“A Day On” or Off for Congress?

Posted by Jerry Duchene Saavedra on January 20, 2012

If an MLK Day of Service project happened in the middle of the forest, would your members of Congress hear about it?  What about in their own districts?  National days of service like MLK Day are great times to plan service projects and mobilize members of the local community to come together in service but they are also great opportunities to invite your members of Congress to see firsthand the value and impact of AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and all national service.

Here at ServeNext we asked our Organizers to focus their time and energy on reaching out to their members of Congress to invite and urge them to participate in this year’s MLK Day of service events.  The goal was to get members of Congress and/or their staff to serve side by side with AmeriCorps members to better understand how the programs work and discuss how AmeriCorps members make a difference every day and not just on big service days.   While we didn’t get any members of Congress to participate locally since most of them were in Washington, we did succeed in getting their staff to attend and commit to sharing their experience with their boss.  Great job team!

Read below for a few highlights from the field.

ServeNext Montana

Heather Margolis, ServeNext Organizer for Montana, invited Congressman Denny Rehberg’s new Regional Director Jocelyn Galt to attend the MLK Day pancake breakfast and food drive in Helena organized by AmeriCorps VISTA’s. Heather unfortunately had to miss the event but Jocelyn still attended was able to talk with AmeriCorps members.  She reported back to Heather that she had a great time and is available to visit other Montana AmeriCorps program sites with Heather to learn more about the impact and value of AmeriCorps bring to Montana.

Also participating in the event were Montana Lt. Governor John Bohlinger and Montana National Guard Adj. Gen. John E. Walsh who both served pancakes.


ServeNext Rochester, NY

Stephanie Sacco, ServeNext Organizer in Rochester, NY, partnered with RochesterCares, Rochester AmeriCorps, and Rochester Youth Year VISTA for an MLK “King for a Day” event. AmeriCorps members joined with community volunteers to serve a number of local agencies with sorting donations, organizing materials, and community gardening. Beth LeValley from Congresswoman Slaughter’s office came and spoke to the importance of this kind of service in our community. See the local news story here. 

Simultaneously, other ServeNext members attended a “Skate to Commemorate” event, organized by Rochester AmeriCorps member Tiffany Lopez. Local hockey team the “Amerks” skated at a local rink that was accepting donations instead of fees for community members to skate, too. Deb Essley, staff member at the office of Congresswoman Ann Marie Buerkle, attended the event and spoke with Tiffany about her service to the community as an AmeriCorps member.

ServeNext Columbus, OH

Rachel Diskin, ServeNext Organizer in Columbus, OH, found out via twitter that Congressman Steve Stivers was having “office hours” and decided to use that opportunity to invite him and his staff in person to participate in the MLK Day event put on by the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Food Banks, Capital University, the Mid-Ohio Foodbank, and the Red Cross.   Going to the office hours paid off as not one but four staff members from Congressman Stivers’ office attended and participated in assembling disaster preparedness kits.

ServeNext Miami, FL

Catherine Houlihan, ServeNext Organizer in Miami, FL, reached out to her Senators and was successful in getting staff members from both offices to participate in local MLK Day of Service events.  Alyn Cruz-Higgins and Nury Valerie Soler from Senator Marco Rubio’s office attended the MLK Day of Service Project at Goulds Park, Miami. As luck would have it, these where the same Rubio staff members who Catherine delivered the Save Service holiday ornaments and they served as an affirmation of the success of Catherine’s Purple Cow (see previous blog post) saying they knew instantly that the ornaments were advocating for AmeriCorps and CNCS.  They also mentioned that the ornaments still decorate their office to this day and stand as a reminder of AmeriCorps and service.

Senator Bill Nelson’s staff member participated in a separate MLK Day event on Sunday night where both Catherine and AmeriCorps Alum Darrill where able to speak with her about CNCS and sharing with Senator Nelson the need for his support for service in 2012.


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