Kim Clutter, AmeriCorps VISTA
Office of Service Leadership
Experiential Learning Trips Coordinator
During the fall of 2011, Concordia University launched a new “mini” alternative break trip. The trip took place over fall break and was designed to encourage students to A) get involved with alternative breaks and B) get more involved in service with their community. This year, the Office of Service Leadership coordinated this trip for students and partnered with an organization that works with the homeless community, and that Concordia currently supports through a regular, weekly service opportunity.
As the Oregon Campus Compact AmeriCorps Experiential Learning Coordinator, Kim Clutter organized a Fall Urban Experience trip for students who were interested in getting more involved in serving their local community. The Fall Urban Experience was also a pre-trip opportunity for students traveling to San Francisco with the Spring Alternative Break trip, which will focus on serving urban homeless communities.
On a Friday evening in October, 15 students, Kim, and one Concordia faculty member met to begin the 22 hours of service with BridgeTown Inc. serving people experiencing homelessness in downtown Portland and low-income families in North Portland. On Friday evening, the group made sandwiches and coffee and split into three groups to canvas nearly 20 blocks, distributing food and offering healthy conversation. That night, Concordia students served over 50 members of the homeless community. On Saturday, the group divided into two groups to help BridgeTown Inc. build the capacity of their programs serving children. One half of the group inventoried and prepared items for summer programming, while the other half prepared gifts and holiday items for families with children living in low-income North Portland apartment communities.
After participating in the Fall Urban Experience, 15 students are empowered to become part of the weekly service partnership Concordia has with BridgeTown Inc. “Through a post-trip survey, many of the participants expressed a strong interest in becoming more involved with this organization and seeing how Concordia can deepen its partnership. Many of the students also reported being more comfortable serving and conversing with the homeless community upon completing this experience, as well as having a deeper understanding of the holistic issues affecting individuals struggling to find housing.”
Kim is working to develop a partnership with BridgeTown Inc. for students to be involved in holiday events that serve children’s programs through gift-wrapping and family visitations. The Office of Service Leadership is also working to create more awareness about the needs of the homeless community in downtown Portland and how important involvement with BridgeTown Inc. can be each week.
Sophia Mantheakis, AmeriCorps VISTA
Southern Oregon University
Civic Engagement, Student Life Development
Hunger and Homelessness Alleviation Coordinator
Now in her second year as an AmeriCorps VISTA Member with the Civic Engagement Program at Southern Oregon University (SOU), Sophia Mantheakis is focused on addressing hunger and homelessness in the Ashland community. The issue of hunger is not new to Oregon or college campuses, as Oregon has one of the highest rates of food insecurity in the country. A handful of food pantries have popped up on campuses statewide due to the growing difficulty of affording tuition, loans, and basic necessities. After researching food pantry programs and surveying students about their experiences, the Civic Engagement Program was approved by SOU to open a food pantry in September.
The SOU Student Food Pantry began serving students 10 nonperishable and fresh produce items of their choosing per week at the beginning of October. By collecting donations on campus, purchasing food with a monetary donation from the SOU Commuter Resource Center, and harvesting produce from two garden plots in a campus garden, the Pantry has been able to offer a selection of various items.
In October, 17 students used the pantry. Of those, six used the pantry on multiple occasions. Likewise, the food pantry received or, through monetary donations, purchased 307 pounds of nonperishable food and distributed 232 pounds of food and 10 pounds of fresh produce. Students reported unemployment or loss of job, having a fixed income or low income, waiting for financial aid, not qualifying for SNAP benefits, being a single-parent, and being in debt as contributing factors for their use of the food pantry.
New faces come into the pantry every time it’s open, and food pantry leaders anticipate more students accessing this resource with advertising on campus, class announcements, and partnerships with different events—especially after being featured on the front page of the local newspaper, the Ashland Daily Tidings
. Throughout the year, Sophia hopes to grow the program and deepen her relationship with the campus community to support students in their successes and accomplishments at SOU.
Monique Ellefson, AmeriCorps VISTA
Community Engagement and Service
Student Engagement Coordinator
Gandhi encourages us to “be the change we wish to see in the world.” This message resonates with Linfield College’s Student Engagement Coordinator, Monique Ellefson, in her mission as an Oregon Campus Compact AmeriCorps VISTA and in her efforts to support the Change Corps student leaders. This year, a group of six young women are members of Change Corps, a group of student leaders who work to provide service-learning opportunities that connect Linfield College students to their community. “Be the change” perfectly captures the drive and ambition of these passionate individuals and in turn inspires Monique to maintain her commitment to “be the change” during her AmeriCorps term of service.
The passion the Change Corps members feel for their program and for service inspires Monique as she is continually surrounded by this concept of “change.” She contemplates, “How can I be the change? How can we inspire others to ‘be the change’?” The answer may seem elusive at first, but after some thought it becomes blatantly obvious: AmeriCorps Members are creating change through the programs they host. Every day of service, every event, every Alternative Spring Break trip that AmeriCorps Members plan, helps to raise awareness of and address community issues.
For example, the Office of Community Engagement and Service hosted National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. The events, including a food drive, a hunger banquet, a homelessness panel discussion, and a tie-blanket service project for the homeless shelter, raised awareness of the issue of homelessness in the local community. Monique shares that, “Even if people do not participate in all the events, we are fostering change by speaking out and spreading the word about the purpose of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.”
Monique and her fellow AmeriCorps Members are the forefront of the “Be the Change” movement that Gandhi once spoke about. They are the ones that support Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream of seeing a united nation that has a dream. “Be the change” not only encourages members to take action and make a difference, but to work towards something, to recognize something within themselves, within the community, and within the world and to take that initiative and become the change they wish to see. Monique says, “Embrace your power and BE THE CHANGE!”
Emily Mrusko, AmeriCorps VISTA
Oregon State University
Center for Civic Engagement
Hunger & Poverty Service Coordinator
As the Oregon Campus Compact AmeriCorps VISTA Hunger & Poverty Service Coordinator at Oregon State University (OSU), Emily Mrusko’s position can mean many things. Some days, it means meeting with soup kitchens, food shares, and shelters to find current volunteer needs. Other days, it means planning service-learning events like Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week and Alternative Spring Break trips. Although Emily sometimes feels like her head is several places, everyday she leaves knowing that lives are impacted by her work.
Most recently, Emily concluded Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week. By planning multiple projects and events, she mobilized the campus to serve the community and raised awareness about hunger and homelessness. She:
- Coordinated a food drive throughout campus by setting up 10 donation boxes and collecting non-perishable food donations for local youth and community shelters.
- Recruited 12 students to volunteer with the Linn Benton Food Share to organize food donations from the food bank’s annual Holiday Food Drive.
- Screened a TEDTalk on global hunger by Josette Sheeran, which was followed by a facilitated discussion by a sociology professor at OSU.
- Hosted a panel on the Faces of Homelessness. OSU welcomed six speakers to share their personal experiences with homelessness and to offer powerful insight on how the campus can make a difference.
Emily’s hope is that every student, staff, faculty member, and community participant felt inspired to take important steps to make change on this endemic issue in our society.
Her personal goal is that students begin to feel empowered to approach this issue head-on: to not be afraid to smile at the person sitting on the sidewalk, to standup to their friends when derogatory words like “bum” are used, and to consider a person’s story before making harsh judgments.
Emily hopes that the Center for Civic Engagement staff can connect with more students and help them understand that community service can be fun, enlightening, and as educational as the lectures they attend.
Erika Schnatz, AmeriCorps Retention Project
Portland State University
Retention Project Program Assistant
Erika Schnatz, AmeriCorps Retention Project Program Assistant at Portland State University (PSU) shares, “Many of us are fortunate enough to go about our day-to-day lives without fear of food insecurity. As someone who can count herself among the fortunate, I was astonished to learn that one quarter of freshman and sophomores surveyed at PSU are not fully confident they can afford food.” Her work with the Peer Mentor program in University Studies centers on student retention. To support hungry students, she hosted a food drive in November for the PSU food pantry. “After all, how can you expect students to be successful if they’re worried about where to get food?” said Erika.
The Student Food Pantry at PSU is a resource for students in need, but it is understaffed and food is under-stocked. Likewise, students who could benefit from the resource are not aware of it. Erika’s goal for the food drive was to mobilize volunteers from the Peer Mentor Program to collect donations, recruit volunteers, and raise awareness for the Student Food Pantry. Since Peer Mentors interact with the majority of freshman and sophomore students on campus, she knew they could be a powerful voice to spread awareness.
Initiating the event put Erika in contact with several departments and groups on campus who have also recognized that some of PSU’s students are going hungry. The Associate Dean in the School of Social Work encouraged faculty and staff to bring in non-perishable foods to combat food insecurity of students in their department. The Food Action Collective, a student group on campus, is investigating ways to work with food services on campus in order to acquire more donations for the Student Food Pantry. Erika concludes that, “This donation drive will not solve all food insecurity problems on campus, but the conversations and connections it has sparked will allow the Student Food Pantry to better serve the campus community in the future.”
Doug Vitro, AmeriCorps VISTA
Chemeketa Community College
Student Retention and College Life
Service Learning and Food Relief Coordinator
Doug Vitro, Oregon Campus Compact AmeriCorps Service Learning and Food Relief Coordinator at Chemeketa Community College, believes that “good nutrition is a key factor in good performance in school”. He observes, “Many of us have experienced what it’s like to be hungry in class. It’s hard to focus or retain any of the information read, heard, or written.” There are students at Chemeketa that experience hunger on a day-to-day basis; they often don’t know where their next meal is going to come from. For the past year, Chemeketa’s Food Pantry has been dedicated to helping these students in need, enabling them to more effectively focus on their studies.
Since its inception in 2011, the Chemeketa Food Pantry has served nearly 1,000 emergency food bags. The pantry has become a widely recognized resource on campus, utilized by staff, faculty, and students alike. The food in the pantry is provided by donations from local churches, farmers, grocers, campus clubs, the Chemeketa bookstore, and individuals, including the President of the college. Hundreds of pounds of food have been donated over the past year. In conjunction with the pantry, the Office of Student Retention and College Life, who piloted the program, has developed a community garden to provide fresh produce for the pantry. The garden grows vegetables like jalapeños, squash, corn, beans, kale, and cucumbers. The goal of the garden is to make the pantry food nutritious and fresh.
The success of the pantry has shown two things: there is a huge need in the community and that there are many people willing to serve those in need. The pantry on campus is a remarkable resource, but it’s only a small avenue for those in need. It’s helping many people get through their tougher weeks; taking pressure off of parents, and enabling some students to focus on their studies. There is still much more to do. The remarkable part is that the Chemeketa community is noticing the growing need. More and more students, faculty, and staff are developing unique ways to help the pantry or are starting new projects of their own. Their generosity is making a huge impact in the community. Doug hopes that this spirit of giving sticks with the students who serve and are served by the pantry, and that their generosity will grow into a culture of giving that reaches far beyond Chemeketa, into Salem and beyond.
The impact of natural disasters can destroy communities. To repair damages, response efforts must know how to efficiently lend support, resources, time, and energy. Take a look at these resources and learn how to mobilize your campus and community to make responsible contributions to relief efforts.
Resist the urge to make quick decisions before truly understanding how to be helpful. As community needs are assessed, volunteer opportunities and partnering organizations will be identified to lead the recovery. Be patient as these assessments are made. Do not self-deploy, this may complicate first responders' efforts and create unnecessary dangers. Register Your Interest to Volunteer
When volunteer needs are identified, organizations will mobilize volunteers in their database. Make sure you’re connected with these organizations to learn more about deployment opportunities.Disaster Recovery Course Models Rebuilding Vermont; Community Engagement in Disaster Preparedness and Relief
University of Vermont
Learn how the University of Vermont created a service-learning class (in less than a week) to support recovery from Hurricane Irene in 2011.
Pennsylvania Campus Compact
Prepare your campus to respond to disasters by utilizing this resource. The manual covers topics such as emergency management, community partnerships, and service-learning. Donate In-kind Donations and Materials National Donations Management Network
is a virtual portal that allows companies and individuals to offer support during disasters. Access the portal to contribute financially, send in-kind donations, and to give skills and time to organizations active in the disaster response. Resources National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster
is a forum where organizations share knowledge and resources throughout the disaster cycle to help disaster survivors and their communities.