Serve Wisconsin 
November 2020 Newsletter
Hundreds of Wisconsin AmeriCorps Members Gather to Celebrate their Service at Virtual Opening Ceremony
We were excited to celebrate our 2020 AmeriCorps Opening Ceremony on October 30 with hundreds of AmeriCorps members that are serving in Wisconsin over the next year. While we had to come together virtually this year, we were glad to be able to connect with the AmeriCorps members throughout the state and we are looking forward to seeing the difference they will be making for the people of Wisconsin over the next year.

In addition to forging these connections with others serving over the next year, they were led in the AmeriCorps pledge by Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes and were further encouraged in their service by three AmeriCorps alumni, Congresswoman Gwen Moore, Jeremy Triblett, and Alexis Dean.

Before leading the AmeriCorps members in the pledge, Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes inspired the new AmeriCorps members, saying “As we continue to weather this crisis, you'll be doing even more important work than ever before to improve the lives of people all across Wisconsin. We have far too many gaps in our health, education, and economic systems, and COVID-19 has only made that more abundantly clear. That's exactly why your service work is so critical. As we work to close those gaps and eventually rebuild those systems to be more equitable and sustainable, we need people on the ground helping those who can't meet their needs.”

Reflecting on her own service as an AmeriCorps VISTA alumna, Congresswoman Gwen Moore described the impact of her own service to the AmeriCorps members and spoke about their upcoming service, stating that “this year, you will be dedicating the next year to your service. It won't be easy under these circumstances, you're going to face challenges, but what you will do will be meaningful to your local communities and to yourselves. I encourage you to take this experience and use it develop a lifetime of commitment to making a difference for others and to our nation.”

VGF Grant Funds Available to Support VOAD/COADs for Volunteer Response to Disasters Across Wisconsin
Serve Wisconsin is pleased to announce the availability of funds from the AmeriCorps Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF). Serve Wisconsin was awarded a VGF grant to increase both the number and capacity of existing Community/Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters VOAD/COADs throughout the state of Wisconsin.

Grant funds will be utilized to support regional VOAD/COAD coordinators, placed strategically throughout the six Wisconsin Emergency Management (WEM) Regions at various organizations, with funds not to exceed $30,000 per region during this funding cycle. These funds are intended to be utilized to support staff salaries and benefits. Other pre-approved expenses such as training and exercises are not included in this amount, but they can be reimbursed separately through Serve Wisconsin.

Organizations interested in applying can complete this VOAD/COAD Coordinator Funding Application

Organizations supporting regional VOAD/COAD coordinators will:
  • Work closely with WI VOAD, WEM Regional Directors, Serve Wisconsin, and other community partners to support existing local VOAD/COADs and develop VOAD/COADs in unrepresented communities. 
  • Conduct research and outreach within their region to designate interested communities ready to develop VOAD/COADs. 
  • Coordinate the development of VOAD/COADs by engaging stakeholders with outreach, resource sharing, and facilitating initial meetings.
  • Create and collate existing resources and best practices for VOAD/COADs.
  • Conduct a skills and resource assessment for existing and developing VOAD/COADs.
  • Assist with the coordination of trainings and exercises that includes the four phases of disaster: mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery.
  • Create an extraordinary volunteer experience by encouraging VOAD/COADs to utilize the whole community approach to all hazard planning that fosters an inclusive environment maximizing the skills of unaffiliated/affiliated volunteers of all ages including cross-training between organizations.

Addition information on this initiative is available on the Disaster Services section of the Serve Wisconsin website.
Serve Wisconsin is
Recruiting Three AmeriCorps VISTA Members to Address Racial Disparities and Poverty
According to the 2019 Center on Wisconsin Strategy (COWS) report entitled Wisconsin’s Extreme Racial Disparity, Wisconsin is ranked among the worst states in the nation for racial inequality, with stark disparities including poverty, unemployment, educational attainment, and incarceration.

Serve Wisconsin is launching an AmeriCorps VISTA project focused on helping to end poverty due to racial disparities in Wisconsin. VISTA members will support Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) led organizations increase their capacity to provide the services that will end racial disparity and create a just Wisconsin, particularly due to the historic under-funding of BIPOC-led nonprofits.

During the first year of the project, three VISTA members will be placed at nonprofit organizations located throughout the state in January 2021 to recruit BIPOC-led organizations working to end racial disparities for the placement of future VISTA members. This first cohort of VISTA members will develop contacts with these BIPOC-led organizations and assist them in their development of program goals and objectives for future VISTA members, provide training to them, and assist in the recruiting and placement of VISTA members.

Starting in the second year of this initiative, Serve Wisconsin plans to have 10-20 BIPOC-led organizations statewide selected and trained to host VISTA members. The VISTA members will develop programing, expand volunteer engagement, develop new support systems, develop partnerships, expand fundraising, and/or conducting needs assessments.

For information about Serve Wisconsin’s VISTA initiative, email Ruhamah Bauman at [email protected] and follow the below links to the initial three AmeriCorps VISTA positions with this initiative, which are accepting applications from November 20 to December 30, 2020.
Public Allies Milwaukee Expanding their AmeriCorps Programming to Racine and Kenosha
Recognizing the need for diverse, socially-just leadership across the state, Public Allies Milwaukee received a planning grant to expand their AmeriCorps program in Racine and Kenosha, with the goal of having a new local cohort of AmeriCorps members serving these communities starting in 2021. They aim to enhance the capacity of community organizations to deliver critical direct services for local residents in Racine and Kenosha while building upon their mission to foster the development of future community leaders through service.

Their expansion efforts will be led by their Director of Southeastern Wisconsin Expansion, Auntavia Jackson, a native of Racine who was Public Allies' inaugural Racine Ally in 2018-2019 and then served a second AmeriCorps term as a fellow with Public Allies Milwaukee in 2019-2020. During these two years, she made an impact of the local community while serving at Visioning a Greater Racine and the George Bray Neighborhood YMCA Center, and then transitioning to provide service through Outreach Community Health Centers following the spread of COVID-19. Auntavia shared about her AmeriCorps experience with Public Allies Milwaukee in her interview with Serve Wisconsin as part of our series with AmeriCorps members serving during COVID-19

As Public Allies starts its expansion efforts into Racine and Kenosha, they are requesting that anyone interested in learning more about this expansion effort or able to share the names of people and community organizations they should connect with to email Auntavia at [email protected].
AmeriCorps Members Spread Awareness During Runaway & Homeless Youth Prevention Month 
AmeriCorps members serving throughout the state with the Wisconsin Association for Homeless and Runaway Services are working to raise awareness of homeless youth this November as part of Runaway & Homeless Youth Prevention Month. Members organized public events and created displays using the color green and awareness video campaigns. Below are two examples of how they have worked to raise awareness about the approximately 18,000 youth that are homeless in Wisconsin each year and to provide support to those in their local communities.

As part of their efforts, the AmeriCorps members at Home Base with the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Fox Valley raised awareness through their Youth on the Move event, which seeks to raise awareness and provide services, support, and resources for young people facing housing insecurity in the Fox Valley. Done in collaboration with several partners in Appleton, Home Base attempted to “shine a light” on this often unseen population by illuminating the Houdini Plaza fountain and Jones Park in green this November and painting green footprints in safe support places in the community to symbolically show youth that when they walk, they are not walking alone, but alongside their community. As part of this effort, yard signs and flyers were placed near the green footprints to help the public learn more about this vulnerable population and the AmeriCorps members and other staff at Home Base created a PSA regarding homeless and runaway youth nationally and those in the local community. Home Base also collaborated with the Mayor of Appleton, Jake Woodford, who signed a proclamation recognizing November as Runaway & Homeless Youth Prevention Month in Appleton and encouraged the people of Appleton to take notice of the green footprints and how they can help advocate and support these youth. Additionally, they raised public awareness through the media, with the campaign covered by WBAY ABC 2 in a news segment, which is available at Youth on the Move” raises awareness on runaway and homeless youth in the Fox Valley.

Similarly, the AmeriCorps members with Project 16:49 in Janesville used multiple methods to raise awareness about homeless and runaway youth in their community. The created a PSA sharing how their youth became homeless, including statistics on their experiences with trafficking, domestic violence, abandonment, parental substance abuse, and other impacts on their lives.
Project 16:49 also hosted a Homeless Awareness Candlelight Vigil on November 17 in Janesville, with details on the event described in the GazetteXtra article, Homelessness vigil set for Tuesday at BTC. They also created a social media campaign that connected with local businesses and organizations to boost awareness, featuring them wearing green as part of the effort to spread awareness.
AmeriCorps Members with 414 Fellows Help Milwaukee Seniors on Make a Difference Day
On November 7, AmeriCorps members from 414 Fellows at Marquette University joined with university president Dr. Michael Lovell and students and staff from Marquette and UW Milwaukee to serve their community through a Make a Difference Day project. Project volunteers visited the homes of more than 100 seniors in Milwaukee County to help them prepare for the winter season ahead by completing projects to help them winterize their homes and maintain their yards.

The Make a Difference Day event hosted by the Marquette’s Center for Community Service was done in partnership with Eras Senior Network, which strives to engage and support seniors in leading meaningful lives. “Every year seniors look forward to volunteers from these institutions arriving to help with fall projects,” said Kathy Gale, executive director of Eras Senior Network. “Without help, seniors may try to do the work themselves and be at risk of falls in their home. Falls can be devastating for seniors, resulting in hospitalizations and loss of independence. The students’ hours of service are making an appreciable difference for vulnerable neighbors.”

Looking at the impacts of her service, 414 Fellows AmeriCorps member Grace Alvarez explained that “through my service with Make a Difference Day, there has been a renewal of spirit after the day's work is done. This is not because of the rewarding feeling that service can provide; instead, is the nature of how we prepare Milwaukee for the harsh winter that Wisconsin bestows upon us. Through clearing the leaves and debris, we can reflect on serving a community. That service is necessary to learn about what the community needs, its history and how we can best continue our lasting commitment to vulnerable communities and neighbors in Milwaukee.”

Serving during Make a Difference Day also forged connections for those volunteering, as 414 Fellows AmeriCorps member Grace Pitzen described that "Make a Difference Day gave us a great and safe way to serve our community. This experience helped me build relationships with other AmeriCorps members, Marquette's president, and those who we served in Milwaukee."

Spreading Efforts to Reduce Plastic Waste by Bringing the H2O Refill Initiative to Local Marches and Rallies
The following reflection was written by Anna Ostermeier, an AmeriCorps member with Marshfield Clinic Health System AmeriCorps Volunteer Wisconsin who is serving her second term as an AmeriCorps member at Milwaukee Riverkeeper.

One of the most exciting new developments of the past few months is the volunteer-supported H2O Refill Initiative. The idea for this initiative came as we were seeing an overwhelming number of single-use plastic bottles at marches and rallies. We wanted to find a way for the Plastic Free movement to support the Black Lives Matter movement, and racial justice as a whole. We are well aware of the many links between the plastics problem and racial justice issues, as we know how Black, Indigenous, and People of Color are disproportionately impacted by the plastics and fossil fuel industry. We realized this was an opportunity to step up and provide a more sustainable and healthy hydration alternative to single-use plastic water bottles, thereby also promoting a culture of reuse. Thus, we started providing stationary and mobile (bike-pulled!) H2O Refill Stations as a service to event attendees and organizers. The program started in early June, and since then, we have:

  • Provided H2O Refill Stations at four events
  • Given event attendees over 400 reusable bottles to prevent the need for single-use bottles beyond the events
  • Prevented the need for over 1,608 single-use plastic water bottles
  • Engaged about 35 volunteers, 20 of whom are new to Plastic-Free MKE

Given that Milwaukee Riverkeeper River Adopters cleaned up 856 single-use plastic bottles from our rivers in 2019, we know that reducing the use of single-use bottles will positively impact our waterways. With an outpouring of volunteer, community, and partner support for this initiative and positive feedback from event organizers, this initiative is projected to continue to be a huge success! After the initial three events I created a comprehensive H2O Refill Program Planning & Protocol Handbook, which has streamlined the planning process and serves as a fantastic resource as new volunteers step up to lead this program. I’m so excited for how we can continue to make a positive impact in the Milwaukee community, both through supporting racial justice and reducing single-use plastic pollution!
Stories from Service - Interviews with the Honorees from the 2020 Governor's Service Awards
During the preparations for the Governor’s Service Awards on October 15, Serve Wisconsin conducted a series of interviews with the honorees to learn more about their service and how it has impacted communities throughout the state.

The honorees told stories from their service, described the impacts their service is having on the community, shared why they came to serve, and explained how their service helped respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in their local communities.

The links to the interviews with all of the honorees are listed below, with more information on the Governor’s Service Awards and the honorees from this year and previous years available at

Interview Videos

AmeriCorps Member of the Year - Amelia Ford, Racine Zoo AmeriCorps Project

AmeriCorps Program of the Year - College Possible Milwaukee

AmeriCorps VISTA Program of the Year - Achieve Brown County

COVID-19 Response Service Award - Amber Bydynkowski, WisCorps

COVID-19 Response Service Award - DuWayne Gust, Coulee Region RSVP

COVID-19 Response Service Award - WisCorps
New Program Boot Camp - January 19-22
Serve Wisconsin will be virtually hosting its annual New Program Boot Camp on January 19-22, 2021 to bring together new program staff and those from organizations interested in learning more about operating a successful AmeriCorps program.

This training is geared for new staff at existing Wisconsin AmeriCorps programs, organizations with a planning grant to develop a program, or organizations considering applying for AmeriCorps program funds, with experienced staff from current programs welcome to attend as well.

This training will include an overview of the national service and AmeriCorps landscape, rules and regulations, site monitoring and compliance, the AmeriCorps member experience, and other topics.

To register, please complete this online registration form.

For questions regarding the New Program Boot Camp, contact Tracey Brent, Serve Wisconsin Compliance and Training Officer, at [email protected].
Deadline for NCCC AmeriCorps Concept Papers is January 5 for Projects in May and June 2021
For nonprofit organizations and government agencies interested in working with an AmeriCorps NCCC during the latter part of next spring, the next deadline for submitting a concept form is for January 5, which is for organizations interested in having a team in 2021 between May 3 and June 22. Information on the application process for this upcoming period or for several other project windows next spring, summer, and fall are available in their Request for Proposal (RFP) for 2021 service dates.

AmeriCorps NCCC teams are constituted of 18-24 year-olds that travel regionally to help communities meet their critical needs by completing projects that typically last 6-8 weeks. NCCC partners with a variety of nonprofit organizations, government entities (federal, state or local), educational institutions, neighborhood associations, Native American Tribal Councils, and community-based or faith-based organizations to complete projects which address a compelling community need. These projects address five main service areas: natural and other disasters, energy conservation, environmental stewardship and conservation, infrastructure improvement, and urban and rural development.
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!
Interesting in Serving as a Member of the Wisconsin National and Community Service Board?
For those interested in taking an active role in promoting national service and volunteerism in Wisconsin, the Wisconsin National and Community Service Board has a current or pending vacancy for board members for the following appointment type:
  • An individual between the ages of 16 and 25, inclusive, who is a participant or supervisor of a service program for school-aged youth, or of a campus-based or national service program 

Those interested in serving are required to complete an application to the governor for the appointment. The online application for applying for a board position can be found HERE, with additional information on the application process found at Apply to Serve - Governor Tony Evers. If you are potentially interested in serving on the board and have any questions, please contact Serve Wisconsin Executive Director Jeanne Duffy at [email protected].
Calendar: Upcoming Events and Key Dates

  • December 1 - Program Evaluation & Development Committee Meeting 
  • December 10 - Wisconsin National & Community Service Board Meeting
  • December 18 - Racial Justice Training Series - Session 1
  • December 24-25 - State Holiday - Serve Wisconsin office closed
  • December 31 - State Holiday - Serve Wisconsin office closed

  • January 1 - State Holiday - Serve Wisconsin office closed
  • January 15 - Racial Justice Training Series - Session 2 
  • January 19-22 - New Program Bootcamp 
Serve Wisconsin | | AmeriCorps