Sunday, November 3, 2013

Make a Difference Day Harvest Celebration!

Here are the pictures from the Harvest Celebration:  Celebrating 5 years of the Community Food Network working to end hunger in Montcalm & Ionia Counties!  If you look close, you can find a rare photo of our October Volunteer of the Month: Margo Burton who was teach us how to grow herbs at home!

Thank you to everyone who came out to help us CELEBRATE!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

October Volunteer of the Month

Announcing the October Volunteer of the Month:  Margo Burton!

ACTION: What has your nominee done or is currently doing?

As a WION Listener, Margo is also one of the familiar voices to the air waves by frequent call-ins to the Wednesday Morning Show with PB. It seems no matter what volunteer project Penny is talking about, Margo along with her friends and family are eager to help out. In Sept, Penny talked about preparedness and the "I WILL" theme surrounding Sept 11th: Day of Remembrance. Margo volunteers with gusto, living up to that phrase....I WILL!

NEED: What community need(s) does your nominee address?

One of the most recent "I WILL" moments was when Penny discussed the need for volunteers to face paint and supervise pumpkin painting during the Fall Festival at Bertha Brock Park. It is my understanding that Penny has recruited and supervised volunteers for this action for several years, however was being pulled elsewhere this year. Margo heard the call to action on WION Radio, and thought she knew of a group of volunteers who could help. And that was all it took!

IMPACT: What is different as a result of your nominee’s service?

With Margo's community support and network within the many volunteer organizations she regularly volunteers with, she was able to recruit and supervise the painting volunteers for the Bertha Brock Fall Festival. It is my understanding that over 400 baby pumpkins were donated by yet another WION Listener, and Margo supervised the painting area where youth were able to pick their pumpkin and paint a wonderful face and bright colors on them. As this project took place near our WION booth, I was able to enjoy watching youngsters participate in this project. It was not only a highlight to their day at the Fall Festival, but also a highlight to my day!

Margo also volunteers with the following groups:

Community Food Network
County-wide Food Drive Committee
Ionia Community Theatre
Ionia County CERT
Ionia Kids Club
Master Gardener's Association
Portland Branch Produce Patch
And probably many more that I do not know about!

If you volunteer with Margo and would like to add a story about her volunteer experiences, please send them to!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Make a Difference Day


For more than two decades, USA WEEKEND and Points of Light have joined together to sponsor Make A Difference  Day, the largest national day of community service. Points of Light leads thousands of projects each year from coast to coast involving corporations, communities, nonprofit organizations, entire states and individuals.

Make A Difference Day is celebrated annually on the fourth Saturday in October and connects people with opportunities to serve, increases the strength of communities and promotes civic engagement.

The nationwide undertaking includes revitalizing community centers, rehabilitating parks, improving low-income homes, creating community art projects, mentoring, serving meals, developing community gardens and much more.

Here in Montcalm & Ionia Counties we will celebrate Make A Difference Day by hosting the Community Food Network's Harvest Celebration recognizing all the wonderful volunteers who work in community gardens, food pantries, soup kitchens, and conduct food drives and healthy eating educational classes in our community.

The Challenge:  Across the Feeding America network of over 63,000 agencies, 66 percent of pantries, 41 percent of kitchen programs, and 11 percent of shelter programs have no paid staff, relying entirely on volunteers. 

The Need:   One hundred percent of food banks responding to a Feeding America survey reported increases in demand for emergency food assistance over the last year.  Demand for emergency food assistance increased at a rate ranging from 28.6% - 37.7%
Seventy-two percent of food banks do not feel as though they are able to adequately meet the needs of their communities without adjusting the amount of food distributed. Community Gardens help to fill the need by growing food locally, teaching community members how to grow their own food, and encourage local farms to give excess produce to local pantries.  By coming together to address the problems we all face, we are building a stronger, more vibrant community.
For more information regarding Make A Difference Day events, please visit  Get CONNECTED!  or the Community Food Network Blog.

Mini-Drive Workshop
The Community Food Network is proud to be the coordinating agency on the 5 Annual County-Wide Food Drive, originally begun by WION Radio! Donations will be collected throughout Ionia County to support not for profit organizations helping families in Ionia County.

There will be a Mini-Drive Kick-Off on October 21st at the Ionia Co Intermediate School District Admin Building from 4-7pm.

Mini-Drive hosts are encouraged to stop in to pick up supplies, pick up marketing materials, and chat with the Food Drive Committee. Organizations and businesses are encouraged to host a mini-drive at their location with all donations coming together at the Ionia Intermediate School District on November 22nd where they will be sorted by volunteers.  Mini-drives can take place any time between Make A Difference Day on October 26th to National Family Volunteer Day on November 22nd.

Mini-Drives Must Include:
  • Placing a Collections Container at your business. 
  • Displaying Community Food Network print materials. 
  • Drop off your collected donations at the Ionia ISD on Friday, November 22nd.

Volunteers Needed

To help set up stations at the Mini-Drive Workshop!  Organizations hosting mini-drives will need help at each station completing tasks.  One of the biggest stations will be the supply station where Organizations can pick up collection boxes, marketing materials and additional supplies.

We will need a wide variety of collection boxes!  If you have any to donate, please drop them off at the Ionia ISD on October 21st after 3pm!

Community Food Network Harvest Celebration

As the Community Food Network celebrates 5 years of community involvement, we want say THANK YOU to each and every one of our volunteers!  Please join us for the Harvest Celebration and mingle with other VOLUNTEERS who are having an impact in our community!

Bring your favorite Harvest Recipe as a dish to share! You can also bring a recipe card for our special Harvest Section that will be included in the 2014 Cookbook!



Wednesday, September 18, 2013

AmeriCorps 20th Anniversary

AmeriCorps 20th Anniversary

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“I will get things done for America
to make our people safer, smarter, and healthier.”

-- The AmeriCorps Oath
AmeriCorps 20th Anniversary LogoEvery day in communities across America, AmeriCorps members are making a powerful impact on the most critical issues facing our nation.

Whether improving schools, fighting poverty, rebuilding after disasters, providing health services, preserving the environment, or supporting veterans and military families, AmeriCorps members are getting things done.
Since its inception, more than 820,000 men and women have taken the AmeriCorps pledge, serving more than one billion hours and improving the lives of countless Americans. 
Starting in September 2013, we will recognize the extraordinary impact of AmeriCorps and its 20 years of serving America.  Through events, stories, and service projects, we will celebrate the contributions and commitment of AmeriCorps members and alums in strengthening our communities and country through national service.
The 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps will recognize the important moments in AmeriCorps history.  But it will also look forward to the exciting future that lies ahead. It will demonstrate how AmeriCorps is a smart and cost-effective investment.  It will tell the story of AmeriCorps impact on communities and those who serve.  And it will lay the groundwork for expanding opportunities for Americans to serve their communities.
With a strong network of programs, a clear focus on impact, momentum from a new Presidential Task Force, and the energy and ingenuity of Americans eager to serve, AmeriCorps is poised for even greater impact in its next 20 years.
This website will be the online home of the AmeriCorps 20th anniversary. Get started by learning about our history, checking out our AmeriCorps 20 resource center, and joining us on social media.  And come back often as we will be adding features throughout the year.

Follow AmeriCorps

Across the country, AmeriCorps is changing lives and communities. We're connected, so follow along!

Key Messages

  • AmeriCorps is a cost-effective solution to America’s toughest problems    
  • AmeriCorps expands education and economic opportunity 
  • AmeriCorps strengthens the impact of our nation’s nonprofits
  • On its 20th anniversary, AmeriCorps is poised for even greater impact and growth

Talking Points

AmeriCorps is a cost-effective solution to America’s toughest problems    
  • Service is a Solution:  More than 80,000 AmeriCorps members improve the lives of millions of our most vulnerable citizens each year.  AmeriCorps’ impacts are proven and measurable.
  • Education and Youth:  AmeriCorps places thousands of teachers, tutors, and mentors into low performing schools, helping students succeed in school and gain skills necessary to get 21st century jobs.
  • Veterans and Military Families:  AmeriCorps supports the military community by engaging veterans in service, helping veterans readjust to civilian life, and providing support to military families.
  • Disasters:  From forest fires and floods, to hurricanes and tornadoes, AmeriCorps members have provided critical support to millions of Americans affected by disasters since 1994. 
  • Economic Opportunity:  VISTA, AmeriCorps’ poverty-fighting program, engages more than 8,000 members each year in fighting poverty by creating businesses, expanding access to technology, recruiting volunteers to teach literacy, and strengthening antipoverty groups.
  • Health:  AmeriCorps members save lives and improves health through HIV/AIDS education and outreach, drug and alcohol prevention training, and connecting poor families to health clinics and services.
  • Environment:  Members build trails, restore parks, protect watersheds, run recycling programs, and promote energy efficiency, weatherization, and clean energy.
AmeriCorps expands education and economic opportunity
  • Preparing the 21st Century Workforce:  AmeriCorps is a pathway to economic opportunity that provides members with valuable skills, leadership abilities, and experience to help jumpstart their careers.
  • Expanding Educational Opportunity:  AmeriCorps members have earned more than $2.4 billion in Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards since 1994, helping hundreds of thousands of alums pay for college.
  • Building Community Leaders:  An AmeriCorps longitudinal study found that AmeriCorps alums are more attached to their communities, aware of community challenges, and empowered to address them.  
  • Pipeline to Public Service:  AmeriCorps alums are significantly more likely to go into public service careers. This is particularly true of minorities and people from low-income backgrounds.  
AmeriCorps strengthens the impact of our nation’s nonprofits
  • Strengthening Nonprofits:  AmeriCorps members help tens of thousands of faith-based and community groups expand services, build capacity, raise funds, develop new partnerships, and create innovative, sustainable programs.
  • Mobilizing volunteers:  AmeriCorps is a powerful catalyst and force-multiplier for community volunteering. Last year AmeriCorps members recruited, trained, and supervised more than 4 million community volunteers for the organizations they serve.
  • Public-Private Partnership:  AmeriCorps leverages substantial private investment from businesses, foundations, and other sources. AmeriCorps has cut costs and become more efficient by supporting more members with fewer federal dollars.
  • Advancing Social Innovation:  AmeriCorps invests in entrepreneurial organizations that have been recognized for their innovative approaches to citizen problem-solving.
On its 20th anniversary, AmeriCorps is poised for even greater impact and growth
  • AmeriCorps has Strong Momentum:  The President knows first-hand the power of citizens to get things done and is deeply committed to investing in service and community solutions.
  • Task Force on Expanding National Service:  In July 2013, President Obama created a high-level task force identify new ways the public and private sectors can partner to expand national service as a strategy for tackling national priorities.
  • Bipartisan Support:  There is a growing recognition from Members of Congress, Governors, and Mayors of both parties that national service is an essential strategy to address critical problems.  
  • 20 Years Serving America: Starting in September 2013, we will recognize the commitment of AmeriCorps members and alums and highlight the extraordinary impact AmeriCorps has made for 20 years.
  • Celebrating the past, building for the future: The 20th will recognize important moments in AmeriCorps’ history but it will also look ahead to our exciting future by demonstrating impact, building partnerships, and increasing service opportunities to serve

AmeriCorps Fast Facts

  • 820,000: Number of individuals who have served as AmeriCorps members since 1994.
  • 1 Billion: Total number of hours served by AmeriCorps members.
  • $2.4 Billion: Total amount of Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards earned by AmeriCorps members. 
  • 4 Million: Number of community volunteers managed or mobilized by AmeriCorps members in 2012.
  • 15,000: Number of nonprofit, faith-based, and community organizations that AmeriCorps members serve with.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Get CONNECTED - Agency Workshop

Join the United Way Montcalm-Ionia Counties and Volunteer Connections as we launch GET CONNECTED!
 In an effort to increase the collaboration, connections, and relationships among local non-profits and community members, United Way is excited to introduce the NEW online volunteer and donor opportunity system called “GET CONNECTED!

GET CONNECTED is an easy-to-use web-based platform that matches the right donors, advocates, and volunteers with the right opportunities in our neighborhoods.

Community Members can use GET CONNECTED to find ways to give your unused materials and household items to agencies in need of donations, advocate for causes that require your passionate voice, and volunteer your time in ways that make a real difference.

Agency Page Building Workshop
September 17th 
10:00 AM at the United Way Office
H.O. Steele Educational Building - North M-66


October 2nd 
1:00 PM at the United Way Office
H.O. Steele Educational Building - North M-66

This is the same training both days, so you only need to attend one!  The first hour will be demonstrative, showing you how easy this new system is to use.  If you can stick around for a 2nd hour, you will have a change to use Get CONNECTED to make finishing touches on your Agency Page and Personal Profile.

If you want a sneak peak at the site before attending the training please use this temporary link displaying info for the Get CONNECTED Agency Training.  From there you will be able to play around the site as a guest to see what volunteers can see.

If you are unable to attend these meetings in person, there is a conference call feature available.  If you would prefer to use the call-in feature, please let us know so we can send you the link and dial in info.

If you have not RSVP'd for tomorrow's training, there is still room at the table!  Just reply to this email and let us know you are coming!  Remember, you can also share this info with co-worker who might be interested in attending!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Karen Merchant - Sentinel's Interesting Person of the Week!

Karen Merchant: 'Giving is the heart's way of expressing joy' After retiring from a 30-year teaching career at Palo Community Schools in 2005, she has more time for another of her passions: volunteering. 

Karen Merchant retired from a 30-year teaching career at Palo Community Schools in 2005. But that doesn't mean she has slowed down – only that she has more time for another of her passions: volunteering. Merchant is a founding member of the Ionia County Peace Community, for which she also contributes to an online blog. This summer, she wrote a post asking readers to "Give peace a chance," in which she expressed her world vision. 

"The other day a person asked me this question: 'If you could have any thing in the world, no matter what the cost, what would it be?'" Merchant wrote. "I have always answered this question in the same way for years and years and years ... a peaceful world where all people are respectful of each other and hate or prejudice does not exist."

It is this vision of a peaceful world that guides Merchant's activities every day. Merchant is a 4-H leader for the World Wide Kids 4-H Club, a global and cultural education club that participates in numerous service projects, such as the International Dinner and the Passing on the Gift/Empty Bowls Soup Dinner, with funds raised going toward ending worldwide hunger and poverty efforts, and locally to the Zion Community Food Pantry, Ionia Commission on Aging and Heifer International.   

"Karen is more than simply kind and loving; she is love," said friend and colleague Amy Buckingham of Ionia. "There are lists and lists and lists of things that she does and gives and creates and organizes, but she is more than her deeds and her talents. Karen is love. She lives love." 

Merchant and World Wide Kids 4-H Club members also are involved with tree planting in Ionia County, painting trash barrels and planting flower boxes for the Ionia Free Fair, spreading compost and wood chips at the Howell Nature Center, and wrapping Christmas gifts to benefit Nyaka AIDS orphans in Uganda. In addition, Merchant is president of the 4-H Still Exhibit Committee and vice president of the 4-H Advisory Council. 

"Lao Tzu said, 'Kindness in words creates confidence, kindness in thinking creates profoundness, and kindness in giving creates love,'" Merchant wrote in another blog post earlier this year. "As the quote from Lao Tzu says, our actions have definite consequences. The consequences are far reaching, not only affecting our own life, but the lives of those around us. A simple word can make – or break – someone's day. Thinking before you do or speak can make the difference in the response that you get back. Giving is the heart's way of expressing joy."

Merchant's mission is always to give. Along with her 4-H activities, she is active in her church, where she sings in the choir, chairs the administrative board and helps plan a yearly retreat for women. Merchant is president of the West Central District General Federation of Women's Clubs, a committee member of Ionia Relay for Life and publicity chair for the Ionia CROP Walk each year. She is an officer, member of the choir and band member for the Saranac Area Musicians and Singers, and plays in the Danish Band for the Greenville Danish Festival. 

"Karen is special because she is so much fun. She has a great sense of humor and is lots of fun to be around," said friend and colleague Judy Huynh. "She is also a very loyal and devoted friend to many. She really cares about people, and lives a life of service to others. Her faith is very important to her, and she is a wonderful example of what it means to truly follow Christ – never judging others, but treating everyone with love and respect." 

Those who attend the Ionia Free Fair may recognize Merchant from her work in the Free Fair's Antique Village and where she serves as superintendent of the Floral Department. Her love of antiques also has led to her involvement with the Ionia County Historical Society. 

Merchant is president of the Ionia Area Retired School Personnel, and she often helps with the organization's pre-retirement workshops. 

"Karen is such a friendly, outgoing person. She is extremely dedicated to many projects and causes," said Penny Beeman of Ionia, another of Merchant's friends and colleagues. "Often this much passion leads to trying to convince others that your way is the right way, but Karen is not like that at all. She realizes that most often there are several sides to a story or more then one way to do the job. This quality makes Karen one of the most caring and loving people that I know. She shares herself and her time freely. And her actions always put a smile on my face."  
Merchant was one of four people nominated for this year's Ionia County Woman of the Year award during the Ionia Free Fair. "Every day we are faced with opportunities – opportunities to make our own life better, opportunities to make someone else's life better," Merchant wrote in her blog post. "How do we make the decisions needed to face these opportunities? My suggestion is with kindness."