Monthly Archives: December 2016

Serving AmeriCorps and AFHA the Second Time Around

 

Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” 
― 
Fred Rogers, Methodist Minister and Host of the Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.

As my first year of AmeriCorps service at the Appalachian Forest Heritage Area was quickly coming to a close I found myself feeling like my work in Randolph County, West Virginia was not complete. That I had just started to see the impact of my service and I was not willing to walk away. I was not willing to end the project I was working on and was not willing to leave the many people who I was serving every day. In my heart I knew I was helping and making a difference and just did not want to stop making this community a better place.

So by September of 2016, I signed up for another year of service to AFHA, AmeriCorps, Elkins Main Street and the Community of Elkins West Virginia. It was the same day that a new group of AmeriCorps members were sworn into the program. The day was filled with speeches, group photos and getting to know the other volunteers who would join me in the Appalachian Mountains and small towns. It was also the day that I knew that I would never leave the life of service that I had been building for the last 12 months.director-of-volunteer-west-virginia-2016

Executive Director of: Volunteer West Virginia Heather Foster speaking to new enrollees.

I know that many who join AmeriCorps come for the education awards and the on the job training. Some come to explore job possibilities and some come for the travel to a new place with pay. I on the other hand came because I love the state of West Virginia. I understand my states weaknesses and challenges because for 27 years this is where I called home. I understand its proud nature, where her people do not want a hand out, but a hand up. They want an equal chance at raising a family; have steady work and a chance to live in warm safe homes. West Virginians prefer to do it on their own, on their own terms, and if you want to join them in a battle of any kind, they bless you for fighting alongside them. Together they battle to make things better for everyone.I serve next to them so can add my skill, education, strength and love to help bring a brighter future to a mountain community.

I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy. I woke and I saw that life is all service. I served and I saw that service is joy.”― Kahlil Gibran

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Members of AFHA, AmeriCorps enrolling for the 2016-2017  year Morgantown, West Virginia.Sign says “Volunteer West Virginia the state’s Commission for National Community Service. AmeriCorps West Virginia.”

I believe that the AmeriCorps program achieves what it sets out to do. It brings together caring, helpful, educated people who want to make a difference in a location where there is need for support. With guidance, service members do the work in areas of our state that most are not willing or able to do. We aid in making a positive change in the communities doing all kinds of work from preservation and redevelopment of historic buildings, tracking trout populations to building non-profit websites and giving historical tours at local sites. We are here to serve the people and enhance their communities and make them stronger.hands-on-team-working-to-reglaze-and-paint-windows-at-the-historic-darden-house-elkins-west-virginia

AFHA, Hands on team members re-glazing windows on the historic Darden house Elkins, West Virginia.

Being an AmeriCorps member over the last year has opened my life up to new people, new opportunities, and the joy of service. I look forward to my second year of service with Appalachian Forest Heritage Area, AmeriCorps and with the people of Elkins, West Virginia. I can only hope to give them back what they have already given to me. A fresh new outlook on what I can do for the people and places that I love.Thank you AFHA, AmeriCorps and Elkins Main Street for the best job this 48 year old has ever had.

Categories: About me, Appalachina Mountains, community service, Elkins Main Street, Elkins West Virginia, Nonprofit, Randolph County | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Our Forgotten Women Warrior Memorial

During a whirl whin trip to Arlington National Cemetery last week (more about this in a following post) I was enraged to find out that one of our National Memorials is going broke. That the doors of the “Women in Military Service For America“at the gate way to Arlington National Cemetery are planing to be closed to our citizens in spring of 2017.

My reaction to the news was more than disappointed, it was deep hurt, disgrace and anger. What do you mean that the Memorial doors will close…… Who would allow the history and sacrifice of our female solders and sailors to fall into ruin. The answer is a long one and as I did more research after my visit I found this info listed in Wikipedia and  took this  quote from the page about the monument.

 

Brig. Gen. (ret.) Wilma Vaught later admitted that the memorial foundation had been naive about how difficult it would be to raise the funds needed to construct the Women in Military Service for America Memorial and endow its operation and maintenance fund.[127]

To raise additional funds, the foundation signed a first-of-its-kind agreement with the U.S. Mint in November 1995.[152] About 38,000 of the coins remained unsold.[152][153] Using a line of credit from a major bank, WMSAMF purchased the outstanding 38,000 coins and began selling them for $35 for proof coins and $32 for uncirculated coins — the same price for which the Mint sold them. This would generate $380,000 in revenues. However, WMSAMF added a $6 processing fee, intended to raise another $250,000 for the memorial.[153] By October 15, 1997, total coin sales had generated $3 million for the memorial.[151]

By September 1997, however, the foundation still needed $12 million to complete the memorial and endow its operating and maintenance fund.[125] That included a $2.5 million shortfall in construction funds. Foundation officials blamed a lack of interest from the defense industry, lack of access to military records (which would have enabled it to reach out to the estimated 1.2 million living women veterans), procrastination by donors, a lack of nationwide press attention, and indifference to the contributions of women for the lack of donations. Corporate support was especially lacking: Aside from the $1 million donation from AT&T and the $300,000 donation by General Motors, the next largest corporate donation was $50,000 (and only two companies gave at that level).[127][154] The inability to reach out to female veterans was a major issue. The foundation had hoped that 500,000 veterans would contribute $25 each to the memorial’s construction, but lack of outreach meant that only 200,000 had done so.[126] Vaught also blamed lack of interest from the 230,000 women currently serving in the active duty and reserve armed forces.[127] State donations were also low. Eight states (Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming) did not donate to the memorial by dedication day. Contribution levels from the states were relatively low, ranging from $60,000 from New York to just $1,750 from Colorado.[134]

First Lady Michelle Obama tours the memorial with Brig. Gen. (ret.) Wilma Vaught in March 2009.

To pay the memorial’s outstanding debt, WMSAMF relied heavily on gift shop sales and other revenue. Arlington National Cemetery draws an estimated 4.5 million visitors each year.[126] Visitation numbers were not meeting expectations, however. Memorial officials said attendance would be about 250,000 to 300,000 visitors in the first year of operation, rather than the 500,000 projected. Only about 22,000 of the 375,000 people who visit Arlington National Cemetery each month visited the memorial. By July 1998, annual revenues from gift shop sales and other sources reached $5 million, about what was expected.[146] The memorial also began selling biographical data and a photograph of the individuals in the veterans’ database, which generated $14,500 in June 1998 from $2,500 in January. The memorial also began charging $4,000 for use of its space.[146]

The memorial was still unable to pay about $2 million in construction costs in January 1998.[146][147] WMSAMF had raised $19 million of the $21.5 million in total costs (construction and operation/maintenance endowment),[146] but by September 1997 could not pay Clark Construction the outstanding construction bill.[147] Clark Construction said it paid its subcontractors out-of-pocket, rather than wait for payment from the memorial foundation.[147] The firm also said it was not yet taking legal action, because it had faith in the memorial and expected to be paid.[155] Memorial president Wilma Vaught said the financial situation was not serious. Nonetheless, fund-raising experts told her said that few donors wished to give money to “women’s projects”[146] and that so many memorials were asking for funds that corporations simply stopped giving.[147] Vaught said three major donations had been received since the October 1997 dedication. These included a $500,000 donation from Eastman Kodak (payable over four years), a $250,000 donation from Merck Laboratories (payable over five years), and a $250,000 donation from a private foundation (payable immediately).[146]

Memorial finances continued to be unsteady as of 2010. The memorial had so little revenue to pay its $2.7 million annual budget that it nearly closed in 2009. Congress, however, provided a $1.6 million grant to keep it open, and a fund-raising drive brought in $250,000. [156] Although the memorial had about 241,000 women veterans listed in its database in 2010, about 75 percent of all World War II women servicemembers (who might have been counted on to donate) had already died, and many others were ill and on limited incomes. A sharp drop in gift shop sales after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the onset of the Great Recession in 2007 also significantly hurt the memorial’s finances.[157]

On October 17, 2012, the Women in Military Service for America Memorial celebrated its 15th anniversary.[1] Raising funds to cover the memorial’s $3 million for operating budget was still a struggle.[2]

In November 2016, the Women in Military Service for America Memorial said its financial situation was so poor, it may have to close.[158]

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Ceremonial Gates in front of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.

The Memorial sits as the ceremonial gate way into Arlington Nation Cemetery. It is a grand building that is  not only beautiful, but peaceful and inviting. The fountain and reflecting pool were drained at this time of the year, but were still an important part of the design of the building. What a shame it is for us a people and our country to shut the doors to one of the most predominate memorials in Washington D.C.

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the crowd at the dedication of the WIMSFA Memorial in Washington D.C. 1997 looking away from the front of the building

Inside the Memorial the long curving hall is home to displays and video feeds of the stories of woman who continue to be over looked by our county. As I walked the hall with my friend Retired Air Force Lt.Col. Nurse Kathryn Robinson,I find that her story is as important to this place as all the others. That she like thousands of other woman served our country, raise families and deployed to every duty they  were called to do. It was hard to see the pages and photos of the many woman who had died in combat. It was hard to think about what many of them have endured over the years of service in the harshest of the worlds conditions.

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State and branch of service flags inside the Memorial.Some times displayed outside on around the base of the memorial.2016

It was hard to think of the many lives that our service nurses have fought to save over the history of the armed forces and it was harder to think about all of the lives that they have seen lost. But they continue to serve day in and day out. Our nurses, our enlisted, our officers and retired women deserve better,they deserve a places in the history of Washington D.C. They deserve the same as every male solder and sailor. They deserve a place where their stories are told and kept alive for the next generation of young women.  The same young women,who one day may want to join them, to serve and protect our great nation.

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“Operation Iraqi Freedom” nurses quilt on display inside the Women in Service to America Memorial 2016

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“Women Warriors” quilt  at Woman In Military Service For America Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery 2106.

 

So with the future of this great memorial and the history of all of America women warriors in jeopardy, I ask that you think about how we want our women to be remembered. Think about any time that you have spent in Washington D.C. and how it will look if we allow this closing to happen. What a shame it will be on us as  a people if  did not think enough of our wives, mothers, daughters and sisters to take a stand and say that we want this place for future generations.

As I step down off my soap box and hope that in some way I have made you think. I hope that you will  take time to learn more about the memorial and what they have to offer and take time to donate to keep the memorial going. I did !

Please visit   Women in Military Service for America to learn more and help our women service members continue to have a place of their own.

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Honoring an Air Force Nurse at Arlington National Cemetery with Air Force Officers including Retired Officer Kathryn Robinson Dec. 2016

 

 

 

 

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Categories: Air Force, American Veterans, Arlington National Cemetery, Army, Cemetaries, friends, historic locations, Memorial, nursing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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