Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Make Difference Day

On Saturday, October 25th, Hands On Gulf Coast (HOGC) joined millions of Americans across the country for the 18th annual Make A Difference Day, the largest community service day in the nation that rallies corporations, government, nonprofits, and Americans into action.

This year, we developed, organized and led five volunteer service projects that mobilized over 225 volunteers in Harrison, Hancock and Jackson counties. Volunteers
  • built a community garden in North Gulfport, 
  • helped children connect to their East Biloxi community through creative art projects, 
  • cleaned garbage and cut trails at Shepard State Park in Gautier, 
  • gutted and cleaned four homes hit by Hurricanes Gustav and Ike in Pearlington, 
  • and tiled a shade structure for the Faces of the Gulf Coast project during the Vancleave KaBOOM! build.
Check out our photos on Flickr!

Hands On Gulf Coast thanks the following organizations who helped make the day such a success: North Gulfport Community Land Trust, Gulf Coast Boys and Girls Clubs, Pearlington Recovery Center, One House at a Time, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Keesler Air Force Base, NAVASA, Shepard State Park, and KaBOOM!

This day would not have been possible without the generous donations and efforts of the following organizations, individuals, and companies: Southern Grounds, Salvation Army, Popeye's, Domino's Pizza, Wing Zone, Strami's Italian Cafe, Quizno's, Caitlin Boulger and Ken Wetzel.

Thank you to all volunteers and sponsors who helped make a difference!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Make A Difference Day: October 25, 2008

Hands On Gulf Coast (HOGC) will join millions of Americans across the country spending Saturday, Oct. 25 - the 18th Make A Difference Day - doing volunteer projects to improve the community and help neighbors in need. The day is the largest community service effort in the nation, rallying corporations, government leaders, nonprofit organizations and everyday Americans into action on one day.

HOGC is a 501(c)3 nonprofit affiliate of Hands On Network – a network of nonprofit organizations around the world that inspire volunteers, create leaders, and change lives and communities through effective volunteer action. We envision a community where all individuals discover their power to make a difference and are equipped as active, engaged citizens.

This year, Hands On Gulf Coast will host five events, beginning with a kickoff celebration the morning of October 25th at the Good Deeds Community Center - 15101 Madison Street in Gulfport, see map below. Volunteer check-in and breakfast will begin at 9:00am, before volunteers disperse to their service sites.

It is HOGC's goal to mobilize over 250 volunteers in Harrison, Hancock, and Pearl River county. Register today and bring your family, friends, youth group, and neighbors.

Volunteers are needed for the following projects:
  • to build a North Gulfport community garden and clear vacant lots
  • join us for Art in the Park, a family volunteer and crafts day in East Biloxi
  • remove debris and overgrowth from trails at Shepard State Park in Gautier
  • help muck and gut homes of Pearlington residents affected by Katrina and Gustav
  • work on construction projects in multiple locations
To find out how to join in, please visit www.handsongulfcoast.org, call Hands On Gulf Coast at 228-257-6094, or email volunteer '@' handsongulfcoast.org.

Details Summary
Kick Off Breakfast & Checkin*: 9am at the Good Deeds Community Center in Gulfport (map below)
Projects Begin: 10am
Day Ends: around 3pm

Please register by October 23, 2008.
* for those not able to drive to Gulfport, you can check in at your site (9:30am), confirm details when you make your reservation

Map to Kick Off location at Good Deeds Community Center, Gulfport, MS.

View Larger Map

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Notes from the ServiceNation Panel

Last Saturday's panel discussion focused on the past, present and future of the volunteer movement in Biloxi and along the Gulf Coast. I took some notes which I'd like to share. Most quotes are paraphrased. First, let's introduce our panel:

Dorothy Noorbaar, Habitat for Humanity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast / AmeriCorps VISTA
Nelson Walker, Hands On Gulf Coast / North Gulfport Community Land Trust
Craig Snow, Project Coordinator, Hope Force International
Juanita Gaines, Moore Community House
Johnis Ross, Hope Coordination Center

Caitlin Brooking, Director of Programs, Hands On Gulf Coast

Why do you volunteer?

Juanita: Because of the many needs in the community, especially among seniors and children. "I love people. You have to be a people person to want to volunteer."

Dorothy: My previous job and life situation weren't fulfilling. So I picked up and moved here in order to do something worthwhile. I don't want to live my life unhappy and unfulfilled.

Johnis: I told myself that I wouldn't break down, even in the face of the enormous loss after Katrina. I wanted to be there for other people, with words, with actions, and with resources. I wanted to be able to work for the Lord.

What is the greatest reward of volunteering?

Craig: Seeing the point at which someone can start to visualize their new house. After it's destroyed, there's nothing but loss and memories. But there's a point during construction, once the sheetrock is in, that people can start to imagine the way their new house will look, imagine their bedroom and living room. That's when hope is restored.

Nelson: Working with kids. My most rewarding moment came when I could be a friend to a child who didn't have a lot of other friends at the time.

What do volunteers bring to a community?

Dorothy: Volunteers sacrifice a lot to come here; they are away from their jobs, their homes, and even their families. Sometimes they get treated like outsiders, and they shouldn't be. They should be valued for what they've given up.

Craig: The volunteer movement can inspire the local community to act in compassion. The best definition of love is: choosing the other person's highest good. That's what volunteers do, and they can inspire others to do that.

Juanita: I agree. Volunteers bring love to a community.

What needs to be happening 3+ years after a disaster?

Johnis: People are getting back into their houses. But what do you do then? There are still great needs. Before the storm, I wanted to open a house for women with children to help them develop parenting skills, financial skills, and more. That need is still as great as ever. Mississippi has a very high rate of teen pregnancy. There's a lot more that needs to be done.

Juanita: Education. Particularly, attempts to reach out and educate people who normally aren't in the loop about what's going on in their communities. We need to go door-to-door to reach out to these people.

Also, we need to encourage volunteers to keep coming down. Invite family members and others to volunteer here or in other areas such as Texas.

Craig: One danger of a long-term volunteer presence that some people will begin to feel a sense of entitlement. They are used to having volunteer services available. With fewer outside volunteers coming in, however, people will have to participate more, and contribute more to the rebuilding of their own communities.

Habitat has the idea of "sweat equity", in which people are required to help out with the construction of their own homes. We've also applied this idea to our recent work in Louisiana after Gustav. Instead of asking people, "What can we do for you?", we ask, "What can we help you do?" We want to enable people to help themselves.

Johnis: One ongoing problem is communication.
Not everybody reads the paper or watches the news. We need organizations, like VOAD, that increase communication and cooperation.

How can we develop programs for children without replacing the role of parents?

It's true that if parents don't take an active role, some children are basically being raised by programs. But this doesn't mean that programs are bad; it means parents need to be encouraged to get involved in their childrens' lives. Schools and after-school programs can require parental participation. In some cases, parents have to work two jobs or have other issues that make it difficult for them to spend much time with their children. These issues could be addressed as well.

Caitlin: Hands On has a vision of schools as communities. That means they're not just used from 7 to 2, but for after-school programs, community meetings, and other events that bring parents, children, and community members together.

How do you envision the volunteer movement in 5, 10, or 20 years?

Craig: Leverage the small flow of outside volunteers in order to develop and support a large flow of local volunteers. Help increase the capacity of local organizations.

Johnis: Develop permanent infrastructure for volunteer and community service efforts, such as a disaster response center north of the Bay from which future response efforts could be coordinated.