My Internship: Visual Representation

Day’s Verse:
But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
2 Timothy 4:5

This picture represents what my internship is slowly evolving into. The highlight of my week last week — I kid you not — was making 5 raffle boxes for the volunteers who helped with the Auction. Although it was certainly a job well done, having that be the big thing that went well last week at work casts some aspersions on my job in general. Fortunately, I only have two weeks left as an AmeriCorps intern at the Bicycle Alliance. My last day in this position is November 18.

On November 19 we have a closing AmeriCorps ceremony in Trout Lake in what’s looking like one of the longest days I’ll have had since college. That day I’ll leave the house at 8:00 am, arrive in Trout Lake around 1:00 pm, stay until 8:00 pm, and arrive back at home about 1:00 am. I’m apprehensive about this plan because I haven’t stayed up past about 11:00 pm in years, and about 9:30 pm I start shutting down. I do have another intern who wants to leave ASAP, so I’m counting on him to share the driving and keep the conversation going. If anybody wants to do a road trip to and from Trout Lake with me next Friday, let me know.

Unlike my workweek, the weekend flew by. Colleen came up from California and we got to spend lots of time doing fun stuff: Brunch with Mom and a friend; a drizzly walk plotting Colleen’s NaNoWriMo; a private showing of Strictly Ballroom at Northwest Film Forum for a family friend’s birthday; games of Ra and Power Grid in the evening. Sunday brought church, then a sunny Sunday afternoon hike with Carmel at St. Edward’s St. Park and a game of Scrabble in which Ian valiantly maintained the Ferguson family honor (Dad and I, meanwhile, had a fierce battle for last place).

Tour de Fat Report

Day’s Verse:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Matthew 11:28-30

OK, so yesterday was Tour de Fat, and I “worked” all day — which makes today feel like Saturday, except that we’re going to church today. And I took Friday off, which made yesterday feel like Monday, which would make tomorrow Tuesday. Except I have tomorrow off, too. Very confusing.

Tour de Fat! I didn’t bring my camera, and I’m pretty glad I didn’t. Hauling that thing 17 miles each way along with all my other treasures. Here are some Flickr pictures that capture the tone of the event.

Tour De Fat Seattle 2010-32

Tour De Fat Seattle 2010-7

Tour De Fat Seattle 2010-3

Tour De Fat Seattle 2010-20

tour de fat
By lamppost

By ebis50

By ebis50

Tour De Fat Seattle 2010-2

I put a picture of a cruiser bike last because I’ve never seen so many cruisers all in one place before. It was astonishing. Anyway, from my perspective, Tour de Fat involved a bunch of people walking by the Bike Alliance tent. Some of them stopped, and I or one of the other volunteers at the table talked with them. We encouraged people to win a free messenger bag, and lots of them entered the drawing. We encouraged people to become members, and two people did, which isn’t much but it’s something. We also received a few cash donations. People in strange costumes rode by, usually on strange bikes. Hours passed. The wind stopped blowing our papers and tabling supplies around, which was a relief. The sun came out in the afternoon and I finally stopped feeling chilly. My head got hot and tired of wearing my winged helmet, no matter how cool it looked. I got to see most of my coworkers in absurd costumes, which was quite worth the bike ride. But overall, for me, it just felt like another tabling event. I’m grateful I don’t have to do another tabling event today (the Bike Alliance is making an appearance at the WA State Individual Time Trial in Tenino today, but thankfully other people are covering it). Actually, the best part of Tour de Fat for me was getting a free copy of the Chinook Book, which normally costs $20.

After I dragged myself home and showered, a couple friends and I met up at the Redhook Brewery for dinner. It was a lot of fun. We left when the live music started up and we couldn’t hear each other anymore.

Today I plan on being a homebody and doing chores around the house, with maybe some napping thrown in for spice.

What I Tell AmeriCorps

Day’s Verse:
Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.
Romans 4:4-5

To facilitate happy feelings and empower me, AmeriCorps requires that I periodically get to write reports documenting my activities. These reports may also have something to do with their need to show their grant-suppliers that the money is going towards good things. These reports have handy-dandy little pre-set sections to help categorize members’ work. The categories are:

  • Restoring Watersheds,
  • Land Management,
  • Educating Students,

  • Increasing Volunteerism

The sad part about this form is that my project doesn’t fit into any of those categories. You might think “Increasing Volunteerism” could cover my work, but creating a volunteer program, while ultimately intending to increase volunteerism, is too far upstream to fit into their paradigm.

So I get to write a little short essay — “short” being the operative word — to show I’ve been using my time wisely, and not blogging and looking at potential homes on work time. Here, for the sake of posterity and spreading the suffering around, is the entirety of my Site Report essay.

My goal since January has been to learn everything I could about volunteer programs. When I started, I had no real idea of where to go with the project. Now, after interviewing a senior HR manager and 8 volunteer coordinators from all around the country, conducting extensive research, listening to input from the staff and volunteers, and absorbing the Bicycle Alliance culture, I’m starting to envision the skeleton of a volunteer program for the Bicycle Alliance.

The skeleton includes working with staff to create and document policies, procedures, a volunteer handbook, volunteer job descriptions, and to create an outline of the overall volunteer program (which is continually under revision; the latest version is attached). The digital component, comprising the website and database, is another key component, and I’ve been working with the appropriate people for each of those to ensure that whose digital pieces will come online before the end of my term.

At the same time, I’ve created drafts of a training module, including a handbook, lesson plan, and other helpful checklists, for how to represent the Bicycle Alliance at tabling events. To learn about tabling, I tabled for the Bicycle Alliance at 9 events, including Bike Expo, and talking to about 2,300 people. I’ve also created two other training handbooks, one on how to do financial batching and the other on how to do map mailings. To improve my teaching ability, I’ve co-taught four bicycle related classes and completed my League of American Bicyclist Instructor certification.

Additionally, I organized the attendance of 50 Bicycle Alliance volunteers and staff members at the Mariners Salute to Volunteers game (one of the few games the Mariners have won this year) on April 20th, 2010.

Finally, to help facilitate using bikes as transportation, I worked closely with a volunteer graphic designer to create a brochure titled “Go by Bike!” (attached). We received 2,500 of the brochures at the end of March and have distributed 1,300 of them to date.

There. Does that sound like an achievement, or what? I sure hope so, ’cause I’ve theoretically spent 548 hours on my internship (not to mention the 116 hours of AmeriCorps training or 68 hours for KDOG), and I’d hate to think those were wasted. Really, it’d break my heart.

AmeriCorps Training…Again

Day’s Verse:
“This is what the LORD says, he who made the earth, the LORD who formed it and established it—the LORD is his name: ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’ “
Jeremiah 33:2-3

Today I’m heading off to even more AmeriCorps training in Trout Lake. We’re spending two nights there, driving down today and back Friday night. Expect silence through at least Saturday; Trout Lake is quite remote, and although they do have computers with internet (amazing!), the AmeriCorps people work hard to keep us busy to make the trip worth the drive. I still wonder why they picked Trout Lake. It’s central to Washington and Oregon, true — centrally inconvenient for anybody not living in Hood River. I hear it’s pretty, but our 10-day stint in January didn’t reveal much of that; perhaps this time, or the time in July, will have less ice, snow, and rain, and more views of Mt. Adams.

All that said, I don’t mind a few days away from my normal internship. Even taking a day off here and there, I feel generally useless, discouraged, and like I’m just treading water — not making any progress. Maybe it’s more accurate to say I only feel I’m making extremely slow progress — not quite none at all, but an almost imperceptible amount.

Anyway, all that to say I’m off gallivanting around. Expect photos and not many words when I post next.

Mariners Salute to Volunteers Game

Day’s Verse:
Then maidens will dance and be glad,
young men and old as well.
I will turn their mourning into gladness;
I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.

Jeremiah 31:13

I’ve been working on and off for the last month planning a volunteer recognition event: Taking the volunteers to the Mariners Salute to Volunteers game on April 20. This involved:

  • Compiling a complete list of all the people who had volunteered for the Bike Alliance in the last year (the Bike Alliance didn’t have anything like that);
  • Emailing all those volunteers with an invitation to the Mariners game;
  • Compiling a list of RSVPs, including how many people wanted tickets for somebody other than themselves (we charged $8 per ticket per extra non-volunteer, a total steal, even for nosebleed seats);
  • Purchasing the tickets (my first large purchase on the Bike Alliance credit card — almost $450. Frustratingly, I had 11 no-shows. At $8 a head, that’s a good chunk of money for a cash-strapped nonprofit);
  • Organizing and confirming that staff people got food and drinks and extra cash;
  • Providing all the details the attendees needed to make it on time, plus of course accommodating last-minute requests and “can’t meet then” difficulties;
  • Wrangling the attendees on the day of, including receiving the money a few of them owed and passing out tickets to each individual;
  • Herding all those cats into one group for the big parade walk to Safeco Field. I encouraged people to wear bike helmets to look like a group, but most people were too self-conscious to actually do it.

Here’s the photo summary of what I achieved:

Mariners Game: Safeco Field

That’s 49 Bicycle Alliance volunteers and staff, already enjoying themselves before the game even started. I deem it a success.

All the pictures are here.

KDOG Project: Success

Day’s Verse:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
John 14:27

These are pictures from the Kirkland City Council Study Session on off-leash areas. This is the big meeting we were trying to use my door hangers to advertise and encourage people to attend.

Total KDOG member attendance: 37 — too many to fit in the meeting room!

Kirkland City Council Study Session 3

Kirkland City Council Study Session 2

I think I have about 25 door hangers left out of the 750 I received on March 23. Not too shabby for barely 2 weeks of scrambling around.

Somewhat Disappointing

Day’s Verse:
One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.
Acts 16:14 (context)

A couple weeks ago, I spent quite a few hours working really hard on an email newsletter for KDOG, the group I’m doing my Community Action Project with. On Monday, March 29, at 4:05 pm, I triumphantly finished it and emailed it to the KDOG mailing list through my Bicycle Alliance account. I felt a little thrill of excitement at having shared something I worked so very hard on with all those people. I also hoped it would get a few people to come out and help distribute door hangers on Saturday, April 3.

I never heard anything about the newsletter after I sent it out, but I got busy and it slipped my mind.

That is, I forgot about it until Sunday, April 4, when I received an email from one of the KDOG leaders. She asked when I was planning on sending the newsletter out.

As you can imagine, my heart sank. I immediately scrambled around desperately for confirmation that I had, in fact, sent the newsletter. That’s when things started getting strange. I realized that I never received the newsletter to my gmail account, which is the one that gets KDOG notifications. Then, when I checked my work email Sent Items folder, I didn’t have a record of having sent it to the KDOG mailing list. However, I had cc’d my work email on the newsletter, and that email indicated it had been sent to the correct mailing list. Also, the Mailing List page had no record of the newsletter going out last Monday, and the two leaders never got it.

Eventually, through some trial and error, we figured out that only allows email address on the mailing list to send emails to the mailing list. That means that the newsletter I sent out through my work email — which is not registered with — never reached the intended recipients. I never got a notification that anything had gone wrong, or that my email had not arrived at its intended destination. It was only Ian commenting about the different email address thing that made me realize sending it through work might have been a problem.

I re-sent it this morning through my gmail account and immediately got confirmation that it worked. Even though I got it sent out this morning, I spent the entire last week thinking I’d done a great thing when in reality I had completely failed.

I feel very disappointed about this. I could very well have gotten a decent number of people to meet me on Saturday, and maybe have finished getting all the door hangers hung, if the newsletter had gone out as intended. Also, the newsletter talked about the extremely important meeting on April 6, and strongly encouraged KDOG members to attend the meeting. Now it’s such late notice that I doubt my sending it today will make any difference.

On the bright side, at my last count, I have fewer than 100 KDOG door hangers left out of the 750 I originally received. I don’t know what people and businesses have done with them, but I’ve certainly done my part as far as organizing people to distribute door hangers goes. Also, 4 people did come to the Saturday meeting.

This has been a learning experience for me in many ways. Now I know to confirm that the email went out with somebody on the mailing list; to plan events farther in advance and ask businesses for food donations at least 1 month ahead; and that personal connections are the best way to get people to help. Next time I will also post the volunteer opportunities not just on the KDOG Meetup page, but with United Way of King County, other dog groups in the area, and the Kirkland Reporter if possible.

So, even if the newsletter may not have served the purpose I intended, I’ve learned some about organizing events and volunteers. And that’s probably more valuable in the long run than having sent out one particular newsletter.