Archive for August, 2012

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Stuff the Truck

August 30, 2012

Give your time. Give supplies. Give a child the tools to succeed! Through the collaborative efforts of UNLV’s Rebel Service Council, Adopt-A-School Program, CSUN Student Government, United Way of Southern Nevada, Findlay Toyota and others comes Stuff the Truck. Join us as we stuff FIVE Findlay Toyota trucks with donated school supplies. All supplies will go to the following sponsored schools: Cynthia Cunningham Elementary School, Dean Petersen Professional Development School, Oran K. Gragson Elementary School, Paradise Professional Development School, and Ruth Fyfe Empowerment Elementary School. Help a child succeed and excel in school by giving him/her the necessary school items!

School supplies include (but are not limited to):
– backpacks
– notebooks
– pencils/pens
– erasers
– markers
– crayons
– toiletries
– binders
– folders
– paper
– clothes (new to gently-used)
– undergarments (new and packaged)
– shoes
– Box Tops for Education
For questions, or to get involved as a volunteer for this event, please contact Rebel Service Council Youth Coordinator Alexis Villanueva at (702) 895-5609, or at unlv.youth@gmail.com.For more information about the UNLV School Supplies Drive, please visit: http://bit.ly/OCpmzC.
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Honor First Responders!

August 30, 2012
September 11 is right around the corner, giving us all an opportunity to reflect and remember.  This year, the Volunteer Center is coordinating an opportunity for individuals, groups, families, and classrooms to thank a first responder.

Our project is simple.  We are asking participants to write a simple thank you.  We have sample messages (below) for those of you who might need a little nudge to get started, and we have information on where to find your local fire or police station.

Sample messages include:

  • Thank you for making our community a safer place to live.
  • Thanks for protecting our community.
  • Thank you for caring for our community.
  • Thank you for your discipline, honor and bravery every day.
  • Thank you for making our community a better place to live.

Ideas for work places/groups:

  • Create thank you cards or bake cookies for your local first responders.
  • Find your nearest fire station/police station and deliver lunch.
  • Volunteer to make dinner for your local fire/police station.
  • Spend your lunch hour writing thank you notes
  • Post a thank you message and picture on your company website

To find your nearest police station or firehouse:

North Las Vegas PD: http://bit.ly/OrPgnK

Las Vegas Metro PD: http://bit.ly/JxOZyk

Henderson PD: http://bit.ly/O3L9xo

Clark County FD: http://bit.ly/RsTGxo

Las Vegas FD: http://bit.ly/SSgDeU

North Las Vegas FD: http://bit.ly/OrRR0M

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In Recognition of AmeriCorps Volunteers

August 24, 2012
It’s fair to assume that we are all like-minded. Everyone either works or volunteers for a cause or an organization making a difference. Our communities’ AmeriCorps members and alums have played integral roles in all of our work. You can say that the AmeriCorps members in the Las Vegas Valley are the work horses or the backbone of our sector. I like to think of them as the trailblazers that bring our organization fresh, temporary hands or ideas.

My VISTA position description was vague, like most. On the campus of UNLV for one year, I was tasked with creating partnerships and streamlining communication. I blazed the trail of community meetings, making presentations wherever I was invited, and forged ahead in creating networking groups where ones did not exist. I felt like my VISTA position was for me to craft, for me to meet problems head on and create solutions no one had thought of.

Ultimately, I may have taken the term trailblazer too literally after my own assignment as an AmeriCorps VISTA. I actually lead walks on trails often. Shortly after my assignment ended, I was hired to lead a volunteer program with the Outside Las Vegas Foundation (OLVF), a local group that connects southern Nevada residents to our beautiful outdoor resources.

The network the AmeriCorps program creates in a community is probably more important than the work done by members individually. I don’t mean network here as the dirty word that everyone uses as a verb to hand out their business card. I mean network in the capacity of connecting ourselves to each other through various affinities and interests.

For example, I was hired by the OLVF because of my experience with the VISTA program and, upon attending the first board meeting, I ran into a member, another VISTA alum, and was greeted with open arms. That’s the network I’m talking about.

During my first month of my postion following my VISTA term, I contacted Robin and Jacob [at United Way of Southern Nevada’s Volunteer Center] about when, not if, when, I could host a VISTA. Knowing that the possibility of working with someone who had the same affinity for this community and that trailblazing attitude to think outside the box was exactly the type of person that my organization needed.

That’s exactly what we got in our first VISTA member: someone willing to ask the tough questions about why we do what we do, if we’ve been using our resources best, or if there was an alternative way to do things. Let’s face it, most of us are stuck inside the box. These are tough questions that staff won’t ask themselves. It’s that new fresh look that we need in our organizations and our communities. Because of this, the OLVF is now blazing trails, figuratively too, into new focus areas and creating new connections that will align ourselves more with the VISTA program and other community initiatives.

Knowing that this volunteer would be around to ask these questions and want to leave a mark are a few reasons why being a VISTA supervisor may be more fun than being a VISTA. Having been through the experience, I was ready to handle the questions and the creative ideas that come along with members that start in the position after the enthusiastic pre-service orientation.

The flexibility and optimism that the AmeriCorps program brings to our organizations are simply invaluable. We all apply to be a host site and quickly realize that as much as we train a new person in nonprofit skills or capacity building, that same person is teaching us about the way that we do our work and the ever-changing community around us. We are all a part of this network. Our strength lies in numbers, shared experience, and  passion.

With that, to alum: I want you to remember the pride that you feel as someone who is part of something greater than them. I want you to take that feeling and continue as you step into your next stage of career. Whether you work for a nonprofit, start your own philanthropic or charitable effort, or work for any one of the businesses in this town, the connections that you’ve made to Las Vegas and to others are ones that you should keep. Know that this network can help you. We need more active citizens like you to create a better community as we grow, as we recover, as we continue the work that you’ve done. To supervisors: let’s help them pave the way, give them skills to lead, and allow them room to take over when it’s their time.

(written by Rae Lathrop, the Outside Las Vegas Foundation)

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The Highest Reward

August 24, 2012
ImageMy experience this past year was unforgettable. I learned so much in this one year than I could have ever thought possible. I had the privilege of working alongside some exceptional people who introduced me to so much about the world of nonprofits and the extraordinary programs that strengthen a community.

If you had asked me a year ago what I had hoped to gain from my experience as a VISTA, I would have said an adventure. And I got that and so much more. I say adventure because going into this there was just so much that I didn’t know. I had no idea what to expect. You see, I had never even been to Vegas, I didn’t know a single person here, and everything I thought I knew about this community was completely misguided and untrue.

For instance, I thought that a city laced with flashy casinos and seemingly flowing with wealth couldn’t possible have such a large population of people living in poverty. Man was I wrong!  It wasn’t long before I discovered even in a city that glitters like gold there was a need that was too great to be ignored.

Although I played what at many times seemed like a small role in just one program, I never once felt that what I was doing was insignificant.  And there were many days when I would be given an assignment or a task and I would just think to myself, I have no idea what I’m doing!  But at the same time I was really happy to be doing it. And that was what kept it fun for me. It was a constant learning experience.  I was always having to learn a new skill or improvise one. I really love to challenge myself, and I got the chance to do that every single day.  Who would have known that through this experience I would have met so many inspiring people, made some amazing friends, and discovered the leadership characteristics I had no idea I even possessed.

I strongly agree with writer John Ruskin who said “The highest reward for a person’s work is not what they get for it, but what they become because of it.”

(written by Tanerica Brookins, AmeriCorps VISTA Alumni)

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VISTA Spotlight: Henderson Sensation

August 24, 2012
ImageSam Hafen aspires to visit every continent, but for now he is helping to plan a Rim Trail around the Vegas Valley and create a coordinated bike and pedestrian map across southern Nevada.  Sam recently served as an AmeriCorps VISTA member at the Outside Las Vegas Foundation (OLVF), and the experience provided him with a pivotal stepping stone to help him to obtain his career aspirations.  “At OLVF, I get to draft grant proposals, write program policy, meet really great public servants, and work closely with the smart and fantastic staff,” said Sam.

As a native of Henderson, Sam feels a strong commitment to its development.  “When it comes to finding a position dedicated solely to capacity building in the public sector here in Nevada, United Way, and AmeriCorps VISTA is fantastic,” said Sam.  Through United Way of Southern Nevada’s Volunteer Center, Sam has been able to volunteer at an animal shelter, feed the homeless, clean trails, and chaperone middle schoolers.  “I think the variety of opportunities is a great asset for this community,” Sam began. “The Volunteer Center is precisely the kind of resource individuals need. If you want to help people but simply don’t know what to do or where to go, the Volunteer Center is perfect.”

Most recently, Sam witnessed the power of volunteers when he assembled meals at a United Way partner organization.  “I’m not sure exactly how many meals that I assembled, but it was a strong and real illustration of the power of assembling people and the impact they can accomplish.  Our relatively small efforts helped feed hundreds of children and I can’t help but feel inspired and proud when I think about those couple of hours of volunteering.”

With an English degree from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) and Master’s degree in Public Administration from Brigham Young University, Sam is especially dedicated to one of UWSN’s impact areas: education.  “Education is so important to me and really helped solidify my career aspirations,” Sam said. “I strongly believe that a strong foundation in education is the common denominator in tackling any challenge a community faces.”

Sam believes that it truly takes a village to create positive change. “Living United is a simple and great idea to me.  It means that our community is made of unique individuals with all of our unique problems and challenges. Yet, with our talents and efforts combined we can tackle these challenges and improve our community.”