Mentoring Corps for Community Development

Posts tagged ‘newsletter’

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 – 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.

Quarterly Newsletter – March 2014

The first major event of the quarter was having Jim Rice elected to the board of MCCD, bringing the number to its full complement of ten. Jim, a long-time resident of the Town served in many capacities, from resident State Trooper to First Selectman.

The second important event was an all-morning meeting held at Saint Ann’s on January 13th, led by Mark Robinson. It was a session aimed at examining our mission statement and operations – why we are here and what is it we do. The mission statement finally decided upon: “Encourage and empower those with needs by connecting them with volunteers with appropriate talents and expertise.” It is the desire of us all to make our town and region “sparkle.”

It was agreed that we have two types of clients: Reactive and directive. Reactive clients would be those who seek our assistance, something that is happening with increasing frequency, as news of MCCD spreads, by word-of-mouth, via the Press, or through satisfied clients. Examples of clients include individuals, eleemosynary institutions and businesses. An article in the New London Day by Kimberly Drelich on the day after Christmas brought in new inquiries and clients. Directive projects are those where we see a need, but where there may not be an immediate, obvious client; those can range from victims of storm Sandy who may not have reached out to us, but where we knew there to be humanitarian needs, to the desire to convert Hall’s Road into an Avenue to the Arts – a project we recognize will likely take a decade or more.

Of course, reactive projects, including working with the Lyme-Old Lyme School system, can become directive as we perceive needs, just as directive projects can become reactive as they attract clients.

We wrapped up a couple of existing projects during the quarter, while recognizing that many projects are more similar to perennials than annuals. Our efforts with the LOL School system expanded, thanks to Michael Perks who took it upon himself to mentor a young student. That project, which started as an individual effort, is being institutionalized, as we work with the School system. We both recognize there is a need to help young people both before and after they get into trouble.

Work persists with regard to the Roger Tory Peterson/Audubon/Connecticut River Estuary project and the Avenue of the Arts, but with reduced intensity, as is always the case with long-term projects. John Forbis, who has been heading up the RTP/Audubon/CRE effort on our behalf, continues to work with them. This is a complicated, multi-year task and he will call upon us as needs arise. As regards the Avenue of the Arts, Michael Perks and Jim Rice have focused their efforts, for the moment, on the strip of land on the North side of Hall’s Road where it crosses the Lieutenant River. The land is currently owned by the State, but may be purchased by the Town. What is envisioned is a park-like area on the northwest quadrant, with possibly a bike/pedestrian bridge crossing the Lieutenant River where the old bridge once stood. First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder supports the concept of beautifying the area and making it friendlier to bikers and pedestrians, as part of a bigger project to provide easier access to the natural wonders among which we live. Ms. Reemsnyder’s interest suggests, in this case, that the Town may be the client.

BJ Bernblum has been assisting the Lyme’s Senior Center in establishing a 501(c)(3) “Friends” organization that should prove instrumental in raising funds and providing other support for the Senior Center and seniors generally. He has been working with dedicated leaders from the Senior Center and officials within the towns of Lyme and Old Lyme.

New projects on which we have begun work during the quarter include The Arc. The Arc New London County is a “grass-roots nonprofit organization offering services to children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.” They are a state-funded organization located in Norwich that works with about 500 people. Their specific need is how to make a small bakery business they operate in Groton profitable. The bakery employs about twenty of their clients. The management of The Arc sees the bakery as a means of providing the kind of useful job-training that would allow their clients to get jobs within their community. The bakery is also seen as a means of teaching entrepreneurship to those of their clients so inclined.

Additionally, we are working with a half-dozen other clients, ranging from artists to contractors. Most importantly, though, have been the efforts – described above – to mentor young people who may benefit from some adult guidance that comes from outside the family and the school.

A Ukrainian art show, made possible through the efforts of Barbara and Dick Shriver, the Fresh Ayer Gallery and Saint Ann’s Church, was not only timely, given the world situation, but also a manifestation of the advantages of combining one’s own interests with those of a client. The show and talks were illuminating and rewarding.

As the quarter ended we recognized the need we have to expand our base of volunteers. Southeastern Connecticut is a beautiful part of the world and those of us who live here are lucky. But, like so many other sections of the Country, beneath the pleasant exterior, lie a core of people who need the help and the support of others.