Public Spirit, February 2015

Are you Getting Ready to Celebrate?!

Not only does March bring (fingers crossed) warmer weather and St. Patrick’s Day, but also something a little more dear to the InterCorps Council’s hearts, as well as all AmeriCorps members, past and present… AmeriCorps Week 2015! In this edition of Public Spirit, you will find full details on all of our crazy awesome AmeriCorps Week events, including a dodgeball tournamentfree grant writing workshopvolunteer events, and so much more! Also look out for some budget-friendly ways to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, advice on owning a pet while on a budget, and a touching interview about positivity in service. 


Monday, March 9th – Saturday, March 14th

AmeriCorps Weeks is almost here! We hope you’re getting as excited as we are! The purpose of AmeriCorps Week is to recognize the commitment of AmeriCorps members and alums and to celebrate the mass impact AmeriCorps has on our nation every single day. To all past and present AmeriCorps members: be proud of yourself and the service work you are doing! You are making a difference. To further celebrate AmeriCorps Week and get more involved with telling your own personal story of impact, check out this AmeriCorps Impact Kit. In spirit of this celebration, see below for a few AmeriCorps Fast Facts, taken from the official website:

There is no doubt AmeriCorps members make a difference. To celebrate this impact, the InterCorps Council has planned a week-long celebration and we officially invite you to join us! See below for the AmeriCorps Week Schedule!

AmeriCorps Week 2015 Schedule of Events

Monday, March 9

Professional Development Conference!
8:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m. *sessions throughout the day*

This is a full day conference with 4 free breakout sessions on the topics of Social Media, Financial Literacy, Democratizing Leadership, and Creativity in Leadership. Lunch is provided. Sign up, below:

8:30-10:00 a.m. Social Media — sign up HERE!
10:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Financial Literacy — sign up HERE!
12:00-2:00 p.m. KEYNOTE: Democratizing Leadership – sign up HERE!
2:30-4:00 p.m. Creativity in Leadership — sign up HERE!


Service Project: The Food Group
4:00-6:00 p.m.

What better way to cap off a full day of education than to go serve?
The Food Group is a local hunger relief non-profit where volunteers can help sort and pack food!

Click HERE to sign up to serve!


Tuesday, March 10

Grant Writing Learning Session!
5:30-7:30 p.m.

Get hands-on experience with grant writing in this class.
Class is led by Kathryn Ross from Goodwill Easter Seals and Megan Wolle from Emerge.

Click HERE to email Christina about availability for this class.


Wednesday, March 11

Dress for Success! Service Project
4:00-6:00 p.m.

This St. Paul nonprofit empowers women to obtain safer and better futures. Help this worthy organization by sorting clothes!

Click HERE to sign up!


Trivia and Fun!
7:00-9:00 p.m. 

Join us for fun bar trivia at O’Gara’son Snelling Ave. in St. Paul! Show up a little before 7 with a team of 5-6 or show up ready to be placed on a team. 


Saturday, March 14

Dodge For Hunger Tournament
10:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.

Finish off AmeriCorps Week with a bang at this dodgeball tournament! Sign up as a team of 5-6, or as an individual to be placed on a team. This is dodgeball with a purpose: teams will bring donated food items for VEAP (Volunteers Enlisted to Assist People). There is a minimum 10 canned food items per team.

Click HERE to sign up.
*NOTE: the “click HERE” link takes you to a spreadsheet where you must click on tabs at the bottom to go to the appropriate place for signing up. 


St. Patrick’s Day: The Day Everyone’s Irish

Many people celebrate St. Patrick’s Day whether they’re Irish or not, but do you know how St. Patrick’s Day got started or why it is such a big holiday? Let us give you a brief background!

  • 1737 was the first year that the holiday was celebrated in the United States, but it was celebrated long before that in Ireland.
  • The holiday is in celebration of St. Patrick, who was not Irish himself, but a hero in Ireland.
  • Patrick had been kidnapped from his home in Britain and brought to Ireland to become a slave.
  • He escaped six years later, but then brought religion to Ireland, which is why the Irish celebrate him every year.

When people think of St. Patrick’s Day, they usually don’t associate it with a religious holiday. However, St. Patrick’s Day actually became a huge celebration due to its relationship to a religious holiday: Lent. During Lent, people who participate stop eating meat on Fridays and give up drinking alcohol for 40 days, but on St. Patrick’s Day they are relieved of that rule. This gave St. Patrick’s Day the designation of a drinking holiday.

Being that St. Patrick’s Day has become a huge celebration, there are some pretty consistent ways of celebrating it. Here are some stereotypical examples:

  1. Dress in all green — this includes party hats and “Kiss me I’m Irish” buttons.
  2. Only eat green food or have green drinks. Some people go as far as dyingtheir drinks or food to make them green.
  3. Parades—you can find St. Patrick’s Day parades all over the world!

Speaking of dressing in green, check out your local Goodwill or another thrift store for some cheap clothes. You can also go to Party City for some decorations and accessories.

Want to get in on all of the fun?

From St. Patrick’s Day parades and traditional Irish pubs to the Crosslake Clover Dash, here are St. Patty’s events near you!

  1. Twin Cities: Every year Minneapolis and St. Paul each host a St. Patrick’s Day parade mixed with floats and loads of cheery folk clad in green. (Click here). 
  2. Crosslake: Crosslake celebrates their St. Patrick’s Day on the weekend of the 14-15th with their 41st Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade and a 5K Clover Dash. (Click here).
  3. Rochester: Rochester is home to a massive St. Patrick’s Day Parade lineup. Businesses are open and the parade route is huge, which means plenty of space to get up close and enjoy this event with your friends and family. (Clickhere).

For traditional Irish pubs, check out this statewide list of Voted Best Irish Pubs in Minnesota, or this Twin Cities list of Irish PubsWhether you are Irish or not, feel free to celebrate — just remember to celebrate responsibly!


Puppy Love: Owning a Dog During AmeriCorps

A VISTA Member with the College Health Corps, Aria, was given a great gift several months ago when she graduated from Winona State University: a whopping 3.5 pound Mikapoo(Maltese-Poodle-Papillion-mix) puppy. While the puppy,Meekah, has brought Aria much joy, she can be quite costly.

Making the AmeriCorps living allowance work while having a pet comes with challenges. Specifically when it comes to dogs, the average cost of wo/man’s best friend is somewhere between $10,000 and $14,000 over the course of the animal’s life (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). Therefore, you might be spending a significant amount during your AmeriCorps service on your pup! If you have your heart set on owning a dog, follow these cost-saving measures.


Buying a dog


Meekah was not a budget purchase because she came from a breeder, so good thing she was a gift!

Here are some organizations where you can purchase a dog at a lower price:


Fostering a Dog

If owning a dog for the long haul is not feasible, but providing a safe and temporary home is in the cards, consider fostering a dog. One Twin Cities foster agency isMidwest Animal Rescue, and other fostering agencies exist elsewhere.


Caring for a Dog

A while back, Meekah suddenly needed emergency surgery. While this was certainly a blow to Aria’s bank account, there are a couple resources to ease the burden of vet bills:

  • MNSNAP- donates partial funds to spay and neuter pets, vaccinations, micro-chipping and limited basic treatments.
  • Frankie’s Friends - Frankie’s Friends provides financial support for treatment of life-threatening conditions for families who demonstrate substantial financial need and whose pets have a good prognosis for return to a good quality of life.
  • Care Credit- If costs are insurmountable, Care Credit may be an option for you to make affordable payments on emergency vet bills.
  • Banfield Clinic - Aria has Meekah on a wellness plan that includes spay/neuters and vaccines. The $25 a month payments are much more manageable than large lump-sums.


Training a Dog

Youtube videos have really been a life-saver for Aria and Meekah. Through Youtube, Aria has learned about bell training and other positive reinforcement techniques. Organizations like the Humane Society often offer cheap classes as well.


Grooming a Dog

You can save a lot of dough by grooming your dog yourself. Teach your dog early to be comfortable with the process by starting as a puppy and offering positive reinforcement, like treats. Research the grooming needs of your dog to safely care for her.


Feeding a Dog

Feeding a dog can be one of the largest expenses, and one that is difficult to work around. You can shop for cheaper brands, and sometimes buying in bulk is smart. Another route is to make your own dog food, which some owners believe to be a healthier, cheaper alternative to store-bought food.

No matter how you slice it, dogs are expensive. They can, however, bring you companionship in ways that no other being can. We hope these tips will serve you and your best friend while you serve your community.


Choosing to Serve: Choosing Love & Positivity

Every once in a while, we stumble upon a story about service that is rich and beautiful enough to re-energize us, even in the midst of winter doldrums. We found exactly this sort of story when we sat down with Kara Bennett, former AmeriCorps VISTA member with the Minnesota Literacy Council.

Prepare for your HeART strings to be tugged

Kara served two years as a VISTA member – 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 – in the Minneapolis Public Schools. She currently works full time as the Outreach Director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, and she volunteers for about 5 to 15 hours a week as a Volunteer Coordinator withCourageous HeARTS. She’s been with HeARTS for about 2 years, starting there shortly after it opened in 2013.

We asked Kara to share a little more about her volunteer work with HeARTS. HeARTS is an entirely volunteer-run organization that is dedicated to allowing Minneapolis youth explore their feelings and their personalities with art. HeARTS creates a safe, comfortable space that allows youth to freely express themselves with art. When youth gather at HeARTS, group facilitators give them the emotional tools to manage whatever their hurt is so that they can approach it from a stronger place in the future. HeARTS is a trauma-informed space, meaning that it focuses on understanding, recognizing, and responding to the effects of all types of trauma. The underlying principle is that trauma is universal, inevitable, and subjective. Youth in poverty are more likely to experience trauma, so HeARTS provides a calm, accepting, chill, safe environment for them to heal. This healing space has a huge impact on an individual, and in turn, on the community. As a result of their healing, youth leave that space as a better version of themselves, which makes them a better asset to the community.


Positivity and Love of Service: a look through Kara’s lens

Kara is a firm believer in the power of service for transforming organizations and the communities they help. Not only are service positions full-time roles with great networks for support, but they’re also acts of patriotism and love for the communities around us.

With her own experience, Kara also noted that there is a very patriotic part of her that is a little bit louder than it was before. She sees national service very much like the Peace Corps or the military. AmeriCorps members give up a whole year – and sometimes more – for national service! This is a powerful choice and a statement about how important our home communities are to us.

Kara chooses to be idealistic – and she thinks that it has to be a choice. It can be easy to become cynical, but part of service is enacting the belief that serious systemic issues can be overcome, but we need to be loud about these issues and take the necessary little action steps to overcome them. That’s a choice Kara makes all the time, and she’ll continue to make. There may be many people suffering, but that doesn’t mean we should discount impact of the many one-on-one interactions and relationships we have as service members. Kara offers this moving conclusion:“Positivity does spread and positivity is part of the solution to our problems – so I choose to be part of the solution.”

VISTA 50th Celebrations

Throughout 2015, CNCS is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the AmeriCorps VISTA program. VISTA was first imagined by John F. Kennedy and was founded in 1965 as Volunteers in Service to America. To learn more about VISTA’s 50th anniversary, visit this web page.  

That’s all, folks!

See you at AmeriCorps Week events!


Click here for a list that includes Communications Committee members, authors of Public Spirit.