ServeNext.org Blog

District Day in Des Moines

Posted by Jerry Duchene Saavedra on February 26, 2011


Post by Jordan Jones, ServeNext Des Moines:

District Day in Des Moines was a resounding success. About fifty people took part in the day’s events, which included a flash mob in downtown Des Moines and meetings in the offices of Sen.Chuck Grassley, Sen. Tom Harkin and Rep. Leonard Boswell. Everyone in the Des Moines service network should be proud of what they accomplished today. I’m not just speaking for myself when I say that we’re fired up for what’s to come in the days and weeks ahead.

The day began at the Amici Coffeeshop in downtown Des Moines. I arrived to find a handful of AmeriCorps Alums and members of Iowa’s Commission on Volunteer Service making signs to use in the lunchtime flash mob. As we worked, supporters kept trickling in to the coffeeshop and our ranks swelled to about twenty. A little before noon, we departed for the Kaleidescope (a downtown food court) where the flash mob was to be held. When we arrived, we found two dozen foster grandparents there ready to take part. When the signal was given, we all froze in place and held up our signs, getting the attention of quite a few lunch patrons. A local news crew was there to cover the story, which definitely helps our efforts to educate the public about the critical programs at risk of being cut.

From there we all migrated over to the Federal Building, which houses the offices of Senators Harkin and Grassley. Our group was so large that we had to be put in a conference room, which we filled almost to capacity. For an hour, we spoke with Grassley’s Regional Director, Aaron McKay. He listened intently as our group delivered powerful testimonials on the AmeriCorps program and national service in general. Because so many of our group were Foster Grandparents, there were many stories that spoke to the ability of national service to improve the lives of the elderly. One man said that if it weren’t for his AmeriCorps position, he would still be in a wheelchair. Working with children gave him an incentive to get moving again. “It got me out of the chair and into a walker,” he said. He went on to describe the ways in which service has enriched his life and made him feel a part of the community. There were many such stories. Most of our older speakers mentioned how helpful it was to get that little extra money–small as the paycheck is—for groceries, prescriptions and other necessities. Myself and several other AmeriCorps Alums spoke up for younger people, describing the impact service has had on our lives and discussing the value of the CNCS, which goes far beyond dollars and cents. Mr. McKay was very respectful towards us and seemed touched by the stories he heard. He left the conference room with his hands full of signs and letters. While of course he could not give us a definite answer as to what Sen. Grassley would do, we certainly got his attention and made ourselves heard.

Our meeting with Sen. Harkin’s staff was a bit different, as the Senator has long been a champion of service. We reaffirmed the importance of national service in the lives of those who are touched by it. It was also mentioned that the AmeriCorps program could very well save the government money, as it addresses society’s most pressing needs and keeps people from enrolling in more costly government programs. State Director Robert Barron and Outreach Coordinator Amy Beller were both very receptive and supportive of us and underscored once again the Senator’s commitment to service.

A small group of us left the meeting early and walked a few blocks Rep. Boswell’s district office. In a more intimate setting, we spoke with Boswell’s District Representative Ted Tran. We thanked him for the Congressman’s continued support of national service and said we looked forward to working with him in the future. He seemed happy to meet with us and encouraged us to keep putting pressure on politicians to restore AmeriCorps funding.

We all departed a little before four, tired but satisfied by the day’s events. I exchanged information with several of the participants and I think we all look forward to working with one another in the future. We know it is up to us to save service.

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