Our fifteenth anniversary was a huge success, with more volunteers (180) working hard to be the change we all want to see in the world. And we raised more than $3,000 for continuing renovations at Pathways. Go, us! But we’ve never been one to rest on our laurels–and we figure you aren’t, either! So please save Thursday, October 5, for Women’s Service Day. That’s all you need to do for now. Watch this space for details. And watch this video to get inspired!
In February 2015, Women’s Service Day hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony at Nuestra Casa neighborhood center to celebrate key donors and volunteers who helped make a dream reality: a new venue for neighborhood activities where residents can foster a healthy, safe community.
During the following months, loose ends were wrapped up–things like accounting and renovation tweaks and the creation of a new sign. We are forever grateful to Ben Sikkink for his tireless perseverance in leading the construction effort. Special thanks also goes to Chris Wiers for his creative sign-making skills (twice!).
On July 15, the remaining funds (nearly $3,800) raised by Women’s Service Day–with the help of many volunteers–were transferred to Westcore Neighbors to boost their programming efforts as they begin to initiate activities like book groups, cooking classes, mentoring, music lessons, crafts for kids, and community gardening. Members of all four entities that collaborated on the project (Women’s Service Day, Good Samaritan Ministries, New Community/Fourth Reformed Church, and Westcore Neighbors) were present for the official transition.
It may have taken four years, but this is what happens when people pool their skills and talents and determination. Vision + tenacity = a dream come true.
Nuestra Casa was the venue for an open house and ribbon cutting ceremony on Saturday, February 28, to celebrate key donors and volunteers. Attendees were invited to tour the facility, which underwent renovation beginning in 2011. After the ribbon cutting ceremony, Westcore Neighbors gathered for a potluck to showcase the new venue for neighborhood activities. Book groups, cooking classes, canning classes, mentoring activities, music lessons, crafts for kids, reading activities, and community gardening are interests initially expressed by neighbors when the project kicked off. The center is located at 253 W. 15th Street in Holland.
Nuestra Casa renovation has been a collaborative project among Women’s Service Day, Good Samaritan Ministries, New Community/Fourth Reformed Church, and Westcore Neighbors. Women’s Service Day managed the fundraising and construction, which culminated in an open house to thank donors and key volunteers for their contributions. It was once a dream among neighbors that has been realized with the help of many hands.
“When we began the project,” said Nuestra Casa core team leader Lois Maassen, “there were nearly 250 vacant houses in the City of Holland alone. Nuestra Casa became an opportunity to turn one of them into a neighborhood center to create ‘pride of place’ and a gathering place for residents living among so many abandoned homes.” The project modeled asset-based community development by engaging community members in fundraising and construction. Ideally, Nuestra Casa can help residents foster a healthy, safe community.
More than 50 people came to see the new center on a bright winter’s day. For the ribbon cutting ceremony they assembled outside on the new ramp constructed for wheelchair access, commemorating the transition from renovation to operation.
“We’ve learned a lot along the way,” said Maassen. “We’ve learned about community and what can happen when people pool their skills and their talents and their determination. We’ve learned about the relationship between vision and tenacity. Perhaps we’ve learned the most about gratitude: to each other as Women’s Service Day teammates; to the people who represent our partners; to the members of the project core team; to the donors who believed in and supported the project; to the volunteers who contributed untold hours of labor.”
After cutting the ribbon, symbolizing the transition from Women’s Service Day to Westcore Neighbors, Program Director Raul Garcia said, “This gathering place is a dream becoming reality. It has taken a village to undertake a project like Nuestra Casa, and we wouldn’t be standing here without the support of the larger community and Women’s Service Day. This is only the beginning of even greater things to come.”
Built in 1896, the house was donated to New Community/Fourth Reformed Church in 2009. Several organizations, including the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area, Women Who Care Holland, and many individuals contributed to the $75,000 budget; local businesses offered gifts in kind and reduced pricing. Hundreds of people in the community contributed to numerous fundraising events coordinated by Women’s Service Day, which also won the national online Marigold Ideas for Good contest and a financial contribution.
Meanwhile, the construction team recruited volunteers from all over Holland, through a variety of organizations, to reinforce structures, install drywall and windows, replace siding, and even raise the roof. Several members of Hope Church have dedicated their time to lead construction crews for the past two years. Women’s Service Day has assigned volunteers to the Nuestra Casa projects during their annual event four years in a row. And Hope College students have contributed their efforts during their Time to Serve event. Finishing touches—from paint to cabinets and appliances to carpet and curtains—were completed in January and February this year.
To learn more about Nuestra Casa, visit the center’s blog: http://nuestracasathegatheringplace.wordpress.com/.
That’s how one participant phrased it after participating in Women’s Service Day 2014. She said, “It is amazing what we can accomplish in a short amount of time, [and] meeting other women from companies in the area that I would not normally interact with.”
We couldn’t be more thrilled to hear a volunteer express two of the goals our planning team established back in 2001: making a difference for women and children in our community, and networking with other women.
On August 14, around 120 volunteers showed up to accomplish tasks and participate in fundraising activities for the 13th annual Women’s Service Day. In the morning and afternoon, they helped a number of nonprofits in the area, including:
Center for Women in Transition and Girls on the Run
Holland Rescue Mission, including Stepping Stones Day Care at the Family Hope Ministry Center
Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity
My Sister’s House II
Nestlings Diaper Bank
Nuestra Casa neighborhood center
Ready for School
8th Day Farm
During lunch, volunteers contributed to a raffle fundraiser for the Kelly Markatos Memorial Buildthrough Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity; together, we donated $1,248. They also filled a van with school supplies for Sylvia’s Place.
Check out all the photos that reveal what happened in one day.
To quote another volunteer, “I loved meeting new people and helping to make a difference. It was great to have the opportunity to learn new skills, while helping a great cause.”
Does that entice you to get involved next year? Get on the mailing list by emailing email@example.com.
If you’re not planning on attending Women’s Service Day this year, why not join us for a fun hour of food, fundraising, and networking? (Registered volunteers: We’re already planning on you, no need to RSVP!)
For just $5, you can enjoy a barbecue lunch, socialize, get an introduction to Women’s Service Day, reunite with past volunteers, and participate in our raffle. All proceeds will benefit the Kelly Markatos Memorial Build through Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity, with some proceeds covering minor event costs, so bring your checkbook!
To attend lunch only, you still must register so we know our count for food preparation. Lunch will be held at noon on August 14, 2014, at Hope Church, 77 West 11th Street, Holland.
During lunch, we’ll also be collecting donations to help stock up Sylvia’s Place with school supplies. Located in Allegan, Sylvia’s Place provides a warm and safe place for those fleeing domestic violence.
If your lunch hour is open, we’d love you to join us in helping out a good cause!
This week, Jordan Carson from WOTV4women featured our event on her segment, “Social Sizzle,” which connects viewers to unique charitable events and organizations that are making a difference in West Michigan.
If you missed the show, you can watch the video online. It includes interviews with one of our planning team members, a Women’s Service Day volunteer, and the Westcore Neighbors’ neighborhood connector, and highlights one of our largest projects ever, Nuestra Casa neighborhood center.
Thanks to Jordan and WOTV for spreading the word about our event!
This year on Women’s Service Day, our donation drive recipient is Sylvia’s Place, a refuge for those fleeing domestic violence. Many times when children come to the safe house they end up switching schools and have no supplies upon arrival. For Sylvia’s Place, “back to school” is year-round.
We would love to stock them up at our event this year. Even if you can’t volunteer, we encourage you to collect supplies for Sylvia’s Place for drop-off at Hope Church on August 14!
Following is a list of school supplies that this organization could use, in priority order.
- Spiral notebooks
- Two-pocket folders
- Copy paper (for printed homework)
- Mechanical pencils
- Ink pens
- Pencil-top erasers
- Glue sticks
- Hand-held pencil sharpeners
- Colored pencils
Many of these items will likely be on sale soon for traditional back-to-school season. Let’s help families in need keep their kids in school by donating to Sylvia’s Place.