A Year of Service

In honor of Americorps week, an article from ABAM’s Winter 2011 newsletter, reprinted below. 

For over two years, Alexian Brothers AIDS Ministry (ABAM) has been a sponsor of AmeriCorps VISTA members. AmeriCorps VISTA is the national service program designed specifically to fight poverty. Founded as Volunteers in Service to America in 1965 and incorporated into the AmeriCorps network of programs in 1993, VISTA has been on the front lines in the fight against poverty in America for more than 40 years. All projects through the program focus on building permanent infrastructure for organizations to help them more effectively bring individuals and communities out of poverty.

At Alexian Brothers AIDS Ministry the AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers have worked in the positions of Volunteer Coordinator and Outreach Coordinator. Each VISTA member commits to serve full-time for one year at ABAM. Although a year is a relatively short period of time, their passion, commitment and hard work have created and expanded our volunteer and outreach programs both at Bonaventure House and The Harbor.

Our first VISTA volunteer, Megan Garvey, worked as our Volunteer Coordinator, conducted a needs assessment and formalized the volunteer program at Bonaventure House. She also expanded our volunteer opportunities.  After Megan’s year of service, Erika Espinosa continued to improve upon and develop the volunteer program at Bonaventure House. In just one year, Erika created an identical volunteer program at The Harbor, increased the number of professional volunteers at both locations, and created a mentoring/buddy program for residents of Bonaventure House and The Harbor. Her work not only solidified the policies and procedures at both locations but also expanded weekly group offerings for residents. In November 2010, Erika completed her year of service and Alan Druga began his work at ABAM. Alan will continue to maintain and expand the volunteer and mentoring programs and will also work to create a comprehensive volunteer coordinator manual for future volunteer coordinators.

Devon Parish started as our first Outreach Coordinator in June 2009. Outreach at ABAM is broadly defined as expanding our relationships with other community members whether for referrals, support, volunteering or mutual benefit. In Devon’s year of service she created the framework for our outreach efforts by improving and creating materials, training staff, and creating new relationships with other organizations, churches, schools and agencies.  She was able to greatly expand our presence on the web on sites such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. Devon’s efforts also increased participation and fundraising for the AIDS Run & Walk and improved our relationships with local churches both in Chicago and Lake County.

Due to the sound infrastructure that Devon created our second VISTA member, Liz Lowry, was able to recruit additional individuals and teams to support ABAM at the AIDS Run & Walk which led to increased revenue as well as expand our World AIDS Day event in Lake County and increase the number of events in Chicago to two. Liz has improved our blog and coordinated a writing workshop for Bonaventure House residents to create additional bloggers. In the next six months of her service, she will continue to build new relationships especially on the South side near Bettendorf Place.

These are but a few of the accomplishments that our AmeriCorps VISTA members have made during their time at ABAM.  There are many more that are well beyond the scope of their volunteer assignments. They have become an integral part of the staff of Bonaventure House and The Harbor and have significantly helped many of the residents. All of them have exhibited a true passion to serve.

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