It’s AmeriCorps week

Posted by on May 16, 2011 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

It’s AmeriCorps week

The South Whidbey Commons Coffeehouse Bookstore would grind to a halt without the help of our two full-time AmeriCorps members Darcie Noonan (right) and Tracie Fowler (left). They provide leadership, train volunteers and keep the coffeehouse running smoothly. Here are some reflections on the time they’ve spent at the South Whidbey Commons:

Darcy’s reflections

I get asked often, “Why do you serve in the AmeriCorps?” as if being a member was a conscious choice and to some extent it is: I applied to the program and meet all the required terms of service. Personally, however, it just seems as if it was something that fit, something that met what I was looking for in life both personally and professionally. Working with The Commons is a vastly different AmeriCorps experience from what others tell me. I am certain I’ve washed more dishes than typical volunteers, yet it is a place I feel not only meets the AmeriCorps vision, but benefits from partnering with the service corps. The things that excite me about being a volunteer here are the connections with students and the community at large that I have been able to form, the collaboration and creation that comes from being involved here, and a sense of ownership and pride volunteers take in their work at the coffeehouse. Most of the time, my role is to provide the manpower needed to further goals that are bigger than my tenure.

The AmeriCorps was almost lost as a service program in the nation. I know how vital the role we, as members, play in the community. While our site might only have two AmeriCorps members, our positions here facilitate more than 60 volunteers, encouraging them to learn, build connections, and serve their own community. For me, those elements of the program are ambitions I hold for my future and the AmeriCorps is a way for me to gain experience and serve at the same time. I believe being here provides only a greater launch pad for future endeavors.

Tracie’s reflections

Serving as an AmeriCorps member with the South Whidbey Commons has certainly been a unique experience. While many of my newly found AmeriCorps friends spend their days fundraising, schmoozing, doing administrative tasks and planning large events to raise awareness of their respective organizations, I generally spend my day shooting the breeze with customers, directing our middle school apprentices and high school interns, cleaning up messes from training attempts gone wrong, and answering questions like, “Are we out of vanilla? Can I drink this cup full of chocolate? Why do I have to do dishes again? Are real jobs really like this?”

Okay, I’ll admit it: on rare occasion, my job feels like babysitting. There are times that I want self-sufficiency for the students I work with, mostly so that I don’t have to hear my name called every 4 minutes. Such times, however, are few and far between and can generally be attributed to external variables like dreary weather, lack of sleep, slow business, or basic ignorance. When feelings of frustration or annoyance arise, it’s unquestionably due to my disregard for intentionality and my ignorance of the fact that every situation with these kids is an opportunity to model positive behavior, healthy conversation, patience, and guidance. I’ve begun to realize over the course of my months at The Commons just how influential taking an interest in somebody can be. Conversations with students about further education have led to them applying to college and vocational schools. Interactions with customers have resulted in securing consistent monetary donations and community support for Commons programs. Taking time to cater to students with increased need has resulted in increased self-sufficiency and confidence for them. It has been amazing to see the growth of the community web since starting here in September 2010.

At The Commons, personal reward comes in many forms: measurable improvements in a student’s skill; a positive, thought-provoking conversation with a customer or volunteer; a well-earned compliment on a coffee or food product; a new volunteer showing up for drop-in community service; each day, I find encouragement at The Commons. As is its mission, it has become my third place. I’m blessed to have spent my first year with AmeriCorps here at the South Whidbey Commons.

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