Sunday, April 30, 2006

It's So Hard to Say Goodbye...

As I said before, Thursday was the final day for our regular after-school program and the last day for several youth programs staff. We ended two weeks early. Here are some pictures of me and my kids on the last day. The party and talent show went really well. Things ran pretty smoothly, by our standards at least. It was the best talent show we had this year (our third one). For the final act, the staff peformed a dance to a Jackson 5 song, complete with some 70's costumes. We made it up and rehearsed it earlier that day. The kids seemed to enjoy it. I made a video of our farewell party. It turned out well - I got some great footage of the kids. Speaking of videos, I also finished my video for Extreme Home Makeover last week and I am going to mail it in with the application tomorrow. I got some really good footage with that too. How can ABC pass up my cute kids?? Anyways, I really enjoyed our last day and tried not to think about how sad it was until it was over. Afterwards I went out with several of my coworkers and then it started to sink in. We really had a great after-school staff and we worked well together. And the coordinator did an amazing job. It will be hard without them. We had a great year and I am sad that it is over. But those of us who remain are going to do all that we can. Tomorrow starts the first day of our "new" after-school schedule. For the next three weeks we will be open three days a week for two hours, for homework help only. Most of our volunteers are going to keep coming which is great. And the kids can still come to eat at Kids Cafe. But that's it. I have a feeling this is going to be hard to enforce, but we'll see how it goes. A lot of the kids won't understand why we can't just have the normal program. I'm going to be asked over and over why I can't open the gym or the computer lab and I will keep having to tell them no. I am not looking forward to that. I had a super long meeting on Friday about our possiblities for the summer and also about keeping the community garden going. So don't worry, I will have plenty to do. And I will still get to see the kids. But this transition time is going to be rough. And whatever happens in the summer, it won't be the same without all the staff that were laid off.

And this weekend sucked. My last entry on Thursday night says I had a horrible headache and basically it never went away. I'm not sure what is wrong, but I have felt awful the past few days. Talk about bad timing. First off it is no fun being sick on the weekend when I would much rather be out doing things. And it gave me lot of time to sit around and dwell on what has happened this past week, which is not good either. I didn't make it out much - only for church tdoay. And I have slept A LOT. I have enjoyed having time to read for pleasure this year, but I couldn't even do that this weekend! I could only make it through two pages of my book with this headache. Staring at my computer isn't helping either. Hopefully I feel better soon. It is important that I am at work this week, and Derby is next weekend! I need to get rested up for that. Ok I can't take this headache anymore, goodnight.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Check This Out

Today was the last day of the after-school program and the last day for several staff. It has been a very busy, crazy, stressful day, but also a great one. So many emotions are going through me right now I don't even know what to say. So I will write on this later, but for now, check out this article about Americana:

It was in the Courier Journal today. (Louisville's main newspaper). I guess it is good we are getting some publicity....

Don't worry you will hear from me soon. It has been a long day and I have a terrible headache, so I need to go to bed. Tomorrow at work is going to suck. I don't want to go. Blah.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Thoughts on Thunder...and other things

Saturday marked the beginning of the two week long celebration until the Kentucky Derby on May 6 (and heck yes I am going, you will hear more on that later) I heard someone describe Derby as a season around here; you have Christmas, Easter, and then Derby. I would say I agree so far. Yesterday was "Thunder over Louisville". According to the news, a crowd of 800,000 headed down to the waterfront for this event. There was an air show all afternoon, "The best air show ever" apparently. We got downtown around 5ish and it was well underway and contiuned until the fireworks. We ran into a couple protestors along the way and talked to them a bit. They gave us a flyer and I have to say I definitely agree with their argument. The whole display was very militaristic. I'll admit the planes were cool looking, but when you think of their real purpose, it is rather disturbing. These protestors had some good points, such as "don't equate reveling in glamorized military might with patriotism" and my favorite "Respect and welcome Louisville's growing immigrant communities, some of whom relive the terror of warplanes bombing their towns." I think that is well put. We had discussions about this at work the past week. We live right by the airport and they were testing those damn planes all week. Heck, I had dreams about being bombed! And I know it disturbed some of the kids, and adults too I'm sure. Anyways, after the controversial air show (in my mind at least) was a rather impressive display of fireworks, fired off from the Second Street Bridge over the Ohio River. They say it is the biggest and best fireworks display in the nation and I would have to agree. Definitely the best I have ever seen. We watched them from inside the Presbyterian headquarters downtown (thanks to a friend of the LUC). There was a big window up high with a great view of the bridge, so we could see them well. However I must say I prefer watching fireworks outside. But we did get the benefit of air conditioning and clean restrooms, along with delicious free food provided for us. We did brave the crowds for awhile and walk around before the fireworks and it was pretty insane. So was getting home. We took the bus, but it took us forever to get out of the massive crowd of people to get to the bus stop (the normal one, not the special one running just for Thunder, we're cheap). We were stuck in a traffic jam of people for a good twenty minutes, barely moving. Of course my allergies were acting up and I had an asthma attack at this precise moment. We finally made it to the bus, only to sit on it for a good hour and a half before returning home! But it was a fun night. I did enjoy the fireworks although the still bitter side of me was thinking "one of those fireworks could have saved Americana Community Center!" The whole thing cost $6 million!! Isn't that ridiculous? And it was rather ironic that Thunder coincided with Earth Day this year.

Tomorrow starts the last week of the full-blown after-school program. We are going to end on Thursday with a party and talent show. And Friday will be the last day of work for those getting laid off. So last week at work wasn't too bad. We told the kids on Tuesday (right after I returned from my mini-break at home, which really was perfect timing to get away). But then I was snapped back into reality. Most of them don't really get it, especially the younger ones. Or they won't realize it until it's over. Some were really sad though, and that was hard. And the behavior has gotten worse since we told them. Again, it hasn't quite sunk in for me. But the mood at work has been more hopeful than I expected. The rumor mill has been spreading around town that we are completely shutting down, which is obviously not the truth. I guess you could describe it as more of a "step back" or a "restructuring." It seems like things will look up again in the near future (at least that is what they are leading us to believe). Those of us who remain will contiune providing homework help three days a week until school is over, along with some volunteers hopefully. And we will still have Kids Cafe, which provides dinner for the kids three days a week. And it looks like we will be able to offer activities in the summer, although it won't be a full-blown summer program like they have had in the past. It still sucks though. It will be sad to not work with these people after next week. I don't even want to think about it! And it looks like the job of youth programs coordinator will be put on Shavaun and I this summer. Not sure we can live up to the great job that Amy did with this - they are really losing a valuable person. I have been having fun with my coworkers lately. We had a "poker night" the other day at my apartment after work and I won!! We each put in $2 so I got a little money too. I have never won poker before so that was exciting for me. Friday night a bunch of us went out to dinner at a local Italian restaurant. And then a few of us went out to kareoke. That was a lot of fun. It was this little Korean place where you rent a private room. For anyone who went to Vietnam with me, it was very similar to what we did there. It was an amusing time, especially since none of us can really sing. Ah..good times. I hope to still hang out with these people often after they are no longer working with me!

Ok time for bed. It's going to be a long week.....

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Can I borrow a couple hundred......thousand?

Wednesday evening I went out after work to a Japanese restaurant with several of my co-workers. I tried sushi for the first time (actually I just tried the vegetable rolls, I really don't think I can handle the raw fish). Anyways, it was a good time and as always I enjoyed the company of the great people I work with. None of us knew what would happen the next day....(like my attempts of making this really dramatic? well actually, it is very dramatic, keep reading...)

Thursday started off as a normal morning at work, and then I was called into Edgardo's office around 11:30 to find this out: The community center is struggling with money, a lot more than most of us realized, so as a last resort, several people have to be laid off. The majority of the people in this picture will no longer have jobs at Americana after two weeks. Since I am not paid by the community center, but by Urban Corps, they can obviously afford to keep me. So I will be sticking around, but my job duties will definitely change. As Edgardo was explaining all this, it took a few minutes for the impact of all this to hit me. The entire after-school staff has to be laid off, including the youth programs coordinator (who has done so much for the center and did most of the work for our new community garden). The financial manager and even the janitors are being laid off as well. Others have to cut back their hours. This leaves only three full-time paid staff. My friend Shavaun and I will still be working there full-time as well through August at no cost to them (Shavaun is there through Americorps). But everyone else sadly has to go. I am very sad that I will no longer be working with these great people every day. But the worst part by far will be having to tell the kids this. In case you didn't catch this, since we will no longer have youth programs staff, we will no longer have youth programs. We are going to have to shut down the after-school program in two weeks (luckily only two weeks earlier than we had already planned since school will be done next month). And we will not be having a summer program, which they have had for years at the center It was going to serve over 100 kids. And most of the after-school staff was going to stay for the summer program, which I was excited for. The kids do not know yet. We have not discussed yet how or when we are going to tell them. I'm not quite sure how I am going to tell all my adorable African children that they can no longer come to the community center. It breaks my heart.

You may be wondering how this came about out of nowhere. I'm sure it is something the directors have been struggling with for a long time, but they did not let us in on it. Funding from multiple sources has been cut or lessened. A lot of non-profits are struggling with the economy right now. So it was not just one thing, but several. I am sure they fought hard and tried to do everything they could so it would not come to this. But in the end it had to. So unless a miracle happens, this is how it has to be. This is obviously a very depressing situation and I have taken it pretty hard. I am very emotionally invested in this job. And I didn't see it coming at all. But I'm trying to look on the bright side of things. I have had eight wonderful months working there, and I still have four more to go. I am wondering what exactly my job will be without the kids. I will still be the facility manager, but that is not a full-time job. I am sure I will just end up helping out with whatever needs done. Whether that be financial, administrative, etc. And I will have a part in deciding where we should go from here and what we can do with the staff we have. I am sure I will keep busy, but it won't be the same. But I fully intend to continue building relationships with the kids I have come to know and love. I will still see them since they live right by the community center and will most definitely be hanging around outside in the summer. Shavaun and I are going to decide what we can do between the two of us. And the current staff has already said they would be willing to volunteer so maybe we could run the program one day a week. I am up for part of my job to simply be going outside and hanging out with the kids that are there. And I guess I will be helping out with the garden as well. So I am not sure what the future holds, but part of my job will be figuring out what we are still capable of doing at the center. And I have a feeling this will be a question: so what will still go on at the community center? Well, the adult education program that is run through the public schools will still be there. They have a summer G.E.D. and ESL program. There is also an ESL program in the morning for kids, which mostly targets the Hispanic population. Not so much the African population though (which was what our afternoon program would have been). And groups contiunally rent the center for various things. So it will still be running, but without our current youth programs that were staffed and paid for by the center. They worked so hard to get where we were, but we are in a need of a lot of money to keep it going. The associate director worded it something like this: I feel like I have been climbing a mountain the past five years and I finally reached the top, just to be kicked down. Horrible huh??

Well I still have two more weeks of working normally before it will really sink in. So everyone pray for a miracle and if you have a couple hundred thousand dollars laying around you would like to donate, let me know! With something so drastic happening, maybe we will be able to get the money we need as people realize the scope of it. But that is a small hope. An even smaller hope is my Extreme Home Makeover application. I was halfway done with the video when I found this out, and I decided to keep going with it. I am going to finish it up next week. It does make for a better story. I put a new "interview" with me in the middle. I taped myself while I was alone in the house during my lunch break and I explained the new situation, without holding back my emotions. That's the kind of stuff that show is made of. And how will they be able to resist my footage of all the cute little refugee children, knowing that without out their help the youth program will shut down. Now wouldn't that be a miracle!!

I apologize for the long entry, but I obviously have a lot going through my mind. And the next few weeks will be a little hard for me. Right now I am at home in Ohio for Easter. I drove home last night after work. It will be good to get a little break and spend time with family and friends. I should get back to that now. I will return to Louisville Monday evening or Tuesday morning.

Oh one more thing I have to mention. After we were all told this information Thursday, we decided we could not go through with having the after-school program like normal and closed it for the day. We sat around for a good hour or so just being depressed and coming up with crazy ideas for fundraising that made us all laugh. And then we decided we needed to go somewhere and we ended up at Hooters. I had never been there, but a few others (who were females by the way) decided they were in the mood for some good chicken wings and beer. It was comfort food. And they do have good chicken by the way. And the next morning at seminar when Susan asked if any of us went to a Maundy Thursday service I replied "Nope, I was at Hooters!" What a way to spend my Maundy Thursday. In shock/depressed at Hooters with some great people. Oh yeah, Happy Easter to everyone, however you may be spending it!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Rest and Relaxation

Things were back to normal today after a nice & easy week at work and a quiet, relaxing weekend. The kids were on spring break last week and we had activities planned for them only three days and we were done by 5. It was nice to get home at a normal time for a week and work less than usual. The weather was beautiful and we were outside most of the time. It was pretty low-key. We had around 20 kids each day, which is so much easier to manage! And I got my exercise while at work: kickball, frisbee, flying kites (which the kids made), gardening, relay races, etc. It was a fun week. We also tye dyed shirts, which was one of the things I planned. I was a little nervous about it, but it turned out great! Friday was the easiest day at work I think I have ever had. “International Youth Day” was held in our parking lot and I had nothing to do with the planning. It was basically a party in the parking lot and I just got to hang out all day and enjoy having no responsibility for the event. It was wonderful. And although the weather got a little crazy later, it was beautiful for this.

That brings me to the start of my relaxing weekend. Three of my housemates were in Chicago, so the house was rather quiet, especially compared to last weekend when we had a house full of guests. The excitement of Friday again was the weather. Early evening I was the only one in the house watching a movie when I heard the tornado sirens go off. Five minutes earlier it was nice and sunny out, so I just ignored them. Then Katie runs in from outside holding marble sized pieces of hail in her hand. It was crazy outside. I thought maybe it would be a good idea to turn off the movie and check the weather. Right as I do the weatherman says "A funnel cloud was just spotted (insert my exact location in Louisville here)" So we decided it was a good idea to go in the basement. Luckily nothing hit the ground, but the weather was definitely insane. Two tornado warnings in less than a week. I hope this isn't normal! After Keith returned safe from work, the three of us decided to watch "The Big Lebowski" which inspired us to be lazy and bum around. Since the weather calmed down we sat out on our "porch" for a couple of hours and just talked. It was nice. By the way, our "porch" is a mini roof we can climb to from Ben's window which overlooks the back parking lot. Now that it is warm I have a feeling we will spend a lot of time out there. I enjoyed my first roof experience here. It is also a good way to help monitor some of the "activities" that go on after dark in our parking lot. I think we might have stopped some drug deals! A few cars sped off after they spotted us. The rest of the weekend was even less eventful, so I can stop here. But I enjoyed it. The three of us left in Louisville had a nice, quiet weekend. The dynamic in the house really changes when you take half of us away. (but I was happy to see the rest return, in case you were worried!)

And one more thing. One of my housemates watches “Extreme Makeover Home Edition” on ABC every Sunday and I usually join her. We always comment that we should nominate our building for a makeover. Well I actually decided to do it. I have the application filled out and I started the video tonight. I think we have a great story - three non-profit organizations housed in a 50 year old school building! This place could definitely use some repairs & improvements. I will start filming at work tomorrow - the cute little kids will be the ones to sell this. Not that I actually expect we will be chosen, chances are slim to none, but it is fun to try! I think it fits in my job description as facilities manager. Why not try to get the community center a free makeover?

Monday, April 03, 2006

Hooray for Spring!

Well I can't top Laura having her baby, but in addition to the birth of Trevor, April 1st was also the day of our community garden kick-off. We divided our garden into 50 plots and we have a diverse group of people signed up. It is an exciting project and a great way to get the neighborhood together. Saturday served as an orientation and gardeners had a chance to paint a sign to mark their plot. You can see the beautiful sign my housemate Katie painted for our plot. We haven't started planting yet. That shall come soon. A lot of our kids showed up because their families signed up for plots. They seem really excited about the garden. We have a few plots set aside just for the kids. We will be doing some gardening with them in the coming weeks. I guess I will be learning a few things! Luckily Saturday was a beautiful day for this event. It got a little out of control at the end when a lot of kids showed up (including ones banned from the center) and wanted to run through the garden and paint everything (including me). But for the most part, it was a good time.

The rest of the weekend was good too. We had a lot of visitors, so our house was full. Most of them were there because of the Humana Festival at the theatre. Friday night I got to see two more excellent plays back to back. The second one was put on by the apprentice company, so we got to see our housemate Ben in action. I also played pool two nights in a row, but I still suck. Actually I think I might be getting worse! Sunday's excitement was the weather. I was rather annoyed when they interrupted "Desperate Housewives" ten minutes in to report the same things over and over. Eventually the tornado sirens went off and we all hung out in the basement of the community ministries for awhile. We had bad weather, but no twisters near us.

That is us being scared because of the tornado warning! And that brings me to this week. It is spring break!! Not that I actually get the week off because I work at a community center, not a school, but it is still exciting. We are having spring break camp Tues, Wed, and Thurs for the kids, and earlier in the day which makes me happy. We have a lot of fun activities planned, most of them outdoors, so I hope the weather is nice. It will be a nice break from the norm. Today no kids and I got home at 5:00. What an easy day! Andrea and I had our "little sisters" over this evening. It had been a month since we saw them last because they were in the process of moving and we couldn't get a hold of them. We made cookies and played darts and they loved it. They are so easily entertained. But we now have a few extra holes in our wall due to their lack of aim. And here's a story for you: After we picked them up they talked about the new fish they got the whole car ride (which is unfortunately 20 minutes, I wish they lived closer). These fish really excited them. So when we dropped them off they really wanted us to come in and see the fish. Well we get up to their room and their favorite fish was not in the tank. I looked down and it was on the carpet dead!! Their cat knocked off the lid and threw it to the floor apparently. I felt so bad, but yet I had to try so hard not to laugh. Their mom promised them a new fish and they said a little prayer over it as they flushed it down the toilet. (including asking God to get them a new fish) If you had been there, I bet you would have been amused as well. And here's a picture of Krissy next to the first dart she got in the wall (several of them followed) Notice how it is nowhere near the dart board.
Well that's all for now, hope you enjoyed the pictures.

Oh more thing, I tried Ethiopian food for the first time last week and I loved it! I always heard it is a little weird and assumed I wouldn't like it, but it's great. I even liked the spongy bread. I went with a bunch of my coworkers and we plan to go again sometime. Especially since this Ethiopian restaurant also has a bar which becomes a salsa club on the weekends! What a great combination!