCorps Council’s (ICC) different committees and service representatives (hurray for working together!).

2. Public Spirit addresses topics relevant to AmeriCorps members, promotes ICC programs and AmeriCorps events (Let the fun begin!).

3. Public Spirit is released on the last day of each month, and an abridged version is released via email when you subscribe at iccminnesota.org/subscribe/ (Subscribe and you’ll make our day!).

4. If you want to connect with us to suggest an article or give us feedback, reach us by emailing communications@iccminnesota.org (We love to hear from our readers!).

Alright! Now that you know a little something more about this newsletter, it’s time to dive right in! Enjoy!

 

The Minnesota InterCorps Council is Rolling Out the 2014-15 Year!

As a group of national service members from all branches of AmeriCorps—State, National, and VISTA—the InterCorps Councils enacts its mission to “promote engagement, communication, collaboration, and education to empower AmeriCorps and the Minnesota community.” Throughout the year, the ICC will serve those who serve by facilitating professional development, social, and service opportunities. The ICC will boost the visibility of the immense impact AmeriCorps has throughout Minnesota to national service members and the greater community.

 

Meet this year’s InterCorps Council! 

The InterCorps Council launched the year with orientation for members on the 18th of October. ICCers had some fun getting to know each other by participating in collaborative team-building activities and exchanging ideas about effective and innovative pitches for highlighting AmeriCorps.

ICC members are in one of five distinct committees:

Executive Committee (Exec) – Leaders were elected by ICC members. Ariel Sehr will serve as President, Toska Cooper as Vice President, and Kate Fridley as Results and Impact Specialist. These three approach their roles with enthusiasm and look forward to a great year!

Service Committee (Service) – will coordinate community engagement projects for AmeriCorps members to participate in. Through these projects, AmeriCorps will expand its positive impact on Minnesotan communities.

Social and Networking Committee (SoNet) – will promote service member cohesion through social events and advance professional and community connections by organizing networking events.

Training and Education Committee (T. Ed.) – will expand the professional development of service members by providing relevant trainings and educational events.

And finally, the Communications Committee (CoCo) – will promote the ICC through social media platforms to the greater community as well as synchronize communication of ICC happenings to all service members.

Since CoCo is in charge of producing this publication, we’re going to hog a bit of the limelight here. Check out this “in-the-know” list of CoCo tid-bits:

  • We’re a crew of 6 who like to write and keep people informed about all of the awesome ICC activities.
  • CoCo’s goal is to promote the ICC to the larger audience of all AmeriCorps members and to demonstrate how powerful we can be when we collaborate on community service.
  • We reach our goal through the ICC website, social media, monthly Public Spirit pieces, and other media outreach.

CoCo also manages the general questions and information account. To ask general questions about the ICC—not just about the Communications Committee—email info@ICCminnesota.org.

Hats off to this year! The members of CoCo are delighted to be communicating with you, and the ICC looks forward to serving AmeriCorps and the greater community! The potential to collaborate, develop as national service members, and advance the impact of AmeriCorps for the communities we serve is boundless – the ICC will provide the path to achieve this potential!

 

A Note from the ICC President

Hey all!

My name is Ariel Sehr and I’m incredibly excited and honored to be serving as the President of the InterCorps Council this year. I’m currently serving as the VISTA Leader with the City of Saint Paul cohort after a year as a VISTA with the Mid-Continent Oceanographic Institute, a nonprofit creative writing center in Saint Paul. I’m a recent Macalester graduate and an avid bike-commuter, donut-devourer, and Jackie-Chan-movie-enthusiast. I see the ICC as an awesome opportunity to represent and unify various service corps in Minnesota in a common mission of expanding and deepening our service. The fact that our state has a budget to help us better connect is kind of wild – let’s take full advantage of it!

As a VISTA Leader working to build formal and informal networks for and between my cohort members, I appreciate the same opportunity for AmeriCorps in Minnesota as a whole. It can be isolating to work as the single VISTA at a large organization or the only AmeriCorps member at a school. With ICC events planned around the many elements of a service year (from professional development to social networking), service members throughout Minnesota can see themselves as part of a greater whole and have a more fulfilling year. I strongly encourage you, no matter your affiliation with service, to subscribe to the Public Spirit and to reach out to your fellow service members about upcoming ICC events and opportunities so that we can continue promote the amazing work they do every day and to honor our calling – Serving Those Who Serve.

The energy that this year’s ICC is bringing to the table was evident at our orientation, and is sure to multiply as we start to plan for MLK Day of Service. It is truly an honor to be working with this group of ICC members. Here’s to a great year!

 

The Highs and Lows of Your Service Year

Feeling stressed, overwhelmed, worn-out, or all of the above? You are not alone! During your year of service with AmeriCorps, you will probably experience many highs and lows, and perhaps even consider quitting. Your service year may very well seem like a roller coaster—going up and down all of the time. When your year of service starts out, it often begins at a high point. After a few months, you start to feel your first low point. ICC is here to show you how to get over those low points so you get the most out of your service year. Have you ever heard the expression: take care of yourself first before helping others? Well, it is important! If you are feeling down, you are not going to be any help to others. Here are some tips on how to get through those tough times.

(1) Communication.—this is the most important. Figure out who you can talk to when you need it, and talk to that person. Try to make a list of people who you can count on to help you with those tough times. Communication with your supervisor is also important; let them know what is going on and how you feel about it. Your supervisor can help talk you through it and give solutions.

(2) Blow off some steam. I like to work out when I am feeling stressed. Find something you like to do. Some examples include: playing a sport, reading, running, listening to music, cooking, etc.—something that takes your mind off of the problem.

(3) Start a project. Whether it be at work or outside of work, find something to keep you busy. Make that project one of your main focuses so it further helps you feel like you are doing something valuable. Ask your supervisor for something to do at work; I’m sure there are plenty of things you can work on.

(4) Adjust your attitude. Your attitude toward something has a great effect on your emotional and physical well-being. If you think positively about what is causing your stress, it will likely change how you feel emotionally and physically. Here are six strategies to manage your stress:

I believe number three, adapting to the stressor, is the most important. As an AmeriCorps member, you have to remember the good that you are doing for your community. There are going to be times throughout your year of service when you feel low about the work you are doing. Is this really worth it? Am I actually helping anyone? Am I making a difference? YES…you are, and you need to remember that! Remember you are not the only one who feels this way, and things will get better.

 

Gift-Giving on a Budget

For as beautiful as this time of year is for us Minnesotans, with mounds of cascading snow piling up on our streets and all of the joy that brings, the holidays can also be an expensive time of year, regardless of one’s budget. Along with roasting chestnuts over an open fire and building that perfect snowman, it’s also the time of year to exchange gifts with those we love. This being said, Public Spirit wants to help save you as much money as possible in your gift-giving endeavors. So turn your heated blanket on, whip up a nice cup of eggnog and buy yourself a nice shovel with all the money you’re about to save—trust us, you’ll need it.

1. Sign up for the abundance of steals and deals on www.groupon.com

Groupon can most easily be described as a website that offers thousands of coupons on steroids. Not only this, but these coupons (sometimes up to 90% off!) are localized to your nearest metro area.

The coupons fall under two main categories, the first being “experiences.” Under this umbrella, you can purchase coupons (or “Groupons”) for restaurants, spas, paintballing—the deals are endless. Under this category, I have purchased half-off tickets for the Roller Derby at Roy Wilkins Auditorium, as well as a coupon worth for $50 of food at Sushi X with only paying $23. Giving Groupon experiences as a gift is perfect because it’s something you and the recipient will be sure to not forget, and it’s also a really good way to explore the Twin Cities.

The second coupon category is “goods.” Under this section you will find products that have been significantly reduced. My past purchases under this category have included a hardcover picture book I purchased and designed for only $9.

Do I have you convinced yet? Good! To use Groupon, simply go to the website and sign up for free. Once you are signed up, find a Groupon that tickles your fancy, click the green “Buy!” button (pay!) and you’re good to go! Let the gift giving begin!

2. Craft your own gifts for cheap! Find gift ideas at www.pinterest.com

This is a good option for creative types who have the time to craft. This can also be made into a fun night—in the past I have invited friends over for all of us to make holiday gifts together.

In my humble opinion, the best website with the most gift ideas is www.pinterest.com. To use this website, simply create a free account and start the browsing! You can also search for specific craft ideas if you have an idea in mind, or create a broader search. A past project I found on Pinterest and gave as a gift is on the left, and was under $10.

If you are against signing up for yet another website, a simple Google search for homemade gift ideas will do. Pro tip—when it comes to parents and grandparents, the more sentimental, the better. Happy crafting!

3. Sales, Sales, Sales

It might seem obvious, but keeping a keen eye on sales both in stores and online is key to finding amazing gifts for cheap. If you miss Black Friday shopping, the deals aren’t over yet. www.shoplocal.com is a good resource with weekly store ads listed, as well as the ability to sign up for price-alert emails to tell you when the best time to shop is.

4. If you’re really on a budget—give of yourself.

If your money is really tight this year, no fear! You have a couple options. One thing to do is give your time—this can come in the form of offering to babysit for free, or offering to help with any upcoming projects the gift recipient has, such as repainting the kitchen. In the past, I have given this gift in the form of “coupons” adjusted for whom I was giving it to. So, for example, in a hand-written coupon book I gave a family member, I offered to do such things as shovel the driveway and clean the house for free. This is also a good idea for a significant other, and can include such ideas as planning a date night or a coupon for making dinner. The possibilities are endless, so get creative with it.

Well, savvy shopper, us at Public Spirit hope we can help you avoid a financial hangover come January. Happy shopping, and the happiest holiday season from us to you.

 

Don’t Abandon Your Youthful Spirit: Part One

As we venture through our year of service with AmeriCorps, we will face financial hardships. For instance, making rent is likely the number one worry fluttering around in the back of many AmeriCorps members’ heads. Saving enough money for food is also a worry I know most of my compatriots face (I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be eating Ramen for the next 9 months). These are some serious concerns, and what is also of grave importance is our right to continue the party and keep the good times rolling (yes, I meant to sound cheesy). How does one have fun when they are living paycheck to paycheck and having to worry about paying for rent or food (if you do not have these worries—because you live with your parents or are at a different stage of life [I’m incredibly jealous of your situation]—then this might still be a good way to save  money for that bright blue snow suit you’ve been eyeing.

If you’re serving in the Metro area – check out these options.  If you are serving in Greater Minnesota, please share your great finds with us! This section will incorporate fun activities to do around Minnesota, but this edition will focus mainly on the metro area. Minneapolis and St. Paul have so many things to offer almost every weekend. First, let me discuss Monday through Thursday. Our year of service will have stressful times, and those times may occur during the week. Stress should not be left to fester and stew until you become a walking monster even Cerberus would actively avoid. One of the best ways to blow off some steam is going to one of the many local watering holes and getting sweet deals on food and libations. But, of course, any alcoholic beverages you DO end up enjoying—will be enjoyed without wearing your AmeriCorps gear. Gotta follow that handbook!

In my opinion, one of the best ways to figure out which bar is offering the best food and drink specials is to download one of the numerous happy hour apps. These apps are genius! All you have to do is put in your location and numerous bars will pop up with all sorts of money saving deals!

If the food and bar scene is not your thing, maybe music is. Minneapolis and St. Paul play host to one of the greatest live music scenes across the country. One of the best places to catch live shows and not pay a cover is at 331 Club in Northeast. Nightly, this bar has local bands playing on their stage.

Another great way to follow which bands are playing where and how much the show is, is to download the app “bandsintown.” The app connects to your iTunes to follow which of your favorite bands are playing where and for how much. You can also track local shows.

Lastly, the holidays are coming up and what better way to get in the holiday spirit than check out the replacement for the Hollidazzle Parade? This year, instead of the parade, there will be a Christmas market set up in Nicollet Mall. The city of Minneapolis is trying to replicate a German styled market. To enter the market, visitors will have to pay a $3-$6 entry fee that is good through the whole month of December.

Minnesota AmeriCorps members! I am thrilled to be doing my year of service along with you, but don’t forget, even on a budget we can still find a way to let loose and have a great time this year!

 

That’s all for now, folks! Stay tuned for the mid-month update, and, as always, keep on Getting Things Done, the AmeriCorps way.