Laura J is on to a great idea so here are some of my AmeriCorps term highlights:
Getting deployed to Alabama as a client caseworker. I thought client casework would mean that I was relegated to a desk inside a building. So I was surprised when Helen, my Texas teammate, and I were sent to do outreach on remote county roads where everyone knew one another and no one knew street names (a GPS was a lifesaver!). We did disaster assessment, stopped in various gas stations and restaurants to find out which areas had been affected by tornadoes, and spoke with a diverse array of people. We interviewed clients on porches, outside grocery stores, and inside damaged homes. Every day was an adventure and every day Helen and I met the kindest people with the warmest hospitality. Families whose homes were blown to pieces tried to give us water or offer us a seat. When we were in restaurants, people would insist that we eat for free. We saw communities come together and support one another. It was inspiring and heart-wrenching at the same time.
The AmeriCorps scavenger hunt in August. We were fresh to the Red Cross and to Santa Barbara and as induction to both, our supervisors devised a hilarious route through the city visiting Red Cross-related sites as well as local hot-spots like the Mission. To make it even more memorable (and embarrassing) we were instructed to video tape ourselves completing the tasks assigned. So yes we had the fire chief videotape us demonstrating stop, drop, and roll in the fire department lounge, we filmed ourselves playing leapfrog across the gardens in front of the mission, imitating celebrity donors in front of the pier, asking passer-by about earthquake safety, and all other sorts of things. It was great for team-bonding, acquainting ourselves with the geography, and for giving anyone who watched the video a big chuckle.
The Aviation Drill at the Santa Barbara Airport in October. This was my first experience with the Red Cross in action! The week before I took a Disaster Kitchen Training course and so I was assigned to the feeding team. We brainstormed a menu and began cooking early early. At the drill, we lined up the shiny red cambros and made a burrito-making assembly line complete with an expert burrito folder/leak preventer. I ladled the veggies and cheese on to hundreds of burritos and I was so happy doing it. Each person we greeted with a smile (even those UCSB kids covered in gruesome make-up J) and everyone was gracious for the delicious meal. Later in the day I got to follow Kristiana around in her role as Public Affairs and see the more stressful side of disaster. All and all it was an excellent and educational day.
Outside volunteering. The AmeriCorps spend eight hours each month volunteering for organizations other than the Red Cross. I have highlighted some of those experiences in past entries – such as our unforgettable adventure to Anacapa Island – but there have been many other awesome experiences. I spent several months at the History Center in San Luis Obispo, a quaint museum housed in an old and well-maintained Carnegie Library. I learned quite a bit about the history of the area and got to chat with many interesting people. Another month, Laura B, Carsen, Laura J and I spent the day working on an organic farm that provides produce to low-income families. We harvested radishes, shaped some beds and accrued a wonderful farmer’s tan. A few of us even volunteered with the Santa Barbara International Film Festival back in January – it was fantastic! But at the end of the day, Laura J and I just couldn’t get enough of the beautiful native plants and so we spent last Saturday working at the Carp State Beach maintaining the flourishing shrubs we had planted back in January.
There are certainly more highlights of the term year – including general volunteer awesomeness, working with a wonderful cadre of AmeriCorps and Red Cross staff, some amusing CDE presentations, MASH Bash, and some hilarious/delicious times at the Santa Maria potlucks – but this is becoming a bit lengthy. I will miss all three offices, the people I was fortunate enough to meet, and the deep belly laughs and smiles that powered me through my term. Stay classy, Santa Barbara Red Cross.