Mentoring Corps for Community Development

Posts from the ‘Newsletter’ category

Quarterly Newsletter – March 2016

During the quarter, Harry Sedgwick, a founding member of MCCD, resigned from the board; so is now our first Member Emeritus. He will be sorely missed. In February, we welcomed two new board members: Susan and Frank Cummiskey joined as new board members in February. They had been attending meetings regularly for the past couple of months, and had contributed generously to our organization for some time.

Working on educational programs dominated much of the time of MCCD members during the quarter: helping students prepare for and then helping to judge Old Lyme’s Middle School Science Olympiad;
helping fifth-grade students with the “invention-convention” program in Old Lyme’s two elementary schools; and lining up speakers and preparing programs for the STEM program at the Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School in New London, along with a concomitant program at New London’s Renzulli Academy for gifted students. At the request of the LOL school, half a dozen MCCD board members have devoted an hour a week to mentoring Middle School students. Additionally, career counseling was provided those who wished it, at the Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library in Old Lyme, and preparations are underway for a repeat of last year’s career training seminar to AmeriCorps volunteer teachers at NESS (New England Science and Sailing Foundation). It is our belief, along with those of the officials at AmeriCorps, that our myriad experiences can be used to help young people write resumes and prepare for jobs with mock interviews.

We were asked to help out with Work Vessels for Vets (WVV), a non-profit based in Noank, Connecticut. WVV is an eight-year old organizations that helps veterans start or continue businesses. An owner of a franchise business in Old Lyme asked for our help in terms of increasing revenues. MCCD remains committed to helping the community sparkle: that means working with schools and other educational organizations, for-profit businesses, eleemosynary groups, individuals and families who can benefit from our mentoring.

Quarterly Newsletter – June 2015

With the finish of this past quarter, we completed three full years. Without meaning to brag, we feel we have accomplished a lot. We devoted parts of a couple of weekly sessions to looking back with the purpose of better organizing ourselves. Board member John Forbis put together a list of our current and former clients into half a dozen groups. They fall into six main categories: Schools, For-Profits, Not-for Profits, Humanitarian, Town and Career Counseling. The For-Profit category is further broken down between start-ups and existing businesses. John also developed a grading system that allows us to see how we are doing versus the client’s expectations and how the client is doing compared to the suggestions we had made. John is a tough task master. Of the 66 individuals, school and town programs, businesses and non-profits we have worked with, only sixteen received a better-than-average grade.

There are 14 initiatives with two public schools – the Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School in New London and the Lyme-Old Lyme School system. Of those, seven have been completed. In New London, the projects are primarily related to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), and consist of teaching programs we have developed. In the Old Lyme schools, our work has been more diverse, ranging from mentoring, to judging at their “invention conventions” to helping out at their Summer Academy.

In the for-profit category, we have worked with a number of small and mid-size businesses. Of the twenty businesses we have worked with, two are prospective, six on-going, four in limbo and eight have either been completed or our work was terminated. The breadth of businesses has been both interesting and challenging. In a few cases, it has been found that brain-storming sessions are what the client really needs. Regardless, for those of us who have spent their lives in the private sector, it is good to see that entrepreneurship is alive and well in South Eastern Connecticut. Working with these people provides a sense of the joy that work brings, and the pride that comes from being one’s own boss.

Within the non-profit arena, we have on-going relations with several of the nineteen groups we have met with. In some cases we have successfully completed a project and invited back to assist with another phase. In other cases, either we failed or the client chose not to take our advice. Among those with humanitarian needs, our doors are always open. We have helped half a dozen individuals, people who have been victims of storms to those who have suffered bouts of depression and/or substance abuse.

We have been moving to more formalize our relationships with town officials, inviting the First Selectperson to attend our meetings on a quarterly basis. In these cases, projects are often long-termed; so measuring success on a quarterly basis is not meaningful.

We feel good about the good we are doing and look forward to finding more volunteers for the opportunities we see that abound in this corner of Connecticut.

Quarterly Newsletter – March 2015

At the end of the quarter, we find ourselves working with fourteen separate entities, one of which, the Lyme-Old Lyme School system, has nine separate components. Another ten organizations have asked for our assistance. We have met with half of them and are reviewing our options with all of them. We completed two projects.

In terms of administrative changes, in January we elected Dick Shriver and BJ Bernblum as co-chairs of MCCD. Dennis Powers joined the board and Frank Gaglio has become an active volunteer. At the end of the quarter, Jim Rice, citing travel and other commitments, asked to resign as a board member, but to stay on as a volunteer. We reluctantly granted his wish.

Our clients fall into three main categories:

  1. Schools – (three school systems in three towns – a total of eleven projects)
    1. STEM programs, such as we are conducting for the Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School inNew London
    2. Mentoring programs, such as we have conducted in the LOL School system
    3. Working with schools to help facilitate student internships
    4. Acting as judges in programs requiring students to be creative problem solvers, known as “invention conventions”
  2. Humanitarian – (one on going)
    1. Helping those in need due to special circumstances, such as storm victims, accident or illness
  3. Profit & Non-profit organizations – (ten distinct organizations)
    1. In terms of for-profit businesses, using our collective experience to providing guidance to entrepreneurs, which might involve start-up planning, fund raising, accounting or strategy.
    2. With non-profits, we try to help them focus on their mission, as well as offer suggestions for fund raising.

We have found that our brainstorming sessions are particularly helpful with for-profit and non-profit groups.

Perhaps the most successful program this quarter (and the previous) has been our speakers program at the Bennie DoverJackson Middle School in New London. Once a week for eight weeks MCCD brings a highly successful adult expert in a STEM filed to meet with the school’s (fifth grade?) Renzulli class and its after-school STEM program, to share with the student the excitement and the opportunities that the STEM disciplines offer in the real world. Our presenters have included individuals from the world of medicine, business and the sciences.

Quarterly Newsletter – December 2014

At the end of October we held a second retreat, or special meeting. It dealt with many subjects, including the most persistent and ubiquitous problem – that days are limited to twenty-four hours and weeks to seven days. Our interests (our will if you will) are bigger than our capacities. Should we be the fox or the hedgehog? What should be our geographic focus? We did identify three areas in which we could use help, in terms of volunteers: Accounting; Social Media; and Grant Writing and Fund Raising assistance. The retreat also was an opportunity to review an innovative and helpful EXCEL spreadsheet, designed by two of our members. We also prioritized those clients needing follow-up calls, visits and reports. It was also at this retreat, if memory serves, where we realized that there are times when simply a meeting serves an important role – brainstorming. It allows the client to express themselves, their aspirations and frustrations – to use us as a sounding board that costs them nothing. We come from a perspective that has no emotional ties and we are not shy about probing and questioning.

We have about a dozen projects in the hopper, some requiring a great deal of effort, such as those involving education. During the quarter we added about half a dozen projects and completed or terminated roughly the same number. We have another half dozen pending or in some form of limbo. The success of our most ambitious undertaking – preparing and conducting (with volunteers) special, after-school STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programs at the Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School in New London – was such that we were invited back to prepare another round of classes, which will begin in January.

Our efforts over the quarter ranged from education to non-profits, from start-ups and small businesses to individuals. An advantage to being involved with MCCD is the opportunity to see the diversity of life, and to experience the needs of so many, in our town and region.

The group has been together for two and a half years, having first met in June 2012. That fall Hurricane Sandy, the second costliest hurricane in United States history and the killer of 286 people, provided the fodder that allowed MCCD to prove its colors. A dozen homes were totally destroyed in Old Lyme, and more were badly damaged. The success of a matrix designed by the grojup proved invaluable to those seeking help from the maze of myriad government and eleemosynary institutions.