One week left of my AmeriCorps term…

WOW. I have been doing the countdown for about two months, but now I’m down to my last week as an AmeriCorps – it’s absolutely surreal. I started at the Tallahassee Red Cross last August and now, 11 months later, it’s time to go. If you’ve been keeping up with my posts you’ll know that I have loved every second of my term. Obviously, there have been a many difficult moments but overall I would not trade this experience for the world. It hasn’t even been a year but I feel that I have gained several years of experience and I am so thankful. 

Right now, as things are winding down, I am just working on my July newsletter, recruiting volunteers to take over some of the roles I have held to make this transition process a smooth one and finishing up the last few outreach events I have us signed up for! Tomorrow should be fun as I’ll mostly be helping out our Summer Interns with their Summer Kids Day, which has seriously been a blast. They have put together such a great program; the last one they had brought in a LOT of kiddies, like over 40. Aside from that, I am practically all wrapped up! I have finished my binder with everything and anything our next AmeriCorps will need, as well as, leaving some helpful binders for new volunteers that will pick up my role as an Outreach Coordinator.

Oh, which by the way, we did get approved AmeriCorps for the upcoming term – WOOHOO!!! I think we may even have two this time! Receiving this news was like knowing you’re about to open up gifts on Christmas eve – pretty much, a huge relief! 

For any of you out there in the Tallahassee area, or interested in becoming a new Tallahassee resident, you should definitely consider this opportunity! While the stipend was a little rough at times because I could not indulge as usual, I was still able to make ends meet. Now, that I’m practically done I am very excited to get my Segal Grant as I totally have NOT even tried paying off my college debt. I’ve read on other blogs to not use the grant to pay off loans all at one (something with it negatively affecting your tax returns). I’ve read it on many blogs and have heard it from a former AmeriCorps who now is a Disaster Specialist in our region. So, please be sure to note this, as I surely am!

So, as many of you may know, I have been job hunting for quite a while. Since March. I can proudly say that as of last week I have been hired and will not be left jobless! My co-worker and friend at the Red Cross found out through Facebook that her friend who is the External Affairs director at the Florida Division of Emergency Management (DEM) was hiring – my friend sent her my resume and I instantly got an interview. It was possibly one of the longest interviews I have ever had, almost two hours, but it left me so incredibly excited and ready to become a part of their agency. Starting on July 10th I will start working at DEM as their Social Media and Outreach Coordinator; so basically, a very similar role as my current one! My new boss and the other ladies in the department seem so sweet and have already shown so much enthusiasm and positive energy welcoming me to their team. I feel ready to take on this new stage in life and am really thrilled to meet new people. 

I am sad to leave the Red Cross but at the same time I am ready to take on this new adventure. Once you join the Red Cross I feel like you can never really leave it behind, so I’ll be staying on as an active volunteer. I think the best way to continue to stay involved and not over exhaust myself will be by teaching one of our disaster classes on a monthly basis. 

I’m going to miss the amazing staff and of course our incredible volunteers – thank you AmeriCorps and Red Cross for this term!

 

 

 

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Deployed to Pensacola!

The opportunity finally arose and I now find myself in Pensacola getting ready to help out those affected by the floods! My one main concern as my term is nearing its end was the possibility that I would not get the chance to deploy before my term was over – fortunately, that is no longer a fear!

I was in the middle of making call downs to place local volunteers on stand by and also placing shelter sites on stand by for our chapter as we are monitoring two of our counties for flooding. During today’s craziness at the office I was told that I would deploy to Pensacola…on the ERV! I can’t explain how anxious I am to help and experience my first Red Cross deployment. SO ANXIOUS.

I am partnered with another ERV volunteer from our chapter, Bryan, a very great guy! It took about 3 hours to arrive, but of course, there were complications. Long story, short – after an hour search of hotels that took our Red Cross credit card over a yummy meal at Cracker Barrel we managed to book two rooms for tonight! I am now in my hotel room, typing, watching Friends and ready for what tomorrow may bring. Even at Cracker Barrel our waiter mentioned they had served numerous flood victims that shared their stories – I am a little nervous to see what conditions I may encounter but I am very ready and determined to help out in any way that I can.

Time flies when you’re having fun!

My term ends on July 3rd – that’s only 11 weeks away, a little under 3 months…HOLY. COW.

I can’t even count how many times in the past few weeks I have been asked by friends, family, volunteers and fellow colleagues what my plans are post AmeriCorps. My answer to them all? I’m following the colors of the wind? I have no idea.

Of course, I have possible ideas of what I would like to do, potential plans and trips but who really knows what will happen. For those who have read previous posts you know that I have a boyfriend – he’s kind of really amazing, and by the way, his name’s John.

Now that shits getting real being in a long-term relationship AND trying to conquer the world just got a whole lot more complex. Before even applying for any AmeriCorps positions we had made plans to travel again and had seriously looked into teaching English in Spain. That’s something I definitely still want to do. Unfortunately, with my stipend and his sister’s wedding scheduled during the Spanish academic year those plans were put on hold. Had all gone as planned we would be leaving the country this upcoming October! Crazy, right?

Now that I have invested my heart and soul into the American Red Cross I’ve found myself very torn. Do I put travel on hold to pursue an actual staff position with the Red Cross or do I take this opportunity, post-AmeriCorps, and travel before I further invest myself to the point of no return?

There aren’t any openings at our Tallahassee chapter right now which is definitely a bummer. And, I had also decided I while back that I wouldn’t do a second term as I NEED to save money for either upcoming travels or financing a car. Yeah, I have been car-less since August. Fellow car-less citizens, I feel you. It blows.

I have been so fortunate to have created a really strong network, and more importantly, friendship with my fellow co-workers and volunteers. I can’t even express how much love and support I have received. I have been advised to apply for a Disaster Specialist position that will be opening up sometime around the end of my term, either in June or July. That job title would be the ideal transition from AmeriCorps to staff, I would be able to stick with this amazing organization, and I would continue to gain more experience. Pretty awesome, right? Well, the catch is this position would be in Panama City. 

I love Tallahassee, and my boyfriend has a pretty good job here already. Decisions, decisions – does this ever get easier? 

I’ve been to Panama City before for an instructor training at their Red Cross chapter, and while I’m sure it has its own charm it’s not Tallahassee. And I’ve considered the idea of commuting but it’s an hour and 45 minute drive I’d be crazy to do that! Nonetheless, I plan to apply once the job is posted as I would crazy not to!

So, back to the big question – what am I doing post AmeriCorps? What are my plans?

John and I have decided to stick around Tallahassee for  6 more months after my term. So, we would pack our bags and head out either end of January or February – also this is totally pending whether we can find a short term lease!

I, fingers-toes-and-eyes crossed, will find another fulfilling job in this area and work there for at least 6 months. We would both head back to our hometowns, save money by not paying rent and make money by working bo-bo jobs to have enough for travels! I am hoping that at that point I would have already been able to save a chunk during the 6 months between post-AmeriCorps and pre-homebound journey.

We want to for sure apply for the North American Language and Cultural Assistantships in Spain for October 2015-May 2016.

Laurie, John’s sister, will be getting married April 2015 in Chicago so we will go there and then hopefully after that, before the Spain trip, find a short term volunteer program in Peru. Currently, we’ve been looking at a program called Intiwawa – seems pretty cool and the idea of going back to the motherland is very exciting especially since almost all of my family is still there!

These are our “plans” at the moment. I’m sure they are subject to change.

I have been online job hunting like no other, resume has been tweaked, LinkedIn account is fully up to date,personal business cards should be arriving in the next few days and I’ll be working on a cover letter for a job I’ve applied to – I’m trying to keep as productive as possible! Actually, I’m really excited for the business cards – I currently have a couple of Etsy tabs open while I search for the perfect business card holder. That’s obviously the most important part about job hunting, right?

On that note, I’ll finish for now so I can focus on that cover letter! I’m hoping to get much better at this – I am aiming for two blogs a month. We’ll see how that turns out on the next post!

 

I eat, breathe and sleep Red Cross.

All day, all night, I am just thinking about things I need to do, people to call, email, follow up on, you name it! I have never had this much responsibility, EVER. Recently I have felt a bit overwhelmed and stressed because there really is just a lot going on, and a lot of what is going is being supervised/managed by THIS GIRL! Long story short – I eat, breathe and sleep Red Cross.

On the bright side, as always, I really feel like I have already gained so much experience and it’s only been 6 months. Although I have a serious case of workaholicism the more I do the more qualifications I can add onto my resume. So, despite the long days, nights and sometimes weekends it’s all worth it in the long run, and you know what, even now.

This job has given me the opportunity to meet and work alongside so many interesting and kind hearted volunteers. A lot of the time I have to stop what I’m working on to meet with a volunteer to train them or review their work. Although it stresses me out as time is precious and it seems like there is never enough of it to get my to-do’s checked off, these volunteers are worth every second. This position has given me a chance to learn how to be a leader and seeing that my volunteers are happy with the work they are doing is really satisfying.

My main project right now since the beginning of last month has been updating shelter surveys within our 8 county region. I am still recruiting and would like to have at least 15 to 20 more volunteers in our Shelter Team but the volunteers that are a part of this group right now have been PHENOMENAL. Seriously, I can’t explain how helpful they have been. I currently have two volunteers, whom I haven’t even met yet, that are scheduling shelter surveys at home, I have about 10 volunteers that are picking up shifts to visit facilities, and I have a weekly group of FSU students that also help with the calls and NSS entries. So, all in all, I have the most amazing volunteers around.

Oh and ALSO, last week I attended the Volunteer Leon Volunteer Management Workshop. This was one of the most helpful workshops I have ever attended and I can’t even express how grateful I am to have attended. This workshop usually costs $150 to attend. My superiors at work thought of me to attend this workshop AND got the fee waived. You can’t ask for a better support system! I really enjoyed those three days learning about recruitment and retention of volunteers; it’s not only great for what I’m doing now, but it was such an incredible experience since I plan on sticking around in the non profit sector. It was a great networking opportunity and I was able to meet a lot of inspiring individuals doing some pretty awesome things in our community. I’m looking forward to staying in contact with them all.

So, term # 1 is going great, what about a second term? Just for funsies!

I am absolutely loving this job and the people I work with but I also haven’t been able to save up money. In fact, I’ve had to dig into my savings a few times. Now, for you interested applicants, don’t get me wrong I surprisingly am able to get by and some with this stipend. The food stamps have been SUCH a huge help. And although I am currently paying the highest rent and utilities I’ve ever had I am still able to pay my bills and not starve. Oh, and I also eat out so don’t worry I am able to have fun too! But, John and I (my handsome boyfriend) want to travel and possibly within the next two years move out of state. With these plans and rainbow-colored dreams I kind of really need to make more money than I am if I want them to make it a reality.

A lot of volunteers and even staff have asked me if I am doing a second term, and right now I really don’t see that happening. I have applied to a Red Cross opening and am crossing all fingers and eyes because it’s exactly what I want to do. Hopefully, I will hear back from HR soon enough but until then I will be applying to other openings within and outside of Red Cross.

And more importantly, I’ve been sans-car since August…

Star Metro, rides from John and friends are helpful but I can’t stand not being able to go places when I want. Especially, when it’s not just something I want to do but in fact NEED to do. Having enough money to pay car payments is must.

In the meantime, I will continue to apply to online sweepstakes, because hey, maybe I will win that free Kia AND HGTV dream home!