Serve Wisconsin 
May 2021 Newsletter
MCHS Volunteer Wisconsin AmeriCorps member
Allie Mendez coordinates river cleanup across
southeastern Wisconsin
From April 24th to May 1st, Marshfield Clinic Health System AmeriCorps members serving Milwaukee Riverkeeper joined with 3,000 volunteers across the Milwaukee River Basin to remove more than 110,000 pounds of trash from our rivers and natural spaces at the 26th Annual Milwaukee Riverkeeper Spring Cleanup. Camaraderie and joy were a common theme, as volunteers were excited to be united under safe conditions - masked up, outside, and spread out - and they made a huge difference.

MCHS Volunteer Wisconsin AmeriCorps member Allie Mendez served as the event coordinator for the spring cleanup this year, recruiting and training upwards of 100 lead volunteers to captain at 97 sites across southeast Wisconsin. Additional AmeriCorps members helped distribute supplies, direct volunteers and joined in the cleanup effort at sites all around the basin, making a difference that stretched beyond Milwaukee. The week of cleaning up was a part of a greater effort across the nation, the Great Lakes Cleanup, which aims to keep hundreds of thousands of pounds of trash from entering the Great Lakes and ultimately affecting our drinking water.

Many volunteers expressed their frustration at the mere amount of trash that ends up in natural spaces, but all were grateful for the chance to use their time and energy to make a difference for our waters. “This is more than just a cleanup,” stated Allie Mendez. “It’s a chance for the community members to join together - something that has not been done in over a year at our organization. It’s a chance to embody the meaning of the AmeriCorps motto and ‘Get Things Done’ for our waters.”
Easterseals Wisconsin AmeriCorps members host spring
Veterans Family Camp at Camp Wawbeek
Easterseals Wisconsin was thrilled to host their spring Veterans Family Camp again this year on April 30-May 2. Easterseals Wisconsin typically hosts Veteran Family Camps twice a year to help military veterans and their families reconnect with each other and network with other veterans. Last year they could not hold their spring camp due to COVID-19 and only a limited number of families were able to attend their fall camp.

During the weekend, seven Easterseals AmeriCorps members helped provide recreational opportunities for veterans and their families to enjoy the outdoors and get away from the outside world. Activities included yard games, nature walks, fishing, arts and crafts, and other activities to spend time with each other. As part of the camp, the participants completed a joint service project, painting pots and planting flowers that they delivered to a local assisted living facility for their residents to enjoy. In addition to the programming by AmeriCorps members and program staff, community volunteers helped run the kitchen and Legion Auxiliary Post 229 provided treats for the campers to enjoy.

One of the participants this spring remarked “Everyone is so kind and thoughtful. I feel pampered, which doesn't happen any other time in my life. I love being outdoors…It's so soothing. Thank you everyone.”

“We hope the weekend was a great way for families to reconnect, enjoy the outdoors and get away from the outside world,” said Alex Peters, Camp Wawbeek Director. “We love holding this program and look forward to more great weekends in the future!”
Racine Zoo AmeriCorps Program educating students and the public through multiple virtual approaches
Much like all other aspects of life over the last year, the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changed how the Racine Zoo AmeriCorps Program (RZAP) could provide environmental education to Racine Unified School District students and the general public. Prior to the pandemic, RZAP AmeriCorps members led grade-specific programming over multiple classes in Racine classrooms to students in kindergarten, 3rd, 4th, 7th, and 9th grades. After discussions with the school district, they created plans to provide virtual programming this year through both synchronous and asynchronous lessons.

In addition to making modifications to conducting their lessons with Racine area students, the RZAP AmeriCorps members have developed multiple strategies to reach students and the community at large. One of these strategies was creating a series of videos to introduce their animal ambassadors and other animals on exhibit at the zoo. By creating these videos and sharing them through Racine Zoo's social media accounts, they are hoping to provide educational opportunities to people at home when many are unable to physically come into the zoo. Even if they could not be face-to-face with students and other zoo guests, they still want to inspire conservation action through their videos about different zoo animals, nature challenges, and nature crafts. Having a particular interest in public relations and social media, AmeriCorps member Kristen Rozalewicz was chosen as the point person for the project. She said, " Filming these videos has been a great experience for expanding our virtual education skills. It has been a wonderful opportunity for us to learn how to film and edit videos as well as teach a wide variety of topics!"

The RZAP AmeriCorps members also created a blog series to provide information on multiple topics, including extensive descriptions of the care and training of the animals. While their primary focus during their service is providing conservation education to students and the general public, they also serve at the Racine Zoo in animal care and animal training roles. Once a week, they spend the day with the AmeriCorps Ambassador Animal Coordinator, assisting with training and creating animal enrichment for the education animals. Within the blog they describe that “our animal training days are always a fun and educational way for us to interact with the ambassador animals and learn about training and maintaining behaviors…. Whether it’s participating in their health care or choosing when they want to do a program, all of the training we do with our animals here at the zoo has one goal: to help us take the best possible care of our animals.”

Virtual resources created by Racine Zoo AmeriCorps Program members
Milwaukee Christian Center YouthBuild AmeriCorps program receives grant from Bader Philanthropies
During its celebration of its 100th anniversary of serving the people of Milwaukee this May, the Milwaukee Christian Center (MCC) announced that they had received a grant from Bader Philanthropies that would support its AmeriCorps YouthBuild program for the next two years.

The Milwaukee Christian Center YouthBuild program strives to support opportunity youth, who are individuals ages 18-25 that are not working and out of school, through educational programming and hands-on construction training. The young adults who serve as AmeriCorps members through MCC YouthBuild make a tangible impact on their community by constructing affordable, energy-efficient housing and accessible home modifications while gaining job and leadership skills and improving their education. Half or more of the program participants receive assistance to complete their high school equivalency degree.

Speaking about the potential impact of the grant from Bader Philanthropies, Karen Higgins, MCC executive director stated “this grant is a tremendous boon to the organization and those it supports…in our YouthBuild program over the next two years. MCC can effectively reach Opportunity Youth and engage them as leaders and provide programming and resources to help them secure family-wage jobs and improve their communities. This is especially important as the large majority of today’s family-supporting wage jobs will require some training or credential beyond a high school degree.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has created additional challenges for these young adults, as “there is a need to reengage Opportunity Youth and create platforms that young people can use to reach their education and career goals, to see their potential,” said Patrick Schrank, director of programs with MCC. “The pandemic has been difficult for everyone, including young adults who were disconnected from education and tried to enter the job market at a challenging time. The grant from Bader Philanthropies will support Opportunity Youth as well as their families and communities—upwards of 60-70 people are interested in joining MCC YouthBuild every year, and we want to see all young people connected to opportunity.”

Speaking about her experience serving with MCC YouthBuild, AmeriCorps member Sabrina Suarez described both the skills and confidence she gained through the program, stating, “I’m happy with everything and I’m proud of everything I’ve done. When I first started, I couldn’t hit the nail right, it kept bending, but I finally got the hang of that…On the worksite, I learned how to do siding, how to do drywall, finish carpentry and tiling…With siding, I’m a quick learner, a lot of other participants came to me and I found myself helping others… I wasn’t a very social person but being in this program I’ve been able to speak out more and learn a lot of things about myself I didn’t know before… Everything I’ve learned so far has brought a better part of me out.”

Articles about MCC receiving grant from Bader Philanthropies
Public Allies Milwaukee AmeriCorps member establishes Seeds of Liberation Gallery at Victory Garden Initiative
The following is the transcript of an interview conducted by Public Allies Milwaukee with AmeriCorps member Ni’Sea Thurman-Wamubu, who is serving this year with Public Allies at the Victory Garden Initiative (VGI). Public Allies Milwaukee helps its host sites build their capacities to fulfill their missions -- as well as invites local emerging leaders onto pathways to lifetimes of involvement. To accomplish this, they strive to match AmeriCorps members that are emerging leaders who have amazing local knowledge and insight with community organizations for year-long capacity-building service and learning.
Public Allies Milwaukee: Congrats on your Seeds of Liberation Gallery opening. The gallery is an inspiring creative project! Tell us the why of it all -- how does it sustainably build the capacity of the Victory Garden Initiative (VGI)?
Ni’Sea Thurman-Wamubu: VGI has reached out to the community for years and has been intentional about how to form community relations. But recently they wanted to build on established practices like community gardening to reach even more people. Reaching more people is important for VGI because it allows us to distribute our resources more equitably -- in other words, more of the community ends us with access to community support and live- and fresh-food practices and knowledge. Now that we have the Seeds of Liberation Gallery, we have a new platform for people from the community to be appreciated and know they have a space for themselves in our Harambee Neighborhood community and organization.
Public Allies Milwaukee: Tell us about your inspiration for the Gallery.
Ni’Sea Thurman-Wamubu: Before the Gallery space went in, I was having conversations with and about local artists of all ages, and I saw community forming around these conversations. I wanted to build on this raw expression found within the community. Falling in love with the Gallery idea happened when I saw how strong the staff’s relationship with the community was -- and when my host-site supervisor gave me the space to create a new project. I realized how much non-monetary wealth -- values, motivation, and artistry -- was in the community, and I wanted to provide a space where people who identified with the surrounding community could have a platform to share their work -- and others in the community could experience that work. We specifically have highlighted Black youth in the community -- namely, their sheer brilliance that not everyone has been able to see so clearly. The Gallery also helps youth in the neighborhood, a majority who are Black, experience liberation free from the confines of their financial position or external pressure of what society might tell them their worth is, as based on financial success.
Public Allies Milwaukee: What do you hope for your continued leadership after the Public Allies AmeriCorps year?
Ni’Sea Thurman-Wamubu: I hope to be as authentic as I can be by incorporating healing practices into the work I’m able to do with the community -- both as it relates to my personal healing journal and as it relates to working with the Harambee Neighborhood. I’m also planning to complete a second year of AmeriCorps with Public Allies at VGI.
MCHS Volunteer Wisconsin AmeriCorps member helps Kids Matter team up with local high school service group
The following is a reflection by Chloe Gaynor, who is serving as an AmeriCorps member with Marshfield Clinic Health System AmeriCorps Volunteer Wisconsin at Kids Matter Inc. in Milwaukee.

Developing relationships with volunteers has been incredibly rewarding and a big part of this term. I have been able to work with school groups and other volunteers to help find ways for them to volunteer with Kids Matter. Being on both the volunteer and the staff side has been incredibly rewarding.
Most recently, I was able to help with a Spring Donation Drive with a group of ten High School students at Whitefish Bay High School in Milwaukee County. I was able to support the students as they created an amazing drive to give over 250 Spring activity boxes for our families. They worked hard for months collecting toys, chalk, bubbles, art supplies and games from members of the community.
Beyond helping organize the amazing donation drive, I had the opportunity to share their work with our families. Calling each family and working with them to give the spring boxes to the 200 children Kids Matter serves was incredibly rewarding. Kids Matter serves youth that have been removed from their home and are living with relatives, in foster care, or in group homes. Some of the kids have never had coloring books or crayons or any of the basic kid stuff we take for granted, so it is very meaningful for them. Beyond giving the families spring toys the donation drive allowed us to connect with them and fulfill other needs they may have, like extra pairs of pajamas, socks, and sandals. The families were so grateful and relayed to me how happy these gifts made the kids. We have been able to get boxes to almost every family we work with thanks to the work of the high school service group.
I have worked as both a volunteer and a staff member but becoming both has been such a unique and rewarding experience.
Connecting Easterseals campers during COVID-19 through virtual conversations
The following is a reflection by Hayley Curtsinger, who is serving as an AmeriCorps member with Easterseals Wisconsin as their AmeriCorps Volunteer Coordinator.

As we all know, COVID-19 has brought many unprecedented challenges. Here at Easterseals Wisconsin Camps, we serve campers of all ages and all ability levels in a recreational setting. We cancelled all of our summer sessions in 2020 and many of our weekend sessions. We were all devastated to not have our campers in the place that we love most, but more importantly, we did not like that our campers were isolated and not receiving the love of camp.

The isolation that so many were experiencing got me thinking. We needed an opportunity to connect our campers and our many volunteers in a safe way. From my brainstorming, I came up with a Virtual Friendship Program. Through this program, our campers are matched one-on-one with a volunteer, and they meet weekly over Zoom, Facetime, etc. for one hour to watch movies together, do arts and crafts, or simply just catch up. I was not expecting to get a huge outcome, but to my surprise I was able to match 10 campers with a volunteer. Though this does not seem like a lot, that is 20 more people that felt a little less alone during this pandemic. New friendships were created and a little joy was brought to each participant each week. What else could you ask for?

My hope is that this program will continue to run in the years ahead for those that wish to volunteer at camp but are unable to be here in person. We all need someone to lean on from time-to-time and it brings me a lot of joy to know that our campers have their own support within our organization. “Out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” – Martin Luther King, Jr. If you wish to be a stone of hope to our campers, please reach out to [email protected].
Welcome to Anna Dannecker, our new
Marketing and Outreach Associate Intern
Serve Wisconsin is happy to welcome Anna Dannecker as its Marketing and Outreach Associate Intern this summer through the State of Wisconsin Student Diversity Internship Program. A recent graduate of the Comedic Arts program at Emerson College, Anna is excited to utilize her experience editing and flare for words to update the AmeriCorps marketing and communication materials. Accessibility is of the utmost importance to Anna, and she will be taking care to revise the language of materials to reach and connect with audiences from all walks of life. Previously, she has served two terms as an AmeriCorps Arts Advocate with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, where she taught improv performance and sketch comedy writing. After graduating in December, she chose to continue her education at MATC in their animation program. Anna is excited to use her newfound animation skills and endless stream of creative ideas to benefit Serve Wisconsin’s marketing and outreach projects this summer.
2021 Governor's Service Awards
Nominations Due on June 14
When honoring the recipients of the 2020 Governor’s Service Awards, Governor Tony Evers remarked that their “good work exemplifies our shared Wisconsin values, empathy, compassion, service, and taking care of our neighbors, because that's what Wisconsinites do. And it is needed now more than ever, as our communities and neighbors struggle with new challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has brought us. Our state is stronger because of folks like you.”

Serve Wisconsin is looking forward to honoring individuals and organizations that have made a difference in Wisconsin at the 2021 Governor's Service Awards, which will be held on Wednesday, August 4, at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center in Madison.

The deadline for nomination submissions for the 2021 Governor's Service Awards is Monday, June 14. The nomination form, which is the same for all award categories, can be found at Nominations can be submitted electronically to [email protected].

The nomination categories for this year are listed below, with descriptions on the application form.
  • AmeriCorps Member of the Year
  • AmeriCorps Program of the Year
  • AmeriCorps VISTA Member or VISTA Program of the Year
  • AmeriCorps Alumni of the Year
  • AmeriCorps Seniors Volunteer of the Year
  • AmeriCorps Seniors Program of the Year
  • AmeriCorps Seniors Lifetime Impact Volunteer
  • Veteran Volunteer of the Year
  • Volunteer Coordinator of the Year
  • Marty Stein Friend of National Service Exemplary Supporter
  • COVID-19 Response Service Award - Individual
  • COVID-19 Response Service Award - Organization

The Governor's Service Awards honor outstanding national service members, volunteers, and programs that have helped address pressing needs in their communities. Those honored by these awards will have made significant contributions to Wisconsin through their service efforts, with their generous service impacting the lives of countless Wisconsinites.

2021 Nomination Form (deadline for submissions is Monday, June 14)
Apply to be an AmeriCorps VISTA host site
Serve Wisconsin is seeking to place 20 AmeriCorps VISTA members in nonprofits, schools, and government agencies to help them build organizational capacity to alleviate poverty in Wisconsin. The initial application deadline for hosting an AmeriCorps VISTA member through Serve Wisconsin is June 1, 2021. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, and we encourage organizations to apply before the deadline. These VISTA members will begin serving by August 2021.
AmeriCorps VISTA members can assist organizations with resource development, designing or improving programming, volunteer engagement and management, developing outreach plans and materials, assessing community needs and assets, and other services to build organizational capacity. To learn more about this initiative and the service that AmeriCorps VISTA members can provide, organizations can watch a recording of our virtual presentation on our VISTA initiative.

We look forward to supporting organizations and agencies working to address poverty in numerous ways, such as programming to address health disparities, the educational achievement gap, employment, housing, child poverty, and poverty due to racial disparities. Organizations can complete this application to become an AmeriCorps VISTA host for an August 2021 start date.
Registration and Application links
Become an AmeriCorps Member Today!
If you wish to engage in meaningful community service and acquire job skills, consider joining AmeriCorps!
To learn more about AmeriCorps or if you are ready to join and have questions about which program is right for you, contact us! We are happy to answer your questions and help you explore the different opportunities available. Program information is also available on our Serve Wisconsin website.
Please email us at [email protected] or call (608) 492-2928.
We look forward to speaking with you!
Calendar: Upcoming Events and Key Dates

  • May 31 - Memorial Day - State Holiday - Serve Wisconsin office closed

  • June 2 - Wisconsin National and Community Service Board meeting
  • June 14 - Nominations due for 2021 Governor's Service Awards
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