The head of AmeriCorps toured our campus & talked with our current & alumni VISTAs about their service.
Our staff had the idea. Our kids inspired the idea. Our community supported the idea. Our donors paid for the idea. Hidden behind the walls & ceilings of Our House’s Children’s Center are the handwriting & footprints left by the individuals who made it more than an idea.
Check here for monthly updates on the construction of our new children’s center.
Serenity & Jamiya jump rope outside of Our Club. On the other side of the chain-link fence, their new Children’s Center will be ready for them by summertime.
302 E Roosevelt Rd; Little Rock, AR
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newsletter design, articles, & photos by Amanda N. Woods for use by Our House ÂŠ 2013 & 2014
The CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the organization that provides our AmeriCorps members, visited Our House for an afternoon in April. Wendy Spencer came with Valerie Green, General Counsel of CNCS; Kathie Ferguson, Southwest Cluster Area Manager; Opal Sims, State Program Director; and Derek Cromwell, State Program Specialist. They toured our campus and met with our VISTAs and other AmeriCorps members, learning about Our Houseâ€™s programs and how the AmeriCorps members serve those programs. During her visit to Arkansas, Spencer wanted to see a featured AmeriCorps site. Our House was selected because of our performance as a grantee and because Our House had been awarded Outstanding AmeriCorps VISTA Site.
While Wendy Spencer’s visit was brief, it was a great experience. For one, it’s inspirational to see a woman in a CEO position. It was great to see and hear from her in person how much she cares and believes in AmeriCorps and those who serve. I know she works hard to keep this great program going in our nation & make it better.
My team is unique in that we are all former or current VISTAs. This has been particularly impactful on our approach to our program’s dynamic growth. Thanks to AmeriCorps VISTA’s focus on sustainable solutions to alleviating poverty, we have steadily expanded the Learning Center’s capacity to serve more students every year.
Above: Corporation for National & Community Service CEO Wendy Spencer meets with Our House’s VISTAs & some of our VISTA alumni. Left: Taylor Yokem describes his role as Operations Support VISTA. Behind him is State Program Director Opal Sims.
VISTA has been an amazing
opportunity to put my anthropological skills into practice. I have made connections, developed as a professional, and touched many lives through this year of service. VISTA is not a job—it’s a fulfilling year of high-impact work in my own community.
It’s inspiring & encouraging to meet former VISTAs from Our House who have gone on to do such wonderful work. As the newest VISTA, I feel really honored to be welcomed into such an incredible organization and to have that organization honored for being an outstanding site for VISTAs.
Above: While our guests visit Little Learners, teacher Janet Brown feeds a 5-month-old. Janet was one of Our Houseâ€™s first AmeriCorps members when she was a Delta Service Corps member in 1997. From the doorway, Valerie Green, Derek Cromwell, & Kathie Ferguson are entertained by one of our other happy babies, a 9-month old who stands behind the photographer. Left: Our Houseâ€™s Learning Center staff is made entirely of VISTAs & former VISTAs. Nicole Morgan, Ruthie Hokans, & Michelle Allen describe how they work with our teachers from Pulaski County to plan for the remodeling of the education building. Behind them, VISTAs Ashley Moses & Katelyn Bowen are in the office shared by the adult Learning Center & the youth programs.
Before accepting the position as an AmeriCorps VISTA, I was not certain what direction I wanted my career path to take. While serving as a VISTA at Our House, I fell in love with the mission of Our House and received tremendous support from the staff in helping me gain valuable skills and real-world work experience. As an added benefit, I have been able to use my Segal Education Award to help pay my tuition for the Masters of Social Work Program at UALR. Left: Our House VISTA alumni Ganelle Holman & Jessica Suitor talk about how their service affected their careers. Ganelle is now Executive Director of Pulaski Tech Foundation, & Jessica is now a CAFSI Case Manager at Our House.
It was incredibly satisfying to see all of the hard work that VISTAs & AmeriCorps members have put in over the years recognized in such a big way. Ms. Spencer’s words were inspiring. Being in a room with all of those people who work for reform & change was a pretty humbling feeling. It just goes to show what we do here has enough results & powerful impact to attract that kind of attention. That’s meaningful for all of us here, especially with how hard we work & how much we care for this community.
I’d been hopeful for a way to keep serving Our House. Considering the UN’s recent report about US homelessness, I’d hoped to see an increased VISTA term limit so we can do more about homelessness. I was glad for a chance to ask this important question. Her answer: the term limit will not be raised. I’ll keep hoping that she’ll change her mind & that someday I’ll be starting my 6th term here. Our House & I are a perfect fit, if only I could stay here.
For over a year we’ve been saying that Our House is building a new Children’s Center. We’ve said that our donors are building this Children’s Center. We’ve said that the community is building this Children’s Center. We’ve said that our kids are building this Children’s Center. Hidden behind the walls and ceilings of this Children’s Center are the fingerprints, footprints, handwriting, and occasional Sharpie drawings left by the individuals who are really building this Children’s Center. Typical Kids From inside the fence surrounding the construction site for Our House’s new Children’s Center, Staley Electric’s Electrical Supervisor Jason Wiles has seen the Our House kids playing outside the current youth programs building, and the sight reminds him of his own childhood. “I was a typical boy when I was little. I stayed outside all day.” Wiles admits he doesn’t know much about Our House or its youth programs. All he knows is that through the fence he has seen “typical kids,” just like he was once.
Eddie Sledge from Bailey Paint adds color to the wall of the multi-purpose room. February 2014
In the early days of the project, Wiles was digging with large machinery, and he noticed the kids watching him. “They were typical kids watching machine work.” He smiles, remembering the kids’ interest in his digging machine. It makes perfect sense to him. “It’s noisy, it moves, and it’s playing in the dirt!”
Employees of CB Masonry pour concrete for the front wall of the Little Learners offices. November 2013
Just Another Job? Other than occasional reminders of his own interest in working outside with powerful machinery, Wiles prefers not to get too personally involved with each project. Most of the workers don’t. They don’t think often about the importance of this particular project, and they haven’t noticed much of the media coverage about it. As Wiles says, this is “just another job,” although when he was sent here he was told it was “a high-profile job.” Wiles, Eddie Sledge, and Billy Fulmer see the importance of the new building because all three are fathers, but they still say they prefer not to get too close to the job. Except for one. Eddie Sledge, a Little Rock native who now lives in Mayflower, made a connection when he found out what the impact of this building will be on the whole community, especially the families of Our House. “If you’ve got a heart at all it’s pretty emotional when you’re dealing with stuff like that.” When he started working on the Children’s Center in January, all Sledge knew about Our House was “that they help people.” After hearing about Our House’s youth programs and about families becoming homeless because they couldn’t afford child care, Sledge could relate to the high costs. “I know how it was when I had my two kids. My grandma helped us out. It’s pretty expensive.” Sometimes while he works he thinks about the people who will use the building when it’s finished. “I get attached to jobs. I always think about the people coming in and hope they’re happy and everything works out fine.”
An employee guides a bar joist into place for the structural steel. September 2013
An employee of Glass Erectors puts on flashing for the Children’s Center’s windows. January 2014
Billy Fulmer, who has worked for 8 years with Freyaldenhoven Mechanical and has worked on the Children’s Center since October, notices the unique design of the building, like the unusual variety of window sizes, shapes, and positions. “It’s definitely different. The windows upstairs are cool because kids of different ages can see out.” The Look On Their Faces Most of the people doing the physical work to build our Children’s Center won’t be around to see the kids’ reactions when they get their first look at the finished building. They’ll be on their way to other jobs by then. Sledge imagines what it would be like to see the kids’ faces as they get their first look at their new place. “Compared to what they’re in now, it’s going to be like a mansion!” Just Doing My Job “Just doing my job.” That’s the way they describe it. At Our House, we value the work done by Jason Wiles, Eddie Sledge, Billy Fulmer, and all of the other individuals who for months have spent their days digging, measuring, pouring, climbing, sawing, drilling, nailing, lifting, stacking, wiring, plumbing, painting, cleaning, and doing more than we’ll ever know to put this building together. “Just doing my job?” That may be true, but it’s an important job.
Patrick Reed grinds a steel plate for the structural steel. February 2014
Michelle Barnes, Housing Manager Our housing programs receive food from many different sources. We purchase some dairy products and frozen meats (chicken, hamburger patties, beef franks) from Sam’s. We receive more of our food items from Arkansas Food Bank and Potluck Rescue. Most of our food items are received from the community through the meal serving program and in-kind donations. Jackson Bittner, Community Engagement VISTA One of the biggest ways we get food for our residents is through our meal serving program. In this program groups from civic organizations, religious organizations, companies, or families purchase, prepare, and serve meals to our residents on a monthly basis.
Jessica Key, CAFSI Case Manager The majority of our CAFSI (Central Arkansas Family Stability Institute) clients have SNAP benefits. A select group of our clients also receive free groceries twice a month through a partnership with Green Groceries. When a client’s food resources are running low, we provide a list of food pantries in the community or sometimes a food box from Our House’s pantry.
Justin Sanders, Director of Client Services Family Housing clients are required to purchase and cook meals for themselves as a way to build skills for being independent again. Many of the families are eligible for SNAP and get assistance applying upon entry into Our House. For those that are not eligible or need to supplement their food assistance, our case managers work with each family to brainstorm additional ways to access healthy affordable food, whether by budgeting to purchase their own or through other resources in the community. Mollie Ipsen, Child Care Coordinator The Childrenâ€™s Program participates in DHSâ€™s Special Nutrition Program. This allows our cook to shop and prepare foods that the children will like and eat. We are reimbursed monthly for food costs. We also participate in the SFSP, which helps feed the 6-to-17-year-olds throughout the summer. We make sure that children are getting the nutrition they need based on serving size, including grains, vegetables, fruit, and dairy.
how were you greeted at your last summer job?
be an Our House Summer VISTA 25 positions available in these areas Little Learners Child Development Center Summer Youth Program Food Program Adult Learning Center Operations Support Positions run May 29th to August 8th, including training. Members get an $380 bi-weekly living allowance and their choice of either a $1,174 Eli Segal AmeriCorps Education Award OR a cash award of $250 at the end of service. Applicants must be U.S. citizens age 18 or older.
To apply, send your resume and cover letter to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our House VISTAs Katelyn Bowen, Niki Hitt, & Nicole Morgan 109 N. Van Buren St. Little Rock 501-353-0642
4606 JFK Blvd. North Little Rock 501-246-5741
On Katelyn: dress $153.60 necklace $10.99 On Niki: dress $24.99 earrings $3.99 On Nicole: shirt $5.75 skirt $6.00 (with matching shirt, not shown)
records 50Â˘ to $3.00
Pick-up is available for furniture donations. 501-772-5139 benefitting Our House
by Niki Hitt, In-Kind Donations VISTA, Ezell Breedlove, Volunteer Relations VISTA, & Amanda N. Woods
Arash Hadidi When Arash Hadidi had a two-day break from his City Year duties, he spent them at Our House, volunteering in Our Club & Little Learners. He works with elementary school kids as part of his City Year position, & he has a natural rapport with kids of all ages. He played with the older kids, & he rocked babies to sleep. He played a special song from his native Pakistan for one of the babies. The babyâ€™s name was the title of the song, & it was a hit in the nursery & with the babyâ€™s mom. The kids loved Arash, & we hope he comes back to volunteer any time he can.
Brittany Taghizadeh It was like a birthday party at Our House when Brittany Taghizadeh came to visit. Instead of birthday presents, Brittany asked guests to bring canned goods for Our House to her birthday party. Our House wishes a happy birthday to Brittany.
Ladies of Little Rock Marathon The Ladies of the Little Rock Marathon provided Our House with some tasty treats to snack on. The residents enjoyed soda, chips, crackers, & granola bars.
Arkansas Baptist High School
Arkansas Baptist High School came to volunteer the week before their spring break. They were not afraid to get their hands dirty, literally. They shoveled dirt, grass, & debris to take to the city landfill. They weeded and re-mulched flower beds. They sorted and organized clothing donations and assisted with class work in Little Learners.
Individuals Nash Abrams Twylla & Drew Alexander Anonymous Donor Eileen & Dr. Joe Backus Miranda Burchfield Baker Sherri Beth Blunk Paige & Brian Bratcher Debbie & Shane Broadway Deborah & Mark Burghart Susan Annette Ramey & Phillip R. Craig Eddie & Don Dixon Lenlie Freeman Diane & Gregory Graham Julia & Lyle Heim Anne Hill Robin Hill Martha Hodgman Lance King Rachel Lang Pat & John Lile Heather Mazander Jo & Presley Melton MJ & Dan Orellano Kerry & Joseph Pere Nancy & Tad Phillips Laine Poe Jean & Frank Raymond Evelyn Rose-Jones Chris Schaffhauser Meredith Scroggin Jennifer & Bruce Sullivan
Bridget & Andrew Upchurch Angel & Drew Weber Mandy Mosier & Chuck Welch Mary White Edwina & Jerry Wilson Congregations Cathedral of St. Andrew Christ the King Catholic Church Christian Science Society Church of the Immaculate Conception First United Methodist Church of Bryant Lakewood United Methodist Women St. Anne Catholic Church Corporations Crescent Hotel & Spa, Inc. Garver, LLC IBM Employees Kroger Murphy Oil Corporation Staley Electric, LLC Government AR Special Nutrition Program City of Little Rock: Reentry Program City of Little Rock: Youth Program DHS—AmeriCorps DHS—ESG HUD: Supportive Housing HUD: Transitions
Non-Government Grants Heart of Arkansas United Way United Wayâ€”CAFSI Organizations Little Rock Christian Academy Renaissance Charitable Foundation, Inc. Capital Donations Anonymous Donor Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance Amy Bressinck Bratcher Kevin Bratcher Sharon & John Denery Julia & Lyle Heim Susan & Dave Hoffpauir William Holden Amanda Hughes Lighthouse Group, LLC Nancy & R.L. Qualls Melissa & James Cooper Riley Jr. Jessica & Blake Rutherford Billie & Skip Rutherford Margaret & Thomas Schueck Lareda & Danny Smith Marcelline L. Smith Angel & Drew Weber Mike White Elizabeth & William Woodyard
Individuals Twylla & Drew Alexander Anonymous Donor Susan Bujol Lee Chavis Lisa Chrzanowski Vernon Dillard Jerry Dotson Lenlie Freeman Kevin Haynes Julia & Lyle Heim Trudy & Jerry Jacobson Lance King Doris & Mark Krain Rachel Long James Mayes Terry McChristian Jo & Presley Melton Cathy & Michael Moran James Neu MJ & Dan Orellano Rosemarie & Greg Peckham Jay Robison Evelyn Rose Chris Schaffhauser Judy & William Trice Bridget & Andrew Upchurch John Warren Angel & Drew Weber Terrie Wilkerson Sarrah Wilson Diane & Randy Zook
Congregations Cathedral of St. Andrew Christ the King Catholic Church Church of the Immaculate Conception Little Rock Church Second Presbyterian Church Society of Friends St. Anne Catholic Church St. Luke’s Episcopal Church Corporations GE Foundation IBM Employees U.S. Pizza Co. Government AR Special Nutrition Program City of Little Rock: Reentry Program City of Little Rock: Youth Program DHS—AmeriCorps Emergency Food & Shelter Grant HUD: Supportive Housing Non-Government Grants Heart of Arkansas United Way United Way—CAFSI Organizations Altrusa Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Lisa Academy Tim Griffin for Congress
Capital Donations Anonymous Donor Amy Bressinck Bratcher Kevin Bratcher Graham Catlett Sharon & John Denery Cynthia & Robert East Karen & John Flake Betti & Lynn Hamilton Susan & Dave Hoffpauir Amanda Hughes Lighthouse Group, LLC Betty & Maxwell Lyons Denise & Shannon Palmer Suzanne Pate Chester Phillips Riggs Benevolent Fund Melissa & James Cooper Riley Jr. Nancy Rousseau Jessica & Blake Rutherford Billie & Skip Rutherford Shirley J. Schuette Lareda & Danny Smith Summit Bank Michelle & John Terry U.S. Pizza Co. Angel & Drew Weber Mike White Nicole & Darrin Williams Elizabeth & William Woodyard
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