Week 3!

I had a great week at Ohio Wildlife Center. There is never a dull moment and I am enjoying growing my relationships with my coworkers. I heard a story from a co-worker I thought I’d dedicate my blog post to this week.

On Wednesday this week, I went on an eaglet rescue mission with Ohio Wildlife Center’s Director of Education, Stormy Gibson. Stormy has been with the organization for 11 years, and she used to be a zoo keeper at the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium. On our way to rescue the eaglet, we got a call that it has safely flown back to it’s nest and our assistance was no longer needed. But while we were in the car coming back, Stormy told me a story about when she worked as an animal care provider at the Wildlife Hospital that really stuck with me.

My passion has always been helping animals, and at the last Fellows meeting I felt out of place when talking about other organizations that are focused on helping at-risk populations in our community and other people in need.

But while talking to Stormy, I realized our mission can help both animals and people. The story she shared was a few years ago when a large family had come in to the hospital with a snapping turtle that had been hit by a car while they were trying to move it across the road. You could tell the family had been through a roller coaster of emotions that day due to the tear-stained shirts and tired eyes, and they needed some peace. Unfortunately the turtle had passed away before the family could get to the hospital, but the hospital staff made sure to talk to the children, thank them for taking this time out of their day to assist a helpless animal in the middle of the road, and that they would do anything they could to help it. They needed to know their actions were not for nothing, that they did the right thing and they were appreciated, even if the outcome was not as good as hoped.

The compassion the staff displays for both animals and people at this organization is faith-restoring. People in the nonprofit world have big hearts, and they’re willing to help whoever needs it. I am thankful to be working with an organization that has so much empathy for others (human and non-human alike).

These aren’t chipmunks, they are Thirteen-Lined Ground Squirrels that were dropped off at Ohio Wildlife Center’s Hospital. So cute!
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Week three: “We do it all here”

The introductory periods have waned and the ‘meat’ of the program has begun—literally. A part of my day-to-day responsibilities involve preparing and serving meals to the children at camp!

I was hired by HFF to assist with operation, planning, and implementation of children’s programming for the summer food service program. I am responsible for supporting the kitchen staff in whatever capacity they may need. My parents refer to such a role as the “up” person: chop it up, sweep it up, run it up, you get the idea.

Initially, me and the AmeriCorps Vista for the summer, Elizabeth, intended to do just that. The week before camp started, we had made our first food run to Aldi for the upcoming week’s groceries, knew the ins and outs of the meal serving logistics, and were excited to meet all the kids after the meals were over and we were released to participate in activities outside of the kitchen. The good news is that we do, in fact, perform the aforementioned tasks. Though there is one stipulation.

The night before the first day of camp, Elizabeth and I learned that the chef for the summer—Lisa—had been diagnosed with tonsillitis and another secondary infection that prevented her from coming to work. Thankfully, the chef who cooks during the school year was around to help, heavily, with planning and food prep for the first two days. Miss Gayla, if you’re reading this, I appreciate you more than words can say! However, after Tuesday, Lisa reported that she was bed ridden for the rest of the week and Gayla had alternative responsibilities at HFF that she needed to fulfill. Thus, Elizabeth and I became the chefs until further notice.

As I sweat in the kitchen today, furiously buttering bread for 200 grilled cheese sandwiches (yes, 200!) and stirring tomato soup in an industrial sized pot, I am learning that the outline for this type of work is constantly subject to change. Further, everyone seems to help out with everything. In the words of my supervisor, “we do it all here.” Schedules get moved, activities don’t always happen, intentions sometimes aren’t realized, and that’s okay.

The shift from support person to primary provider was swift and welcomed because I care about the mission of the organization and the people that they serve. I am willing to do justabout anything to help the campers have the best possible experience this summer.

Please enjoy the attached photo of Elizabeth with our (absurdly tall) grocery cart filled with two days’ worth of groceries. Unfortunately, we only brought one quarter for the cart. Rookie move.

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Drones at the Food Bank

My third week at Ronald McDonald House Charities has been a mixed bag. I’ve balanced my time between traveling, seeking out constituents, and data entry. On Wednesday, I sat in at a presentation from Mid Ohio Food Bank, communicating changes in their strategic plan to the food pantries and nonprofits they partner with. The meeting illuminated what a complex policy issue food insecurity is. For example, the president told the story of a woman who couldn’t afford to go to the food pantry. Despite the food being free, going to the food pantry meant taking a day off work. Additionally, the meeting highlighted how many different players, each with their own values and skills, are trying to combat food insecurity. For example, of the three speakers, one of them, MOFB’s Director of Platforms, was a young data analyst and former employee at PriceWaterhouseCoopers. He shared lofty goals of using drones inside the foodbank, and collecting more opt-in data from food pantry customers to be shared with organizations in other sectors of social services to more efficiently and collaboratively create models to combat the social determinants that lead to poor health. Many food pantry employees in attendance faced his speech with skepticism, highlighted by an initial question of “what is a ‘platform’”. There are so many linguistic, professional, cultural, generational, political, and socioeconomic boundaries that must be crossed even just to understand other people’s perspective, let alone create a solution. I’m sure the same is true for strategic decisions made in a hospital.

Tomorrow, I am visiting constituents (people and organizations who have or potentially will donate cash, product, or services to RMHC) on my own for the first time. I’m a little nervous, but mostly excited, as this is one of the primary skills I hope to cultivate over the course of this fellowship. I’m learning that donors and their donations come in all shapes and sizes. As the Senior Director of Development put it on the first week, “sometimes you’re writing a 2 page brief for a $1,000,000 ask”. Some groups want to donate their specialized services to create an app or repair equipment. Some want to bring ice cream to the house.

Additionally, this week has been filled with lots and lots of data entry, one of the drier parts of the position. As the Director of Platforms stated at the MOFB talk, “data, not oil, is now the most valuable resource on the planet”. This of course is scary, but rings true most afternoons during my time at the House. While I still try to create a standard process to link volunteer and donor data, I’m slowly entering all the constituents from one database into another. I’ve found moving between the rabbit-hole mentality of seeking out donors balances nicely with this repetitive and predictable task

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Lord of the Rings (phone rings, that is)

Apologies for the belated post, but my work phone was blowing up last week! However, it was for good reason – we have been completing phone interviews at rapid speed! To give some insight into my project: Siemer wants to understand caseworkers’ best practices for the families in their cities and how their network can support them. Our findings will be shared across the network to breed ideas and collaboration across the Siemer network.

What about this is exciting, you ask? Any insight they gain is helping them to serve more families facing housing crises! Listening to both the staff and the caseworkers has been inspiring; they put their all into providing the best attention and resources to the families they serve. It still feels remarkable to be a part of their team.

In addition to the many calls, I have continued to dig into some exciting literature (my area of expertise). While I may not be in the field supporting the Siemer network, I am doing my do diligence to find research that highlights their accomplishments and the great work they do. In my mind this is a small way to bridge the work of the academy with the work done by social profit organizations.

When I first came to Siemer, one of the first things that struck me was that I have a lot of research-related resources as a student, compared to those working on the ground. I’m especially referring to the gazillion articles, books, and data I always have at my disposal. I am privileged to be at a university that provides funds to subscribe to reputable journals and publishing companies. A person without a student affiliation would have to pay out-of-pocket to access this knowledge.

As an individual who wants to use my education to help others, the lack of connection between research and practice was somewhat disappointing. However, it also presents an opportunity for others to work towards bridging this gap. The academy can empower those working for social change and vice versa. Maybe in the future, I will be one of many doing such work!

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48 Years of Dedication

This week I wanted to share a story about the Vice President of Human Resources and Operations, and how tremendously this demonstrates the positive culture at my organization.

My first day at BBBS, I was introduced to Susan Murray. My supervisor told me that Susie would be my best friend for the day as I was working through paperwork, payroll, and policies. I could not have had a more welcoming first encounter with the organization, as Susie was bubbly and energetic and excited to get me started for the summer. This was really the only time I had spent with her to date until today.

Susie has been involved with BBBS for 48 years. She started as a camper at the BBBS owned and operated camp, Camp Oty’Okwa. She came to Central Ohio to be the office administrator before returning to camp to be a camp administrator. She has bounced around the organization, existing and enhancing the BBBS mission for nearly half a century. In fact, Susie loves BBBS so much that she actually got married at the BBBS camp. Her dedication to the mission of this organization is inspiring, and it was heartwarming to witness the staff surprise her today with an anniversary potluck lunch (her favorite!).

Two things became clear in light of the celebration held for Susie this afternoon. One was that this is the type of organization people WANT to be a part of for 10, 20, 30, or even 48 years. Much of the staff has worked with the organization in one capacity or another for an extended period of time, and people hardly ever leave. It’s clear to me they are doing something right here. The culture, the mission, the passion, everything BBBS is keeps the staff involved and committed. The second thing that became clear is the amount of care this staff has for one another. This is a busy time of year for the staff. Everyone came together, cleared their schedules for the afternoon, and each contributed a food or drink item, while also considering Susie’s preferences. You will not find this type of generosity at every organization, and I am grateful that I have found it here.

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Stress No More

Something that has kind of been a challenge for me is balancing all of my commitments this summer. On top of my fellowship position with Best Buddies/The Columbus Foundation, I am enrolled in six online course for my two masters programs (and have a part time job) and it is taking some time to adjust to having such a heavy workload. However, as I am delving deeper into my coursework and am contributing more to the Best Buddies Ohio Team, I see that there are a lot of connections between all of my commitments and that if I focus on these overlaps I’m able to balance everything in a more efficient way. 

More specifically, I am enrolled in four different social work course for my Masters of Social Work program at OSU, each of these courses has an emphasis on empowering clients, developing appropriate leadership qualities, and finding the best intervention/treatment services for various populations. Through these courses I feel like I am finding new ways to expand on my skill set as a social worker and truly carry out the mission of Best Buddies to empower individuals with an IDD, help facilitate intentional and positive relationships among clients (one-to-one friendships), and ultimately helping individuals develop their own leadership abilities.

Taking this new mindset, that everything has a purpose and a connection, has helped me to feel more fulfilled as both an intern and a student. While I am definitely still stressed over meeting deadlines and creating quality work, I am a little more confident in myself, knowing that I am growing personally and professionally through this heavy course load and that at the end of the day my experience as a fellow and student this summer are amplified by being both. 

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Week 2

The second week of my fellowship has flown by, and with it have come new figures, opportunities, and challenges. For one, my supervisor, House Chef Blair Arms, is back in the office from vacation. Chef Blair is an incredible woman. A trained pastry chef and former employee of OSU dining services, she’s extremely talented, approachable, and passionate about providing the best experience possible for her families and volunteers. This passion was made evident on Tuesday, where she spoke as one of eight Nationwide Children’s Hospital employees in their DiscoveryX series, a TED Talk style event where NCH staff present projects they have been working on. Blair was speaking about the Team Cuisine program.

Chef Blair Arms with NCH CEO Steve Allen

Now that I am working with her every day, the pace is starting to pick up. I continued to send out grant applications to grocers and food processors, learned about Chef Blair’s basic budgeting, purchasing, and accounting processes, and of course, continued to take pictures and brainstorm volunteer stewardship programs for meal teams. Learning more about Blair’s values and constraints, I have a better idea of what to look for when finding a donor to cultivate a relationship with.

Another task I have been working on is linking data from Volgistics, the software RMHC uses to manage volunteers, and Raiser’s Edge, the software RMHC uses to manage donors. The goal is to be able to create standard impact reports that can be sent to corporate donors, stating things like “in 2018, x staff members volunteered at the house, serving x amount of meals and making x amount of blankets, for a total of x hours. Additionally, your contribution of x$ provided x nights of rest for families”. It’s interesting to me that these two datasets weren’t linked before, given the size of RMHC’s volunteer program.

RMHC employees Nate and Katherine

Finally, I’m beginning to ease into friendships with my colleagues. I’m learning more about each person’s personality, hobbies, life pursuits, strengths, and stressors. Having that familiarity and network will help me feel more comfortable pushing boundaries and thinking “outside the box”. I’m excited for what comes next!

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