AmeriCorps Week- Stories of past and present members

by | Apr 2, 2020 | Blog, Volunteers | 0 comments

What does it mean to be an AmeriCorps Member? For me, Emily, it meant moving to Seattle, coming into a new community, and doing something I had never done before.

Every one of the AmeriCorps members throughout HIP’s history has a different story, a unique beginning, and a distinct recount of what service means to them. HIP has now had sixteen full-time AmeriCorps members dating back to 2013. Sixteen incredible individuals bringing special strengths, experiences, and personalities to this small nonprofit.

Although I couldn’t capture all sixteen past and present AmeriCorps responses, I did a talk with quite a few and had them answer an intentional vague but thought-provoking prompt reflecting on their time of service. Below is an incredible collection of just how individual and similar the recounts of members years were and a true testament to the impact HIP has made on these individuals.

Darcy Buendia, HIP’s Meal Program Coordinator, Americorps Member 2013-2014

I joined AmeriCorp because… I already had one year of AmeriCorps under my belt, and I knew what a valuable experience it could be. When I joined, it was amidst the Great Recession, and I am so thankful for programs like AmeriCorps that continue to provide opportunities to work and learn while traditional jobs are scarce. If it weren’t for AmeriCorps, it’s likely I would have just turned back to the foodservice industry, and let my recently earned masters degree languish. Throughout my service term… I got to be a part of an exciting period of growth for HIP. I was HIP’s first AmeriCorps member and when I joined it meant the HIP office grew from one person to two people… we doubled in size! There was a lot of transition during that time, Healthy HIP Packs was growing, other programs were sunsetting, and our Senior Community Meal was still just an idea on paper. Serving at HIP is… so much better than I thought it would be! If I’m being totally honest I thought I would lose interest in an organization that, at the time, seemed too small. I was clearly wrong about that because after an engaging and challenging year of so much growth, I was thrilled to be hired as a permanent HIPster!  And now it’s been 8 years and I wouldn’t trade these coworkers (which includes our incredible volunteers!) or these experiences for anything. 

Phoenica Zhang, Secretary of HIP’s Board, Corporate Giving Officer at Solid Ground, AmeriCorps Member 2015-2016

HIP is the first place that taught me this kind of work isn’t “service” or charitable, but rather an essential fight for equity. It’s helped me understand that food justice is economic justice is racial justice, it’s all connected! It’s reminded me of what humanity and community looks like, through the simple tool of a shared meal or a nutritious snack. But most importantly, it’s inspired my journey far beyond a year of AmeriCorps service – I continue to support Seattle’s vulnerable communities through my work with Solid Ground, have joined HIP’s Board of Directors, and am working to become a better agent of social change with an MPA with UW. HIP is where it all started and will forever have a special place in my heart 🙂

Stephen Fredericks, AmeriCorps 2016-2017

Sam Tomac, Research assistant at TrustRadius, AmeriCorp Member 2016-2017

I joined AmeriCorp because… food is life! And a basic human right! I wanted to join an organization that was helping connect communities experiencing hunger with the resources, education, and services that help them thrive. Serving at HIP meant meeting these critical needs in the North Seattle community, and making food and nutrition not only more accessible and educational but also fun! We created positive experiences around food, whether it was playing nutrition trivia over a meal with participants in our Cooking Matters classes, enjoying a meal with folks at the Winter Shelter on a snowy night, or dressing up in a pear costume for the Lake City Parade. Serving at HIP is… empowering! The permanent HIP staff encourages Americorps members to take ownership of their programs. As the front line of service, we get to learn what works, what doesn’t, and what community members enjoy most. Because of HIP’s size and structural organization, Americorps members have the ability to evolve their programs based on this front-line experience! Serving as a HIPster means being a part of an encouraging, smart, and sometimes downright silly team of volunteers, staff, and community members who help you make the most of your Americorps experience. 

Grace Marshall Patient Services Specialist at UW Medical Center, Americorps 2016-2017

I joined AmeriCorps because…it seemed like a great way to gain some valuable experience after graduating with a lot of uncertainty while getting to serve with an organization whose work and efforts I really admired. Throughout my service term… I learned so much. About myself, about all of the moving parts of a volunteer event, about living on a tight budget, about the behind the scenes of a cooking class, about food injustice and food systems, about being in charge and making decisions. I took a whole lot away from that year. Serving at HIP is…a dream! The small, tight-knit team of star humans, along with the variety of work and autonomy over your projects make for an amazing work setting. Add in all the incredible food and you really can’t beat a year with HIP.  

Heather Fucini, Nutrition Services DirectorLife Care Center of Port Orchard, AmeriCorps 2017-2018

 In 2017, I grabbed my two kiddos and boarded a flight to Seattle from Honolulu.  Butterflies quickly turned to bees in my stomach as I moved to a state I had never visited.  Hunger Intervention Program (HIP) welcomed me and my kiddos with a giant banner and balloons (which I now expect from every new job). Srijan, Darcy, Kelly, Ty, and Alex become my pseudo-family while living in the PNW.  Though it was only a year, my gosh, it feels like much longer, in a good way.  I learned so much about myself.  How strong I can be and also learned to face my shortcomings.  I was fortunate to work with AmeriCorps members from different nonprofits in Seattle. Kelly my HIPster partner and I spent long (sometimes long long) nights packing HIP packs for neighborhood students.  We often dawned on fruit costumes to share knowledge of nutrition and food insecurity education to Seattle schools.  We burnt some food, ate some food and most importantly shared food and nutrition resources with our community.  I loved my time with the AmeriCorps and still have a giant pear-shaped spot in my heart where HIP will always live!

Kelly Bounxayavong, AmeriCorps 2017-2018

Alex Peterson, Community Engagement Manager for Coyote North, AmeriCorps VISTA 2018-2019

I joined AmeriCorps… because I wanted a deeper dive into the nonprofit world, and I’m a huge fan of volunteerism as a pathway to new experiences. I sought out food security in particular because of my experience working in the foodservice industry and living in a food-insecure country. Finding this VISTA position was the perfect blend of those interests, and AmeriCorps provided me with enough training and support to dive right in. Throughout my service term… I was blown away by the amazing people I met. Around literally every corner was a new acquaintance with tons of passion and know-how, and I learned so much from everyone I encountered. This was particularly helpful because my job allowed me to fill many roles. From volunteer coordination to publicity to event planning, I was able to round out my skillset in a ridiculously supportive (and fun) environment. Serving at HIP… was a particularly wonderful experience. There must be something in the water at Lake City. People in the community are so active and engaged, willing to learn and laugh and have tough conversations. And I can tell you that there is no shortage of love at HIP. I am proud to be a HI

Sam Hoeper, Research Assistant & PhD Student at University of Nevada, AmeriCorps 2018-2019

I joined AmeriCorp because… I wanted to serve my community in a meaningful way. Americorps provided me an opportunity to work collaboratively with members of the community, which made me challenge all my assumptions and preconceived ideas of food insecurity. Throughout my service term… I had opportunities to meet and listen to members of the community. By doing soI/we 🙂  were able to develop and shape our nutrition classes and HIP pack program to be most effective for the community. Serving at HIP is… like being home. When I look back at my time at HIP, I consider myself lucky to have been able to do work I am passionate about with a team of people I now consider friends. 

Emily Billow, Volunteer and Program Coordinator for Sound Generations, AmeriCorps 2019-2020

I joined AmeriCorp because… I wanted to serve others. I wasn’t exactly sure if I wanted to continue my career in the medical field or work in the nonprofit field. AmeriCorps was a great way for me to get into a nonprofit and see if I’d like it. Throughout my service term… I was challenged, supported, and learned more than I ever thought I would. Being an AmeriCorp with HIP I was able to do a variety of tasks and really dive into the Lake City Community. I was learned how to be an informed consumer, especially with food. Serving at HIP is…  like being part of a big family, from meeting Linda to my one-on-ones with Srijan. I was cared about and was able to make mistakes and grow in them. Whether I was making massive pans of lasagna for the shelter or 300 dumplings for our community appreciation night I felt like HIP was my family away from home. Through serving, I also solidified that I love working with seniors and that I am passionate about advocating for things at both the local and national levels.

Evelyn Morris Nutrition Program Coordinator at HIP, AmeriCorps 2019-2020

I joined AmeriCorp because… I feel it is important to serve within the community that I ultimately want to live and work in, and to start building relationships both professional and personal grounded in the service mindset. I am passionate about issues related to hunger and providing equitable access to not only healthy food but information about how to obtain and cook with those nutritious foods.  
Throughout my service term… I have developed some serious bicep muscles, and many skills I hope to use going forward into a career in public health nutrition. I have been able to inspire people ages 6-60+ to get excited about food and creating meals. I have coordinated the distribution of around 28,000 meals to children in the north Seattle community, helped jumpstart the development of HIP’s formal nutrition policy, and attended meetings that will shape the future of data collection and usage amongst Seattle area food banks and meal programs. These experiences have only strengthened my desire to work towards creating an equitable food system in Seattle. 
Serving at HIP is… the best part of my day! I get to come to work excited to work on projects that I am passionate about with people who are fun to be around and who challenge me to think critically. I feel lucky to work at an organization where I can see the impact of our efforts to address food security from both a direct service angle and an advocacy angle. HIP is an amazing community, and I hope to be a part of it for many years after my service term has ended. 

Frankie Beach Nutrition Program Coordinator at HIP, AmeriCorps 2019-2020

I joined Americorps because… I wanted experience in social justice work at a non-profit. The program allows us to take on responsibilities that would otherwise generally not be available to us in entry-level jobs. This appealed to me because I am very passionate about food justice and wanted to be in a position where I could positively impact lives while learning more about food insecurity and injustice. After graduating from college, I wanted a job where I would be fulfilled, and where I would face challenges that were mentally and emotionally stimulating. 
Throughout my service term... I have learned about food insecurity in the city of Seattle, Washington, organized the packaging of weekend food packs for kids each week, and been a nutrition and cooking educator to elementary school kids as well as adults. I have gained skills in volunteer management, leadership, and class facilitation. I have also met people from very different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds and have had the opportunity to work on a team of motivated and hard-working individuals. 
Serving at HIP is… both challenging and rewarding. I am responsible for coordinating the assembly and delivery of around 250 healthy food packs a week, which can at times seem daunting. It is also a challenge to create curriculums for kids that are appropriate to their age and learning ability, while also teaching them new things and allowing them to experience new kinds of food. However, I feel that I am making a significant change in people’s lives and in my own life. I am learning more about nutrition and how to not only internalize this knowledge but how to be a successful educator to others.
Serving at HIP also makes me question my beliefs about how to best challenge institutions that make nutritious food inaccessible to people. For example, I have a better sense of all the angles at which organizations can attempt to create change, and that these can be different and at the same time all important. Policy change regarding our food system starts with education and outreach and improving individual lives, which is what a lot of non-profit work aims to do. I am not sure yet about what my role as a social justice worker will be in the future, but I’m grateful to HIP for giving me such a transformative experience and inspiring me to continue working for social reform. 

Written by hungerintervention

April 2, 2020

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