AmeriCorps Navigator’s Log – Part I

In honor of AmeriCorps Week, today we begin a multi-part series entitled “The Navigator’s Log,” created by LaRhonda Boone, an AmeriCorps VISTA serving with Jersey Cares’ ServiceWorks program in Newark, NJ. ServiceWorks helps youth ages 16-24 to develop workplace skills through specialized training and to gain leadership experience by designing and implementing community service projects. You can learn more about ServiceWorks here.

Every volunteer’s story is unique, and while LaRhonda’s story, which is still being written, is her own, she provides us with insight into what it is, can be – and at times hopefully won’t often be – to be a volunteer.

Navigator’s Log Lovedate 248.2-15.1.47A

By: LaRhonda Boone, AmeriCorps VISTA


LaRhonda Boone, AmeriCorps VISTA

At a point in our Pre Service Orientation, I decided to stop trying. I stopped telling myself that I needed to question everything, understand everything, and be prepared for it all. “There’s no way”, I realized then, that I could know it all and even if they had told me everything (yes they tried), I wouldn’t have remembered it anyway (indeed I don’t). “Your task then”, I declared to myself, “is to become a Master Navigator.”

 We’ve been on this mission for 47 days and while we’ve yet to enter the true waters of full scholar-trainer-coach engagement, I find that what I’m most navigating, what I’m finding my way around and under, up and down, over and about is — myself.   

“Stay positive,” I say, to remind me of my ultimate goal, but that doesn’t mean I should ignore the rolling wave of ego that prevents me from seeing the amazing gifts others have to offer, or the crashing wave of stubbornness that wants to convince me my way is best. And there are other off-putting waves in this self that fight for attention: waves of judgment, frustration, angst, etc. but with every surge, the mighty wave of discovery pushes back. I’m seeing how humility makes way for empathy, how camaraderie slices through isolation, and how compassion swells purposefulness. I still have no idea what lies ahead, but a Master Navigator I strive to be, and it’s what pushes this self, this ship to stay the course.



City Spotlight: Plainfield

As a response to all of the amazing volunteer work being done across New Jersey, the Jersey Cares City Spotlight will showcase exceptional civic engagement weekly in a specific New Jersey community.

Plainfield is a city in Union County, New Jersey and has experienced exponential growth according to the United States Census. As of 2010, the city’s population increased to 49,808 – supposedly the highest ever recorded population in any decennial census! While Plainfield continues to grow in population, its citizens also grow in the number of places and ways they volunteer!

Last winter, Plainfield civic groups and businesses collected as many as 680 gently used and new coats and distributed them among four non-profit agencies through the Jersey Cares Coat Drive. Additionally, 183 children received holiday gifts through Frosty’s Friends, the Jersey Cares winter gift giving program. Nearly 80 corporate volunteers from Boston Consulting Group braved the chilly winter months and gave back over 300 hours to a Plainfield public middle school. These dedicated volunteers painted murals, planted flower pots, built four picnic tables and five bookshelves, totaling 308 hours of service that will benefit almost 750 students for years to come!

The warm spring temperatures brought even more eager volunteers to Plainfield! During the 16th Annual Jersey Cares Day, volunteers revitalized a Plainfield charter school by painting line games, walls and planter murals. Volunteers also gardened and assembled picnic tables, benches and bookshelves. This hard work totaled 326 hours of service and assisted about 750 children.

Not only is Plainfield dedicated to volunteering, but all Union County residents dedicate their time to others! Through the Volunteer Opportunity Calendar, Union County volunteers leverage their strengths to meet the needs of four non-profit agencies. On a weekly basis, you can find Jersey Cares volunteers socializing with seniors at Bingo Time in Berkeley Heights or sorting and packing food donations at Mobile Meals in Elizabeth and Marketplace in Hillside. Twice a month, our tech savvy volunteers teach computer skills to adults at Computer Essentials in Elizabeth.

Plainfield’s numbers have seen a steady increase in the recent years and we hope that along with more citizens comes even more enthusiasm for volunteering! For fun and exciting volunteer opportunities 365 days of the year, visit our website!