To wrap our "Serving Across the State" AmeriCorps Week project, the MYBC again traveled westward, this time to the Springfield YWCA. For the first time since Monday's event in Boston, the nice weather found us. Under a sunny sky, YouthBuild volunteers were organized into teams by YWCA staff and set to work on a wide variety of projects to get their organization's community garden project up and running for the growing season. Tasks included prepping garden beds, building raised beds, installing fencing to keep out pesky deer, mixing potting soil, potting transplants, painting signage, and building a tool shed. In short, we had our hands full.
The garden space at the YWCA will be tended by residents of the emergency shelter on site, and what they grow will be theirs to keep. The volunteers from ten Massachusetts YouthBuild Coalition programs were grateful to play a role in getting such a community and need-based model off the ground. It was clear there will be a day two, three, and many more spent on this project, and YouthBuild students will surely be around to help in that process.
I learned early in the day that this particular garden project had been planned by a VISTA in the Springfield area, who just so happened to be graduating from UMass later in the afternoon. And while YWCA staff kept informing him of his 11:30am departure deadline (his mother would be made if he missed his own graduation), Peter stuck with us well beyond that to see that everything was going as planned. VISTA and AmeriCorps service is all consuming at times. It pushes those who choose it to put their community first in everything they do. Peter's help made me feel nostalgic about my own VISTA service. After all, it was about this time last year that I broke ground, with the help of many YouthBuild volunteers, on a community garden project in my home town. I spent the better part of my summer out there, taking care of our vegetables and selling them (proceeds went right back into the program) at the farmer's market every Friday. One garden was enough to keep our hands full, but Peter informed me that the YWCA is but one of fifteen similar sites he is getting off the ground in the area. That is answering the VISTA call to be sure.
Our programs did something special this week under the banners of the MYBC, Massachusetts Service Alliance, and AmeriCorps Week. We traveled over 5,000 miles to make it happen. We rose early each morning and worked late into most evenings. We landscaped the Massachusetts State House, built handicap accessible picnic tables in Lawrence, showed after-school program youth a great time in Worcester, cleared brush and invasive species in partnership with the Trustees of Reservations on the South Coast, and helped launch a garden that will be growing and giving volunteers a place to work for years to come in Springfield. We truly served across the state, and did so because we thought it was our responsibility as YouthBuild and AmeriCorps programs.
From the MYBC staff, and from one very grateful VISTA, we thank everyone who made this week happen and helped it run smoothly. Time to start planning for AmeriCorps Week 2012.
-Paul, your VISTA blogger
Day Five, Springfield: 50 volunteers (42 AmeriCorps Members, 1 Alum) served 225 hours
Week Totals: 180 volunteers, 741 hours