President Trump Releases 2018 Budget Recommendations

The White House released their budget proposal on May 23, cutting $4.3 trillion over 10 years and including steep cuts to many domestic non-defense programs. About half of those cuts come from changes in programs including Medicaid, food assistance and federal student loans. The budget also includes steep cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency (31 percent), the State Department (29 percent, with an additional 2 percent cut per year) and the Education Department (13.5 percent).

The proposal includes changing the funding formula for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, making $600 billion in cuts over 10 years. Included in the Medicaid changes are setting annual limits on federal payments to each state in 2020. In addition, the plan:

  • Cuts SNAP by $190 billion (a reduction of more than 25 percent)
  • Estimates $40 billion in savings from barring undocumented immigrants from collecting the EITC and child care credit
  • Narrows access to Social Security Disability Insurance, testing “new approaches to increase labor force participation”
  • Cuts TANF by $21 billion over 10 years, including a $15.6 billion reduction in the amount of money the federal government gives to states to administer the program

Much of the savings from TANF and SNAP come from the President’s proposal to tighten eligibility requirements for benefits and “encourage” work.

In addition to the severe cuts, the budget proposal eliminates various programs and agencies including:

  • Community Development Block Grants (CDBG)
  • HOME Investment Partnerships Program
  • Choice Neighborhoods program
  • National Housing Trust Fund
  • Corporation for National and Community Services (which includes AmeriCorps)
  • Legal Services Corporation
  • Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation
  • Interagency Council on Homelessness
  • Great Lakes Restoration funding

It also calls for the elimination of federally subsidized student loans, as well as the public service loan forgiveness program for nurses, policy officers and teachers.

There are spending increases included in the recommendations, which include a 10 percent increase to the Pentagon’s base budget, $1.6 billion for the border wall, $200 billion for investment in infrastructure (which consists of a public/private investment plan) and extending the Veterans Choice Program. Also included is funding to provide six weeks of paid leave to new parents.

The general consensus is that the budget is unlikely to pass Congress without any changes. While the White House projects a balanced budget under this plan by 2027, the projections are made using assumptions that few economists or policy experts outside the administration view as realistic. The numbers assume a higher economic growth rate than most economists project, as well as not taking into consideration any deficits that would be caused by the tax reform proposed by the administration. It also assumes that the latest version of the health care bill will become law.

“I just think it’s the prerogative of Congress to make those decisions in consultation with the President,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told the AP.  “But almost every president’s budget proposal that I know of is basically dead on arrival.”

Voices of AmeriCorps: AmeriCorps Week Promotions in Grayling

Last month, Michigan’s AmeriCorps State and VISTA members celebrated a very special time in their service term year. The first full week of March was set aside as AmeriCorps Week, in which the AmeriCorps members across the state participated in a campaign to raise awareness about their program. Members participated in various outreach events, performed community service outside of their host site duties, and committed acts of kindness to those in their community. One person, however, set the bar high with her AmeriCorps Week festivities, and Corps Support wants to spotlight her great efforts!

americorpsHeather Tait, a VISTA member serving at Grayling Main Street, seemed to have a well-prepared game plan for AmeriCorps Week, as she participated every day enthusiastically. In just five days, Heather ran a social media campaign using posts with hashtags, such as #MotivationalMonday and #YouGotServed, to showcase exciting experiences and share her AmeriCorps-plastered photos. A special edition of Main Street Monday labeled AmeriCorps Night was organized and hosted by Heather too! She reached out to her community members and even the civil servants in her area, including the City of Grayling staff, the Police Department, and the Fire Department. Presentations at her host site and a local preschool, a front-page article (Page 1, Page 2) written in a well-known paper, and a radio interview with her co-member Hannah Juhl sparked community conversation about AmeriCorps in a great way! It is safe to say Heather was busy spreading the message of “Getting Things Done for America” to her neighbors.

Heather was very involved in the programming and coordination of these visual events. When asked to share her thoughts on the week, she explained a new simplified phrase she adopted for her remaining term—“just one person”. Heather concedes one setback to AmeriCorps work is the seemingly impersonal reporting and sometimes unknown impact made in the community directly related to her work. She decided to change her mindset and working on improving just one person’s life at a time. By using this to measure her success instead of strictly numbers, she feels she has succeeded and done extremely important work. Heather is doing great things in her community in the name of AmeriCorps. Thank you Heather for all your hard work and dedication to service!

CEDAM hosts the Michigan Financial Opportunity Corps and the Rural Opportunity VISTA program AmeriCorps programs. We would like to thank the Corps Support Committee (Jennifer Tucker, Lily Fossel and Autumn Zywicki) for providing content to the Voices of AmeriCorps series.

Placemaking: For Anyone, Or Everyone?

Written by Susan Wenzlick, Department of Environmental Quality


One of the buzzwords you hear a lot in arts and cultural circles is inclusion. Audiences for arts and culture have historically been overwhelmingly white, middle and upper income, and they are aging. Museums, symphonies, operas, and ballets recognize that they need to diversify their programming and attract new audiences – become more inclusive – to keep their doors open. Traditional programming is becoming obsolete. For example, my son, a flute and bagpipe player, wouldn’t get near a symphony concert until the Grand Rapids Symphony performed music from a Lord of the Rings movie – something much more relevant to him than Beethoven.

Placemaking has an inclusion problem too. Lots of placemaking plans are made collaboratively, but often with the usual community leaders invited by a gatekeeper. Inviting diverse participants to plan for non-traditional users isn’t always on the agenda. It needs to be.

Why is diversity important in placemaking? The author of this article about placemaking compares it to trickle-down economics. Placemaking efforts to attract and retain educated professionals theoretically also benefit those lower down the economic ladder. The author asserts that advocates for placemaking (or urbanist policy, as he calls it) are just creating what they themselves want in their community – that placemaking is a self-serving benefit created by and for the elite. The people lower down the ladder don’t really benefit (much like trickle-down economics). Placemaking becomes relevant to only a few.

I talked a few years ago with an old-school museum director about inclusion. I asked if he worked with community members when planning exhibits or programming for the museum – something that is no longer unusual. Nah, the director said, I know what the community needs. I don’t have to ask them. This particular museum doesn’t have a board of directors to give the museum director input. The museum’s agenda was set solely by a white guy in his 60s. Not surprisingly, diversity was not its strong suit. Interestingly, in the same conversation, he told me that the museum’s biggest problem was relevance. Go figure.


Well-meaning (or arrogant) community leaders can create events and places that are free, accessible, appealing to young people… but that may not attract people who are low income, disabled, non-white, or young. Research about whether free admission attracts new patrons to museums says it isn’t about cost. It’s about relevance, access, logistics, and marketing to underserved audiences. It’s about being intimidated by the content or event, rather than feeling comfortable and welcome.

In a blog post, Kevin Buist addresses diversity at ArtPrize, Michigan’s large art competition. The post is about an award to incent artists of color to participate, which raised some issues, but these paragraphs were the most interesting to me. They address the difference between making a cultural event like ArtPrize open to all, versus welcoming to all.

“Last year during ArtPrize I had a conversation that really stuck with me with artist Mel Chin, who was a juror for the Juried Grand Prize at the time. We got to talking about audiences and ArtPrize’s open and democratic approach to attracting them. He made a distinction that at first seemed minor, but I’ve since realized how crucial it is. He asked if we wanted ArtPrize to be for ‘anyone’ or for ‘everyone.’ An event for anyone is open and free of charge, there is no invite list, it’s not designed only for a special club, it’s for anyone who shows up. This is a pretty good way of describing ArtPrize’s approach from early on, and it has allowed for a huge and enthusiastic audience.

“Making ArtPrize an event for everyone, and not just anyone, is a little different. An event for everyone requires us to pay attention to who in the community feels welcome at an event for anyone and who doesn’t. Even when something is designed for anyone, some can still be excluded. The barriers aren’t intentional—they’re not velvet ropes and invite lists—but they’re still real. It’s a careful process of looking for ways to remove those barriers to build a welcoming event for everyone.”

(I couldn’t get a working link for this one, but if you want to read the whole post, go to www.artprize.org. The post is titled “Welcoming an Independent Award Celebrating Diversity,” and was posted on August 26, 2014.)

Placemaking isn’t only for the wealthy and educated, or doesn’t have to be. It isn’t just Whole Foods and the Fabulous Bistro Gastropub. Public space, public art, walkability, and recreational opportunities aren’t gated with a sign that says “your bank balance must be this high to enter.” That being said, there is an element of truth to the trickle-down, anyone or everyone criticism. Lots of placemaking, particularly the arts, implies exclusivity.

And, no matter how good the intention to include a variety of people, there is still power on one side that is not necessarily on the other. Someone still sets the agenda – and limits the diversity of opinions – by deciding who to invite, or using a structure that inhibits participation. A public meeting limits participation by how the meeting is advertised, time the meeting is held, and some factors that can’t be controlled by the meeting organizer. Self-selection by people who don’t feel they would have a voice, or who find such meetings intimidating, or who have work or child care issues. Everybody can’t be at the table, but they can contribute via a web site or other less direct means. When our mission is to have something for everybody, not just anybody, we need to figure out ways to hear from people using all the tools available for communication.


When all the usual suspects attend, and they’ve all read from the same playbook, do they make the leap to, for example, not just walkability but universal access? Who’s advocating making places that exceed Americans with Disability Act requirements to be more welcoming to people in wheelchairs – like heating sidewalks so they can be navigated in winter months?

Once you have an inclusive plan, how do you market a place to people you haven’t traditionally connected with – like telling a high school kid whose parent isn’t on the Grand Rapids Symphony’s mailing list about a Lord of the Rings concert? Once you find them, how do you help people get over feeling excluded or uncomfortable based on their previous experiences, or no experience at all? For someone who has never been to a symphony concert, would interest in Lord of the Rings music overcome apprehension about what to expect, or fitting in? Sometimes, being invited and welcomed isn’t enough to get over other hurdles.

The point of collaboration isn’t collaboration, it’s getting better results. Including other voices isn’t threatening, it’s an opportunity to make a community or project more effective. Ask non-traditional community members to participate. Listen when they talk. The high school kid, the council on aging, Goodwill, whoever represents non-white, non-middle class, non-able-bodied, non-30-to-55-year-olds. Take them seriously; without authority, there is no real collaboration. Focus on the mission. Have clear goals, but not predetermined outcomes. Work to get past individual agendas to make the core group a team. Decide who the target audience is or might include. Figure out what the needs are and whether they can be addressed. Let go of ownership and share authority. Facilitate connections. Evaluate and re-evaluate outcomes. Communicate through a range of media, not just newspaper announcements and government web sites. Don’t be the museum director who can’t figure out why his museum isn’t relevant.

As always, thanks for reading. If you’re not a subscriber and would like to be, you can sign up to receive blog posts by email by scrolling to the bottom of any page at www.ordinaryvirtues.com.

This post’s photos are from a British artist named Roy, and you can read about him and see more of his work at www.royspeople.com.

If you have a topic or idea that you think could make a great CEDAM blog post, please contact Brian McGrain at mcgrain@cedam.info.

Mayor and County Commissioners Recognition Day for National Service

Written by Stevie Chilcote, VISTA Leader

A Day of Recognition

Mayors and county commissioners stand out in the political spectrum as role models of good governance, creating networks and finding place-based solutions for the benefit of their communities.  In 1994, one of those solutions presented itself in AmeriCorps, and since then over one million people have served in an effort to create sustainable pathways to overcome local challenges.  On Tuesday, April 4, over four thousand mayors and county commissioners from across the country will unite to recognize the work done by AmeriCorps members for Mayors and County Commissioners Recognition Day for National Service.

What is AmeriCorps?

Many programs could not exist without the support of AmeriCorps members.  During a year of service, skilled people develop social media strategies, manage volunteers, teach financial literacy classes, educate students on nutrition, manage community gardens for the food bank and so much more.  Mayors are meant to develop networks for their communities and therefore recognize the vital network that AmeriCorps represents both as nationwide support for struggling organizations and a talent pipeline for the newly-minted professionals in their towns.

Who are AmeriCorps?

In more than 21,000 nonprofits and faith-based organizations across the country, over 80,000 AmeriCorps members are confronting local problems and challenges.  Elected officials are meant to develop interactive activities and networks for their community.  One member who exemplifies this is Kim Yost from Wayne Metro in Westland. When people are at a vulnerable point in their lives, she helps people feel comfortable and in control of their finances through financial literacy classes, and her manual has been shared with CEDAM members across the state of Michigan.

In Oceana County, where 34.71% of the population have only a high school diploma, Hannah Kostal is tackling education gaps by developing a college readiness program and a childhood literacy program.  An Oceana County resident, Hannah is passionate about education and works with the community foundation to help prepare students with the skills necessary to be successful.

VirgJoin the Recognition!

With over one million alumni, AmeriCorps members are everywhere!  Add your name and support for AmeriCorps here.  To find out more about CEDAM’s AmeriCorps programs, click here.

If you have a topic or idea that you think could make a great CEDAM blog post, please contact Brian McGrain at mcgrain@cedam.info.

Taxes Due Soon!

Written by Ross Yednock, Program Director of MEIC

calculator-428294_1920Are you still waiting to file your 2016 federal and state taxes? There is less than a month before they are due on Tuesday, April 18 (NOT the usual 15th). Make the call today to 2-1-1 or visit MichiganFreeTaxHelp.org to find a location near you where you can have your taxes prepared and filed by an IRS-certified volunteer.

Why use a free site?

First of all, you pay absolutely nothing! They are prepared and e-filed, all at no cost to you. What’s better than that?

Next, free tax sites are one of the best ways to ensure your taxes are prepared by a qualified and trained person. Michigan is one of the many states that has no requirements or regulations for paid tax preparers. That means that paid preparers in Michigan are not required to pass any exam, take any classes or prove their competency in any way at all. However, ALL volunteers at Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and AARP Tax Aide sites are required to pass an IRS certification test that ensures they are up-to-date in their understanding of the tax law and know how best to ensure you receive every tax credit you deserve.

tax-468440_1920Perhaps most importantly, every return that is prepared and filed at an IRS-sponsored free site is double-checked for accuracy and all of your personal and sensitive information is protected, secured and never used to sell you unnecessary services that eat away at your tax refund.

With free tax sites like those found at MichiganFreeTaxHelp.org, or by dialing 2-1-1, you can be assured that you are being taken care of by some of the best trained, and prepared, volunteer tax preparers that money cannot buy… because it’s free. Get it?

So don’t wait to get help… and DO pass this information along to others who may need help. While it may not always be the case in other walks of life, when it comes to tax preparation, sometimes the best things are free!

If you have a topic or idea that you think could make a great CEDAM blog post, please contact Brian McGrain at mcgrain@cedam.info.

Voices of AmeriCorps: Good Cents from Wayne Metro AmeriCorps Members

Written by the Corps Support Committee

program-logoCEDAM AmeriCorps members Kimberly Yost and Jael Cain of Wayne Metro Community Action Agency scored a major success for the financial health of their community by hosting two well-attended Show Me the Money Day Events this February. Serving as AmeriCorps members in the Michigan Financial Opportunities Corps, the two are tasked with bringing free financial education classes, VITA tax preparation programs and foreclosure prevention services to the Detroit Metro Area. This effort goes on throughout the year, but rose to a fever pitch February 3rd and 10th when Yost and Cain successfully hosted financial open houses serving more than 200 local residents.

Show Me the Money Day – a CEDAM initiative dating back to 2011 – annually leads dozens financial open-houses all across Michigan during the key tax season months of January and February. These events bring together financial educators, assistance programs, and service providers with the communities they serve to educate and empower local residents, promote free tax preparation services and raise awareness of community resources.

As CEDAM AmeriCorps members, Yost and Cain were asked to plan and execute one Show Me the Money Day Event in their area, but chose to go above and beyond by offering two events in February to allow a greater number of local residents the opportunity to attend. The first, held on February 3 at Jefferson Barns in Westland, Michigan, served over 70 participants. The second, held on February 10 at Northwest Activities Center in Detroit served an even more astounding 137 local residents.

Wayne Metro SMTMDBoth events brought together a cross section of community members, business, and non-profits including DTE Energy, Michigan Agency for Energy, Western Wayne Family Health Centers, the Department of Insurance and Financial Services, No Veteran Left Behind, Garden City Community Center, Detroit Area Agency of Aging and a variety of local banks and credit unions. Classes, prizes and information drew participants through the busy events and explored financial skill building in credit usage, savings, banking, budgeting and the path to homeownership. The events served not only as an opportunity to better equip participants with knowledge for their financial futures, but also as a meeting point for local organizations to share programming, exchange ideas and connect with one another.

Thanks to the commitment and efforts of Yost, Cain and their community planning partners, Detroit residents are more knowledgeable, better prepared and more optimistic about their finances this spring.  “I am grateful for the genuine concern and efforts by WMCA staff to assist everyone,” said one participant. “They are so inspiring!” The same sentiment was echoed in the experience of all event participants who overwhelmingly hailed the events a useful experience. 89% of participants reported that they felt more hopeful about their financial future after having attended the events. Having spent months working towards just that outcome, Yost and Cain’s efforts have proven a roaring success. Their commitment to service and exemplary representation of the goals of CEDAM, Wayne Metro and AmeriCorps continue to empower and enact healthy financial lives in the city of Detroit.

Thank you Kimberly and Jael!

CEDAM hosts the Michigan Financial Opportunity Corps and the Rural Opportunity VISTA program AmeriCorps programs. We would like to thank the Corps Support Committee (Jennifer Tucker, Lily Fossel and Autumn Zywicki) for providing content to the Voices of AmeriCorps series.

Fiscal Year 2018 Proposed Budget

Written by Sarah Torrico, Policy Intern

The Trump administration has rolled out what they’re calling their “skinny budget” proposal for fiscal year 2018. Many are taking note of the budget’s plan to severely cut and even eliminate multiple social equity programs. While Trump and his team are positioning this to be a strike against what they refer to as the “administrative state” and a step towards fiscal conservation, its bottom line does not digress from that of Obama’s $1.1 trillion dollar budget. Rather than decrease spending, it appears only to reconfigure funding, most notably allocating a large portion to the military budget, as well as homeland security including the building of the wall and an increase of ICE staff, at the expense of development and aid programs for the country’s low-income populations.

What’s at risk?

dollar-1362243_1920While this proposal has yet to be responded to by Congress, many are concerned over the implications this proposed budget could have on longstanding agencies and programs geared toward economic mobilization. If approved, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) would face a $6.6 billion cut, a 13% drawback from the FY 2016 budget. According to a statement from the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), this cut alone would result in 123,786 fewer jobs. Aside from the cuts to HUD, a $4.2 billion slash to the Department of Health and Human Services’ community service programs like the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) which subsidizes energy bills for people in extreme poverty during the winter months. In addition, it is set to gut the Investment Partnerships (HOME) Program, which supplies grant funds to low-income individuals to buy and refurbish homes, as well as the Choice Neighborhoods program which works in a similar way to grant organizations funds to organizations who rebuild neighborhoods. In justifying the cuts to programs such as Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), responsible for much of the neighborhood investments, the administration said that the programs are “not well-targeted to the poorest populations and have not demonstrated results.” Also on the chopping block is the Interagency Council on Homelessness, the Capacity Building for Affordable Housing and Community Development (Section 4) program and the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP). The Legal Services Corporation would also lose all federal funds to support low-income individuals through legal issues such as eviction. President Trump’s plan also calls for elimination of the Corporation for National and Community Service, AmeriCorps, and Senior Corps.  A more complete list of federal agency eliminations can be found here.

capitol-32309_1280While concerns are warranted, many leaders have voiced doubt that Congress will approve this draft. NPR’s “It’s All Politics” explains how the federal budget, unlike state budgets, serves as more of a framework to guide rather than an order to follow. While they have yet to put out any figures for the FY18 budget, many elected officials are placing faith in the more traditional members of Congress to put forth a more traditional budget. Still, this budget makes clear the priorities of the Trump administration and seems to contradict promises made to low-income voters during the campaign.

What can I do to help?

For ways to get involved and take a stand against the budget proposal, Enterprise has shared the following actions:

If you have a topic or idea that you think could make a great CEDAM blog post, please contact Brian McGrain at mcgrain@cedam.info.

HUD Budget Slashed in Trump’s Administration Proposal

Written by Jessica AcMoody, Senior Policy Specialist

HUD-logoAs you may be aware, there was an article in the Washington Post this morning summarizing leaked documents from the Trump Administration that call for a 14% cut to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that you can read by clicking here. The article points out that the cuts call for elimination of HOME, CDBG and many similar HUD block grants, as well as steep cuts to housing voucher programs. At this time it is unclear if the proposed cuts will be included in the president’s final budget proposal.

In addition, several other programs, including the Corporation for National and Community Service (the department that funds AmeriCorps and VISTA), are being considered for elimination. We cannot stress how important it is to let your legislators know how these programs impact your communities.

What can we do?

CEDAM will continue to monitor the situation and keep our members informed as things progress. We urge you to have ongoing communication with your Congressional delegation and continue to educate them on how these programs are used in their district, even if you already know where they stand on our priorities. You can find contact information for Representatives here, and Senate contact information here.

CEDAM, in collaboration with the Michigan Nonprofit Association and Michigan Community Action, is hosting an Advocacy Day March 16 in Lansing. We encourage you to register here and learn more about how to advocate on your organization’s behalf.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us if we can be of assistance to you in any way. Please contact Jessica AcMoody at acmoody@cedam.info if you need any additional assistance in making contact with your Congressional offices, or Jamie Schriner-Hooper at jamie@cedam.info with any other concerns.

Thank you for your attention to these matters.

If you have a topic or idea that you think could make a great CEDAM blog post, please contact Kaylee Kellogg at kellogg@cedam.info.

4 Reasons You Should Volunteer

Written by Kaylee Kellogg, Communications Intern 

Everyday and in just about every part of the nation, groups and organizations could use a helping hand through volunteers. For some, volunteering is something they’ve never considered doing, while for others it is a regular part of their life. If you’ve been on the fence about donating your time and skills to an organization, it’s a great way to get involved, and you may be surprised at how giving back can help you as well. Here are some reasons that may encourage you to volunteer.

animals-617305_19201.) You can support a cause or community you care about.

Whether it’s helping at a local shelter, working at a soup kitchen or donating your time to a community event, volunteering can help strengthen the causes or community you choose to work with. Think about what or who you care about and would like to assist – doing something you’re already passionate about can create stronger bonds to spending your time there.

2.) Networking can happen anywhere.

While traditionally networking is thought of in work or professional situations, volunteering can lead to a great opportunity to network as well! You may be surprised at others who are also donating their time to similar causes, and can create long-lasting connections to them!

3.) Volunteering can build upon or help you learn new skills.

Some people may think “Well, I’m not sure I have the skill set that would be best for this type of volunteer work.” That’s okay! Most places who are looking for volunteers aren’t expecting experts walking in the door on their first day. When you go in to volunteer, be honest about your knowledge level. Other volunteers or employees can help you figure out what you need to know, and you may be surprised at what you learn!

4.) Volunteering saves more resources.money-652560_1280

One way or another, jobs must be done in nonprofits or groups. If volunteers are not able to be found, or not enough are giving their time, groups are forced to spend their money on extra employees rather than placing funds toward their need. Giving your time without expecting payment allows nonprofits to place money towards other important needs and goals.

If you have a topic or idea that you think could make a great CEDAM blog post, please contact Kaylee Kellogg at kellogg@cedam.info.

Voices of AmeriCorps: Shelby Soberalski

Written by the Corps Support Committee

The Rural Opportunity VISTA Program’s members provide capacity building to organizations by expanding on existing programming or creating a new program from the ground up. The VISTAs in this cohort are hard-working, dedicated, and awesome!

This month, as the great stories submitted by the AmeriCorps State Members and the AmeriCorps VISTA Members were coming in, one person’s story in particular really stood out to us.  The Corps Support Committee is so grateful to all those who allowed us to take a peek behind the curtain of their service year.

February 2017: Shelby Soberalski

ShelbyVISTAThis month we are highlighting: Shelby Soberalski! Shelby is an AmeriCorps VISTA currently serving in her first year.  She is empowered by the knowledge that she can do something to make a change in her hometown and excited about being a VISTA. Here is her Great Story submission:

In my short time of being an AmeriCorps VISTA Member, I’ve been able to do a lot of work that I never thought that I’d be able to do. It has opened many opportunities while also opening my eyes to many struggles in my own hometown. But knowing that I can do something about it is empowering.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” is a quote that I’ve always felt inspired by. Martin Luther King Jr. has always inspired me through different projects that I’ve done throughout my life. At a young age, his stories always compelled me to think of others and give back. When I was 14 years old and visited the National Mall and stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where he had stood years before me to deliver his unforgettable “I have a Dream” speech, was incredibly humbling.

I’ve volunteered a lot in my life and when I first thought of the idea of becoming an AmeriCorps VISTA Member, I knew this was something I could do. One of the first things I noticed was the MLK Day of Service and I loved the idea of serving in honor of Dr. King.

After researching a few different and unique ideas of what to do for MLK Day of Service, my fellow VISTA, Sarah McMahon, and I agreed upon the idea of creating Valentines Cards for Veterans and active Military personnel. We decided to encourage local senior citizens, fifth grade students and a Girl Scout troop to help us create over 100 cards.

I’ve learned a lot about Dr. King and I’ve always taken Martin Luther King Jr. day seriously, but it wasn’t until I was in a fifth grade classroom, as an AmeriCorps VISTA Member, that I fully understood. I was finally able to understand the impact of a volunteer and how far my service as a VISTA can go. Even though Dr. King is no longer here, I can continue to foster his dream. That it doesn’t take much for me to make a difference. The students were in awe hearing about what the AmeriCorps VISTA program is about and that I am able to help carry on such an important legacy that Martin Luther King Jr. started. Of all the thoughtful cards these students made for our Military, one wrote,

ThankYouCard“We are thankful for you and your work. If the AmeriCorps Volunteers did not give us the advantage to right notes to you and other working veterans’ this day would be wasted because there’s nothing better than thanking our working men and women.” [Note was copied word for word]

Reading through all of these cards, I was in awe of the lessons I was able to share with these students and I hope that they continue to feel compelled to give back to others. Days of service like this make me look forward to the rest of my service. It is moments like this, that I’m so glad I decided to become a part of something much larger than myself and commit to being an AmeriCorps VISTA Member.

CEDAM hosts the Michigan Financial Opportunity Corps and the Rural Opportunity VISTA program AmeriCorps programs. We would like to thank the Corps Support Committee (Jennifer Tucker, Lily Fossel and Autumn Zywicki) for providing content to the Voices of AmeriCorps series.