Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Taste of Athens

This year's 'Taste' was an incredible experience, for me. I had been staring at pictures, loaded into my screen-saver, from last year's event. I couldn't wait to go through the experience. I was not disappointed!! The foods, the smells, the visual presentations, and, most of all, the tastes!!! It was a dream come true. I wandered, very happily, among the 1,300 or so people (volunteers, vendors, donating customers, guests, media, etc.) watching and savoring the whole awesome spectacle. There was no cooking competition, this year, but the cake competition was fantastic. There were some truly, remarkable entries. I would not wanted to have been the judges. The items donated for the silent auction were fantastic too. There was a constant serpentine movement around the tables where the items were placed and bidding continued till the clock stopped it. Even as the event ended, one vendor, drawing cartoon caricatures, still had a line of people waiting to get their pictures made. Everyone I talked to stated how well the event went and how much they enjoyed it. I certainly was not disappointed and look forward to next year's event with anticipation!!

Seeing IS Believing

I took the Seeing is Believing Bus Tour on Tuesday Feb. 17th which was sponsored by the Junior League of Athens. I have to say that I did learn a lot about the Clarke County School District. There are many programs offered for students, as well as access to a very well qualified staff. As with all school systems, test scores, great stories and high achieving students as well as talented students were stressed throughout the morning. Sometimes it would be nice to know the challenges that schools deal with as well as the many successes. As long as we continue to sing the praises of those who excel, we will continue to give up on those who don’t. Education should not be a competition for trophies or acceptance letters; but that’s for another blog. After we loaded the bus to attend our designated school site, we were shown about the school by the principal. I had the pleasure of visiting Classic City High School. The instructional design of the school is very impressive. It’s nice to see people take an interest in their education. I have always been a firm believer in offering different educational routes for students. Though I couldn’t help but notice that the overwhelming majority of the students were black or Hispanic. Being a political scientist, I know that even though these students have the means to become productive members of society, they may never gain the political or economic success as their well educated classmates…but that’s for another blog as well. Overall, I was impressed with my experience at Classic City High School. Yet, my experience may have been different had I gone to another school. I guess seeing is believing. However what you believe depends on what you see.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Are you Involved or Committed?

This week we participated in the Junior League of Athens, Seeing is Believing Bus Tour of the local schools. The event over all was great and insightful. The tour and speakers were able to highlight many of the great enrichment activities and programs that the schools offer and some share some of the successes that the numbers don't always show.

During the morning, one of the speakers discusses the importance of not just being involved in our schools and with our youth but the need to make a real commitment- to invest of yourself. He highlighted his talk with an analogy about involvement versus commitment by discussing breakfast. The speaker said to think about the eggs, toast, and bacon or ham that people eat for breakfast. You see the chicken, they were involved in providing the eggs your eating, but the pig he really committed himself to the cause.

Many time we as volunteer participate in activities in the community and our schools. We attend days of service like MLK Day, Hands On Athens, and Rivers Alive. We attend fundraisiers and support canned food drives and buy Girl Scout cookies. And while these are all GREAT and important activities that result in a lot of good for our community- there is still a large need for committed volunteers to take on the leadership roles and undertake the organizing of the projects. Schools and nonprofits need volunteers to make that on-going commitment to help plan an event or to lend your skills and expertice to a larger, on-going project.

So as we move forward in banding together through these tough times- we ask all our volunteers to ask yourself are you involved or are you committed? If you want to make that commitment or have an idea, but just don't know where to start- give HandsOn a call. We have leadership opportunities and can provide you with the training and tools you'll need to tackle any cause. And to those of you that have already made the commitment by serving on a PTO or board, by serving as a project leader or a regular volunteer for a project. We thank you for making that commitment.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Youth and Community Service

The creation of a community service program in the Clarke County school system is an important step in teaching young children and teenagers about the purpose of community involvement. It seems only necessary that we all understand that we need to give of ourselves as much as we take. The committee in charge of creating the Clarke County community service program is full of members who are dedicated to teaching youth about the joys of giving back to the community. Though we’ve stumbled on many issues as to the logistics of how the program will work, we know that a clear path is not far. I’ve been diligently researching other schools systems to see how their community service programs work. What I have found are very creative and engaging programs yet each of these schools lacks what Clarke County doesn’t; a high number of underprivileged youths. Are we only supposed to engage those students who have the means to get to project sites after school and on Saturday? The answer across the board is no. There has to be a way to connect all students to the purpose and need for community service.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Red Cross

I've been doing some work with the Emergency Services section of the East Georgia Chapter of the Red Cross. What I've learned has opened my eyes some. We all know that the Red Cross will assist during natural disasters but they do much more than hand out coffee. They provide shelters to the disaster victims as well as food and water. The Red Cross works with community partners and refers out clients to those partner agencies, based on needs, for things such as small business loans, house rebuilding loans, and personal loans. They don't give the loans, the partner agencies do that. They are NOT a government agency and are funded by donations from the individuals and business in the communities they serve. They also respond to house fires, when notified, and provide assistance, on a case by case basis, with housing, medicines, and some cash. For our Service members, the Red Cross is chartered by Congress to verify emergency leave requests and pass them to each of the service branches so they can pass the requests to the service member’s command. Each service members command makes the decision to grant or deny this leave. In some of these cases financial aid is requested. The Red Cross submits the request with documentation to the Military Aid Society and it grants or denies the request. All these services and they're done, mostly, by volunteers! These volunteers may have regular jobs during the day or night or may be retired. They are extensively trained by the local chapters, at no charge. There are about five basic courses all volunteers are given and then specific training for each area they choose to 'specialize' in. The Red Cross is extremely proud of these volunteers and their dedication to serve their community. Are you interested? Please click on the link(http://eastgeorgia.redcross.org/ ) and check it out. Also, next time you see a Red Cross volunteer, tell them thank you!!