District Day with Ohio Rep. Steve Austria’s Office
Posted by Jerry Duchene Saavedra on August 18, 2011
Post by Rachel Diskin, ServeNext Organizer for Columbus, OH:
On Wednesday, August 10, 2011, Susan Phillips, Field Director from Representative Steve Austria’s office, attended a National Service roundtable at Clark County Community Habitat for Humanity in Springfield, Ohio. Ms. Phillips was introduced to spokespeople from two National Service programs in Austria’s district. Representatives from the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks, which hosts both a 75 member VISTA program (SHARECorps) and a 30 member AmeriCorps State program (HarvestCorps) and Think Tank, Inc., which hosts a program of 8 VISTA members, were there to speak on their experiences.
The event began with an introduction to Clark County Community Habitat for Humanity and an explanation of role that SHARECorps member Steve Lamb is currently performing. Steve spoke on his work at the affiliate, mentioning the volunteers he has recruited and how he has helped forge community partnerships. Steve also mentioned how the partnerships he has helped build, foster an environment of community investment and Matt Wilson, Executive Director of Clark County Community Habitat for Humanity, chimed in saying that without Steve as a VISTA member, their small affiliate would not be able to be involved in community organizing at all.
Steve recently began is 2nd year at CCCHFH as a VISTA member through the SHARECorps program and spent much of his first term building a community garden program near many of the Habitat homes in Springfield. We, along with Ms. Phillips, were able to take a trip to the community garden and see these partnerships in work. The garden was full of children and their parents spending the afternoon tending to their plots. In addition, we were able to speak with Dr. Robert Welker of the Springfield Promise Neighborhood initiative and saw a VISTA Summer Associate from Children’s Hunger Alliance’s program hard at work!
Finally, we went back to the CCCHFH offices where we were able to talk with Ms. Phillips a bit more in depth about the other programs that exist in Representative Austria’s district. Kelsey Raines, Coordinator for OASHF’s HarvestCorps program, spoke of 2 AmeriCorps State members in the district who work to help community members access public benefits and work support programs through the Ohio Benefit Bank. Carlos Guajardo, VISTA Leader at Think Tank Inc. spoke of his personal growth through the Dayton Circles Campaign. In addition 2 VISTA members who recently began their service from Think Tank, Inc. spoke briefly on how they hope to impact their community.
The event was a huge success! Ms. Phillips was very receptive to all we had to say, and gave us a full two hours of her time! She mentioned how Representative Austria understands this is a tough time financially for our country but that he doesn’t believe in across the board cuts. Representative Austria believes in funding programs that effectively meet the needs of Ohioans. Near the end of our meeting, Ms. Phillips said that judging by what she saw on Wednesday, Austria would agree with her in saying that National Service is an effective tool in his district!