As many of you may know, this week is AmeriCorps Week, seven days when we celebrate all things national service. After swearing in two new full-year VISTA members as well as Fairbanks' new Chief of Staff earlier this week, we all headed over to the Fairbanks Children's Museum for a morning service project.
While working on storage maintenance/culling/rearrangement, a camera crew from local television station KTVF filmed our maintenance work as well as interviewed most everyone involved. The story ran during this morning's news, and I am adding some photographs to round out how it looked from a participant's perspective. We thought we would only have enough time to tackle a portion of what needed to be addressed, but the entirety of the storage space's contents is now culled, organized, and ready for any staff member to easily and quickly access. Sometimes it is just this type of relatively simple resources management that can make a huge difference to a non-profit looking for ways, with limited time and staff, to quickly translate new ideas into practical programs. We were thrilled to say a big service thank-you this week in this way!
Caitlin served as a community outreach volunteer at the Fairbanks Children's Museum from February 2021 to December 2021. Throughout her time there, Caitlin was able to work alongside museum staff to continue providing quality educational & outreach opportunities to Fairbanks families, even in the middle of a global pandemic which presented many challenges. She ended her service time at the museum inspired by the unique and resilient Fairbanks community, as well as with a feeling of gratitude for her time spent at the Fairbanks Children's Museum with the amazing team of people there who are always dreaming up big dreams for the families of Fairbanks. Caitlin has relocated to Denver, CO where she has started a new position at the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development.
"Caitlin showed up at the Museum not knowing what was in store, but ready to flex and support Museum operations in any way. Turns out she has an eye for photography, social media, and outreach. She brought her kind and friendly personality to Fairbanks families and we truly did not want her to leave! When I got the call for a reference for her new position in Colorado I was able to say "if you weren't taking her, we'd be begging her to stay!" We are so grateful for the impact Caitlin had on the Fairbanks Children's Museum, and we continue to feel that impact in her absence!"
- Meredith Maple-Gitter, Executive Director, Fairbanks Children's Museum
Brittney, Caitlin, Diana, Madisen, and Timea will serve Fairbanks from February 16, 2021 - February 15, 2022. As full year VISTAs, they will build capacity of their organization through indirect service. We're excited to welcome them to the team and see the impact they have in the coming year!
This summer in Fairbanks looked different for a lot of reasons. We appreciate our summer associates sticking in there and working through challenges.
They have accomplished much in only 10 short weeks.
The Fairbanks community appreciates the difference you all have made!
Caitlin Amburgey , Children's Museum
Her impact: "Caitlin worked remotely due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, and from nearly 3000 miles away, she created new inclusive content for the Fairbanks Children's Museum to use in the coming years. She designed curriculum focused on American Sign Language, Black History Month, Women's History Month, and many more topics. She also created social media content to increase our reach to families in the Fairbanks area in a helpful and productive way amidst a pandemic." - Meredith Maple, executive director
Taryn Williams, Children's Museum
Her impact: "Taryn made it to Fairbanks amidst a pandemic and led summer camps for the bulk of the summer, providing deeply needed childcare to our community and giving an amazing opportunity to many kids during a time of unknowns. Her teaching style is restorative-justice focused and will now be incorporated in education at the museum. Her broad range of expertise and teaching experience will leave a lasting impact on the Fairbanks Children's Museum." - Meredith Maple, executive director
Max Herz, Boys & Girls Club
Their impact: "Max and Amyaa built positive relationships with youth at BGC Fairbanks. They facilitated fun games and programs to reduce summer learning loss. Their work at BGC helped ensure that our youth enjoyed their summer despite the COVID pandemic. We are excited to welcome Amyaa to our permanent team, and we wish Max the best in his senior year at college in Ohio. Thanks to Max and Amyaa for spending your summer with BGC Fairbanks and our Members!" - Amy Reggiani, executive directori
Her impact: "Daisy Morotti has been a boon to the Bread Line in more ways than we ever could have anticipated. She stepped right up at the Stone Soup Community Garden. Her gardening talents are well evident in each of our 50 raised beds, as they flourished into the lushest bounty our little garden has ever seen. Daisy fit right into our team. At the Stone Soup Cafe, she served free, hot food to Fairbanks' most vulnerable neighbors every weekday morning during her time with us. Also, Daisy has been hard at work crafting a seasonal curriculum for our youth volunteering program, the Kid's Cafe. All of Daisy's big & heartfelt work has deepened the Bread Line's positive impact in Fairbanks. Her compassion, fortitude, generosity & attitude have made our days brighter & work easier - it's been an absolute joy having Daisy as our summer VISTA." - Hannah Hill, executive director
By Taryn Williams, FBX Children's Museum, Summer 2020
Living in a city as expensive as Fairbanks on ~$1,200 a month has proven to have its challenges (especially when there are so many delicious Thai restaurants and coffee huts to tempt you!) and can be one of the most intimidating parts of becoming a VISTA - even more so for Summer Associates who don’t have as much time to adjust. Throughout the last six weeks, however, I have found it to be an entertaining challenge, as it has allowed me to experience the city differently than I otherwise would have. I have found different ways to live within my budget while also trying new things and visiting unique places and have realized that $1,200 can get you far if you know what is important to you.
$800: Rent - already the largest line in anyone’s budget, rent in Fairbanks has proven to be no different. Though an apartment usually costs well more than the monthly stipend itself, renting a room has its perks. For $800, I found a room that is within walking distance from downtown (and my site), a kitchen that is well-enough stocked with utensils and dishware, and a private bath attached to my room. Coming to Fairbanks in a time of COVID-19 and quarantine means that I am spending more time at home than I otherwise would, so I know I am getting my money’s worth here.
$200: Grocery Shopping - the downside of living in a small city without a car is that my options are somewhat limited. Though I was excited to see that the store within walking distance is a Co-Op that boasts many vegetarian and environmentally-friendly items, it also means that my spending is higher than it would otherwise need to be. When I was moving in, I made a trip to the large chain grocery store to buy things like pasta and rice, and have been using the Co-Op to get perishables based on what I’m cooking each week. Each trip to the Co-Op costs me about $30 (I can only take what I can carry!) and - when I’m primarily shopping sales - I average about four days of meals from each trip. In the end, I have spent around $200 there each month.
$100: Restaurants and Coffee Huts - my favorite category to budget for and the one that motivates me to limit spending elsewhere, eating out is always a top priority for me. Seeing the multitude of Thai restaurants upon my arrival, I knew that my “Fairbanks Bucket List” would include trying several of those and - despite not being a coffee drinker - I have ended up at Sunrise several times in the early mornings (and, more often, in the hot evenings for a $2 cone). Between a biweekly Thai dinner, a few stops at the coffee hut, and an occasional crepe, I have come in just around $100 each month.
$60: Cell Phone Bill - an unfortunate necessity in life these days, kept a bit lower with the 10% discount GCI gave me for being a VISTA (small wins add up!) The money is automatically charged as soon as I get paid and I don’t spend much of my time thinking about it.
$40: Miscellaneous - As hard as I tried to plan ahead, there is inevitably always something you end up needing (a Lyft home during a Fairbanks-famous sudden torrential downpour, a pack of band-aids after accidentally scratching yourself on the walk home, or a tube of toothpaste because, well, personal hygiene) and it’s always safe to leave room for this. Between personal hygiene needs and the occasional transportation, I have spent almost exactly $40 on these necessities each month.
My budget in Fairbanks isn’t perfect - ideally I could have found lower rent or tried to find a room closer to another grocery store - but I’m only here for ten weeks and I’m doing what I can to make the best of it. I have a comfortable roof over my head and enough money for my favorite things (Thai food), and I have been able to live a relatively comfortable life on the (admittedly tight) living allowance.
From May 27-August 4, Fairbanks will host 5 summer associates at 3 sites. These VISTA responsibilities differ from full-year VISTAs. Instead of focusing on capacity building, summer associates perform direct service for their sites.