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Monday, July 16, 2012

We are so bad at this

If there was an entry in the dictionary for "world's worst bloggers" there would be a picture of the Armoury right next to it!  We are really bad at this.  I would like to say that we are going to get better, and I hope we do, but we have said it before so who knows!

What I can tell you is that things at the Armoury are great!  We enjoy having the Park Program kids every day and are sad to think that in just a couple weeks they won't be there anymore.  Listening to them running around and having a good time is good for our hearts.

We have been very blessed at the Armoury this summer.  A local child care provider and her children hosted there 2nd annual lemonade stand in support of Operation Backpack.  It is absolutely amazing to see the kids so excited about being able to help with this program.  They did such a great job and raised well over $100.  How amazing are these kiddos?  THANK YOU!!

Staring Point's Homestead Harvest Garden (formerly known as the Garden of Hope) is looking good.  As all the farmer's in our area know, drought isn't the best thing for gardens/crops, but we do the best we can and our garden is yielding pretty well considering.  There is just nothing better than fresh vegetables from the garden.  If we could find away to never have the ground freeze so we can do this all year, we would!

Mostly, the Armoury is quiet.  I love the quiet of summer but am looking forward to the crazy of the fall.  It's always nice to have a reprieve, but it's just like being on vacation, it reminds me how much I appreciate the normalcy of life.  And normal at the Armoury is usually watching us run around like chickens with our heads cut off.

Some things we would like you to be aware of.  August 7th is shaping up to be a wonderfully busy day at the Armoury.  In case you didn't know, it is National Purple Heart Day and through our new program, Military Family Outreach, we are hosting an open house at the Armoury from 1-3 pm.  If you are not a Purple Heart, you are INVITED, please come support those who have been injured serving our country.  There will be an Honor Guard presentation, as well as a short Purple Heart presentation and a time to honor not only our local Purple Heart Recipients but also any Gold Star Wives/Mothers, those currently serving and any veteran that will grace us with their presence.  We would love to have the public come out and help us honor these individuals and families.  Representatives Bobby Schilling, Noreen Hammond and Don Moffitt are all honoring us with their presence, so if nothing else, come on out an shake their hand!

Later that night, from 5-8 pm the Armoury is hosting it's 2nd Annual National Night Out in the Lincoln Homes Neighborhood in the open field near 6th Ave and 9th St.  There will be local social service agencies manning carnival type games, music and food.  We are hoping to have the local police department and fire department present as well, if they do come, look for a special game involving them.  Best of all the entire event is FREE!  Be sure to come out and see us.

August 7th with be a great way to bring us back to our "normal" at the Armoury.  Before you know it, the kids will be back in school and then we are in September, and the September Armoury calendar always tends to be a bit scary to look at.  :)

-Nicole

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

For the good of many

So blogger.com has this new portal page.  Have I ever mentioned how much I hate change!  Seriously, I know Facebook and Twitter and Blogger and every other social media outlet out there thinks that change is good, but I don't think they realize how many people they would make happy by just giving the option to leave things as they are...just my two cents!

Of course, I know life doesn't work that way.  Obviously, the people that work at all these places spend a lot of time coming up with these changes and making sure that they meet people's needs before we even know that we have them.  Social Services is a lot like that too.

Anyone who is/was/is thinking maybe someday to be involved in social services in any way knows exactly what I am talking about.  A lot of our days are spent brain storming ways to better serve our communities.  When we come up with something that we think is a winner, we meet a lot of naysayers over the "changes."  I am here to tell you though that we social service workers are resilient though.  Sure, we hear the negative, but we only remember the positive.  For every person who doesn't like the way that our changes affect them, there are at least 3 who are overjoyed!

The Armoury recently partnered with the YMCA and Warren County Health Department to start a Community Services Coalition and the first meeting was yesterday.  There was a great turn out from social service agencies throughout Warren County and everyone was excited for this new opportunity to collaborate with other agencies to better serve our community.  So yes, there are probably some changes in the future, just remember, it's all very well thought out, researched and planned.

So, as all the social media outlets continue to change their service, I try to remember that it isn't all about me.  Even when I want it to be, which is often!  But I realize that they are putting the same thought, research and planning into effect that we are, so it's tough to stay mad at them for doing my least favorite thing in the world...changing.
- Nicole

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Day in the Life

I am sure that you can only imagine the kind of excitement we have here at the Armoury on any given day.  I mean seriously, when you deal with things like answering the phone every now and then and smiling at people as they walk through the main hallway...how I sleep at night after all this excitement is beyond me!

I say this only because summer is a slower time at the Armoury.  The weather is nicer and for the most part, if people are going to have events and gatherings, they are going to try to have them outside.  I don't blame them at all!  In fact, may I just thank you all for that from the very bottom of my heart!!

We at the Armoury are always ready for summer to be here because things do slow down for us and that can be a welcome reprieve.  During the school year, things can get crazy busy and normal full time weeks can turn into 60 work weeks.

Don't get me wrong, we do not resent the hours at all.  In fact, almost 100% of the time we enjoy everything about our lives at the Armoury.  I say "our lives" because during the school year, we joke with each other that they Armoury really is our other home!  But it is wonderful because there are so many programs, partnerships and people that walk through our doors that it is tough not to just stand back and be amazed at far we have come in the last 4 years!  There is not one person in the Armoury who doesn't feel blessed to have the opportunity to be a part of this.

With all that being said...being able to take a breather, answer some phones and practice my smiling techniques is an absolutely wonderful feeling too!

Come August though, I will be ready for some action, as will the rest of the Armoury crew...which is good because September is already shaping up to be on crazy month!!!

- Nicole

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Accentuate the Positives

I have a confession to make...I am negative person by nature.  For those that actually know me, this may not be so much of a shocking confession, but it's a confession all the same.  Some people tend to look on the bright side of things...I am the person that looks at them like they are crazy and points out all the flaws with their theory.  You will never get a bright, shining beacon of hope out of me.

I realize that as you read something like that, you may be thinking to yourself, "Wow, I really hope I meet HER someday!" (sarcastic tone is assumed!)  It's ok, my feelings aren't hurt by that, I am who I am, and others are who they are.

That is part of what I like about what we do at the Armoury.  I can be myself while at the same time serving others who are themselves.  Will you walk into our doors and have a long conversation with me about the weather or anything else?  Probably not, but that isn't my job.  My job is to assess a situation, help if I can, and point you in the right direction if I can't.  See, deep down, I LOVE helping other people, I don't care with what, just with helping in general.

So, recently, Jack told me that we need to work at finding the things to celebrate.  Let's be honest, there is something to celebrate every day...such as the fact that we woke up this morning and the Lord blessed us with another day to spend serving Him.  I am just not wired to notice these things without actively looking for the.  So I have accepted Jack's challenge and am looking for the celebrations every day.

They are relatively easy to find...we have recently received a grant at the Armoury for our Homestead Harvest garden.  My kids are out of school for the summer so we have less of a schedule!  Other people recognize what we are doing in the community and support us so much that they are volunteering their time to help us expand our services and better serve Monmouth and the surrounding communities.  I have three pretty fantastic swimmers and enjoy watching them do something they enjoy doing!  We are very blessed to be able to work with other agencies within the community to better collaborate services as a whole.  My husband has a good job with good benefits so it isn't as important for me to have to find a job that does that.

All in all, there are a lot of celebrations every day that we can find....it's just a matter of looking for them and enjoying them.  I invite you all to do the same...find your celebrations today!!

Monday, May 21, 2012

The End of the Year

Ok, I know, it's not the end of the year, but it's the end of the school year and the start of summer so it's kind of like the end of the year.  It's funny how the lives of parents revolve around the school year.  I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing for it to be that way, education of course is one of the most important things we can offer our children, sometimes I just find it funny that there is more finality to the "year" in May than in December.

The end of this year is especially bittersweet for us here at the Armoury as we are saying goodbye to some very special people, John and Emily Doering-White.  For those who don't know, John has been with us at the Armoury for the past two years serving as our Intercultural Outreach Coordinator through the AmeriCorps VISTA program.  Emily moved to Monmouth last summer, after the two married, and has been working at Central School in the ESL program.  I have kids at Central, so I know how important she has become in that school, and how much she will be missed.

Of course, them leaving Monmouth and returning to the Detroit area of Michigan is a good thing...for them.  John will be entering into a joint doctoral program at the University of Michigan in Social Work and Anthropology.  Emily will be teaching through the Teach America program at Nolan Elementary School in Detroit and will come out of the program with a Master's in Education and her teaching certification.

These two are amazingly high achievers!!!  It is almost impossible not to as excited for them as they are...almost.

I learned recently that I am an introvert (I thought of myself as an extrovert, my husband laughed at me and said NO WAY!) and it makes sense, I am very outgoing, after I get to know you, but you have to introduce yourself to me and engage me in conversation for a relatively long courting period before I feel like I know you well enough to be the me my kids wish I wouldn't be sometimes!  With that, I find that change is something that I will go to almost any extreme to avoid (that and conflict!), but of course I cannot control the people around me and so change happens, more often than I would like, and life goes on.  John and Emily leaving is one of these said occasions.  They have become part of my family and I love them dearly but I can't help but wish they could just stay and not pursue their dreams for my comfort.  :)  I know, not realistic.

Both John and Emily have an inherent wish to leave the community they are in better than when they came, I believe that they have done that.  Bridges have been gapped and conversations have been started.  Not to mention the rather large number of individuals that John and Emily have personally formed relationships with in an effort to better serve their needs.

They will be missed, there is not doubt.  But life will go on and with any luck I can convince John to send us some updates on what's going on in their lives...OK, maybe I should ask Emily for those!

As John and Emily move on to the next stage of their lives we are very excited to bring a new Intercultural Outreach Coordinator, Marco, who will be filling the position in mid to late June.  He is coming as a graduate from Augustana College and has a fresh perspective...and we all need that sometimes!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Overthinking

When we decided we wanted to start a blog at the Armoury, we started with these huge pie in the sky ideas.  We wanted someone to blog every day and ready newspaper articles that would get members of our community thinking about issues that affect all of us but not everyone pays attention to.  We wanted to show everyone what makes us tick here at the Armoury.

Great idea, but lets be honest, it just was never going to happen...we were idealistic and ready to challenge our community and completely out of touch with reality!!  :)  I mean seriously, how many people are actually reading our blogs?  We have 3 subscribers, 2 of which actually work in the building (yes, I am one of them).  So how did we handle all of this?  Well, we did what most people in our situation would do, we simply didn't do anything at all!  That is always the answer, right?

The thing is, I do truly believe that there is use to having our blog and then I read one from another agency in our community a couple weeks ago and it wasn't thought provoking or intellectually challenging it was just a story of the life that happens within their organization and you know what?  It was FUNNY!!!  Let me tell you, the one thing we do at the Armoury well is funny...we can make fools of ourselves with the best of them!  This was a turning point for me...kind of, because it is now two weeks later and I am just now doing something about it!

I have decided to stop thinking this blog thing at the Armoury.  We won't post every day, and lets be honest, I will most likely be the only one posting, but I do hope to post at least weekly.  Instead of trying to change your life with the topics we post about, I would like to give you an insight into our daily lives here at the Armoury.  Trust me...there is rarely a dull moment.  So, if you feel like you  might be interested, join us on this journey...we laugh, we cry and we evolve just like everyone else in the world, it should be fun.

A quick shout out to Sam Brooks and "The Case of the Mystery Grass Substance" for my inspiration to change the direction of the blog.  I am still giggling over this story as I share it with everyone I know!!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Core Values

It started with seeing a need, hearing a call, and responding with compassion. 
With a fresh year before us and a worn year behind us it is natural to take some time and reflect upon what did or didn’t go as planned.  Like most folks, we at 1st Street Armoury do the same thing.  As we embark on a new year we use our experiences from the past to renew our vision and direction for the future.
We have been blessed by the support of so many individuals and organizations that have assisted us in creating an opportunity through 1st Street Armoury, an opportunity for our community to have a place to call their own.  We have had some great times and some challenging times as well.  From people questioning our motives to record numbers of individuals volunteering their time and making this dream their own - we have seen it all. 
But at times we need to take a step back, reaffirm why we do what we do, and how will we continue to do it.  We have put together some core standards that hopefully convey our hearts as a community organization as well as our hearts individually.   
Diversity:  How can we be more inclusive?
Hospitality:  Is everyone welcome?
Partnerships:  Who can join us in this effort?
Creativity:  Are we using what we can?
Potential:  Am I doing my best?
Change:  Can it be changed to make it better?
Leverage:  How can I use this to do more?
Relationship:  Who am I doing life with?
Influence:  Who am I surrounded by?
Next Steps:  What is the next right thing I should do?
 
Jack recently posted on his Facebook wall a quote that is quite convicting.  It says, “Sometimes I would like to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering, and injustice when He could do something about it?  But, I’m afraid He would ask me the same question.”  This sentiment is what drives all of our standards. 
We are eager to put 2011 to rest and energized to greet 2012.  It is our prayer that you to will greet 2012 thrilled to see a need, hear a call, and respond with compassion.
Jack and Amy Toal