The past two weeks have been incredibly exciting as we continue moving forward with the Serve Burlington community service platform as we hope to become an official Vermont nonprofit in the very near future. Our purpose is very simple: to promote the welfare of the city of Burlington by mobilizing volunteers to serve the at risk populations of our community.
Here are a few highlights:
- I had a great meeting with two key leaders from the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program about how we can mobilize volunteers to help them with specific projects. They’re especially excited about seeing the faith-based community mobilized and offered to help us with nonprofit bylaws, incorporation, and other documentation. A lot of the credit for this wide-open door goes to Navigators Campus Ministry’s Green Mountain Summer who spent a Saturday reorganizing the VRRP’s warehouse. The result is now a wide open door to assist with everything from helping new refugees move into apartments to mobilizing volunteers for Burlington’s annual World Refugee Day event.
- Tonight we complete our second round of Conversational English Club. For the past seven weeks we’ve had 10-12 Somali students (with double that number of children) and a highly motivated yet overworked crew of 6-7 volunteers. We’ll definitely need more volunteers going into the fall. We plan to take off August due to Ramadan (most of the Somalis are devout Muslims), spend the month of September recruiting and training volunteers, and kick-off our third session of Conversational English Club at the beginning of October.
- In conjunction with our Conversational English Club we also plan to launch citizenship training this fall. A good friend and minister from Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham is helping us this fall by sending an experienced trainer to train volunteers how to teach citizenship classes. This comes at just the right time as a drop in federal funding has left this as a huge need among refugees and the organizations that serve them. We’re still nailing down details but excited about offering training for volunteers and classes for refugees for free.
- Our “Volunteer Wednesdays” initiative is expanding. For the past few months I’ve been taking a small crew from the COTS Day Station to volunteer with local nonprofits. This past Wednesday we had a volunteer crew of eight made up of a guest from COTS, guests from the Burlington Emergency Shelter, the Kids Alive Boys Group leader Phil, and one of the teens from the Boys Group. We began the process of building a wattle fence for the Grow Team ONE Community Garden, which we plan to complete next week. I love seeing people from different walks of life serving alongside each other as they make a tangible impact in the community.
- Last but not least we’re close to finalizing a board of directors. We already have me plus three others who are active both in local ministries and personally serving others in the Old North End. We are still praying that God would lead us to the best person to be our treasurer: someone who loves Jesus, actively serves Burlington’s at-risk population, and knows how to dot the i’s and cross the t’s with finances. Once we get that final board member we’ll begin the process of filing the paperwork.
Also, through the process of launching the Serve Burlington community service platform, God has reminded me of the following principles:
- Do what you say you are going to do.
- Under promise and over deliver.
- Being faithful with small opportunities opens bigger doors.
- Give your committed volunteers opportunity to share and steer what you do.
- There’s no room for “arm chair quarterbacks” in volunteer work.
- Take time to listen to the people you’re serving and want to serve.
- Being a persistent presence in people’s lives pays off.
As always, thank you for your prayers.