2008 Service Impact Award Recipients
The Corporation for National and Community Service is committed to recognizing and celebrating outstanding service by their volunteers, members, and alumni. The Spirit of Service Awards pay tribute to the most outstanding participants in each of the Corporation’s programs - including Senior Corps, AmeriCorps and Learn and Serve America - as well as corporate or foundation partners that are role models for private sector support of national and community service. The following individuals, groups, and organizations were honored with 2008 Spirit of Service Awards.
Thelma King, Foster Grandparents
Thelma King—or “Granny King,” as the children call her—is a retired registered nurse who supports inner-city youth at Jean Ribault High School’s Exceptional Students Education Program in Jacksonville, FL, which serves emotionally and academically challenged students. Granny King uses auditory, cognitive, and kinesthetic skill-building activities that help students with no linguistic ability learn to use their bodies to communicate. When asked how she communicates with these children, she says, “All kids understand the language of love.” Granny King’s success with these children has not only helped to raise their self-esteem but also has raised their graduation rates by 82 percent.
Joel Becker, RSVP
Joel Becker, a retired engineer, is an Adopt-A-Family volunteer in Hauppauge, NY, focusing on assisting families in need. During his service, he noticed that the families had one thing in common: None had computers in the home, so the kids were missing a valuable tool that could help them with their academic skills. He approached the RSVP of Suffolk County with a proposal to refurbish donated used computers and then install them in the homes of low-income families. That idea became the Community Computer Connections Program, sponsored by RSVP and managed by Becker. He works with the county’s health and welfare council to ensure that the computers are received by families and individuals with the greatest need, and has recruited more than 30 other senior volunteers to help with the program.
Patricia Gratton, Senior Companions
As a Senior Companion in Grand Junction, CO, Patricia Gratton has come to understand well the importance of being independent. A stroke left her with permanent physical disabilities, but her determination remained as powerful as before. She re-learned many basic tasks, including how to drive her specially equipped car. She is now back on duty as a Senior Companion, serving many of her clients four to seven days a week and offering them her undivided attention as she provides companionship and assists with such tasks as grocery shopping and medical appointments. She also serves on the Senior Companion Advisory Council and sees herself as a community ambassador, exerting good will and persuading others to support the program. As a Volunteer Team Leader, she provides guidance to other volunteers, helping the Senior Companion project achieve an 85 percent volunteer retention rate.
Pinkerton Foundation, Corporate Partner
The mission of the Pinkerton Foundation, an independent grant-making organization, is to strengthen and expand community-based programs for children, youth, and families in economically disadvantaged communities in New York City. Recognizing the promising literacy model of the Experience Corps of the Community Service Society of New York, the Foundation has provided more than $1.5 million since 1997 to support the recruitment and training of volunteers to serve in some of New York’s poorest neighborhoods. This financial support affirms the Foundation’s belief that all children deserve a chance to succeed.
Antonio Almeida, AmeriCorps State/National
AmeriCorps member Antonio Almeida serves with YouthBuild in Fall River, Mass., where he contributes to his community by building or rehabilitating low-income housing while working toward a GED. His great personal accomplishments in the program, his involvement in promoting the program to other young people, and his focus on addressing mental health issues in his community, make him a role model for his peers. He has gone from homelessness and receiving mental health services to becoming an active citizen who addresses issues within his community.
David Karst, AmeriCorps Alum
AmeriCorps alum David Karst served as an AmeriCorps VISTA in 1997 with the AIDS Service Association of Pinellas County in Florida. Toward the end of his service, he began exploring how he could get HIV-testing into the community. He sought funding for his dream of having a community health center and found private foundations willing to support his concept. The Suncoast Resort Project opened in May 2002. Knowing this was a unique concept in the prevention field, Karst decided to apply for funding to expand the program. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is funding the project for five years.
American Red Cross, Bay Area Chapter, VISTA
The eight-member team of AmeriCorps VISTAs serving with the American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter is helping the region’s most vulnerable residents prepare for natural disasters and other emergencies, meeting the great demands of serving a population of 4 million people. Lindsay Dumas, Emerson Chen, Nikki Nichols, Jeff Schurke, Alicia Esterripa, Juan Carlos Pinzon, Francine Williams, and Chester Ng are targeting the needs of specific populations as they design and offer disaster training programs and conduct outreach activities.
Ashley Sloan / Greg Loushine / Jackie Smith, NCCC
Former AmeriCorps NCCC members Ashley Sloan, Greg Loushine, and Jackie Smith served at the former NCCC campus in Charleston, SC, during the 2006-07 program year. While serving on a project in St. Bernard Parish near New Orleans, they recognized that Gulf Coast recovery efforts were being hampered by the need for more volunteer housing. Their response was to create Live St. Bernard, an organization that renovated an 1,800-square-foot home where up to 16 volunteers can be housed while participating in rebuilding projects. The fundraisers they organized garnered $15,000 in donations. They then led 50 volunteers to clean mold, install insulation, and paint the Live St. Bernard home. Their efforts were chronicled by CNN and USA Today.
Team Blue Four, NCCC
Blue Four, a team based at the AmeriCorps NCCC Western Region campus near Sacramento, traveled to New Orleans for its first project with the Recovery School District immediately after completing training in Denver. Team members focused on their assignment, the physical rehabilitation of schools, while undertaking a variety of additional projects to leave a lasting mark on the school district and the community. Members brainstormed creative ways to increase interaction with students, teachers, and the community. They helped create a more pleasing environment at modular schools by painting signs and murals, using discarded tires and other materials to landscape gardens, planting flower beds, installing benches, and spray painting mascots on school grounds. They also organized two field days, seeking various donations such as play equipment to entertain 925 students. The team members, led by Tiffany Zapico, include Jennifer Armstrong, Kelly Comley, Kathleen Delahunty, Ashley Duquette, Raven Hughes, Jonathan Lee, Emily Lewis, Brian Tirey, Danielle Trezek, and Miranda Williams.
Ben & Jerry’s, Corporate Partner
Ben & Jerry’s provides a range of support to The DREAM program, a Vermont AmeriCorps State Program. The DREAM program is a youth mentoring organization that builds communities of families and college students to empower children from affordable housing neighborhoods to recognize their options, make informed decisions, and achieve their dreams. When DREAM became an AmeriCorps program in 2007, thereby doubling its staff, the organization faced a lack of sufficient office space. Ben & Jerry’s provided the needed space. The entire company welcomed the staff to the building, offered organizational advice, and donated printing to DREAM’s annual appeal. The Ben & Jerry’s Foundation provided a $5,000 grant last year and included DREAM in the annual alternative holiday gift fair.
Pearson, Corporate Partner
As an education leader, Pearson has helped the AmeriCorps program Jumpstart grow by nearly 20 percent annually. Pearson, an international company with its U.S. headquarters in New York, and the Pearson Foundation promote Jumpstart, provide leaders for Jumpstart’s national and regional boards, and donate 100,000 books to underserved families each year. They have been the lead sponsor of Jumpstart’s “Read for the Record” campaign from the beginning—a national awareness event and the largest shared-reading experience on record—helping Jumpstart raise money for young children and rallying together hundreds of thousands of individuals across the country to volunteer for literacy. The two organizations have worked together to set a new standard for how corporate-nonprofit partnerships can impact the achievement gap in America. Pearson helps Jumpstart and communities grow and learn.
Nick Metrakos, Student
Nick Metrakos, a senior at Blythewood High School in Columbia, S.C., serves as co-chair of the Richland School District Two Youth Action Council, a student-run council that promotes youth-directed civic engagement through a service-learning framework. Under his guidance, the council is assisting seven impoverished rural South Carolina school districts in the development of service-learning projects as a means of keeping students engaged in school while strengthening their own communities. He also works with students in other schools to help the students develop service-learning councils and to recruit student leaders for the district-wide council. Metrakos got his first taste of service-learning in a social studies class during his freshman year. The class researched the local impact of federal judicial and legislative decisions around desegregation of public schools in America. Students examined local history through archived documents, school board policy, news articles, and interviews with long-time residents of the community. They summarized their work in a paper, “In the Balance,” that was presented at a public forum that included the participation of numerous elected officials and dignitaries.
Wendy Doromal, Educator
Wendy Doromal, in addition to her duties at Timber Creek High School (TCHS) in Orlando, Fla., Doromal is the service-learning coordinator for the Orange County School District, the nation’s seventh largest. Doromal created the TCHS service-learning academy as well as both of the coordinator positions. Her responsibilities include conducting and organizing trainings and conferences for teachers and students, overseeing a district-wide student service-learning mini-grant program, conducting site visits of service-learning programs throughout the county, and writing grants for service-learning, which have been awarded $325,000 so far. As a direct result of her efforts, the number of service-learning projects in Orange County has increased from seven to nearly 150 a year. Almost all of the 150 schools in the district have a service-learning contact trained by Doromal, and tens of thousands of Orange County students participate in service-learning. Examples of student service-learning projects in 2006-07 include Spanish-language poison prevention books, videos on preventing bullying, recycling books, creating community gardens, and public service announcements on topics ranging from homelessness to drug awareness. More than 125,000 people were served by student service-learning projects in 2006-07, and 210,000 are projected to be served in 2007-08.
Monforton School Seventh Grade, LSA Program
Beginning in 2006, the seventh-graders at the K-8 Monforton School in rural in rural Bozeman, Mont., took the lead in developing the playground by bringing the situation to the attention of the principal, the Monforton School Board, other students, and the larger community. They surveyed students and community members to evaluate needs, then investigated the type of equipment that would be suitable, safe, and engaging to encourage fitness for multiple ages. They also designed the space to include learning stations on Native American culture. Once the school board gave the go-ahead for the project, the students began to seek funds to continue. When they learned that purchasing a climbing structure would cost a minimum of $40,000, they enlisted the aid of a community member to design a suitable structure. With help from local individuals and businesses, they created a climbing structure for less than $3,000. The students have committed themselves to what they now call Operation Save the Playground for their three years of middle school. They also want to assist other rural schools and communities in demonstrating the ways that service-learning can help schools and students reach their academic and civic engagement goals. This integration of service-learning with the social studies curriculum has resulted in very high scores on state standardized tests.