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AmeriCorps VISTA Member Experience: Jenna Holmes

Posted by in A Brush with Kindness, Corona, Jurupa Valley | Comments Off on AmeriCorps VISTA Member Experience: Jenna Holmes
AmeriCorps VISTA Member Experience: Jenna Holmes

It has now been almost two months since beginning my year of service with Habitat Riverside and I feel I have learned so much in this time. The main objective of my position as an AmeriCorps VISTA member is to implement a program called Success Measures for the affiliate. This program is a database system that will allow that affiliate to measure outcomes instead of simply measuring outputs as we have been doing in the past. Outputs are things like: how many house have we built? How many homes have we repainted through A Brush With Kindness? How many families have we served? Success Measures will allow us to go beyond these simple counts and into how our affiliate is improving the quality of life for our partner families and their communities more broadly.

After learning about all the different ways that Habitat Riverside offers to help those in need I jumped at the chance to be volunteer myself. Dave Pedaline, our A Brush With Kindness coordinator, let me know about a paint day in the City of Corona for a lady whom the affiliate had helped reclaim her overgrown garden the weekend before. I arrived early in the morning along with several other Habitat Riverside volunteers and we got to work painting the ourside of Sandra’s home. Along with the painting of the home and trim, the front awning and hand rails along the porch got a fresh coat of green paint. The awning presented some challenges to our volunteers, but their innovative spirit and dedication got the job done. The front porch steps were also able to get a much needed update. Sandra was outside with the volunteers the entire morning, offering water and expressing just how much she appreciated what Habitat was doing for her. I was humbled to be a part of this day and volunteer my Saturday morning for someone so deserving. Sandra was truly grateful for the two weekends of work that the volunteers provided.

A job well done for all of the volunteers on paint day!

Success Measures is a tool in a more comprehensive program called Neighborhood Revitalization (NRI). Habitat Riverside has been implementing many parts of NRI since 2009, but it has unfortunately fallen short on the data collection and statistical tracking portion of the program. That is why I am here. I have begun creating a long term plan for the affiliate to implement in order to consistently track the impact that we have on families and communities we serve. This year we will be implementing Success Measures surveys in our NRI focus area of Jurupa Valley in order to gather baseline data. More specifically we will be using a sample area that consists of two streets, Demeter Place and Razor Way.

This will be our first surveying area for Success Measures.

This is a participatory program and therefore we will be getting the community involved at every step of the way. To help implement this portion we have two AmeriCorps Nationals that will serve as community engagement coordinators. As we begin to learn about the focus area and what their hopes and aspirations are for their neighborhood we will be working to connect them to the proper channels and agencies to achieve changes in their neighborhood. Our AmeriCorps Nationals will be greatly involved in identifying and bringing on board community partners with the NRI mission to better serve the residents. And in turn Success Measures will also be able to gauge the successfulness and extent to which our partners are effectively collaborating.

This amazing little site has been incredibly useful for the training modules.

The bulk of my time has gone to training phone calls and webinars in order to learn the proper way to implement the surveying portion of the process and how to create a plan that will allow for the process to be replicated every two years. In order to do this I have been very fortunate to have two Success Measures coaches, Chris Bibbo and Ben Stewart. I have completed nine modules of training that each last from 30 minutes to an hour and a half. Chris and Ben then go over the main points of these trainings with me by phone and answer any questions that I may have.

Recently, we have begun our planning document, Habitat Riverside’s Success Measures Evaluation Plan.

This takes a lot of coordinating to estimate a timeline of when we will be able to complete all of the surveys and the work that leads up to the surveys going out. With the Nationals I have gone out to our identified sample area of Demeter Neighborhood in Jurupa Valley to begin to get to know the residents. One of our partner families, the Mendibles, has graciously agreed to help us in our efforts. They are very enthusiastic about the NRI mission and Success Measures. Ms. Mendibles’s daughter, Yvonne and her husband Sergio have been introducing us to neighbors and talking with their community about NRI.

Sergio and Yvonne, left, speaking with AmeriCorps members and Habitat International NRI Director, Rebecca Hix.

Our hope is for the neighborhood to embrace the process and be able to freely speak about their hopes for their community. Sergio is currently helping us translate our surveys into Spanish since the neighborhood has a high Hispanic population. We are very grateful that the program is being well received so far and hope to empower these residents to make the changes they want to see within their own community become a reality.