Let me introduce myself. My name is Jerry Elmendorf, husband to Jessica, father to Rylee. With the support of my family, I made a life-changing decision a few years ago to leave my manager's position with a local business and return to college. I enrolled as a full-time student at Lake Land College. This is the story of my summer as an 8-week AmeriCorps VISTA with Fit-2-Serve. Why AmeriCorps VISTA? Perhaps a good place to start is understanding what a VISTA is: a Volunteer In Service To America. This should help explain my biggest why: it gave me an opportunity to connect and serve my community. I have resided in other communities over the years, but never felt "connected" to any of them. AmeriCorps allowed me to be a part of something bigger than myself.
Fit-2-Serve's mission to "equip people for works of service" hit home for me. The opportunity to equip CHILDREN for works of service is instrumental in building great leaders. Providing "safe places" where children engage and interact in different environments--nursing homes & community gardens--allows them to see there is so much more to community and to life itself than what they know.
We are the sum of our life experiences, and these are wonderful and positive experiences for these children to build on. Sad to say, for some, those "positive" experiences might be in short supply. I am so very thankful to have played just a small role in making that happen for them.
Our children ARE our future! I can't think of a better investment we could make!
And. . . the rest of the story. . .
Ever get that urge or nudge to do something? Should I? Or, should I just let it pass? Jerry’s story started several years before his work with Fit-2-Serve. This is a story of two friends; one who had that “nudge” and the other’s answer to it!.
Jerry: After I enrolled as a full-time student at Lake Land College, I was accepted into a Work & Learn Program offered through the college and was assigned to one of the TRiO programs housed by the college: Destination College. How fortuitous! As I became more familiar with my duties at Destination College, I was often directed to review old files often created by the former Administrative Assistant, Cheryl Lee. "Hmmmm. . . could this possibly be the same Cheryl Lee I knew?"
Cheryl: When I ran into Jerry and his family at church a few years ago, he mentioned Destination College and asked if I had worked there. Of course, I had and shared how much I LOVED the program's mission and the job as well. Life happens, and I was on a new path as an AmeriCorps VISTA member. Coincidentally, both programs were part of the 1960's War on Poverty initiative. I share with Jerry and Jessica how I was enjoying my new role as a VISTA.
Jerry: During the Spring of my first year as a full-time student, my family and I went through some difficult times as we grieved over the loss of my father, only to be followed by the loss of another close family relative. As the semester was winding down, I was contemplating what I should do over the summer months. It was then that Cheryl had reached out asking if I might be interested in an 8-week Summer AmeriCorps VISTA position. I was definitely interested but felt I needed to take a pass at this point.
Fast forward. . . May 2019. . . one year later. . .
Cheryl: Cheyenne and I were asked to take the lead in recruiting our Fit-2-Serve Summer VISTAs. We were approaching the "close date" when I felt this "nudge" to reach out to Jerry, especially after he shared an inspiring post on Facebook. I decided to send a message to him to see if he might have any interest in joining us over the summer.
Jerry: My wife and I were discussing what I should do over the summer. She suggested I reach out to Cheryl to see if Fit-2-Serve might be looking for people to work. I kid you not, it was within minutes I received an alert that I had a message. It was from Cheryl asking if I had any plans for the summer! And, as they might say, the rest is history!