Friday, February 25, 2011

Save Service in America


I don't make a practice of mass e-mailing people, but a program that I hold very near & dear to my heart is facing a very real threat to its existence, and I'd like to ask for a moment of your time. I'll keep it (semi-)short, I promise.

A bill recently passed through the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 1) that proposes to strip the Corporation for National and Community Service of all its federal funding. (You may have heard about this bill in the news, as it's the same bill that proposes cuts to PBS, Pell Grants, community health centers, and many other worthy programs.) The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) was formed to engage Americans of all ages and backgrounds in service to meet community needs through a wide array of volunteer opportunities (educational, environmental, public health & safety, homeland security, etc.), and it's the umbrella organization for AmeriCorps, Senior Corps (Foster Grandparents, Retired Senior Volunteer Program), and Learn & Serve America. Basically, what they all do is match up volunteers with local organizations that need help, and enable those organizations to meet specific community needs that they might otherwise not be able to fulfill.

I served as an AmeriCorps VISTA in Helena, Montana for two years right after I got out of college, as I think you all know (heck, I served with a lot of you!). I worked with an extraordinary group of people from all across the country, ranging in age from 18 to 75, helping local organizations build so many crucial things around the state - literacy tutoring programs, health programs for at-risk kids, computer literacy projects, legal services centers for the poor...the list goes on and on. Despite our many differences in age, background, political preferences and ideologies, what we all had in common was that we wanted to help make America a better place by rolling up our sleeves and getting our hands a little dirty. The pay was terrible, but the experience was priceless.

And the coolest part is, my experiences in Montana are replicated in every state in the country, every day. Right here in my hometown, there are AmeriCorps members creating a mentoring program in the local schools...AmeriCorps VISTAs building a sustainable community garden on the Bad River Indian Reservation...Foster Grandparents and RSVP members donating their time at the Ashland Senior Center. I'll bet if you look around your town, you'll find people and organizations benefiting from CNCS, too!

These proposed cuts to the CNCS budget would be devastating to AmeriCorps and its sister programs. More troubling is the fact that the federal investment made in faith-based and community organizations through CNCS leverages approximately $799 million in matching funds from companies, foundations and other sources...so if these national service programs are defunded, whole organizations may be forced to shut down. Given the current economic crisis, some of those may not be able to stay open, at the very time record numbers of people are relying on them for food, shelter, health care and other services. I understand that this is a time when belts must be tightened, but I truly feel that this is a worthwhile, cost-effective use of federal dollars and would much rather see it face budget cuts than total eradication.

Friends of national service are banding together for a "Save Service Day" on Friday, February 25th, and if you're interested in showing support for AmeriCorps and the other programs under the knife, here are three easy things you can do to help:

1. Sign the Save AmeriCorps petition;

2. Contact your Senator to tell them restore funding for CNCS in their version of H.R. 1; and

3. Check out how these cuts would specifically impact your state in terms of dollars and services lost - you can even personalize those handouts and mail them in to your representatives.

Thank you so much for your time, and I promise not to send out another one of these for a loooooong time.

Mary


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Let's forget our troubles with a big bowl of strawberry ice cream.


It's been a stressful week. Things I love are being threatened...all hell's broken loose in Madison...senators are on the lam...my friends out in Montana are under siege from their own local tea party nutbags...it's one thing after another.

There's really only one cure for all this. Thom Yorke, spaz dancing.



Well, maybe there are two cures.



Saturday, February 19, 2011

Police blotter.


Thursday, 2:20 P.M.: Report of sound of person in distress. Update: Noise was a seagull.

Friday, 4:34 P.M.: Traffic hazard: caller reported a suitcase in the middle of the road on Lake Shore Drive East.

Saturday, 12:42 A.M.: Report of harassing texts received. Update: It was friends playing a joke on subject.

Saturday, 7:26 A.M.: Report of person at party threatening to "beat up a car."

Saturday, 11:37 A.M.: Report of male confronting neighbor about feeding deer. The feeder later exposed himself to complainant.

Sunday, 3:20 P.M.: Report of woman arguing with tavern owner over disposal of dog poop.

Tuesday, 9:06 P.M.: Caller reported her car stolen, then called back to say she had parked it behind a big snow bank and just didn't see it.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Love Day!


Not a Valentine's Day goes by that I don't think of these two scenes from The Simpsons.



"Well, it's kind of a love song...all the monsters, enjoying each other's company, you know,
dancing, holding their evil in check."



"They didn't have Lord Huggington?"

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Protecting AmeriCorps.


Dear Congressman Duffy:

I understand that tomorrow, the U.S. House will begin consideration of a Continuing Resolution that will fund the last seven months of Fiscal Year 2011, and that deep cuts are being proposed to the Corporation for National and Community Service's budget. I'm writing to encourage you to vote no on any proposal to eliminate funding for AmeriCorps or the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).

AmeriCorps is a cause that's extremely near and dear to my heart. I grew up in Ashland and after graduating from college in 2001, I felt called to give something back. I moved to Montana and served two years as an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America); it was the most valuable life experience I've had to date. I worked with an extraordinary group of people from all across the country, ranging in age from 18 to 75 years old, building so many crucial things around the state - literacy tutoring programs for children, legal services centers for the poor, developing health programs for at-risk kids...the list goes on and on. Despite our many differences in age, background, political preferences and ideologies, what we all had in common was that we wanted to help make America a better place by rolling up our sleeves and getting our hands dirty.

My experiences in Montana are replicated across the entire country every day, even right here in the Chequamegon Bay area, thanks to the opportunities that AmeriCorps and the Corporation for National and Community Service help to provide.

What troubles me most about the possibility of CNCS/AmeriCorps' defunding is that the federal investment made in faith-based and community organizations through CNCS leverages $799 million in matching funds from companies, foundations and other sources. If national service programs are defunded, whole organizations may be forced to shut down and given the current economic crisis, most will not be able to reopen again even if funding is restored. The loss of these organizations will decimate vital services in our communities, at the very time that record numbers of people are seeking assistance from food shelves, shelters, low-income healthcare facilities, and job training centers.

I think our federal government gets a good return on its investment in the Corporation for National and Community Service. Cutting the funding to CNCS will have a terrible impact on AmeriCorps, RSVP, Foster Grandparents, Learn & Serve, and the thousands of community organizations that rely on those programs to fulfill their own local needs.

A lot of people pay lip service to volunteerism in this country; preserving AmeriCorps and the Corporation for National and Community Service's other programs will ensure that a significant number of Americans do more than just talk the talk - they'll keep on walking the walk.

Thank you very much for your time and for your consideration.

(If you'd like to learn more about the proposed cuts to AmeriCorps and other Corporation for National and Community Service programs, or if you'd like to find out how you can contact your Congressional representatives, check this out.)



Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Packer Parade.


Ashland had a parade in honor of the Green Bay Packers last Saturday (the day before the Superbowl)...it's not the first Packer Parade we've ever had, but I think it was the best.

Another Lombardi. Yep, those are bear pelts.

Too awesome. They heart their Packers.
Many more pictures over here.

Game day was equally momentous. We gathered at my friends Elizabeth & Peter's house for deep-fried cheese curds, a six-foot party sub, gluten-free cupcakes (for the gluten-intolerant among us), and a coconut (which, unfortunately, we never got around to fashioning into a bra).

Superbowl Sunday! We made the pregnant lady work the fryer. Nick hacks into a coconut.

Sarah has an adverse reaction to Fergie. Packers win!
Making the pregnant lady work the fryer; Nick hacks into the coconut;
Sarah has an adverse reaction to Fergie; Packers win!



Sunday, February 06, 2011

Once more, with feeling.


In light of tonight's events, I am legally obligated as a resident of Upper Cheeseland
(and an MST3K fan) to re-post this.



"Please, if you would all just go back to your drinkin'--"
"GO PACKERS!!!"


Friday, February 04, 2011

Superbowl round-up.




And, courtesy of the Yankee Librarian:



I am the target demographic for that piece.


Last but most definitely not least, please enjoy these clips from one of my all-time favorite episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000, "The Giant Spider Invasion" - filmed on location in the nether regions between Rhinelander and Wausau, Wisconsin in the mid-1970s (and "starring" the Skipper from Gilligan's Island).





"Go Packers!!!"



Thursday, February 03, 2011

Mr. August.


Remember this?

Well, say hello to Mr. August!

Mr. August.

In all fairness, that picture actually didn't win the poll. (This one did.) I went with my gut feeling instead. Democracy in action!