Uniting to Serve: A Tale of Two Nonprofits

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EducationWorks, which serves children and youth in urban neighborhoods, including Trenton in NJ, wanted to participate in a service event to recognize the new National Day of Service and Remembrance on 9/11/2009. But the organization’s programs hadn’t started yet.

The Kenyon Hodges Computer Learning Center, a neighborhood network center at Kingsbury Corporation’s Twin Towers, also wanted to participate in the United We Service Initiative. But the Trenton-area nonprofit had never done a service project before.

Fortunately, Cheryl Curry, Volunteer Coordinator VISTA at EducationWorks, and Shari Sabath, Director at Kingsbury Corporation, connected when Shari responded to Cheryl’s search for a program to collaborate with for this new National Day of Service and Remembrance.

“I was keeping up with the United We Serve initiative all summer, but EducationWorks had not been able to dive in and get involved yet,” explained Cheryl. “When Shari told me that Kingsbury had the space, programs, and people, I got excited. Then we got to work.”

With just two weeks to organize, Shari and Cheryl planned a simple recognition and service event for the Kingsbury tenants, and EducationWorks staff and AmeriCorps members. On 9/11/2009, EducationWorks staff and members gathered with Trenton students and adults who lived at Kingsbury. “It was a small group,” admits Cheryl, “but the room was rich with energy and passion.”

The students, all of whom had been born after 9/11, learned a little about the tragedy in school, and were full of questions about what had happened, and why the day had been designated the “National Day of Service and Remembrance.” To encourage the discussion, each student received a copy of “8 Lessons from 9-11,” a resource created by Youth Serve America, to explain how 9/11 renewed America’s commitment to democracy and community service.

In addition, EducationWorks brought in art created by NJ students who were in 7th grade at the time of the attacks. The artwork demonstrated the students’ shock, as well as their hope for the future. The students from Kingsbury read these poems written aloud, trying to understand how the students had felt at the time.

After the discussion, everyone came together in service. Participants could draw a picture for Color a Smile (a program that collects drawings for distribution to nursing homes and Meals on Wheels). Or they could create a colorful card for another Kingsbury tenant, to brighten their day.

EducationWorks and Kingsbury staff were both grateful that they had been able to work together to serve their community and recognize this special day.

Now that Kingsbury tenants have had a taste of service with EducationWorks, both organizations, and those they serve, can benefit from this partnership. As Shari Sabath maintains, “This community is ripe for service-learning.”

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