Tuesday, November 29, 2011

We've got so much so much so much so much so much...


I couldn't help but think about Camp DREAM over Thanksgiving, since that song was such a big part of our daily routine. Still, I've got a whole new list of things to be thankful for this year, including a cool new group of people to spend Thanksgiving with.

Our friends from "Fire 7" in Denver came up from Wednesday-Saturday to celebrate turkey day with us and it was really nice to have some new faces (though it did feel weird when they left since we never actually went anywhere). Still, we had a good time. I manned the kitchen with some others on Thanksgiving (after a good hike for PT) and (with the help of Connie, the angel that she is) we had a huge dinner of 2 turkeys, cranberry sauce, 2 stuffings, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, gravy, bread, carrots, corn, broccoli, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie, sweet potato pie, apple pie, and probably some more stuff. Needless to say, we were stuffed AND had leftovers for 3 days.

Another awesome thing to be thankful for (which we found out about just yesterday) is that after the holidays we will be going on our next spike to Casa Grande, Arizona! We're excited for a warm project (and though I love Cal-Wood and will definitely miss it, I'm excited to be in a real city where there are things nearby). I'll leave you with a description of our project and will try to be back soon with some updates from Cal-Wood.


"The City of Casa Grande, Arizona is the largest city in Pinal County with over 48,000 residents within its 104 square mile boundary. Seventeen percent (17%) of Casa Grande families live under the poverty level compared to only 9.6% of families nationwide and over 60% of students at Casa Grande schools are eligible for the free or reduced lunch program. These economic times increase the need for low to no cost recreation alternatives.

The need for recreation trails drove the formation of the Casa Grande Mountain Trails Steering Committee, a volunteer group charged with planning volunteer trail build events. Volunteer events are held once a month from October through April. After just one year of community trail builds, we are averaging 100 volunteers and 2,000 feet of trail per event. Total for the 2010 – 2011 season resulted in 624 volunteers dedicating 2,528 hours constructing 11,620 feet or another 2.2 miles of new trail! With the help of AmeriCorps NCCC teams, volunteer efforts soared and with pick axes, shovels, battling cholla cactus, moving large rocks, etc., the City of Casa Grande will be officially opening a large portion of our first trail system on the 1,100 acre Casa Grande Mountain Park for the anticipating public on November 19, 2011. We plan to continue expanding the Casa Grande Mountain Park Trail System as it not only provides recreation opportunities for youth and adults, providing physical, educational and emotional benefits of trails and nature, but also serves as a draw for visitors, providing a much needed economic stimulus."

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Cutting trees at Cal-Wood

Ok, so we're not really cutting trees. BUT we are getting things done for America, for sure (that's our motto in AmeriCorps by the way...obviously boss).

So I've been here at Cal-Wood for almost a week now and I'm really enjoying my time here. I really feel like my team is starting to become a family and bond together (it's hard not to out here in the middle of nowhere anyway).

Cal-Wood is a 1,200 acre property used for teaching outdoor education to kids from schools where they can't get that kind of hands on learning. We're not working directly with the kids most of the time, but we will get a chance to shadow the instructors at some point.

The kind of stuff we've been doing makes the property safer and more beautiful for everyone who visits. So far, we've split lots of wood (which gets sold and the money helps pay for kids to come to Cal-Wood), put wood chips down on a road (to help protect from fires and make it easier to drive on), put up snow fences to stop the drifts from covering the road, hauled slash to the road (it was cut to help thin out the forest, preventing fires and helping healthy trees grow, and it will be chipped and used for the roads or split and sold as firewood), and fixed a deck and a compost bin...and it's only been a week!

I think both the sponsor and our team is so surprised by how much work we can do in so little time, and I'm excited to be able to cross things off our list of work goals as the next 4 weeks go by. Our sponsor is awesome and so are the staff. Most of the instructors are really cool young people that we can hang out with. Not to mention we have the most amazing chefs who cook our breakfasts and dinners during the week. AND we have a cat! His name is Hercules and he is super snuggly and nice to have around.

That's it from me so far. I'm hoping to get some pics of our new digs (included our canvas tent with wood-burning stove) in my next post, maybe even before Thanksgiving. Speaking of, we're having another team in our unit come up from Denver to stay and have Thanksgiving with us and we are so pumped to have them here and show them around and cook and eat and play/watch football.

So until next time!


Saturday, November 5, 2011

What IS AmeriCorps and what am I doing here?

Hey everyone,

I thought it would be useful to write a post about what AmeriCorps NCCC is since I'll be talking a whole lot about what I'm doing with it and in case anyone out there is considering the program. So, in short, I'll feed you our "elevator phrase":

"AmeriCorps NCCC members are 18-24 years old and spend 10 months getting things done for America while developing their own leadership skills. We serve on teams to help communities prepare and respond to disasters, build homes, and help the environment. To learn more or to apply go to www.americorps.gov "

That's the short of it. In more detail, we are one of 5 branches of the Corporation for National Community Service, which also includes AmeriCorps Vista, AmeriCorps State and National (that's who I worked for this summer with DREAM), Senior Corps, and Learn and Serve (which is inactive this year because of lack of funding). NCCC is different from these other programs because instead of working with another organization, all members work together on campuses (Mississippi, California, Maryland, Iowa, and Colorado) and spikes (service trips) to serve communities across America.

The Denver campus, where I am, is assigned to the states in the southwestern USA (Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, Texas, and Missouri). This means that, aside from disaster deployment, I will always be in one of these states doing my service.

This spike (which is only 1 month instead of the usual 2) I will be nearby in Jamestown, Colorado (population 200, literally). It's about 30 minutes outside of Boulder, up in the mountains. My team and I are working at the Calwood educational center, an environmental education center. We'll be doing a lot of tree branch cutting and wood chipping, as well as hopefully getting the chance to work with the kids in the program. We have access to a nice lodge with everything we need, but we'll be sleeping outside in big heated tents. I have to say, I'm excited that this project is short, because it's going to be cold up there for sure.

I was actually just at Calwood last weekend when I did a chainsaw training (crazy right?) In fact, I now know how to work a chainsaw, sawsall, circular saw, and power drill...a true renaissance woman.

Right now I'm curled up downtown in the most amazing bookstore, Tattered Cover. It's a huge place full of books and lots of seating to cuddle up with. I'll probably end up buying a few things of course.

I think that's it for now. We get inducted on Thursday and my team leaves next Monday for our trip. We will have Wifi so I plan on being able to update a lot. Until next time!