Thursday, January 31, 2008


Hi Everyone,

Thanks to those who participated in the challenge yesterday! Though the email was on short notice, we appreciate the swift and generous response. You can see how much we raised yesterday ($830) by day's end by going to the Hands On Gulf Coast Cause page.

Though the challenge period ends today at 12pm Pacific, Hands On Gulf Coast and the residents of the Gulf Coast will continue to need your support. Please do continue to volunteer and lend your financial support to our organization. Your donations support us in our work to rebuild the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Director, Hands On Gulf Coast

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Facebook Giving Challenge

Hi Everyone,

You will all probably be receiving (or have already received) an email with the opening line:

    Have 10 minutes? Have $10? We need your help!

It's true. We do need your support. It's how we keep the lights on, the cars driving, and the hammers swinging to rebuild the Gulf Coast.

Facebook and The Case Foundation have teamed up to offer an interesting fundraising opportunity. Nonprofits can win money by having the most unique donors give money to a cause in a given day. The minimum donation is $10. Read more about it.
What we need you to do:

  • Go to Hands On Gulf Coast Cause on Facebook.
  • Click Donate.

    • If you're not on Facebook already, you'll create an account, then you can donate.

    • if you're already on Facebook, log in and proceed.

  • Donate at least $10 today, January 31, 2008 by 3pm Eastern, 12pm Pacific

It's important you donate today January 31st. It's the last day of the Challenge and it's important to have the most donors in a single day. You can see today's current leader on the Hands On Gulf Coast Causes page.

In addition to your generous donations, we could win $1,000 on the 31st by having the most unique donors. Please encourage your friends and family to support us, too.

The overall challenge has almost run its 50-day length. Prizes ranging from $10,000 to $50,000 will be awarded to causes with the most unique donors over the Challenge period. Currently, 600 unique Hands On Gulf Coast donors could put us in 5th place.

Please support Hands On Gulf Coast and help us to continue helping those on the Gulf Coast who are still in need.

Thank you for your support.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

MLK Day 2008

MLK Day 2008 was a great, great day. We walked in the parade, showed a flim and held a discussion, worked on service projects, and had a blast at John Henry Beck Park. We probably had about 2,000 - 3,000 people roll through the park during the afternoon. Talk about a dream come true for Hands On.

None of this would have been possible without some key partnerships with The Knight Foundation, Clear Channel (via 92.5 The Beat), and the Beau Rivage. The Knight Foundation supported the film and the service projects as a way to get a diverse group of community leaders pulled together for a conversation about issues that are important to the community. It was the kick-off for a year-long series of activities to engage the community and attempt to get them more involved.

Clear Channel helped make the event in the park possible. They brought in folks to help with activities for the kids, held a talent show, and broadcast live from the Park. You should check out the photos on their website Click on Day in the Park.

The Beau Rivage generously donated space and equipment to show the film and catering for the event. It was a fabulous space.

It started as a very chilly morning. As worried as we were about how the day was going to go, there really wasn't much to do but let the day unfold and see what it brought. I am definitely a worrier, so I was nervous until my part with the film at the Beau was finished.

The parade was great. Though somehow we weren't on the list of floats, we managed to get in the front of the parade. We walked the route in about 45 minutes. The crowd looked a bit thinner as compared to last year, but it was still a great turn out. Hands On folks cannot help but have fun. We threw beads, superballs, and candy to the bystanders. It was sorta like a Mardi Gras parade, but different. Our folks carried big wooden hands painted blue. In white ink, a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr sat in the palm.

Naturally, everyone was so excited to throw beads that we were out by the time we got to the main crowd near Yankee Stadium. Oh well. How can you frown on fun? Perhaps folks will remember for next year ...

As soon as our float finished the parade route, I rushed to the Beau Rivage for the film showing and discussion. We didn't have the turn out I had hoped for, but we still had a lively discussion. We had folks from the Beau Rivage's Diversity team come to participate in the discussions, as well as Adele Lyons from the Knight Foundation who helped support the day's events. The film we watched was King: Man of Peace in a Time of War. I highly recommend the film. It is striking to see how so many issues that were being discussed in the 60's - housing, a war, equality - are still relevant today, particularly on the Coast.

Because I was at the film discussion, I didn't make it to the service projects, but we landscaped a resident's house and made murals for one of our partners, The Village. We love The Village for the work they do with the Hispanic and Spanish-speaking immigrant communities. They just moved to a new building, so we were happy to be able to decorate the walls for them with some art they can take with them to the permanent digs when they become available. Thanks to Anne, Caitlin, and everyone else who helped with that.

Will led the landscaping project at Ms. Ethel's house. We finished her house last September and had the Guiding Light come down for a little move-in celebration. We were excited about the opportunity to finish the yard.

At John Henry Beck Park, we were amazed by what we saw. During the day, folks wandered over from the Battle of the Bands and hung out in the park. We worked with Clear Channel and 92.5 The Beat to put on an afternoon of celebration in honor of Dr. King. There was a talent show and a performance by soul patrol. There were activities for the kids, as well as music broadcast from the park all afternoon.

When it was said and done, there were probably 2,500 to 3,000 people who rolled through the park. When I got up on stage at the end of the day, all I could see was a sea of people. It was exactly what we dreamt about when the park was restored in the hot summer of 2006. Thanks to all those who put in hard work then and over the past year to make John Henry Beck Park a great place to people to come play and enjoy themselves.

Park DancingThanks to everyone who made MLK Day a great day for Hands On Gulf Coast. We look forward to improving on all aspects of it for next year.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

MLK 2008 - The Day's Activities

So, MLK Day 2008 is just around the corner.  The Gulf Coast has been designated as one of the expansion markets for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), which means that CNCS is very supportive increasing the participation in the day of service.  Hmm, that's a lot of words, let's put it in a slogan.  "It's a day on, not a day off."  The idea behind the day of service is to get more people to volunteer, echoing Dr Martin Luther King, Jr's words:

 "Everyone can be great because everyone can serve."

With that as the basis for our day's activities, we began planning how to initiate the first MLK Day of Service.  Though there has been a Coast-wide celebration of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr for over 20 years, there hasn't been a day of service.  The planning for the event has had some challenges and bumps along the road, but in the end, I think we're going to have a solid program that dovetails the existing MLK celebrations and highlights another aspect of King's teachings.

What is our program?  We're going to help out where we can by supplying volunteers to some of the activities on the weekend sponsored by the Coast-wide celebration committee.  On Monday, the 21st, we'll march in the parade, marking the third year Hands On has had a float.

In the afternoon, beginning at 1pm, we will have service projects running.  Folks are encouraged to come out to work on volunteer service projects around East Biloxi ranging from painting a mural to working on a home rebuilding project to landscaping a resident's yard.

In addition to the physically active projects, we have a documentary film and panel-led discussion also beginning at 1pm.  The Beau Rivage has graciously offered space to show the film and entice folks with refreshments like cookies and coffee.  Yum.  Space is limited for both the film showing and the volunteer service projects, so folks on the Gulf Coast interested in participating should contact us via our office phone (228.257.6094) or via email (  Let us know you're interested in the MLK Day of Service opportunities.

The day's events aren't limited to service projects and a film discussion.  No Hands On event would be complete without an activity in the park.  We have partnered with Clear Channel to bring a Day in the Park.  It's really just the afternoon because we want folks to support the Battle of the Bands that will be going on in Yankee Stadium.  Once that's done, though, folks should come to John Henry Beck Park to see what we have planned.  There will be activities for the youth that focus on Dr King and his message, as well as a youth talent show.  There will also be performances by Soul Patrol and the Zulu Men's Choir from New Orleans.

We're excited and looking forward to the Day.  Come join us!  Remember it's a Day On, not a Day Off.  And if you're not on the Gulf Coast, check out what's going on in your community and volunteer!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Enneagram Training

It's late at night and I should be asleep getting precious rest before my appearance on the WLOX morning show to talk about our MLK Day of Service Activities.  Instead, the day's training on the Enneagram personality types swirls in my mind making it difficult to turn my brain off. 

The staff wanted to learn how to communicate better with one another and build a more effective team.  I mentioned this to my boss and she said that Ellen Ferber, one of Points of Light & Hands On Network's Regional VPs, was certified in the Enneagram personality type training.   We all took the test, a batter of 145 binary questions, each answer corresponding to one of the nine personality types identified in this personality framework.  Ellen came down to tell us about the results of our tests and guide us through the process of learning how to use it in our work life. She described each of the types, their characteristics, and how they interact with those around them.

What's neat about the Enneagram method (? is it a method?) is that it provides a framework understanding what you need for personal growth, as well as a framework for understanding interpersonal dynamics.Though your type never changes, I happen to be a 9 - a Peacemaker - your state of personal development does affect the outward appearance of your personality.  When I'm on my game, I appear like the 3 - the Acheiver; I set goals and hit them.  When I lapse into a black state, I go to the bad side of a 6 - The Loyalist - where I become paranoid and paralyzed with fear.  The same holds true for each of the numbers.  There is a flow of energy between the personality types that manifests itself at various times.  There are three triads each with a different underlying energy or motivation.  8, 9, and 1 are in the gut triad, meaning they filter everything through their instinctive reactions.  2 through 4 are in the heart triad and look at things in terms of relationships, while the 5, 6, and 7's filter their experiences through the head.  

I know I haven't done the extensively researched and refined methodology for describing personality all that well, so you should probably go to the Enneagram Institute's website to learn more.  Or call Ellen.  It's all very fascinating and amazingly accurate. Though one method of describing personality is probably as good as another, when you find the one you like, a lot of dynamics and tensions between people can easily be demystified because you now understand what the underlying motivations for folks are. Very exciting.

What's most important to Hands On is that we had the training.  All the staff was present and engaged.  From the anecdotal comments folks gave me, everyone got something from the training.  I think this will help us build a stronger team.  We have a better idea of how each person sees the world, how they interact it, and what drives them to be who they are. 

I've got lots of ideas and I think the rest of the staff does, too.  So, I'm excited.  Thanks, Ellen for a great training!!!  We really appreciate it.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Orientation, Over

Well, AmeriCorps Orientation #1 of 2008, the one for our first batch of full-time members, ended Friday afternoon. It seemed like it went well. We learned from last year and put significant energy and time into making a better orientation experience for folks. We'll see what the evaluations say.

This year, we were lucky to have Megan Latimer from the Atlanta Office come down to talk about the "Hands On" model. We talk about that often around here - it's the model we use to ensure that volunteers: 1) have a great experience, 2) are used to the utmost of the abilities, and 3) are hooked into coming back and bringing a friend.

Megan discussed some of the sociological, psychological, and philosophical underpinnings for the way Hands On engages volunteers. At the most basic level, the "Hands On" model of volunteer engagement is a form of asset-based community development. Rather than focusing on needs and inadvertently setting up cycles of dependence, Hands On looks to help the community determine what it wants to do (a vision) and helps create the pathways to acheive those goals. We become catalysts for change.

That's heady stuff, I know, but I was talking with Dave (yes, the Dog :) about the session. he said he learned so much and was ready to start implementing some of what he learned the next time he was on the job site. It's a pretty powerful endorsement for the material, but also the presenter, Megan.

Not only did people learn about the model, but they got to see it in action when they went for their half-day service projects. That was another of Dave's comments. He learned about how Hands On creates volunteer service opportunities and then saw it in action when he arrived at the work site and Eddie (our Construction Manager) immediately provided an orientation to the job, talked about the home owner, and provided the context for the home they were about to work on.

Nelson, K.C., and Crew on Lee St.

Everyone did a great job with orientation! Caitlin, Sheli, and Sara spent a considerable amount of time incorporating what we all learned from last year, continueing to build a strong program. The AmeriCorps members each seemed to learn something, which is always a bonus. I know I'm excited about the team that has been assembled and all that we are poised to accomplish this year.

A/C Orientation on 11 Jan 08

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Menagerie - A/C Orientation Day 1

Today was the first day of orientation. What a day it was. We talked about the history of Hands On and the basics of AmeriCorps. More importantly, we got to know one another through a few interesting ice breakers.

Early on it was an introduction of name, where you're from, how you heard about Hands On, and of course the Question. Well, not The Question, but a random question that becomes the day's question. This morning, it was "What was your favorite sitcom." Not necessarily as good as pirates or ninjas ... just sayin'. Just sayin'.

The real fun was with the animal name game. Stand in a circle, say your name, the name of an animal that starts with the first letter of your name, then make the noise of that animal. That's the easy part. Go around in the circle and you need to remember the names and animals of the people who went before you. We came up with some interesting animals and sounds.

Not everyone could join us for this morning fun, so tomorrow, we'll make them give their animals. Here are those AmeriCorps members at the early morning orientation:

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Happy 2008

Hi All,

Welcome back for another year of volunteer service on the Gulf Coast. We had a bit of a break to reflect and prepare for the upcoming year when the 2007 AmeriCorps program year ended at Thanksgiving. Now, we're almost ready for all the challenges awaiting us in 2008.

The big thing is that AmeriCorps orientation starts tomorrow, 7 Jan 07, for roughly 25 people. Yes, Program Year 2008 starts tomorrow. OK, technically, it starts on the 8th and the 7th is only for the folks who are going to live with us, but the AmeriCorps members have already started arriving - those who aren't continuing service from last year that is.

We're excited to have everyone returning and arriving for the first time. Through out the year, our AmeriCorps members will build houses, tutor kids, educate the community on various issues, spruce up green spaces, work on art projects with kids, lead Alternative Spring Breakers from colleges around the country, and participate in a few days of service.

It's a packed schedule. Both Eddie and Sheli - along with our new construction supervisors Brian and John - are ready to build a bunch of houses for residents along the Gulf Coast. With some unique partnerships with corporations interested in helping the Gulf Coast get back on their feet, the building crew is ready to roll.

On the community side, Caitlin has been working diligently to develop partnerships with other agencies along the Gulf where members can develop projects and serve the Gulf Coast residents in a different way. Building homes is cool, visible, and critical recovery, but so too are the many services that AmeriCorps members who work in the community area. Kids need enrichment activities and adults need to have opportunities to give back to their own communities.

That's exactly what AmeriCorps members on the community side will be doing. They will work in or with partner agencies to develop sustainable volunteer programs that engage residents of the Gulf Coast. Lofty stuff for recent high school and college grads.

So, an exciting year of building and transition lays ahead of us. Come join us.