Organizing Life


How You Can Help Create Jobs!
December 21, 2009, 8:41 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Dear Precious Family and Friends,

Over the past month or so, many of you have asked a lot about my work and my new job and have been so supportive of our effort here at WeatherizeDC.  Many of you have also asked how you can help or get in on the action.

I have the perfect way for you to be involved!  But first,take a look at team field’s incredible performance.  WeatherizeDC’s 12 Days of Christmas: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4x-qM7CoCFQ.  I know…I tried to hide in the back, but it just didn’t happen.

Now, back to the purpose of this email.  Many of you have been with me every step of my journey through grad school and defining my calling as a social worker and activist. Now you have the chance to participate.  We need people like you to be ambassadors for our new organization.  Help us spread the word!   Since the September launch of WeatherizeDC, we hired 4 full-time field organizers, trained 11 organizing fellows from four campuses, hosted 14 energy meetings and contacted 1,251 people at the doors to identify 529 homeowners interest in weatherizing.

As a result of this work, we hope you celebrate and tell your family and friends about Stephon, the first career created by WeatherizeDC.  Stephon has been unemployed for over a year and began working a few nights a week at CVS to help out his family. Stephon finally started a new career in the beginning of December as a weatherization technician; he takes home a family-sustaining wage, benefits and an opportunity for career mobility.


This past week Stephon sat down with President Obama (below in green) to talk about the real changes in his life brought by community organizing around energy efficiency.


How to be a WeatherizeDC Ambassador over the holidays?
As you consider your charitable giving at the end of this year, please keep WeatherizeDC in mind and ask others to join our cause.

Download the information sheet below that duals as a donation form for you to pass out to friends and family over the next few days.  Funding is a reality for any growing non-profit and we know we can continue to create careers and healthy communities, but we need help.

You can be a WeatherizeDC Ambassador to your home, your block, your neighborhood, your region, however large a turf you can handle…

We need your support as we continue to reduce home energy use and our carbon footprints, as well as create family sustaining and career track jobs for people who need it the most!


WeatherizeDC Ambassador Sheet  <http://org2.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=LrDMiOjDDyRuunAKk4V1OWm9%2BVE%2FgPdK>

Again, thank you so much for your support throughout my journey and especially the six months between grad school and this job.  I couldn’t have made it without each of you.


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2009: A look back
December 14, 2009, 2:20 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

2009 has been one of the best and hardest years of my life, full of numerous life changes and adventures.  So, as it comes to a close I thought I’d recap some of the highlights.  I give credit for this idea to Kristen Nielsen.  Click on each picture to find out what’s happening.



A Quick Update
December 11, 2009, 2:53 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Hey folks! I know it’s been a while, but from previous posts, you know what my life is like now…BUSY!

I wanted to fill you in a little on everything that’s happening with our organization. We are cranking!

I have an excellent team set up in the Cathedral Heights area of DC at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church which is located right next to the National Cathedral. This is a beautiful area of town with people who are ripe for weatherization. The team has taken on weatherizing 20 homes by Christmas and an additional 30 after! What?!?! Awesome. I had an energy meeting at the church last Sunday where 3 of the 6 homeowners decided to begin the weatherization process! CRAZY!!

This past Saturday in the snow storm we went out to the Northwest DC area and knocked on doors in the Chevy Chase, DC neighborhood. It was amazing! We had 35 volunteers who came out in the freezing cold/snow/sleet/freezing rain. There is no better day to convince people to weatherize their homes!!! We knocked on over 530 doors, spoke to over 250 people, and had over 130 people interested in weatherization. This is a great pool of people that we are following up with to point them in the direction of home energy meetings all over Northwest DC on December 16th for our Energy Meeting Festival.

I’ve mentioned several times (I think) that there are a TON of eyes on us watching what we’re doing…including the biggest eye, Obama. We have to make this work because people are looking at us as a cutting edge way to create jobs and reduce home energy use. We’ve been featured in The Nation, The Huffington Post, and had an interview with ABC News (Don’t know when it will air). So, the word is getting out. See below for links to the articles.

Speaking of creating jobs….because of our work over the past 2.5 weeks the home performance company we’ve contracted with has hired 2 new people from under-served areas of DC. That’s right….we’ve already created 2 NEW JOBS!!! And these aren’t just minimum wage jobs. They are unionized, family-sustaining jobs with benefits and a stable career track. We also work to provide case management for the workers during their training and then for the first year of employment.

So, as you can see, things have been cooking and we’re working hard to build and push for the 16th. I’ll be glad when the 17th is here and I can focus on more relationship building and take a breath. the 23rd will be here soon and I’ll get a week of vacay…I haven’t had a day off since the Sunday of Thanksgiving. Hopefully I’ll get one this weekend! 🙂

But, I love it! I love my job and love the people I work with…this makes life enjoyable, even when it’s crazy busy!

Links:
Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kristen-psaki/home-weatherization-one-o_b_387830.html

The Nation:
http://www.since1865.com/doc/20091123/mendez_berry_sidebar1

Yes! Magazine:
http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/climate-action/climate-hero-marcus-ryan

Also, please become a fan of us on facebook. Just search The DC Project.



WeatherizeDC website
November 29, 2009, 12:00 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Here is the link to our website. We’re going to be getting a much better up-to-date one in the next month or so, so keep checking back. But, this should help a little.

http://www.weatherizedc.org



A Little Late is Better Than Never
November 28, 2009, 11:58 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Sorry I’ve been remiss in posting, and, again, sorry this is soooooooo LONG. I was afraid this would happen. I work crazy hours and wondered if I would find the time to post regularly. I really wanted to share this part of my life with you so I started the blog anyway. Please hang in there with me as I figure out when I’ll be able to post.

So, I’ve had one week as an organizer and I’m sure there are plenty of you out there who are still wondering, “What the heck does an organizer do?”

Well, here is what I do…
My main responsibilities are to get the wealthy people of Northwest Washington, DC to weatherize their homes so that we can employ people from traditionally marginalized communities who have gone through our green job training program. So, I’m out there creating the demand or marketplace for green jobs.

How do I do this? I spend my mornings reaching out to stake holders in Northwest to set up meetings with to discuss how they can become involved in our mission. I set up meetings to discuss the values of WeatehrizeDC and how they are in line with the stake holders values. I then get them on board with our mission and get them to either host a house meeting or organize a community meeting. These people may also become my team leaders or will be important networking tools to get the word out.

Then before and after lunch I’ll have a meeting with a stake holder or with a person who is about to hold a house/community meeting. These meetings are what we call one-on-ones. I sit down with the person one-on-one (hence the name) and flesh out how we can partner together and then outline tangible next steps. I get names of people who might be great volunteers, connectors, or possible meeting hosts and think creatively about how all of this works together to spark a grassroots movement.

I’ll come back from these meetings and begin working on readying materials for volunteers and myself who will make weatherization interest calls from 5-8:30 each night. These calls are to direct people we’ve met through door-to-door canvassing to a community or house meeting and also, perhaps, to go ahead and pass their names along to our home performance business if they are ready to weatherize their home.

At 8:30pm I report my numbers for the days:
How many weatherization interests calls did I make?
How many volunteer recruitment calls did I make?
How many one-on-ones did I schedule?
How many one-on-ones did I hold?
How many house/community meetings did I schedule?
How many house/community meetings did I hold?
How many homeowners attended the house/community meetings?
How many people did I pass along to the home performance company?

We are in a big push right now to weatherize 200 homes by the beginning of March for our pilot program. This means that by December 17th I must have 20 homes passed on to weatherize, 2 neighborhood teams set up, and on December 16th, I must have 2 house meetings and 1 community meeting being held.

When I found all of this out during our staff retreat I almost passed out right there. You mean that in 3 weeks I need to have all of this together? NUTZ!!!!! Even though I was on a high from the connectedness (is that a word??) of the retreat, I still walked around in a constant state of nausea… what if I can’t hit the targets? Am I really capable of this? Did these people really know who they were hiring when they hired me? What did my references REALLY say? I had trouble sleeping at nights because I was ALREADY worried about numbers and I hadn’t really even started yet.

But, here’s the realization that I came to…
Yes, this is going to be difficult, but aren’t some of the best things in life, the ones you’re the most proud of difficult?
Yes, this is going to push me out of my comfort zone, but I can’t grow if I’m not pushed.
Yes, I’ve never really done this before, but I’m going to do it now and try to do it the best I can. If it doesn’t work out, well, then, at least I tried.

When it came time to split up NW DC into turfs, I really lucked out. I got neighborhoods with a TON of churches and the one organizer that had been working there for a month already had some connections that he passed on to me. This has really made hitting those daunting targets a little easier.

I already have:
1 neighborhood team almost in place
1 home meeting set for December 16th
1 home meeting for December 6th
A possible team leader for my second team

So, things are shaping up nicely. I still fall asleep thinking about numbers, but at least I fall asleep. I’m exhausted from commuting so nothing really keeps me up. There are still days when I wonder if I can really do this, but those are fewer and spread farther apart.

I really began to realize that I will be good at this when I attended a community energy meeting set up by the organizer who has been working for a month. As I watched how he prepared for and lead the meeting I realized that this is totally up my alley. I did this all the time with my job at the CFCM. Now, instead of talking about how churches can get involved in their communities, I’ll be talking about how communities can provide a green job market. Same skills, different topic. We all left that meeting so energized and happy with the way it went, and I think a little relieved to finally experience a concrete aspect of our job.

This job is daunting, this job is challenging, but, man, this job is fun!



Retreating
November 19, 2009, 2:02 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Do you remember that church camp high that you would get about half-way through the week, just sure that you would go back and change your life to live “right for Christ?” That’s kind of how I’m feeling right now. This staff retreat has been an amazing experience. I am so lucky to be working with such a young, talented group of people who are out to fight the same issues and are on the same page even through our tremendous diversity.

Yesterday we each shared the 5-minute story of what brought us to The DC Project. We set ground rules that we would be present and actively listen to each story, we would be direct and transparent, we would be vulnerable and courageous. It was amazing. It reminded me a lot of the Servant Leadership School I went through with some of my fellow social work students. We left our garbage on the floor, learned how to listen to each other and learned where we’re all coming from. The coolest part about this experience was that even in our great diversity we had common themes and stories. It was AMAZING!!!

The difference between the church camp high and the high I have right now is that the church camp high fades because more often than not you are not willing to put in the work when you return home. The people of The DC Project are dedicated, hard-working people who will see this through. There will be ups and downs, but I trust this group with each of those.



New Beginnings
November 17, 2009, 4:45 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Hey everyone….

(This is a long post…I appolagize…but I had a lot of ground to cover…please hang in there)

So, I’ve decided to head back to the blogging world.  I haven’t really blogged since I lived in Hungary almost 4 years ago…crazy.  I feel now, though, with a new journey ahead of me that it might be time to share again…so here goes.

I’ve decided to start a blog again to give a glimpse into the life of a community organizer.  It’s much more than sipping coffee, trust me.  However, most people don’t know what it means to be a community organizer.  So this blog is set up to share stories (minus identifying information) and provide a “fly-on-the-wall” view of this life.

This first post is to set the stage, in essence…to answer the many questions I’ve received over the past week or so and to fill in those who’ve had no clue what is going on.

In May of this year I graduated from Baylor with a Masters of Divinity and a Masters of Social Work.  In June I began the two month trek to the DC area.  I stayed for a week or so with my old roommate Van and then stayed about six weeks with my best friend Stephanie.  This was a much needed time of rest.  I read constantly, caught up on TV shows I love, and just enjoyed life without stress…it was nice.  During this time I also began the process of sending out resumes and looking for jobs in the DC area.  I had a few bites and a few interviews, even one that required me to fly to DC for a face-to-face, but these never panned out.

So, in August I decided it was best that I move to the DC area to at least be near the job market I was trying to enter.  I moved to Fredericksburg, VA which is about an hour south of DC where my friend Courtney lived.  I lived here back in the spring when I did my internship with Bread for the World and loved the town.  Again, I immediately began searching for jobs. I looked for both full-time jobs and part-time jobs that would allow me to pay my bills while I waited for the perfect job.

In my mind, this perfect job was as an organizer for Bread for the World.  When I left Bread I left feeling like there might be an opportunity there for me if a job came open.  I left on good terms and everyone seemed impressed with my work.  A DC organizer position came open and I sent in my resume (along with over 200 other people).  I was called for a first interview but never made it to the second round.  This devastated me.  This was one of the main reasons I moved back to the DC area.  I really thought I had a shot at this position.  However, we all know the economic climate we’re living in, plus I’m trying to find employment in one of the most competitive cities.  So, I found myself working part-time at Kohl’s department store, making ends meet while I continued to look for jobs, and even contemplated applying for Ph.D. programs.

From the time I graduated in May until now I’ve applied for over 100 jobs in the DC area.  Constant rejection can really damage one’s soul.  Luckily, though, I’ve had very good friends who have encouraged me, reminded me who I am, and helped me not give up on the entire process.

So, Monday November 2nd, I was doing my usual search on idealist.org when I saw an opening for a field organizer with a nonprofit called The DC Project.  They were looking for an organizer for their Weatherize DC program.  Now, I know little to nothing about weatherization and never really considered going into the “green jobs” field.  I mainly want to work in anti-poverty related fields.  But, I thought, “Why not?”  So I sent in my resume that day.

On Tuesday, November 3rd, I received an email stating that the field director would like to schedule a phone interview with me.  So we set up a time for that Thursday.  The interview went very well.  It was the most positive interview I’d had.  I didn’t try to over think things.  I didn’t even really prepare for it.  I just went in thinking, “I’m so tired of all of this…I’m just going to be myself and see what happens.”  Apparently that worked.  The following Monday November 9th, only one week after applying I received a phone call asking to set up a face-to-face interview in DC for the next day.  So Tuesday I found myself commuting in once again for an interview with the field director and the executive director.

I had done a little research on the organization in between the interviews and found that it was a new start-up organized by former Obama organizers (yes, we can!) and when I got to the interview I realized that the people interviewing me where around my age or younger….crazy!  In our conversation/interview (where once again I just decided to be myself) I could feel a great vibe from them and I could since an energy about this organization that really inspired me.  I also discovered that the main purpose of the organization is to create a demand for weatherization so that we will create a demand for skilled labor in green jobs, which we can then train low-income/homeless people to fill….this means in essence they’re an anit-poverty organization?!?!?  YES!  Fabulous!

The interview went well and we discussed that they would try to make a decision by Thursday November so that I could give as much “heads-up” as possible to Kohl’s because The DC Project wanted me to start on Wednesday the 18th.  Thursday came and I received a voicemail stating that they were feeling a bit rushed and wanted to take a few more days before making a decision…they would let me know by Sunday.  Needless to say I became a bit nervous at this point.  I’ve been here before and I didn’t know if I could face another rejection.  It was all I could do to stay positive and think of it as a good thing that they were taking their time.  Luckily, on Saturday November 14, the executive director called to offer me the position, which I happily accepted…and the rest is history.  I start tomorrow with the 3-day staff retreat and then on Monday I’ll hit the ground running with each of you by my side praying, thinking of me, and reading the blog.

I know many of you out there have kept me in your thoughts and prayers during these past six months.  I can’t tell you how much that has meant to me.  I knew you were there, even if I never acknowledged it.  I truly felt it, even on the hard days.  So, all your effort has payed off.  Please continue to keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I begin on this new journey…and keep coming back for updates!!