Pictured are the regional AmeriCorps workers who were in San Jose on July 25 for a celebration of their capstone projects. (Photo: Cynthia Shaw)
Each fall, a new class of AmeriCorps workers becomes a critical part of the American Red Cross, supporting offices and staffing teams in regions throughout the country. It’s a union that benefits both the workers and the Red Cross: The AmeriCorps employees gain valuable on-the-job experience, while the Red Cross is the recipient of the workers’ key support, ideas, and energy.
The value of the AmeriCorps/Red Cross partnership was especially evident at a recent end-of-year celebration, honoring the tremendous work done in 2018–19 by the AmeriCorps employees of the Northern California Coastal Region (NCCR). The celebration, during which each of the workers described his or her “capstone project” for the past year, took place on July 25 at the Silicon Valley Chapter in San Jose.
Delaram “Deli” Mehrkish was just one of the dozen AmeriCorps workers who were — very deservedly — saluted that day.
Working out of the region’s San Jose office, Mehrkish described how she, Gurpreet Lally, and Timothy Fader designed a “Prepare Your Club” capstone project that trained leaders of area youth clubs in the principles of the Red Cross’s Home Fire Campaign — and in the process, encouraged the club members to inspect their own homes for emergency preparedness.
“Because of our project, the Red Cross was able to reach an additional 44 homes in Santa Clara County, ensuring that the residents of those homes had working smoke alarms and were educated in emergency preparedness,” Mehrkish says. “It was so successful that, with the efforts and momentum of our youth volunteers, we hope to make this a permanent youth-led project here in Santa Clara County.”
Mehrkish, shown in the accompanying photo (front row, second from left), is quick to say that AmeriCorps workers like her get as much from the Red Cross experience as they give. “Working for a nonprofit such as the Red Cross has given me so much fulfillment,” she says. “Not only have I gained professional skills and wisdom to help me in my future career, but I have also met the most incredible volunteers and employees, and I feel like I belong to a whole new community.”
Mehrkish, whose AmeriCorps term ends on August 23, adds that she will always cherish her year with the Red Cross. “I feel indebted to the people who showed me so much compassion from day one,” she says, giving an extra nod of appreciation to staff members she interacted with regularly in the Silicon Valley Chapter office: Jonathan Bernier, Nikki Rowe, and Romina Cervantes. “I am now a better person because of the experience.”
Allie Parker, who along with Bernier are the NCCR Volunteer & Youth Services employees who coordinate the region’s AmeriCorps program, says the members of this year’s AmeriCorps workforce provided key support — on a daily basis — in almost every line of service. “And, with their capstone projects, they imagined, created, and implemented initiatives that really augmented our operation,” Parker says. “We are so grateful for their effort and impact.”
Here is a list of all of our region’s amazing AmeriCorps 2018-19 team members, as well as a brief description of the capstone projects they undertook during the past year:
Cameron Soon, Regional Preparedness Coordinator
Project: GIS Mapping for Home Fire Campaign activities — Cameron created a GIS training for volunteers and staff to be able to utilize mapping while planning for “Sound the Alarm” events. By using GIS to plan their Sound the Alarm home visits, teams can factor in high fire-risk areas, previous Disaster Action Team calls, and more.
Danielle Halprin, International Services & Service to the Armed Forces Coordinator
Project: Consulate Engagement — Danielle worked to reach out to 40+ international consulates in our region in an effort to build partnerships with the current national delegates who are stationed in our region representing their nations. These partnerships also help the consulates stay up to date on Red Cross offering. Halprin even taught a few disaster preparedness classes to consulate employees.
Darren Adams, Disaster Services Coordinator (Alameda County)
Project: Shelter Management Decision-Making Tool
Darren built an Excel tool that allows teams to input all shelter data from the National Shelter System (NSS) and filter by immediate need when opening a shelter. His tool considers variables such as shelter location, population size, accessibility, etc. The tool will allow teams to better utilize our shelter partnership database while considering the immediate needs for a shelter.
Deli Mehrkish, Gurpreet Lally, and Timothy Fader, Youth Services Coordinators (San Jose)
Project: Prepare Your Club Initiative — This trio worked to ensure that not only are our youth volunteers educated in fire safety, but that their own homes are actually prepared as well. By leveraging youth executive boards, the group was able to encourage youth volunteers to do a fire-education safety check, including checking for working smoke alarms. If the youth found that they did not have working smoke detectors, they filled out a form, and a local “Sound the Alarm” team scheduled a home visit. Through this program, we were able to have youth better prepare dozens of their own households.
Hannah Christen, Disaster Services Coordinator (Humboldt)
Project: Disaster Action Team Resources Guide, including pocket resource guides, local services, and lodging information — Hannah created a local resources binder for Disaster Action Team volunteers in Humboldt and Del Norte Counties. This includes updated maps, partner agency contacts, and tips and tricks for new volunteers on the DAT team.
Gwynn Domecq, Youth Services Coordinator (Oakland), and Steven Rolon, Youth Services Coordinator (San Francisco)
Project: Volunteer Relations Training for Lead Volunteers and Staff — Gwynn and Steven created two trainings for volunteer relations. The first is an onboarding training for new volunteers on the Volunteer Relations Team; this training gives a detailed overview of the Volunteer Relations process, the various roles and responsibilities, and includes a table-top exercise. The second training is designed to help volunteer supervisors better understand the Volunteer Relations process as well as provide tips and tricks on how to engage in helpful conversations that prevent challenging interactions from escalating into difficult cases.
Hannah Tarling, Disaster Services Coordinator (Santa Clara County)
Project: Starting-a-DR Job Tools for Santa Clara County — Hannah created various job tools designed to help volunteers and staff launch a Disaster Relief Operation out of the Silicon Valley Chapter. These tools include information on how to access the building after hours, vehicle maintenance, and how to create an initial staffing pattern.
Jessica Gregory, Volunteer & Youth Services Coordinator (Sonoma County)
Project: Academic Service-Learning Framework for Youth Volunteer Service — Jessica built a framework for establishing an Academic Service Learning Program with high schools or universities. This included a template MOU, onboarding tools for supervisors, and initial projects with which the volunteers could help.
Kat Vincent, Youth Services Coordinator (Oakland)
Project: Internship Program — Kat created an internship request, recruitment, and placement process to ensure that our region is aligned with national Red Cross policies. She was able to recruit and place over 10 summer interns in four different offices and four different departments.
Katie Glockner, Regional Workforce Engagement Coordinator
Project: Disaster Health Services Shelter Handbook — Katie worked alongside the Divisional Health Services lead to gain input for local DHS volunteers on the new shelter protocols. This also included updating all of our regional sheltering kits with the new information as well as equipping our region’s DHS volunteers with this knowledge as they deploy out of region.