Mentoring Corps for Community Development

Posts from the ‘Newsletter’ category

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.

Quarterly Newsletter – September 2014

September 15th was the kick-off date for the STEM program put together by MCCD for the Bonnie Dover Jackson Middle School in New London. The first speaker was retired US Naval Captain Larry Olsen, husband of MCCD board member Janet Olsen. Three of the eight sessions were held during the third quarter.

This program is designed to bring highly qualified speakers in a number of disciplines, dealing with science and technology, to speak with middle school children who have been especially selected by their school.

Apart from that project, the group has been busy. A lunch was hosted by Dick Shriver for two members of the DO School, a German based organization that brings in a number of enterprising fledgling entrepreneurs to four-week sessions in New York and Germany. They have the opportunity to network and test out their ideas among their peers and a coach. Dick also invited to the meeting a young woman who has a new business dealing with preparing raw foods, in which she invites half a dozen people for weekly sessions at an inn outside of Hartford.

A project for The ARC, based in Norwich and Groton, was essentially completed when Dick Shriver introduced them to an Old Lyme businessman.

A lunch on September 10th was held by Community Connections – a group that has worked with MCCD – at the Old Lyme Country Club. Fifty different groups attended, along with several MCCD board members.

We decided to re-group regarding one project, in part do to a miscommunication between what we and the client expected.

We are in discussions with a Niantic-Groton based organization, the Lighthouse. The organization works with children and young adults inflicted with Autistic and Asperger syndrome. Two problems exist, One, a combination of demographic and budget issues have negatively affected their operation. And, two, there is the interim issue of young people over 21, who have these symptoms, transitioning to positions of total self reliance. Lighthouse feels they are uniquely qualified to aid in this process and are looking for ideas.

Projects such as the Lyme/Old Lyme Telephone Directory and Hall’s Road continue.

During the quarter we met with a number of individuals looking for guidance on issues ranging from magazines to hedge funds to artists.

Quarterly Newsletter – June 2014

The second quarter of 2014 was the busiest since inception for MCCD. We have continued to work on a number of projects, while taking on new ones and completing or terminating others. We have also begun the process of searching for a new chairperson to replace the irreplaceable Dick Shriver.

Of the key projects on which we continue to focus, listed below are a few:

School mentoring – This program, designed and managed by Michael Perks, wrapped up with the school year and is expected to resume when schools reopen in the fall. Given remarks from school officials and mentees alike, the program was a success. In the year just ended mentoring was confined to those students (there were four) who had been temporarily suspended. Next year it is expected that students who have not been suspended, but whom the school believes could benefit from mentoring, may also be included in the program.

Avenue to the Arts – On April 30, First Selectwoman, Bonnie Reemsnyder, conducted a meeting at the library where she introduced landscape architect Sara McCracken to outline some aspects of what would be involved regarding the Hall’s Road improvement project, what MCCD has dubbed an “Avenue to the Arts.” The meeting was written up favorably in both The New London Day and in the Lyme Times. Ms. Reemsnyder will be forming a committee, looking for expertise in areas ranging from the technical to legal.

New projects:

Peace of Mind – Kara Gagnon, an optometrist, formerly with the VA in West Haven and who teaches at Yale Medical School, has been interested in the detection of brain injuries by way of the eye. She is also interested in the emotional trauma those injuries cause victims and caregivers. At the VA, she had the opportunity to study many returning veterans who had various problems, ranging from the mental and emotional to physical injury. On Saturday morning, June 7th, Dr. Gagnon made a presentation sponsored by the Lyme-Old Lyme Chamber of Commerce. The current status is that MCCD, with assistance from other professionals, will consult with Kara regarding the firm’s structure and business plan.

STEM at the Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School in New London – The work we did with NESS (New England Science & Sailing) has led to a request from the Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School in New London for us to provide supplementary programs to select groups of students. Lesson plans will be prepared for eight modules, each lasting an hour and twenty minutes. Topics suggested include submarines, space, computers, telecommunications, oceanography, medicine, etc.

A coffee shop – A coffee shop located north of Lyme has asked for our help. As the quarter ended, Dick Shriver, Gerry Guild and Michael Perks were visiting the shop to determine what, if any, role MCCD might play.

A health food institute – The operation is based in upstate, Connecticut. Their business is conducting health education and food-training retreats every year for a number of participants. Their immediate goals, for which they seek our assistance, are to double the number of attendees, and to produce a “distance learning program.” Dick Shriver was contacted and we are in the early stages of determining what, if anything, MCCD might be able to do.

Dick has arranged for the DO School to meet with MCCD. This is an organization based in Hamburg, Germany, with multiple training sites around the world that help launch entrepreneurs. They will be in Old Lyme on the 24th of July for dinner, with a presentation the next morning.

Completed or terminated projects:

We have completed half a dozen programs to both our and the clients satisfaction, and have rejected two where we felt we could not make a substantial contribution.

With the special help of BJ Bernblum, MCCD facilitated the formation of the Friends of the Lymes’ Senior Center, INC, to aid the center in its fund-raising efforts. A board of directors has been formed and an application for tax exemption has been filed with the IRS.