August 3, 2011 Leave a comment
Jim Schepers – The Other Way Ministries
A young man needing to do some community service gets an experience beyond what he came for.
One of the main outcomes wanted when placing an Americorps community worker in a neighborhood to do asset based community development is the development of an increasing number of volunteers who care enough about the community to spend their time making it better for everyone. Of course, we are most interested in investing in local neighborhood residents, the assets of our neighborhood. However, sometimes, the assets we find don’t always fit our pre-determined model.
To identify and engage neighborhood ‘assets’, we train Americorps members to listen carefully for opportunity and to make connections, giving volunteers the chance to do some simple good works in the neighborhood. What we cannot teach is the thoughtful follow-up, invitation and encouragement it takes to help change a person from a disconnected resident to a volunteer engaged and invested in developing community. Karl, our Westown Americorps Member tells one story of how he makes that happen. His story is about Keith. Keith came to us simply to fill a school required community service project. He left having gotten much more than he needed.
Keith Punches is a 17-year-old senior from Standale High School. Keith came to us for a 20-hour mandatory school program geared toward community service. Keith’s father heard of some volunteer activities going on at The Other Way Ministries on the West Side of Grand Rapids from a community volunteer, Morry Potter. Keith’s father is Morry’s landloard and owns a few units here on the west side. I met with Keith’s father and briefed him on some of the activities that are ongoing.
On July 7, I had Keith climb up a ladder to the second floor to repair a window screen that was damaged and was allowing birds to go in and out of the home. The next day Keith teamed up with other volunteers to pass out fruits and vegetables and at the same time engage local residents in conversation about neighborhood wants and well as needs. The following Monday, we canvassed the community for graffiti and other community jobs we could tackle. Since Keith has been with us he has taken on the lead roll in repairing benches in a near by park for an upcoming gospel event this weekend.
Keith has gotten to meet six other volunteers here and did a very thoughtful and Godly thing yesterday. Johnny McSwain, is another one of our Americorps volunteers who has worked on several projects in the community and is dedicated to transforming the neighborhood. Johnny took some paper work to a local support agency, which only took two minutes to drop off, and when he came out, he found his bike had been stolen. When Keith heard how his fellow volunteer was without a bike, having some extra cash in his pocket we found a local person who sells bikes and Keith purchased a bike with his own money for a friend and fellow volunteer.
Karl Williams, Americorps