Monday, November 1, 2010


Wow, we are in our last week here in Alabama, and well, last week of work before we leave Americorps. In 17 days, this will all be over. Seven .... teen.... days....

Last week we did our last Mobile Food Pantry. It was held in Biloxi, MS. It was quite the experience. Biloxi is basicaly a gambling mecca... that's all there is there... casinos. A mini-vegas. But there really is much more to it. The food pantry went on pretty normally. Didn't seem to be much different than the ones we held here in Bayou La Batre. Only difference was we did not recognize any of the faces.

Towards the end I was carrying boxes for people, well, I did this the whole time, as many of the individuals are elderly, or just can't carry a box FULL of food. The last people were all in line. I saw a woman and went up to her and asked her if she would like me to carry her box for her. She just turned and stared at me... so I repeated "Would you like me to carry this for you?" With tears forming in her eyes she said "you would be the greatest man in world if you could do that for me." As we went through the line, we talked a little. I noticed she had an accent. She was really upset. At one point I said "I notice you have an accent, what is it?" She told me that she was from Czechoslavakia. I was super excited by this and told her that just 2 years ago I was in Praha (Prague). I started telling her of my travels, but stopped very quickly. Her eyes swelled with tears and she brought her hand to her mouth. I apologized for bringing up a sensitive subject. She smiled with those tears and said "Praha is a beautiful place, isn't it?" I agreed.

As we walked out of the building she told me that she didn't have a car, but only lived a few houses away. I offered to carry her food. She started telling me the whole story.. how she moved to NYC to earn money to send her kids to college. And how she then found her way to MS, her boys overseas still, and now she is jobless... and that she had a heartattack and surgery, and is now $120,000 in debt to the hospitals. She can't pay her rent, she cant' but food... she has nothing. Literally. She is here... alone...without anything. I felt useless as I left her, teary eyed, alone in her house...

We really do make an impact in AmeriCorps... even if we fail to see the impact regularly.

All is not upsetting in my world though. With this last week ahead of me, I have been making the best of it. Saturday we got up and drove to the beach for the sunrise. Then, after taking a long nap, made my way into town fora day with my friend, Jamie. Oh, Jamie (one of my CM's).

We dropped some of the team off at an ISP, then got the van washed. Then drove to this 5K we heard about to see if we could volunteer. Which we did. We handed out water to the runners at the 1 mile mark. At the same point was a gentleman who filled us in on all sorts of information about the natural gas and oil structures in the water, as well as the bridges and how they were affected by the storms. Then Jamie did some face painting, I met a lady from MI with a cool dog and a son who is also applying for TFA, and then got attacked by fire ants, and we left. We then went to this benefit concert and heard some incredible music. Then out for sushi, got dessert at a cafe where we didn't quite fit in, but loved every minute of it. Then saw the Halloween festivities DT mobile before heading to pick the team up and calling it a night.

Sunday was a beach day and Chelsea cooked one hell of a Halloween dinner for the team. So good.

Today I found out Zac and I have a free place to stay in Portland, ME after Thanksgiving. So I'm pumped to hit up NYC followed by a couple days/nights in Portland. My former land-lady and current good friend, Toni (from London) has a cousin who will open his doors to us. It's very exciting. I've never been to Maine! It should be GREAT!

Well... we have 4 work days left. Booked the hotel tonight for our travels back to the Point... it's all winding down very quickly. Wow.

Hope you are all great. It's November. and what the F happened to daylight savings time?

sunrise. 10.30.10

Badger 1, Mobile Food Pantry, Biloxi, MS

Badger 1 at Halloween Dinner

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Winding (the year) down...

I find it hard to believe that my 11 months is down to 3 weeks. I'm closing in on a year since graduation, Toni visiting, and leaving everything for this 11 month, cross-country journey.

We have 10 days left in Alabama. 10! We've been pretty busy lately. We had a community day on Saturday, which coincided with Make a Difference Day. This was our one day of the round that we, Badger 1, put together a day to serve and celebrate. Jamie, one of the gang, put a ton of effort into the event, and it was a huge success. We had food, crafts, games, prizes, sports, water balloons, and MORE! We started the morning off picking up trash along the road, and then celebrated the afternoon away with the above said things. We had a pretty decent turnout… check out the pictures below!

It was also my birthday weekend, and it was celebrated in style. My Aunt Denise and good friend Jess drove from the cold WI to the hot and humid AL. I spent the weekend with them, enjoying lots of good beer, food, margaritas and at times, a shit show. SO much fun – those two always make for a great time. It was a great break and opportunity to relax… I don’t get that much these days. There is always something going on, but I see the benefit of it, especially now that I attempt to help my CM’s get their Life After Americorps figured out. Lots of Dr.’s appts, GED classes and test set-up, interviews, GRE and LSAT tests to schedule and study for, and overall excitement for graduation. Badger 1 has done a lot this year, and although we won’t leave the program as best friends, we definitely will remember how much we learned, grew and accomplished as a team.

Personally, I have also been pretty busy with LAA plans. 2 weeks ago the Unit Leader position opened up for immediate fill. I’ve submitted my application…

I’m extremely hopeful and confident, but unaware of who my competition may be. I know this position is exactly what I want right now, so I am hoping that it will all work itself out. But, I’m not worried… a backup plan of Cali is still set to go, and I know everything happens for a reason. So – that’s all I’ll say about that.

I also have submitted my application for Teach for America. Will hear the first word on that next week. Pretty fun time.

I’m starting to reflect on what we’ve done this year. We’ve been in so many communities, made such small, but meaningful impacts, and also very large impacts. We’ve met SOOOOO many people and whereve we go on the east or gulf coast, we COULD find someone that we’ve worked with. Not to mention all of our friends within the program.

I’ve also done a pretty good job of keeping in touch with friends over the course of the year. Some people I talk to every couple of months, some every day… but we talk.. that’s the key thing. I wish I had more time and energy to stay up all night keeping connected, but… I frick’n love sleep. Deal with it.

Got a lot going on in my head… don’t feel it’s all necessary to share. I’m proud of what I’ve done this year. I’m excited that there is enough interest and support to keep this program going and growing. I hope I can continue to be a part of it.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

First taste of the Pacific

Wow, I don't do so hot at keeping this up-to-date.

Well, first things first.

California was amazing. I didn't know what to expect of the roommates, the area, the weather... anything. But I do know that I cannot wait to get back... if that plan is not altered (I'll get to that).

I didn't get into San Fran until Saturday versus Friday night, because the airlines "crew were late." So I got put up in a hotel in Houston. Nice of them, but I had a hotel reservation in San Francisco where Zac was... not the best night.

I got in on Saturday afternoon, and just headed south to Marina, CA - future home of mine. Zac's 2 roommates are frick'n awesome. We had a blast all week... whether we were having a few drinks, cooking for each other, doing nothing but watching Jersey Shore (ugh) or Teen Mom (a must see), or attempting to eat at the Noodle Bar, or get any kind of food that I wanted (unsuccessfully), we had a great time. I even talked them into buying a kitchen table and chairs. The place is basically mine already.

Zac and I didn't get out and enjoy as much as I think I may have liked to, but the main point of the visit was just that... to visit him. After 8 weeks, all the sights are miniscule relative to the time you just want to spend with each other. I'm such a tool for saying this... a year ago I'd have been making fun of EVERYONE who said this, and probably not talk to them anymore out of annoyance. But, truth be told...

So, I did not get to see San Fran. That's about a 2 hour drive from Marina, 4 hours in total for a day, and getting a hotel was not an option because the money was already spent on that once. Zac and I checked out Monterey and also drove along HWY 1, which goes along the coast of California. We did some trail hiking, and then stopped along the road and chilled at a bitch. And by chilled, I mean dominated some 6+ foot waves. Those things can kick your ass... hell yea!

It was really good to be around each other for so long. We have known each other for just about a year now, and that 9 days was the longest we had spend together (the longest stretch of time that we saw each other on a daily basis). It was awesome.. this is definitely a great thing!

I should have spent a lot more time on my Teach For America application... but I didn't. So I still have to do that. But Zac's boss has offered me a job with the afterschool program - so I've got at least something going for me when/if I make it out there!

I flew out on Sunday.. but when I arrived at the airport they told me my flight left Saturday... wtf Ryan??? So there went another $150 to fly standby. Still got on all the same flights I needed to, just 24 hours later. Idiot.

So... while I was in Cali I found out that 2 staff members from my campus are leaving the organization. That means that the Unit Leader position that I want to apply for in the spring, is now available NOW! The job posted yesterday, and closes in 2 weeks. That means that I have to put together a Federal Resume and do the application online, which consists of about 12 questions. For lack of a desire to explain the federal application proces... I'll just say this is a very time consuming task. But I'm doing it. I believe I am qualified for this position and would suit it very well. And although I had plans to move to Cali for 6 months and relax, gaining more experience for the position (staying fresh), and then applying for it in the spring, if the opportunity is here now, then I must act now. I really do want this... and Zac is supportive of that. It's a great opportunity.. .SO, I am beginning that process. Wish me luck!!

Other than that (aka - my personal life), things on the team are going well. With all of our strong personalities we have not become a family, which is frustrating for many people, including myself. The amazing thing, though, and the point I explain to them, is that we are incredible because we can put our differences aside, and be one of the most functional, effective and effiecient teams in this corps. We don't whine, we get things done, we provide excellent results, and we really do have fun... doing our own thing. I told them today that I am proud of them, because as some teams are winding down and getting anxious to just get done, they still show up, positive attitudes, and their game faces on. This team has come SOOOO damn far. I really am proud of them. It's been a great year... and I hope I have the opportunity to oversee dozens of teams go through this process in the years to come....

Well... we have a lot going on.. so I should get off of here. We are doing a mobile food pantry tomorrow, followed by publicity for our Community Day next weekend, then we're doing a Haunted House ISP on Saturday and I need to not only make it to the beach this weekend, but also get a solid start on my UL application. Still need to connect with friends too... several that I have not talked to in far too long.

Alrighty... with only 34 days left until Graduation... ... ...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sweet Home Alabama

Ain't it the truth though?

I'm loving this project. It is so exciting every day. I have never been happier with the team and the overall things that are happening on every level down here. It's absolutely incredible!

The work we do is pretty monotanous(sp??). We literally wipe off cans of food with bleach rags, or fill boxes with food and stack them on pallets for shipment. That's about it. BUT... we get to work together as a team, and that's never been more fun. The team is SO F'd in the head, that you cannot help but laugh. We've started this thing where every time you put something in a box, or make a move of any sort really, you have to make a noise. So when you drop a bad of rice in the box, you have to have a customized noise... "beep, boop, orgh, gah!, unff" is close to what our area of the warehouse sounds like. Even when I'm in a bad mood (which happens like 2 days a round), the team doesn't care, and just goes on being ridiculous, and expects that I join in on it. If I don't, I'm ousted. The other day I had one of these days, and Chelsea decided we were going to make hats. So she grabbed these big paper bags, placed them our heads and I ended up taping them to everyone's heads.. ya know, custom fit. So we were making robot noises with 3 foot high paper bags on our heads... truly a site to see. The employees were coming by, confused, laughing, taking pictures, but mostly shaking their heads and avoiding us. And then at the end of the day they are shocked at how many pallets of food we got through.. no joke! They can't believe how much we're getting done!

Monday nights are up in the air as to what will happen. I usually grocery shop.
Tuesday and Wednesdays are low key because that is when the GED classes are. So I have to be the chauffer. I don't mind it.
Thursdays is beach night. We get home, grab food (someone prepares our meal the night before so we can grab it and go after work). We get to the beach, do a team workout (which looks like it will be YOGA from now on), and then swim quick, and hit the pavillion for Taco Dinner (it's capitalized because it's a THING... like the VMA's or something), and then we follow with a team meeting before packing up and heading home for the night.
Fridays are up in the air, too. This past Friday we went to the mall, I bought nothing.. that was easier than I thought it'd be. Then we went to Wal Mart and played the Wal Mart game. I don't feel like explaining it, but it was a blast.
Saturday's are unpredictable - usually low key and relaxing. and in the evening, Jamie and I head to the local Mexican restaurant for $1.25 margaritas! MmmMmmmMmmmm
Sunday is beach day. It starts off with breakfast made by our housing sponsor every sunday at 8:30. Then I bike to the beach (20 miles) and then everyone else meets me there for the day. It is cloudy today, so not sure if it will happen, but I think it might.

The team is not just getting along down here, but enjoying each other's company. What used to annoy and frustrate us about each other, is now a strong point and something we connect with each other on. We are conversational, try to help each other out, and instead of getting pissed and walking away from each other, we pull each other aside and converse. I don't... I mean, I'm done with that. ha - they know what I'm thinking without having to say it... so now I just hit them. It works.

I leave for California on Friday... 9 days there! Definitely ready for it... haven't seen Zac in 7 weeks. Almost 8. Get a feel for what my life will be like post-Americorps. We both need this. It's crazy... it really is... to actually care for someone. I NEVER thought Iwould be in this position. Sorry... don't puke, I'm done.

All right... gotta check this bike beach trip forecast, see if I can't make it happen.

Live every day. Do what feels right... don't allow yourself to be constrained... you can't find happiness if you do.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Time slipped by... down in Alabama!

Well, we wrapped up things in Baltimore... we spent our last working day on the farm hosting a community day for local kids... we had 3 children wander onto the farm, and 6 or 7 college students come volunteer because they had forgotten sunglasses 2 weeks earlier and felt bad coming back to just get the glasses... so they hung around for a couple of hours.

The following day we went to work with another team, my former Corps Members team, Wolf 2. They work at City Neighbors... this is an organization started by parents of Baltimore students. They felt that the public schools were not providing a strong enough educational experience, so they created City Neighbors charter schools. Each year the school grows, and with that comesa lot of work. So we spen the day (sunday) helping them get ready for school that was supposed to start on that Monday. However, they didn't have desks, lights, dry-erase boards, a cafeteria.... ETC, so needless to say, school was delayed. No 2 hour delay, a 7 day delay... that's what I would have been talkinga bout. It was really cool to work with them. A fun team, and it feels good to help with worthwhile projects. Plus we got to check out the view of the city from the schools roof...and climb on the ropes in the gym. Solid day. Oh, and frontflips into the cardboard recycling dumpsters... no, we aren't allowed to do that in uniform...;)

The following day, things got BETTER. Wolf 2 joined us at a pool party. This was AWESOME. One of our sponsors friends (?) heard of us and the work we did and invited us to his house for a pool party. Diving board, basketall hoop in pool, lots of food (and ICE CREAM), water guns... you name it. Spent about 4 hours there. I mastered the art of front AND backflips. Had never tried either, so it was quite an accomplishment. I was like a 2 year old that just learned where the dog food dish was.. you couldn't keep me off that diving board. We had a legitimate REALLY good day.

Back to campus we went. We spent 2 days in transition, or 3, who cares, and then left for Fall Break. I lucked out BIG TIME. One of the STL's on campus has a condo on Lake Erie. I was invited. 4 of us drove up Thursday and spent 4 days on the lake. It was awesome. I did nothing. I didn't go venture into town to explore (except to go to Fazoli's once.. where the breadsticks have 103 calories... Lynn?). I didn't talk to anyone on the phone. I barely talked to those I was with. I read 2 books, chilled online, took naps, drank a bit, sunbathed a bit... the whole thing of relaxation. His parents took us out on the boat once, grilled out.. just an overall excellentw eekend.

Nothing too exciting happened back at campus. We prepared for 4th round down in Alabama. But since we didn't need to bring tools or anything, and because my team kicks ass, we had nothing that was necessary to get done. So I went about 36 hours without seeing them, and barely talking to them. That is literally unheard of, especially during transition. So proud of these guys... it's sounds parental to say... but .. well, what else can I say.

One day after one of the trainings, feeling a bit frustrated that I was keeping things from the team, we circled up in the field outside the building we live in. I told them that I didn't want to make a big deal out of it, but that I wanted to be open and honest with them and felt that I was hiding something from them. SO, I told them about Zac... it was awesome. They giggled a bit, but mostly were like "Ok, cool" and then preceded to ask questions about our relationship. I feel much more comfortable with them now.

I spent one day down in DC working things out for a CM trip down there in November. It was a really long day, with some hiccups, but it turned out to be pretty beneficial. Also got to go out to dinner with most of the Badger TL's, so that was nice... such fucking awesome group of people. SO much fun... some things will be missed come Nov. 23rd.

I also talked with my Region Director about becoming a Unit Leader next spring/summer... promising conversation, so I'm excited for next spring to get here... not too fast, but sooner than later. It's a great opportunity, and I know I'd really enjoy the accomplishments that come with it.

Anyhow, now we are in Alabama. We had a nice, cozy little road trip down here, and LOVE IT. Had our first day of work today. Spent Friday and Saturday nights at the beach. Went to Mobile on Saturday, so now we have 3 bikes. On Sunday I biked to and from the beach (40 miles r/t), and spent the day there with the team.

We work in a canned food facility, sorting and packing food for the families affected by the oil spill.. mostly. It's pretty cool work.. .more info on that to come. But we work at our pace with great people.

So far.. things are just great. And I found a GED program for two of my CM's, so the one who is in MD flys down on Wed to rejoin our team. Couldn''t be happier about that. Things are really coming together this last round.... I'm excited.

So much more to come... lata ya'll

Friday, August 20, 2010

Wrapping Bmore up... already

Well, it's been 5 weeks as of tonight. A crazy 5 weeks at that.

The round has definitely been a tiring one. We've spent the first half of most days out on the farm starting at 7am, and then doing other landscaping and house rennovation work for the rest of the afternoons. Working outside has taken it's toll on us, and there is also quite a bit of cluster in the communication we receive from our sponsors, so this is quite the opposite of an energy boost. But we've persevered, and we have done a LOT at TSW over the last 5 weeks, and plan on finishing the last week out strong. We've built two patio's harvested um-teen hundred pounds of produce (probably) done a lot of dirt moving, paint stripping, cleaning, lawn mowing and the list goes on. We're ready for one last, relaxing week of it before heading back to Perry Point and then.... ??

The chickens are also making our lives more interesting these days. Lassie, the oldest of the 11, has started laying eggs. She layed her first one on the back porch.. odd location really... but it is not as odd as the place she has layed the last 4... my 2nd floor bedroom closet. The chickens are not even allowe din the house, yet she finds her way in, and upstairs every day to lay her egg in my closet. It's frick'n awesome! They are much richer than store bought eggs too... it's incredible the difference in organic eggs.

Teamwise... we've lost Bob for the round. ACL surgery and recovery. Another CM went back to the Point for personal reasons for two weeks, but is now back. We were down to 6 at one point, and then I left for a weekend to go home. So they had 5.... we've taken on a Survivor theme to the team... "There can only, B1 (left)" These kids are great.

I left for 4 days to go back to WI for a friend's wedding. It was a great weekend. My sig other got to meet my family and everything went great. Got to meet his, too. That was also great. So different... so fun. It finally feels like a real relationship... can't wait for it to be complete in Cali come January!

Things are going really well... I'm working with Summer of Service kids. They are kids that have some kind of court-mandated volunteer service, so they are at the farm 4 days a week. They are coming from a hell of a background, and I love working with them. I feel like we are breaking through the walls they have up to, and they are realy turning their attitudes around with us. They start the week off disobeying everything we say, and end the week with respect, laughter, and handshakes. It just sucks that we only see them for 4 days, then they are gone and we get a new group... no sustained progress. Makes me excited for the Teach for America possibility. I really believe Iw ill enjoy and find success in that program. Today we went to the high ropes course with the kids... the group I was working with was the most put together and caused the least amount of trouble. We had a pretty great time. The group I worked with on the farm this past week may have had an even less eventful day.. those guys were all SO well behaved... it's incredible the difference. These kids are as young as 15... with charges such as armed robbery... and some have been smoking weed since they were 11. They're great people, just coming from an unstable foundation... they're really brilliant, too... bright kids.. I hope the work I've done with them helps them realize and pull from this.

Well... one more week left.. then one more round left... and then myAmericorps NCCC experience is done. Crazy.

My boss has also resigned. He has taken a police officer job in Appleton. Might be applying for his position as well... I think that would be another great position to make positive change.

Things are good....

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Rush of the big city...

We're on a farm... but it has not felt like it lately.

Oufirst week was crazy, followed by a 2nd crazy week. What does week 3 hold for us?
That first week I told you about how we were quickly introduced into the topic of human trafficking .Well, later that week a gentleman came and spoke to the team. His daughter was kidnapped and put into sex trafficking in 1988. She didn't survive. He told the team his story and the terrible things that happened to his daughter... disgusting.

I actually did not get to meet him. I was back at Perry Point (our base). One of my CM's injured his knee, so I had to bring him back so he can go to Dr.'s appointments. He actually has ACL surgery this Friday... he has no ACL from what I's worn away. He'll be out for close to 2 months... he was supposed to be the Assistant TL this round, so I'm bummed he won't have that opportunity. Hopefully he can get back to live with us by the end of the round, but it's not likely. At the very worst, I hope he's back to us before the beginning of 4th round. At least Baltimore is only 45 minutes away... he should be able to visit every now and again.

The first Thursday we were in Baltimore TSW held a fundraising dinner. They had about 65 people over and ate on the Veranda of the 1890's home. It was GORGEOUS. My team made up the serving staff... it was great. We were each allowed to enjoy the full $65/plate menu.. and all of the leftovers. Smoked Macaroni and Cheese was the favorite of the night... FOR SURE.

This past weekend there was a wedding on the property. We had to build a patio for the dance floor. We spent that last week working 50+ hours, 10+ hour days (I did one day of 14 hours) to get it all done. We burned out a tree stump (our idea, first time, big success), did a little work on the farm, spread lots of mulch, chased lots of chickens (they kept eating the fresh grass seed), cleaned a lot, painted.. you name it. I drive the tractors... that's awesome. The team is warming up to the idea of driving them as well.. some of them are legitimately afraid to drive... fine by me.. hand over the keys!
It was a lot of work, but it paid off. The wedding (was a wedding) and the dance WAS INCREDIBLE. We certainly broke it in.... another BAdger 1 super success (BAdger is not a mispelling... it stands for BadAss Badger). We've been meeting expectations if I must say so. Our sponsor said they heard we were the best... we like to believe so. Just ask anyone on the team... we need to work a bit on being modest... but hey, when you are the best, why not shout it?

We discovered the nearby river last weekend. Not very deep, but it's FRESH WATER! We were chilling in a calm section and hear some shouting...... an investigation ensued... and we found bridge jumpers! So we spent the next 4 hours jumping off the road bridge into the 7 feet of water below us... crazy?? no, just cool. We visited again this past week after work. We had a hell of a rainstorm, so the water was super muddy, and Chrisitian was afraid of diseases that will make her hair fall out, but she got in. Christian also thinks her life is coming to an end because she turns 20 on Tuesday..lmao. Young buck for sure.

The team is doing awesome. We're having a lot of fun, and fighting like always. But we laugh a lot more when we fight these days. Our sponsor tells us we are the least dramatic team they have had yet.

Oh, and at the wedding they had potato salad, coleslaw, grilled chicken and BBQ pork... we have the fridge full of leftovers from that, too. We don't get to keep the booze.. lame.

I went out for my first drink in Bmore last night. Met up with Mona (my former teammate turned TL). She is now with her team, who is also in Bmore. She's doing well, really well, and is now seeing what it's like to be a TL, and why some of the rules and ways I did things were done as they were/are. CM's are unforgiving and relentless... pains in the ass. I've got a good bunch, but they take work, and pruning, and weeding. They're shaping up nicely though.

I go back to Wisconsin for 4 days on Thursday... WHIT'S WEDDING. Very excited. And I have a date. Plan to see all of my family and some great friends. Plan to drink most days/nights. Lots of plans. I have 1 day left of my weekend, 3 days of work, a 4 day weekend and then 3 weeks left in Baltimore... time is flying. After that we only have 1 round left...

I don't really know what the plan is for our work the next couple of weeks. There isn't a rush for anything anymore.. I don't think.

Right now I'm sitting outside a business center, stealing internet at 8:30 on a Sunday night in Bmore. Just me, no one around me. It's quiet besides the cars. Took a bus here and the same to get home. I can get used to this.
Here are some pics of the work we've been doing.

We live in this house.

Pre patio and stump removal

Steve... being a fire god (as we burn out the stump)

Team Dinner.. .Jamie and Mona came to visit that first weekend.
This is the new walkway from the driveway

the patio in full on wedding day....

Saturday, July 17, 2010 intense

Wow… we’ve only been at The Samaritan Women project for a day, and I can already tell this is going to be a powerful round.

Now that I have a better idea of what they do, I want to explain it:

The property is 23 acres. There are two homes on the property, one built in the 1890’s and one in the 1920’s; both by rich entrepreneurs and both have rich history with a diverse past. Now, the 1920’s mansion is what we live in, and both buildings are under restoration. When I say mansion, I mean it. The one we live in has a kitchen, dining room, living room, porch area, bathroom, pantry and more… on the first floor. There are 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms on the second floor; and two more bedrooms (at least) on the third floor… MANSION.

The other property, which is still unlivable, is more than 8,000 square feet… I won’t get into the room details.

Baltimore has the third highest rate of human trafficking in our nation… coupled with D.C. Human trafficking includes selling people for labor and sex (among other things). This is a HUGE industry, that largely goes unnoticed by the general public… and our nations capital has one of the highest rates. The average age of humans sold in the sex industry is 12… that’s an average. People are sold for sex, from infants on up. Absolutely disgusting. We’ve already heard some horror stories, and we’ll get to meet families of victims during our time here. It’s a high intensity and anxiety causing subject… which is why I’m writing about it while sitting in the backyard, on a patio, with only the sounds of birds, the 11 free range chickens here on the farm (there were 12, but a snake got one last night), and the 2+ acre farm directly behind me. I feel like I’m camping, and I have a Baltimore zip code.

The Samaritan Women is a work in progress, but the plan is to have it become a recovery center for women rescued from trafficking, those who are recovering from addictions, etc. Vetnor, the 8,000 sq foot mansion will be able to host 16-20 women at a time. It will be not only a residence for them, but a spiritual retreat center and a vocational school as well. The idea is to allow women to recover as long as they need, teach them vocational skills for the purpose of getting a job, or just to survive on their own. The 2 acre farm, which is slated for heavy expansion, will be the source of all vegetables for the cooking.. an all organic vocaitional school. They already have the chickens, and the plan is to get goats in the future, too. They’ll become very self-sufficient. It’s such a beautiful place. The farm actually is actually home to the highest point in Baltimore, so over Easter weekend TSW built a large wood cross at this point (TSW has been founded upon Christian values, but does not force them unto people, rather provides them the opportunity to become a believer). This place is going to be powerful, and SO successful.. you can feel it. It’s largely run by 3 people… they are incredible, and I barely know them.

Day 1 was relatively intense. We went to Wilkens street, which is one of the rougher parts of Baltimore. We found a side street and set up a mini carnival. The idea is to show people in the neighborhood that people do care about them. We have inflatables for the kids, free food, information on churches, etc. There was also free food… there are so many partnerships and things I could write about…

The most powerful part was this: I was cooked hot dogs… haha. I did, but that wasn’t powerful in itself. One of the ladies I worked with told me her story. She has been drug free for 2 years… she was a heroine addict for 11. She lost her husband, her house and all 4 kids. Two of her kids went into what she called “the system.” She gets to see all of her kids now, one still is very upset with her and one is following her footsteps… and she’s terrified. This woman has a great heart, and I never would have guessed this was her story. She still struggles every day to not take any kind of drug. Something as little as an aspirin could set her off into needing that feeling of “nothing” continuously. She already wants that feeling all the time; her self control is tremendous. This women, as an addict, didn’t care about eating, clothing, her kids, her job, nothing. She was also subject to violence and, yes, she was a rape victim. All related to her need to get high. I heard her story… and then saw one in progress.

While we were there, we witnessed one woman stumble in, drunk, and unable to control her body. As we escorted her away from the event she fell and hit her head on the curb… she couldn’t walk or anything. Clueless… her son carried her home.

Just before we left we saw exactly what TSW is trying to stop. A 24 year old woman happened upon us as we were packing up. She is a drug addict, and was more than high. She was confused and in need to say the least. They got her to sit down, bough her food, brought her new clothes, gave her advice and talked with her for over an hour. They tried convincing her to go to detox, but she said “no, because they won’t let me have 20 Zanex a day.” This stuff is real…

TSW is going to be an eye opener. It’s also going to be a relaxing place for us the enjoy the natural beauty that we all take advantage of and ignore on a daily basis. No A/C, no internet, no TV and lots of organic veggies, a compost pile and, soon enough, a human waste compost spot… details to come… I’m excited.

This got long… but there’s just so much to say… I can’t wait.

Check out the TSW website:

Thursday, July 15, 2010


It's been a crazy couple of weeks, and you can definitely tell it is mid-year here in Americorps.

I just got back from my summer break, which I spent in Brooklyn and Manhattan. It was an excellent time. I relaxed with some good friends that I hadn't seen in over a year, and then my brother and sister flew in to spend the 2nd half of break with me touring the city. Another friend, Zac, also came and spent time in the city with us. It was an excellent time - really good to see everyone, both friends and family.

I spent the 4th of July on top of an 18th floor apartment complex in upper Manhattan, only blocks from the Hudson river. Excellent way to enjoy the fireworks... and some beer.

New York City is definitely one of my favority places that I've been to. I saw so much while I was there... and it's incredible that you can literally take a train everywhere, including the beaches of Coney Island. Made that venture twice over vacation. It was so nice to sit back and relax.

Now, I'm back into the groove. I work with some incredible people here in Americorps. The Team Leaders (Team Green) are so frick'n hilarious. We started our week off with an all day training, just TL's. We had a blast... I was NOT mentally ready to sit in a room and listen to talking all day... that was made clear when the next day, at our first meeting of the day, I spoke up and said "I wasn't really listening yesterday, what is up with this whole composite team again?" My boss was pleased with that...

We also had some trivia questions that TL's had been asked to respond to, then we did a Jeopardy-like game where the Unit's competed against each other. Badger's won (duh), and it was brought up at least twice about my American Flag shirt. I think I was chosen to be on a desert island (because we could raise my shirt as the flag and be rescued), and... I'm not sure, but I may have been someone's Favorite American when wearing the shirt... so ridiculous.

My team came back Monday, and I gave them a pretty chill week. They continue to impress the socks off of me. I literally just inform them of what needs to get done, and they do it... and they do it SOOO darn well. We had to give our project brief, we do this every round (a presentation to staff to inform them on what we are going to be doing), and they make it VERY educational, funny, exciting and they always have something "go wrong." After informing staff that we feel "wild, magical, dainty" and much more, Steve knocked over the paper pad pedestal (that he should not have been anywhere near) and brought 3 people on the team to tears during the presentation. The team is rock solid... I'm very proud of them, and excited that I get to call them Badger 1 along with myself.

Unfortunately, yet so awesome, Ramona has left the team. She applied for and received another TL position within a different unit. One of the other TL's stepped down a few weeks back, and my CM applied for and was offered the TL opening. She is going to do SUCH a great job... My team had no clue she had applied for it, and Ramona told them after our brief that she accepted it... aside from being surprised, they all praised her and congratulated her... she's so deserving of this. I couldn't tell you how many times throughout today she received rounds of applause and "congratulations" from people all over campus. It's a quick transition...she shows up in green tomorrow, so she is officially... official! People keep on telling me "Congratulations, she is a product of your leadership." I understand the thought process behind that, but she is such a natural leader, that I honestly believe she had this down pat before she was placed on my team. Some of my CM's are a little anxious with her leaving because they relate so well to her, but they're overall happy for her. We are also down Jamie this round because she is on firefighting composite... so we're down to 8 instead of 10.. for the rest of the year. When Jamie gets back, Steve will leave for firefighting... Badger 1 is forever split... kinda sad... really.

There are 4 other composite teams this round, too. Two teams are going to Massachusettes to aid with the flood recovery efforts from this spring, one team is going to NOLA to assist families that have fallend victim to the oil spill (helping out at recovery and assistance centers), and one team is going to Pensacola, FL to help spread the word on the oil spill in an informational way. No one from Badger1 is going to any of those locations... whew!

We leave tomorrow afternoon for Baltimore. We will do a quick intro tomorrow night, and get right to work on saturday. There is a festival of sorts going on, so we'll help with that, and then have Sunday off... I think Ramona is giong to come down and visit since we won't really have the chance to say good-bye to her while we're here.

Also found out today that not only was B1 the first team to be done with all of their ISP hours, but we currently lead the corps in having the most ISP's of any team... and we have 2 of the top 10 highest hours on our team... well 1 really, because Ramona is a TL now. That was a nice little cherry on top of our overflowing Sunday (everyone in the corps knows B1... but we keep our cool...). Also did the PT assessment this week... almost, more than half the team scored 300... that's the best you can score! So Steve says our new goal is to be the most physically fit team in the corps... we might already be there.

I can't ask for things to be going much better. I'm going to be working with the team to get resumes in check so they can start figuring things out for after Americorps... I LOVE DOING RESUMES. I've already been helping some of them quite a bit, and they've said they're very excited to have a "resume expert" as their TL... I told them that might be a longshot, but I'll take the credit. haha

As for me, I'm waiting to start applying for Teach for America and other State Teaching Fellows programs... the applications don't open until August. Crossing my fingers.

I'm having fun here... I really like what I'm doing, and I'm seeing great benefits/results. It's been a big week for me on a personal front, with family and such. Lots of good communication. I might be getting back to WI in a couple weeks for a wedding, which will be a nice change of pace and a welcomed visit. Some of the faces I'd want there the most won't be, but you work with what you have. I'm learning that daily.

I'm living life right now... I can honestly say that... and it's great.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Big Apple

The last 3 days in Perry Point were some of the fastest. The team has been more than on top of getting their work done, which has left us all in a great position to sit back, relax, and enjoy the summer break.

It was nice being back with all of the TL's and catching up with everyone; going out for drink, dunk'n donut runs, and, of course, being submerged in the humor that is team green. We had 2 days of work, and one day of fun which was the Amerilympics. It's the competition between units over several sports... suprisingly the Badgers did not do all that well. I ran the 2 mile relay and my team kicked some butt. We did a 2 mile relay in just over 10.5 minutes. Wish I knew I could run like this back in HS.

Found out on Monday that we are traveling to Baltimore next. We will be working with The Samaritan Women on an organic farm, harvesting and doing restoration work. It's probably one of the best projects we have in the corps right now, so my team is thrilled to be going. We'll be living in an early 20th century mansion... solid project.

Got into Brooklyn yesterday, where I am staying with some college friends. They just moved up here. Jen is starting a PhD program in the fall, and Chris was accepted as a part of the NY Teaching Fellows program and he's giong for his Masters in Education at the same time - both of them are going to PACE University. So far it's been awesome - had never been to Brooklyn before, and followed Chris up to Harlem this morning, which was nothing like I expected. NYC is a super clean and safe city, and it's probably one of the places I could see myself living some day. I'll be spending the weekend here with them, and then on Tuesday my brother and sister fly in for the rest of next week - it's going to be quite a relaxing break... and satisfying. Can't wait for later in the week next week...

We had a pretty late first night here in Brooklyn, so it's naptime - been a while since I've been able to say that.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

See ya NOLA

Well, we're on the road tonight. We left New Orleans yesterday morning... after a GREAT week.

The last 2 weeks have been probably my favorite 2 weeks. The team has been splitting work sites, which caused no issues, and was probably a nice break from each other. I stayed and worked with Patrick. He's a supervisor for Habitat, and formerly an NCCC TL. He gave me a ton of control over projects, from laying cement pads, to putting up a chain link fence. Worked with some solid kids from North Carolina and a Prep school in Maryland.. had an absolute blast. Then we moved over to another site where, again, Patrick gave me lots of freedom. Here I lead more kids and even adults. It was a challenge leading adult males who probably know a hell of a lot more than me abuot construction, but it was a good experience. I think Pat and my work styles are very similar, so it was a pretty awesome time. The rest of the crew stayed at Catfish's worksite... another incredible "house leader" I think they're called. The team was able to build that house from the ground up; they got as far as the shingles on the roof. The house I was working on next door we started by putting the sill beams up and by time we left Thursday we were ready for the roof trusses. It was awesome.

Last weekend we held a community day for the kids in NOLA. We had face painting, fruits and veggies... lots of good stuff. It was a chill, quiet time. I clung to this little boy who clearly needed more parenting. Very violent - his mother gave me a visual as to why he was like that... so disappointing. I enjoyed working with him though, and it kept him occupied. I say I hate kids, and I think to an extent I do, but if they are trouble, I can't resist them.

Monday we went on a driving tour with John Wilkes Booth. No joke. He showed us around the hardest hit parts of NOLA, and explained how and why all of the devastation happened. It was a pretty intense time. We had also just watched the movie "When the levees broke." It's a 4 hour documentary, but if you want to know more about the realities of Katrina, our government, etc, then check it out. It was astounding and very informative.

Wednesday night Catfish took the team out for dinner... at probably the best restaurant in New Orleans. It was top-notch food, and the price deomonstrated that... it was sooo good - place called Joc imos, something like that - we met Catfish out later for some drinks... funny guy. Patrick also took Jon and I out for lunch last week at "the Joint." The BEST BBQ I have EVER had. Wow. And the mac & cheese.... I could live off of it.

Those two site supervisors are going to be hard to replace. Then again, so are the ones from RI. These experiences are incredible... I wish everyone would take the time to join a program like Americorps. They would not be disappointed.

So here we are, on day 2 of a 3 day trip... not the typical trip home. Usually we only get 2 days of travel, but I thought, hey, let's try something. So, we put in a proposal to travel for 3 days, travel up to Memphis, check out the Blues Highway, and spend the night in TN. Then on day 2, head to Mammoth Cave National Park and spend the night in Lexington, KY. And day 3 is a straight shot home. Didn't know if it would get approved, but we were told "yes, just don't spend anything more than you would on a 2 day trip." So we used our extra food money to buy groceries to make sandwiches for lunch and dinner last night. We were giong to pitch in to pay $5 each for the extra hotel cost (we didn't need much more than what we get in our budget), but the place we stayed last night bumped us into a smaller room, and a smoking room, so we got one of our two rooms for free.... so a free day of extra travel it is.

Yesterday we passed through Yahzoo city. It's the city in MS that was hit with tornadoes and 2 of my CM's were down there. We stopped in a couple spots to look at the damage. Incredible.

Mammoth Cave was an awesome place to stop. We are really enjoying the travel back... it's really relaxing. We still don't know where we are going next, but things are going really well now, so we're not too anxious about it. Tommorrow we arrive back in PerryPoint, and Wednesday night starts our summer break. I'm heading to Brooklyn for 5 days, and then spending 4 nights in NYC with my brother and sister.

I miss people. Some a ton. Sometimes I can't wait for November... December really, because I'll take some time traveling home... and then.. maybe I'm most anxious for January... there's some incredible things going on in my life... I love where I'm at, and probably even more where I'm going...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

There can only B1

More than happy to chat my team up today. As CM's, you have the responsibility to complete 80 ISP's (Independent Service Projects). Basically, you have to volunteer outside of work for a total of 80 hours before you finish the program in order to receive your education award. Well, the Region Director and my boss make it a high priority to finish these as early as possible, so that if you get called on disaster or if you get put in a secluded location, you do not have to worry about your ISP's. Additionally... it's a competitive thing.. who doesn't like to be done 1st?

Well, B1 thought that after being in RI for first round, and being on disaster, we were out of the running. "A team will for sure finish in the first round... we don't stand a chance." Well, a new goal was set for mid-round 2nd round. Well... it's just past mid-round, and we're done... THE FIRST ONE'S DONE! With 21 teams in the corps, that's a huge accomplishment. We are excited, my boss is excited, and so on. I think we get a free dinner from the Region Director AND my boss... sweet! The team is more than excited about it, as it means they do not have to worry about ISP's the rest of the year. They can stil volunteer if an interesting opportunity comes up... but they don't have to.. and I don't care!

Monday, June 7, 2010

New Orleans

It was a much desired and anticipated destination, and Badger 1 was estatic to find out that New Orleans wouuld be the location of their next project. I found out when my boss made a quick site visit... he pulled out the piece of paper and handed it to me. Not the most exciting way to find out the next round, but hey, cut to the chase I suppose. Wasn't going to be so easy for my team though.

It was difficult to hold it in, because 10 minutes after my boss told me where we were going, he told my team that I knew where we were going... so of course they were on my case from then on out to know WHERE we would be going and WHAT we would be doing for the next 6 week project known as Round 2. I smiled and said... "I think you have a debrief to get done." (The debrief is about a 20 minute presentation that the team presents to the Region Staff and Directors. It highlights what we learned about the project, things that could have been better, what we liked and all the bits and pieces that go into an Americorps Round).

It took about a week, maybe a little bit longer, but the morning came where we all headed out for PT... just like EVERY other morning in Rhode Island. Morale was average, and the team was not excited to be doing another "same 'ol routine" of circuits for their PT (Physical Traning). But we headed out, did pushups, sit ups, etc for the first 30 minutes, and then I changed it up and said "lets hit the running trail." That went over well... especially since one of the girls had to pee so bad she was in pain...

Like always, I said "run together... make it tighter...stay together." It didn't take long though before the team realized this wasn't a normal run... Along the path their were clues... such as "Good bye 1-bedroom apartment" & "Hello 3-bedroom house" & "can you say couches" & "can you build a house?" The very last chalking, which I had woken up at 5:15am to post on the trail said..."We're going to.... (20 feet further up) NEW ORLEANS!!!" I had never seen the team jog that fast during a PT... now I know they can do it!

After a 1 week transition back in Perry Point, MD, our homebase, where we did our debrief (rocked it) and our project brief for New Orleans (with a little bit of a lady GAGA introduction - "RaRa RaRaRa, NO LA, NO LALA, BADGER 1 IS GOING TO, GO TO NEW ORLEANS - yes, the background music was there [and NOLA stands for New Orleans, Louisiana]), we hit the road for our 2 day venture to New Orleans. Nothing too exciting... which for a drive is generally a good thing. We stopped overnight in Alcoa, TN, just outside of Knoxville. Our hotel did not have a pool, but the one next door did, so some of the team took advantage of that. Also, most of the team had not been to Cici's Pizza before, so after we discovered there was one down the road, that's where we went for dinner. However... there was NOT a Cici's there anymore... so we drove 20 miles towards Knoxville and tried it out anyhow. A couple of the guys on the team had a pizza challenge.. I think Bob took the win with more than 25 pieces... BALLER! Steve said he stopped ONLY because there wasn't anymore pizza that he liked...

We got to New Orleans, found our 3 bedroom house, with 3 couches, a backyard and a frontyard, did some grocery shopping, and settled in - we had to be at work at 7:45am the next day.

The experience down here has been incredible. We work with Habitat for Humanity. We do a lot of different things... we unload storage units at jobsites and bring materials back to the warehouse, we help lay foundation, we frame and do everything up to the shingles and then back down to the base trim... we literally do it all. After being in an office for nearly 6 weeks, the physical labor is a welcomed change of pace. Though, with temperatures in the 80's - mid 90's daily, and humidity lingering at 80%, there is certainly an acclimation to this climate. I love the similarity of this weather to the Wisconsin summers... summertime in WI is an ultimate high for me, but the lack of fresh water around here to enjoy via beach or boat is a bit of a letdown.

We've all got GREAT farmer tans, and the need to wear steel toe boots makes it look like we're always wearing a bright white pair of sox when we take our boots off. And the grueling days in the heat do not end at 4:30 when we leave work.. we still have to go home and do PT three times a week - so after an 8-9 hour day in the sun, lifting, hammering, doing masonry work, we go workout for roughly 45 minutes... Badger 1 is DAMN tough... though the complaining that creeps in may not lead you to believe so.

Then we head home for the night, usually make some food, and just relax. A few nights we'll head out and do things on the town, but usually it's just enough time for us to relax before hitting the hay... we wish... we have cots and matress pads, not quite as soft as hay, but it works. Last week most of us got out on the town and went on a VooDoo tour, accompanied by a few drinks, it was a LOT of fun. The Celtics are in the Finals for Basketball... so a couple of the team folks head out and watch that regularly. Wednesday nights we have team meetings, so we usually put in a 12-13 hour day on Wednesdays... Tuesday is shopping night... which was awesome this week. The first thing I found for the team was a grill... so Saturday night we had a grill-out with Badger 6... hamburgers (made up of ground beef, minced mushrooms and onions, and mixed with some fajita seasoning... OMG - good), veggie burgers (ate my first one ever, and it was excellent!), and jalopeno cheddar sausages - it was great.

I've had some away time and relaxation time recently too - I had a good friend come down to New Orleans a couple weekends ago. Spent three days with him, we had a pool day at the hotel with the other TL's, which was highly enjoyable... really good to relax. The following weekend, Memorial Day weekend, I went out on a "photo tour" of the city with another TL, Sadie. She picked me up at 6am, and we hit the town with our cameras.. I have a facebook album that I'm uploading right now with all those photo's, it was great. Later that weekend Aunt Denise, Andrea and Noah made their way into town. Spent a couple of days and nights enjoying food and drinks with them, including AUDUBON PARK, which has the incredible "Tree of Life."It's magnificent!

Settling back into the groove of things now. We had two teammates in Mississippi working on the disaster relief efforts from the tornadoes that tore through Yazoo City, but they came back on Thursday... it's great having them back. The team is in high spirits, we enjoy what we do, and we're having a great time! We also have these things called "ISP's" - they are "Independent Service Projects." Basically, Corps Members (CM's) have to volunteer 80 hours in addition to what they do during the work week. IT can be at festivals, museums, etc. Well, Badger 1 is DONE as of yesterday. We may be the first team done in the ENTIRE CORPS! That means all 9 CM's have their 80 hours done... that is an additional 720 hours of service that they all did... AND we were on disaster first round, and 2 CM's were on disaster the first part of this round... it's super impressive and I'm more than proud of them... they really are a great team. In fact, one of my CM's said at our team meeint Wednesday "As far as I'm concerned, we ARE the best team, because we get the MOST done." Agreed.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Rhode Island

So, there is a little bit of backtracking to do.... I meant to start this back in January, but clearly that did not happen. I find it important to document for myslef everything that's going on, and also it's an easy way to keep others informed about "me." So I'm going back in time and writing about all of my experiences to date.. of course I'll miss some, and due to confidentiality I really can't say everything that goes on in the life of a Team Leader (TL), but I can give a good idea of the basics. Hopefully from here on out I'll stay on top of the blog, and update it weekly... reminders may be needed!
We arrived in Rhode Island on a rainy day... that seemed to be the theme of our trip. RAIN.
We were supposed to be working with the town of Cumberland, RI in a nearby park. RI is where the industrial revolution basically started. That's where the first and most textile mills were built, and industry in RI was booming back in the day. There are many rivers there, so the water power really allowed them to "get up and go" when it came to industry.
However, as electricity and new technologies came to light, RI's industries became obsolete. Mills closed down and cities shutdown. RI now has the highest unemployment rate in the U.S.
After spending a week and a half in the park, with lots of rainy days, we received a call form the RI Emergency Management Agency (EMA) - they needed two CM's to help them with flood response efforts. By the end of that week we had 4 CM's working 12 hour shifts, covering the 24 hours in a day, and that next week we all got pulled off of the town's project and placed on disaster. The flooding we saw was incredible...
Eventually, we moved to the United Way building in Providence, RI where we did "call backs." Essentially, FEMA told everyone who was affected by the floods to call "211." Then, we recorded their information and called them back to see of what assistance we could be to them. Badger 1 made more than 12,000 phone calls in the roughly 30 days we were there. We started off working 12 hour days, 7 days a week, and eventually cut it down to 8-10 hour days, 6 days a week. We had to enter the roughly 2,500 people's information into databases.. yes, not just one, but multiple, file all of the paperwork, make phone calls, attend meetings, etc. It was a really busy time,a nd often stressful. To add to the matter... we lived in a 1-bedroom apartment. The guys lived in the living room (5 of us), and the girls lived in the bedroom (5 of them). We had a kitchen and bathroom to share... just didn't offer a whole lot of "get away space." But the team pushed through and made it work... doing one hell of a job!

Amongst the crazy hours, we did manage to have fun, too. We had a day trip to Newport.. which was actually an afternoon trip. It was our first day off as a team in over 4 weeks, so we all slept in, and by time we got on the road it was 2:30pm. Then it took 2.5 hours to get to Newport... because the 45 minute drive extends itself when you drive an hour out of the way.. oops. Newport was a great way for us to relax, enjoy each others company, and regroup. The fresh water, cool breeze, and just being out, in "civies" (civilian clothes). It was a GREAT, short trip.
We also did some movie nights at the theatre, who gave us discount for being government/military employees (hey, the ID's did the talking), we did an Autism walk with one of our sponsors, our sponsor had us over for dinner, took us out for dinner (New England Clam Cakes are SO good), and others.
Additionally, three of us took on a personal challenge... we did a 1/2 marathon. None of the 3 of us had EVER ran one before, and due to how busy we were, none of us really had a chance to train for it... we just DID IT! It was incredible. Steve finished with about a 7min 30sec pace, I finished with about an 8min pace, and Jamie finished with about a 8min 5sec pace.. or something very close to that. Oh, a half marathon is 13.1 miles. It was a great experience... I'll NEVER run a marathon.
I can't speak highly enough of our sponsors in RI. Sponsors are the people we work for. They are our "host" and provide us with the work. The Town of Cumberland was more than accomodating to our needs. Though we lived in a 1 bedroom apartment, it was a last minute adjustment, and they did everything they could to find something more... we settled with it after a while, and called it home... reluctantly at times.
The ladies we worked with at the United Way and 211 were incredible. They offered us breakfast and lunches and dinners, brought us out, brought us to their homes, gave us gifts... they were amazing.... the exact people that anyone would like to work for. With them, we also worked alongside Hands on Disaster Response... again... incredible people who make it their living to help families out when they need it most.
We had a great ISP sponsor in Cumberland as well. Russell, a local theatre director. Him and his crew of volunteers and workers were FANTASTIC. He was easily the person that the team loved to go work for. After long days and weeks, we still found time to fit Russ and his theatre into our schedule to help paint, do yard clean up (which had been neglected, unwillingly, for roughly 4 years), help at events, etc. An absolute honor to work with.
Rhode Island was a mental challenge... for everyone. Getting used to the team was an uphill climb. There are so many distinct and strong personalities on Badger 1 - I do not know how it happened. Christian, who is currently referring to herself as the anti-Christ (probably the funniest thing on the team at this point), says we are "still in the arranged marriage phase, but getting better every day." I'd agree. Just before we left RI we had a chance to meet the Govenor at the United Way, Russ threw us a going away party, our friends with Hands On took us to Boston for dinner...and the Town of Cumberland threw a celebration as well... We will not forget the work that we did, and the challenges we overcame while in RI. But... we're happy and realize why we do "rounds" in AmeriCorps, and do not stay in one place the entire year...