Greetings everyone! I cannot believe I have been working at MICA for almost five months now! Time is definitely moving very quickly and as a result work goes by pretty fast. Part of the reason why work days at MICA go by so fast is because we have headed into the busiest time of the season. As the winter slowly approaches our services are in higher demand. Enjoy chapter two my life as a Grinnell Corps Fellow in Grinnell!!
Energy Assistance Program
My duties at MICA have slowly shifted over the last couple months. I went from multi-tasking around the office to solely focusing on one of our most popular programs at MICA, the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). LIHEAP is a federally funded program that financially helps low-income families with home heating during the winter. Additionally, individuals who get approved for LIHEAP are automatically protected by a Winter Moratorium, which means their heating vendor cannot disconnect them from the time they were approved for LIHEAP up until April 1, 2010. Essentially, LIHEAP is designed to prevent low-income families from living without heating during the winter. In order for a family to qualify for the program they must meet the income guidelines for the 2009-2010 fiscal year. The guidelines are as follows: a household of 1 cannot make more than $16,245 a year, a household of 2 cannot make more than $21,855 a year, a household of 3 cannot make more than $27,465 a year, and to calculate the rest of the guidelines just add $5,610 for every extra household member.
My involvement in this program is pretty simple. 1) Process applications Mon.-Fri. 2) Schedule appointments for people to apply for the program 3) Encourage families who utilize our services to apply. Being part of this program is a very rewarding experience because I meet a new family everyday and I get to take part in helping families alleviate some of their heating costs during the winter. Additionally, sometimes I get to negotiate with utility vendors and prevent families from getting disconnected! It is always very exciting to inform families that they have been approved for the program. Generally, families are very appreciative and leave the office with a smile on their face. However, there are times when families are denied assistance because they are not income eligible and it is one of the hardest news to give. It breaks my heart to turn someone down for help because they make too much money according to the income guidelines. Fortunately, we have other programs and services available at MICA for families who might be slightly over income. For instance, the Emergency Food Shelf is open to anyone who has no food in their home.
Emergency Food Shelf
Aside from LIHEAP, one of my on going duties at MICA has been helping run our local food pantry. I always have fun in this area because I love making sure that all the food that gets donated to MICA gets put to good use. My goal is to always make sure donated items do not expire by sitting on our shelves for too long. Last year MICA had difficulties meeting that goal because we did not have enough help at the office. We had an over flow of donations sitting in our back pantry because no one had time to sort and weigh them. Fortunately, this year with the help of local volunteers and staff at out office we are keeping up with donations. So far, we are doing a great job and I am very glad we have enthusiastic individuals helping out with donations. Now that we are approaching the holiday season many organization, companies, churches, clubs, schools, business and individuals have held Food Drives on behalf of MICA. It is always very heart warming to see the community work together to make sure families in need have enough food in their home during the holidays. Thanks to all who donate for a good cause! You are awesome!!!!
Speaking of awesome people, I am happy to announce that I will be taking charge of a new project involving volunteers!!!! I have been assigned the task to train and guide volunteers. I am really excited because I get to work and meet with all the volunteers one-on-one! My goal is to make sure volunteers know that they are important and that they deserve to get the most out of their volunteer experience. I want to make sure volunteers have a say in what different areas they would like to work in at MICA. I am also excited about building relationships and getting to know volunteers a little better. I want them to feel welcome and appreciated at MICA. I will keep you updated on how this project turns out during my next report!
Family Development – Home Visits
I am really happy that despite how busy I am with LIHEAP and the Emergency Food Shelf, there is still room for me to serve as an interpreter for Spanish speaking families. Home visits in Poweshiek County are really great because I get to visit families in their homes and watch them grow. I love being able to inform parents about how great their children are doing in school or to see parents work as hard as they can to provide for their families. I also like that the families I work with are no longer afraid of asking for my help. I think I have earned their trust and have become another person they can relate to in a predominately white community.
Becoming part of the community
The most commonly asked question about my fellowship experience has to be, do you like your job? YES! I love my job. I really enjoy meeting people in the community through work, as well as helping and empowering them. Recently, I have notice that I know people who access our services on a first name basis and they know my name too! Whenever people come into the office I am no longer the new girl! Additionally, people will ask for my help when they come in or when they call. As silly as it sounds, I feel like I have been accepted into the Grinnell Community. I feel like I have become part of the community because I try to do other things in the community during my off time. For instance, I attend community meal every other Tuesday and get to occasionally socialize with new people. Other days I socialize with people I already know and get to know them better. Another reason I also feel like part of the community is because people know me as the girl who works at MICA and not a Grinnell College graduate.
Well, that is all I have for this report. Thanks for reading and have a great day! Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments you may have at firstname.lastname@example.org. Until next time!!!!!