Hello everyone! I serve as a VISTA at Char-Em United Way in Petoskey. Char-Em United Way has three main focuses which are health, income and education. The mission statement is “Uniting the people and resources of Charlevoix and Emmet Counties to build strong communities”. We help connect people to community resources and agencies, rather than providing direct service.
A part of my service focuses on early childhood literacy. Along with my fellow VISTA, I help to support the Dolly Parton Imagination Library Program which sponsors over 1,300 children ages 0-5 in Charlevoix and Emmet counties to get a free book every month in the mail. We register children for the program, send out graduation surveys and 3-6 month surveys and send out bi-monthly newsletters to the parents that let them know about things that are going on that they can do with their children. The books are paid for through donations and the annual Toast to Literacy that is held in February. For the fundraiser this year I recruited 25 of volunteers for the event and helped bring in donations for the silent auction.
When I started my service in November I was excited to start an Alternative Spring Break program, but it was a big project for one person. I found agencies that were willing to get projects together for the students to do and made up a flyer, but then I had a hard time getting the schools on board to do one. Eventually it was clear that it was too late to start the program this year, but I’m excited I made a contact from a high school in the area who has a lot of interest and will help me get the details together to have one next year.
I have started a social media initiative for our Facebook at the United Way that I picked up from a social media webinar I participated in: Motivational Monday, Tip Tuesday, What’s New Wednesday, Thoughtful Thursday and Cute/Funny Photo Friday. I really enjoy creating these posts and the number of people that have liked our page has increased as well.
The United Way promotes volunteerism and helps connect people in the community to volunteer opportunities through the Volunteer Connections portal on our website. The annual Instant Wine Cellar event helps to fund Volunteer Connections and I am in the process of getting volunteers to assist at the event. In addition to Volunteer Connections, we recognize a Volunteer of the Month. My fellow VISTA and I interview the volunteers each month and it’s pretty cool to meet these amazing people. We write articles about these volunteers that get published in the Petoskey News Review. It’s helping me become a better writer and I’m thankful for that.
I was just involved with Project Connect, which is an event that connects attendees with health and human services agencies in Charlevoix and Emmet Counties. I contacted local churches to provide information about the event and request volunteers, and I also was a volunteer who helped people register at the door. It was an incredible event and I really was really proud to be a part of it.
I have been at Char-Em United Way for four months now and I have learned a lot so far. I’ve learned that I can grow in the most difficult situation. I am thankful for the trainings and all I’ve learned about myself. This VISTA experience has been a journey for me. There have been some ups and downs and I must say I’ve really grown from them. I am still getting used to Northern Michigan, but I really like it so far. I am pretty excited for the summer time up here and for what the rest of my service year has in store.