Nov 7, 2012

Sandy Update from the national office

AmeriCorps Alums: Join the Hurricane Sandy Recovery Effort

Dear AmeriCorps Alum,
One of the things we love about our AmeriCorps Alums is that you are ready to answer the call when you hear of situations like those created by Hurricane Sandy.  “Getting things done” is more than a slogan for our national service family – they are also words to live by. So let’s talk about how you can help.
As residents along the battered coastal areas try to reassemble their lives during this difficult time, many of our AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps NCCC members are uniquely equipped to help with the situation. Alumni from our Corporation for National and Community Service programs who have training from the American Red Cross may have skills they can contribute to relief and recovery efforts.
NCCC members and AmeriCorps members who have worked with the Red Cross before may have training in shelter operations, mass care, and feeding operations. You may also still be certified to help Red Cross chapters with this work if less than one year has passed since your service. 
Contact your local Red Cross chapter and ask to be added to a volunteer list if you would like to serve with them. Those who wish to work in disaster services and are not certified or whose certification has expired can get recertified by completing their disaster training through the Red Cross.  
Here are some other ways you can help. (Note: In most cases, on-site volunteers are responsible for their own expenses in these areas.)
Another final thing to remember is that the need for volunteers for Hurricane Sandy recovery will be ongoing, so if you are not available or ready to serve now, there will be plenty of opportunities to help in the weeks and months ahead. Take a moment to bookmark or flag service agencies along Sandy’s path and check back with them often to uncover unfilled needs. 
To keep up to date with volunteer and recovery information, please tweet using #SandyVolunteers and follow @ServedotGov@AmeriCorps, and the organizations mentioned above.

If you’re an Alum who’s serving, be sure to tweet @AmeriCorpsAlums and #ACAlums to share your story from the ground.
You can also follow our partner organizations mentioned above, including: @FEMA, @Redcross, @serve_RI, @newyorkcares, @NECHAMAjrtd, and @Handsonnetwork. 

Nov 2, 2012

Info about how to apply for a VISTA project here in CT !

     The Connecticut State Office of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) announces an opportunity, subject to availability of resources, to develop new AmeriCorps VISTA projects in Connecticut. This Request for Concept Papers is open to organizations that are NOT current VISTA project sponsors. Please share this notice with your networks, and contact the CNCS Connecticut State Office at with any questions. 
AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) is a full-time, national service program for individuals interested in developing lasting solutions to the problems of poverty in the United States. AmeriCorps VISTA members serve in community and faith-based non-profit organizations, Indian Tribes, and with local governments to develop and expand services and programs that help bring low-income individuals out of poverty. 
Public organizations such as state and local government, Indian Tribes, and non-profit private organizations can apply to be VISTA sponsors. Please note that eligible non-profit private organizations are not limited to those with IRS 501(c) (3) status, but rather all organizations with IRS 501(c) status that focus on anti-poverty community development; organizations that focus solely on advocacy and lobbying are not eligible. 
The CNCS Connecticut State Office is accepting Concept Papers that propose to address any of the following focus areas from the AmeriCorps VISTA FY2013 Program Guidance: 
Economic Opportunity
-Housing: Transitioning individuals into safe, healthy, affordable housing; 
-Employment: Improving employability that leads to increased success in becoming employed. 
-School Readiness: School readiness for economically disadvantaged young children, 
-K-12 Success: Educational and behavioral outcomes of students in low-achieving elementary, middle, and high schools, and 
-Post-secondary Success: Preparation for and prospects of success in post-secondary education institutions for economically disadvantaged students. 
Healthy Futures
-Food Resources: Improving access to nutritious food. 
Veterans and Military Families
-Economic Opportunity (Financial literacy, Housing, Employment) 
-Healthy Futures (Food Resources, Access to Health Care) 
Applicants are invited to submit a concept paper on or before December 5, 2012.

Subject to availability of resources, AmeriCorps VISTA positions will be awarded on a full-time basis for one year of service to new VISTA sponsoring organizations. CNCS will make an award covering a period not to exceed one year with the potential for continuation. VISTA members will likely begin service during 2013 or 2014. 
Programming should be primarily based on addressing local needs, and the CNCS Connecticut State Office will be guided by locally-driven programming that addresses the Core Principles of VISTA. 
VISTA Core Principles 
Each VISTA Project must be developed in accordance with the parameters defined by law, federal regulations and the core VISTA principles: Anti-Poverty Focus, Community Empowerment, Capacity Building, and Sustainable Solutions. 
Anti-Poverty Focus 
The purpose of VISTA is to support efforts to fight poverty. The goal of every project must be to help individuals and communities out of poverty, not to simply make poverty more tolerable. The project should focus on long-term solutions rather than short-term services. 
Community Empowerment 
All VISTA project sponsors must ensure that their project engages residents of the low-income community in planning, developing, implementing and evaluating the project. The project must be responsive and relevant to the lives of the community residents, and should tap into inherent community assets, strengths and resources. 
Capacity Building 
One way to achieve sustainable solutions is to strengthen the ability of local organizations to fight poverty. Through activities such as fundraising, establishment of volunteer recruitment and management systems, community outreach, and partnership development, VISTAs help sponsors to bolster their capacity to achieve lasting solutions to poverty. If you are invited to submit the full application, keep in mind that VISTA projects should focus their performance milestones on achieving outcomes that measure the impact on the community and/or beneficiary population, with a lesser focus on outcomes of capacity building for the sponsoring organization or its partners, affiliates, or intermediary organizations. 
Sustainable Solutions 
As originally designated in the Domestic Volunteer Service Act and reinforced in the Serve America Act, VISTA members represent a short-term resource and work to build the long-term sustainability of anti-poverty programs. All VISTA projects should be developed with the goal of an eventual phase-out of the need for VISTA members and the ability of the project to continue without them. 
Most single-site VISTA projects typically last three years. Multi-site projects usually run longer than three years, but individual host sites may be limited to three years. From the beginning of the project planning process, the sponsor and community must think about how to use the VISTA project to phase-in other resources and systems to replace the VISTA resource. 
Colleges, universities and cities are encouraged to apply for VISTA projects that focus on building long-term relationships with community organizations whose work is focused on one or more priority areas.

All applicants must review and be familiar with the contents of the following documents: 
A Guide to Becoming an AmeriCorps VISTA Project Sponsor: 
AmeriCorps VISTA FY2013 Program Guidance: 
All applicants must follow the AmeriCorps VISTA Concept Paper Instructions: 
CNCS requires that all applicants submit applications electronically via the CNCS web-based application system, eGrants: 
If your organization has not used the CNCS eGrants system before, you will need to create an account. Select the following NOFA for the concept paper: AmeriCorps VISTA State FY 2013 NOFA 
Technical questions about eGrants may be submitted to the National Service Hotline via phone at 1-800-942-2677 or via Web form: 
Criteria for approval are based on whether the proposed project does the following: 
 Fits with one or more of the VISTA programming priorities listed on page 1 of this RFCP; 
 Addresses the needs of low-income communities; 
 Leads to building organizational capacity so that the project can continue once VISTA resources are withdrawn; 
 Involves beneficiaries of the service and the low-income community in project development and implementation. This is required and must be noted in the Concept Paper in the Strengthening Communities section. 
 Is designed to generate public and/or private-sector resources; 
 Promotes local volunteer service; 
 Complies with the provisions of the Domestic Volunteer Service Act of 1973, as amended; 2009 Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, VISTA regulations; and VISTA policies. 

Further criteria for determining approval are based on whether the applicant meets the following: 
 Is a local or state government agency, Tribe, or a private organization designated as a non-profit by the Internal Revenue Service; 
 Has resources available for VISTAs to perform their activities, such as space, supplies, and on-the-job transportation, and is able to provide emergency cash advances when needed; 
 Has the management capacity and commitment to recruit, train, supervise, and otherwise support VISTAs recruited locally and nationally; 
 Understands and is committed to promoting national and community service; 
 Has the capacity to build community partnerships and collaborative efforts to achieve project self-sufficiency. 

As previously mentioned, VISTA projects have an average lifecycle of three years unless the applicant is sponsoring a multi-site project. New project development occurs annually and is always subject to availability of resources. The CNCS Connecticut State Office strives to ensure that the portfolio of VISTA projects is diverse, both in terms of programmatic areas as well as geography. 
Any interested organization or individual with additional questions not addressed by this RFCP may contact: 
Additional resources: 
General information on CNCS and all national service programs: 
Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act of 2009: 
Specific information on VISTA: 
VISTA 101: Understanding VISTA" (Flash Course): 

November 1, 2012: Request for Concept Papers (RFCP) Issued 
November 9: 2012: Interested applicants e-mail letter of intent to apply (not required and non-binding) 
November 16, 2012: Webinar for interested applicants 
December 5, 2012: Deadline for submitting concept papers 
December 21, 2012: CNCS Connecticut State Office staff will notify organizations if their concept paper has been approved and provide guidance on the next step of the application process to approved applicants. 
January 21, 2013: Deadline for organizations with approved concept papers to submit full project application via eGrants. All supporting documentation and attachments must be E-mailed or mailed and received by the CNCS Connecticut State Office on or before January 21, 2013. E-mail attachments are preferred; however, any documents that need to be mailed may be sent to the following address: 
Corporation for National and Community Service, 135 High Street, Room 272, Hartford, CT 06103 
February 28, 2013: CNCS Connecticut State Office staff will notify organizations of decisions on applications and proceed with final approval process of accepted applications. 
March 15, 2013: VISTA Member Assignment Descriptions due to CNCS Connecticut State Office

March 15, 2013: Application approvals completed and Memorandums of Agreement issued 
April 2013: Projects approved to place VISTAs in 2013 begin recruiting VISTA candidates. CNCS Connecticut State Office staff will provide technical assistance to new VISTA project directors. 
June 2013: VISTA Supervisors attend Supervisor training 
July or August 2013: VISTA candidates will attend training and start service. Specific deadlines for submitting VISTA candidate nominations to CNCS Connecticut State Office will be shared as the information becomes available. 

Aug 1, 2012

Bristol Resident Angela Ziogas returns after a great service term with NCCC!

Story By LLUVIA MARES, staff writer Bristol Press 

BRISTOL — The last thing Angela Ziogas expected after earning a business degree from Central Connecticut State University was was to live in a tent without electricity for nine weeks.
But that was just one of the experiences she had during a nearly 10-month stint with AmeriCorps, which ended earlier this month.

The 24-year-old Bristol resident carved trails for emergency vehicles in the mountains, cleaned river beds near San Diego, Calif., and worked on various other projects with the federal program.

“After I graduated, I wanted to do something different, I didn’t just want to hop into a career,” she said. “My dad [Christopher] mentioned AmeriCorps and I really respect his opinion, so I looked into it.”

Ziogas did research online and sent in her application in hopes of having a new adventure.

“I felt that volunteering would allow me to give back to the community while letting me see other parts of the country,” she said.

AmeriCorps is a U.S. federal government program created under President Bill Clinton by the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993. The organization helps nonprofits all over the country with services ranging from public education to environmental cleanup, according to the program.

Ziogas was part of the National Civilian Community Corps, which specializes in disaster response, infrastructure improvement, environmental stewardship and conservation, urban and rural development.

“We worked closely with nonprofit organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and the Boys and Girls Club,” she said.

The NCCC is one of three main divisions AmeriCorps is split into; the other two include AmeriCorps State and National and Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA).

“It was like a regular job,” Ziogas said. “We worked five days a week, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on most days.”

For her project at Mount El Capitan in San Diego, Ziogas said she lived in a two-bedroom cabin with nine others on top of the mountain.

“It was really hard at first but everyone gets to know each other and you become more like family,” she said.

During her work at El Capitan, Ziogas said the team was required to hike up three miles to get to the trails and then back down to get to the cabin every night, not including the “physical workout” they were required to do after work to keep in shape.

“It was really tough,” she said. “There were times when I wanted to just give up but I didn’t, I stuck it through.”

Another project sent Ziogas and her team to Catalina Island, a 22-mile long rocky island off the coast of California.

“I remember one day waking up in the morning and there was this huge bison right outside my tent,” she said. “We were afraid to go outside.”

Ziogas said the bison are a indigenous to the island and can be seen roaming freely on most days.

She spent nine weeks living in tents with no electricity and outdoor showers while creating trails and clearing dried brush as a fire reduction project with the Catalina Island Conservancy organization.

“It was difficult living in a tent because it got really cold at night and you had wild bison roaming around, but it was one of my favorite experiences because it taught me how little we need to live,” she said.

Ziogas said working for AmeriCorps helped her discover how tough she really was.

“Before I left to AmeriCorps, I was living at home and my dad provided everything that I needed,” she said. “Working with the organization for a year was interesting because it taught me how to live modestly.”

Ziogas helped construct four houses in six days while working with Habitat for Humanity in Portland, Ore.

Working with Habitat inspired her to pursue her love of working with non-profits.

After her stint with AmeriCorps, Ziogas applied and was hired as a crew leader for Habitat for Humanity in Washington D.C., where she is headed next month.

“Right now I’m just focusing on catching up with my family and friends and getting ready for my next adventure,” she said.

Jul 27, 2012

AmeriCorps*NCCC Team comes to Connecticut!

Poised, hard-working and ready to GET THINGS DONE!

From the Woodbury-Middlebury Patch and Robin Lucas:

In cooperation with Pomperaug Heath District’s Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) unit, a team of AmeriCorps volunteers will dedicate two weeks of their summer to helping Woodbury and Southbury with public health programming; trail remediation; and community garden beautification.
AmeriCorps (sometimes referred to as the “domestic Peace Corps”) will be stationed here from July 30 through August 10, through a grant-funded initiative with AmeriCorps’ parent agency: the National Civilian Community Corps.  Pomperaug Health District MRC and the Torrington Area Health District MRC, are sharing the AmeriCorps volunteers during this deployment.  The team is currently completing a series of tasks in the Torrington area, centered around youth and preparedness education. Prior to that, the 10-person-team had assisted Habitat for Humanity in Camden, NJ.
Under the direction of Pomperaug Health District, AmeriCorps will partner with the Southbury Land Trust and the Southbury Conservation Commission for trail cleanup and site beautification in the coming weeks.  Also on the AmeriCorps task list is spending a day at Southbury’s Community Garden at Settlers Park.  The garden was created this year through the CT State Department of Public Health and the Connecticut Cancer Partnership’s ACHIEVE grant, administrated by the Pomperaug Health District.
The AmeriCorps team will also take to the streets of Woodbury in order to gather data and complete real-time surveys using IPads at various, high-foot-traffic locations.  The data will help drive upcoming public health and emergency preparedness programming efforts.
Woodbury residents are urged to participate in the survey when approached by an AmeriCorps volunteer; input gathered from a random sampling of area residents will be especially useful in helping to make Woodbury and Southbury healthier, more prepared communities.  All AmeriCorps volunteers undergo extensive background checks prior to deployment.  These young men and women, who range in age between 18 and 24, hail from various parts of our nation and represent a broad spectrum of demographics.  All volunteers serving on behalf of the Pomperaug Health District MRC/AmeriCorps will be identifiable by identification badges and/or branded AmeriCorps apparel.  For more information regarding the AmeriCorps team or the Medical Reserve Corps, please call Pomperaug Health District Director of Health Neal Lustig  or MRC Unit Leader Robin Lucas at (203) 264-9616.

Jul 24, 2012

A beautiful night for baseball...

On Thursday, Aug 16 Hartford Habitat for Humanity is hosting a BBQ & Baseball game at the New Britain Rock Cats! More info here

Mar 16, 2012

Americorps week Spotlight - Ty Williams

As part of AmeriCorps Week 2012, each day we’ve been spotlighting a service member or alum across the state, this week’s final spotlight is on Ty Williams.

Ty served with the L.E.A.P. program in Bridgeport and Public Allies CT. He was a senior youth counselor with L.E.A.P. and did an internship at Bridgeport Community Health as a Community Outreach worker. He also was an Assistant Case Manager for the Juvenile Review Board. “I liked the type of work that was being done in the community and I knew friends who were in the program and I saw the growth development personal and professional life,” Ty says. “My biggest accomplishment was completing the program, forming a lot of relationships with those I served, and served with in my community and how it continues to develop for me even after 3-4 years.” Ty says what he learned about himself and his community is priceless, and currently he’s involved in his community. He keeps busy mentoring youth, working with families to help their children get on the right track, performing community service projects and community organizing.

Way to go Ty – glad to hear about your service and thanks for everything you do for our communities!

Keep up the great work AmeriCorps Alums members across the state - and Happy AmeriCorps week!!

Mar 15, 2012

AmeriCorps Week Spotlight - Sharaya Smith

As part of AmeriCorps Week 2012, each day we’ll be spotlighting a service member or alum across the state! Today’s spotlight is on Sharaya Smith.

Sharaya served last year with Homes For The Brave as their Development Assistant and this year she’s serving as Volunteer Services Coordinator for the Bridgeport Public Library (her hometown). She decided to join AmeriCorps because of the possibility to working with a local non-profit organization while building leadership skills and earning money to continue her college education at the same time.

“One of my biggest accomplishments while serving was getting the chance to help promote and develop "Female Soldiers:Forgotten Heroes" the only program in the state dedicated to serving homeless female veterans, during my first year. Being a Vet myself, it was service that touched me in a much more personal way.”

Great stuff Sharaya – keep up the great work and thank you for your service!

Mar 14, 2012

AmeriCorps week Spotlight - Becca Constantine!

As part of AmeriCorps Week 2012, each day we’ll be spotlighting a service member or alum across the state! Today’s spotlight is on Becca Constantine!

Becca is the Connecticut Campus Compact AmeriCorps VISTA member in Fairfield University's Office of Service Learning. “I have the immense privilege of working with our amazingly dedicated and talented students to build meaningful partnerships with schools and other organizations in the greater Bridgeport community.” Becca says a highlight of her year has been helping develop a service-learning program that pairs service-learning students in English and Education classes with 1st and 2nd grade students at Cesar Batalla Elementary in Bridgeport. “The smiles on the children's faces after sharing a book with a Fairfield U. student are priceless!” she says.

Becca Also served in AmeriCorps NCCC in 2010 as a Corps member and Team Leader in the Atlantic Region, serving in Maryland, Tennessee, Massachusetts, and Louisiana on environmental and disaster response & recovery projects, and shared this story with is - “One day, we were gutting two houses along a residential street in a quiet suburb. After spending hours pulling soggy insulation from under a very nice gentleman's floorboards, I went to check on how my other team members had spent their day. They had just finished their work and were gathered in the driveway chatting with the homeowner. When I approached, he turned to me and smiled broadly. He explained that he had started the day filled with skepticism, wondering how four young women (all were between 18 and 24) could possibly have the strength and tenacity to clean out his house in the wake of a life-upending disaster. They did, though, and had left his day and his world a bit brighter. "These girls," he announced, "are my heroes." He gave them each a big hug before we moved on to our next houses."

Becca has also coached swim teams, volunteered at an orphanage in Ghana and plans on pursuing a Master's degree in Education Policy and Leadership after her service year. “I hope to use the knowledge I gain during my studies to address issues of diversity in higher education enrollment and retention and to work toward the implementation of best-practice models for helping students from disadvantaged backgrounds succeed on college campuses."

Thanks for all you do Becca!! Great stuff!

Mar 13, 2012

Spotlight - Chad Davis

As part of AmeriCorps Week 2012, each day we’ll be spotlighting a service member or alum across the state! Today’s spotlight is on Chad Davis.

Chad served in a program in Meriden called CitySERVE! AmeriCorps for two separated years. One year he spent as a mentor to students in third grade at a local elementary school, tutoring students alongside teachers and a reading specialist. His second year he worked as an assistant to residential counselor at the Curtis Home.

"I was looking to get work experience and support to begin graduate school in teaching and the program caught my attention." Chad had also done the Peace Corps for two years and wanted a domestic program that resembled it.

Chad says he was able to gain confidence working with children and worked 60-hour weeks in order to fulfill his service agreement and earn the stipend. "I completed my hours and my group had a farewell party with a cake shaped liked Africa." Currently Chad is finishing a Teacher Certification in Special Education.

Thanks Chad - best of luck in the future!

Mar 12, 2012

AmeriCorps Week 2012 Spotlight on Jessica Callahan!

As part of AmeriCorps Week 2012, each day we’ll be spotlighting a service member or alum across the state! Today’s spotlight is on Jessica Callahan.

Jessica worked at Northwestern CT Area Health Education Center and helped to coordinate after school programs for disadvantaged youth in the Waterbury, CT. She utilized service learning to engage High School students through trainings and volunteer placements with local health care resources in the community. She decided to join AmeriCorps to help solidify her goals for the future, contribute positively to her community, and engage with her peers.

“One of my biggest accomplishments while serving was learning how to focus on myself and my dreams while helping others.” She says, using these skills after service on her way to obtaining a Bachelor's Degree in Urban and Community Studies at UConn. “I wouldn't have been as driven as I am now if it weren't for the constant motivation of my peers, and for the incredible feeling I had after completing our team service project, which was a community resource fair in Hartford, CT. Seeing the fruits of our labor was an incredible adrenaline rush, and made me want more!”

She continues to get things done through her job at a girls residential program near her hometown, by focusing on studies in order to graduate from college, and working on a model for a non-profit/community resource that she hopes to launch after graduation. “I am always talking to others about outreach, advocacy, and service learning and the impact it can have on their own community.”

Thanks for all you do Jessica, and have a great AmeriCorps week!

Mar 10, 2012

AmeriCorps Week gets kicked off with Service Project in Bridgeport!

AmeriCorps Week 2012 started today and CT Alums along with some Public Allies and friends and family all joined together to get things done!
Some quantifiables:

- 16 Garden beds prepped for spring planting at the Michelle Obama Community garden
- 15 garbage bags of leaves and such raked and cleared
- 1,500 books organized, sorted, labeled and arranged for community book sale

Don't forget, for all the latest info, service events and feedback join us on Facebook HERE, on Twitter HERE or email us AmeriCorpsAlumsCT @

Jan 27, 2012

AmeriCorps Week Service 2012!

Hey CT Alums, it's time to mark your calendars!

With AmeriCorps Week just around the corner (March 10th-18th) AmeriCorps Alums Connecticut is planning a full week of service, advocacy, networking and socializing across the state.

Saturday, March 10th from 9am-1pm we're kicking it off with a service project at the Bridgeport Public Library to help prep for an upcoming book fair and their new community garden.

Wednesday, March 14th around lunch time we'll be in Downtown New Haven doing advocacy and helping to get the word out about why AmeriCorps is so important to our country and communities.

Friday, March 16th - there will be a Professional Networking session in New Haven. AmeriCorps Alums CT will be visiting Public Allies Connecticut for their "Continuous Learning Friday" which will focus on Life After AmeriCorps. The leadership team will offer advice on how to utilize the knowledge and skills.

Also Friday at 7pm we'll be in Hartford at the XL Center to socialize and have some fun watching a minor league hockey game between the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and the CT Whale.

Be one of the first to post an "AmeriCorps Works" photo to our group Facebook page and you'll win free tickets to the game! Just print out the picture above that says "AmeriCorps Works" and take a photo of you at your place of work - showing the world that AmeriCorps Works!

Otherwise tickets are available until 3/10 by calling John Reis at 860-728-3366 x37 and telling him you're a CT AmeriCorps Alum!

The theme this year, "AmeriCorps Works", communicates the value and effectiveness of AmeriCorps while providing flexibility to be used in many different contexts. It provides an overarching framework to communicate AmeriCorps triple bottom line return on investment -- for the recipients of service, the people who serve, and the larger community and nation.