Vision + Tenacity = A Dream Come True

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Women’s Service Day gives a check to Westcore Neighbors (Pictured: Nuestra Casa Core Team representatives, from left to right: Marcia Davis, Lois Maassen, Ben Sikkink, Jeannette Brownson, Raul Garcia, and Judy VanDyke)

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.

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Pictured are representatives from Westcore Neighbors, Women’s Service Day, Good Samaritan Ministries, and New Community/First Reformed Church

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.

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From Renovation to Completion: Nuestra Casa Celebration

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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.

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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.”

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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/.

Where Volunteers Will Serve on August 14

DSC00164We’re gearing up for Women’s Service Day, which is just around the corner. Here’s what volunteers will be doing at the agencies we’ll serve this year. We’re excited to be helping women and children in our community!

  • Center for Women in Transition creates and sustains an environment that enhances the voice, opportunities and strength of women and girls in Allegan and Ottawa Counties. Volunteers will assemble curriculum for the Girls on the Run program, filling backpacks for coaches. Others will wash windows to keep the views bright at CWIT’s main office.
  • Eighth Day Farm uses urban fields as a classroom to cultivate healthy and sustainable communities locally and globally. Volunteers will harvest beans and tomatoes, among other things, clean some vegetables, and weed; a little site maintenance may also be on the agenda.
  • Nestlings Diaper Bank serves as a central location to collect, store, and distribute diapers that have been donated by the local community or purchased through fundraising efforts. Volunteers will be wrapping diapers into packs of 12 for distribution through area nonprofit organizations to mothers in need.
  • Pathways, MI is committed to demonstrating excellence in providing responsive and compassionate service to all individuals, families and communities who seek their assistance. Services they provide include: Counseling, Early Childhood programs, Great Start Western Regional Resource Center, Parent and Family Support and Education, Foster Care, Adoption and participation in community efforts to improve life for children and families. Volunteers will make the facility more welcoming by replacing outdoor landscaping and painting, carpeting, and more for an extreme reception area make-over.
  • Ready for School aims to create communities of readiness where all children thrive and reach their full unique potential. Ready for School prepares children for success by equipping parents through integrated support of the Holland/Zeeland/Hamilton communities. Volunteers will sort, clean, organize, and catalog books, games, toys, and other materials used in educational programs.
  • Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity builds housing with partner-owners based on the principle that everyone deserves a decent place to live and that our community is a better place when that occurs. Volunteers will lay flooring and complete landscaping at a local Habitat home.
  • My Sister’s House II sponsored by the Holland Deacons’ Conference cares for women with physical and developmental challenges by assisting them with the activities of daily living in an adult foster care home. Volunteers will prepare meals for the freezer to ease home operation and clean parts of the facility.
  • Nuestra Casa neighborhood center is a collaborative effort to renovate an abandoned home into a safe place for neighbors to gather. Volunteers will take the next steps in construction, including an access ramp, hanging drywall, and painting trim.

Live Local, Give Local: Women’s Service Day Featured on WOTV

loisWe’re excited to see Women’s Service Day on local TV!

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!

Women’s Service Day 2014: It’s Time to Sign Up!

wvd-logo-straightforward.jpgAs you may have heard by now Women’s Service Day is changing things up a bit this year. We are planning a summer event on Thursday, August 14. And it’s time to register!

Where else can you spend your time, skills, and talent helping nonprofit organizations while networking with women in your community—all in one day?

Women’s Service Day 2014, now in its thirteenth year, continues to extend its reach in making a difference for women and children in the Holland area. Join this growing movement (we’re nearly 150 women strong) by participating in Women’s Service Day on Thursday, August 14.

In addition to volunteering at a number of nonprofit agencies in Holland, we’ll be putting the final touches on the Nuestra Casa neighborhood center, which many of you have helped renovate in the last two years. If you’re interested in being a part of this day of volunteering and networking, it’s time to sign up!

How to Register

Capacity is limited and you must register (first-registered, first-served) before the event to participate. Complete this online form by July 18 to sign up for a morning session, afternoon session, or both shifts. You’ll receive confirmation that we’ve received your information, and you’ll be on an email distribution list for future event communications.

What to Expect on August 14

For a morning or all-day session, plan to arrive at a worksite in Holland (we’ll let you know where) at 8:30 a.m. For an afternoon session, plan to arrive at Hope Church by noon, where we’ll gather for a celebration barbecue lunch (for which we ask a $5 donation). We’ll hold a raffle for this year’s recipient, the Kelly Markatos Memorial Build through Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity, with some proceeds covering minor event costs, so bring your checkbook!

For this year’s donation drive, we’ll be reaching across the county line 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.

Watch for additional details about our event in future communications and here on our website. Thank you for your willingness to help!

Questions? E-mail the Women’s Service Day Planning Committee.

Visit us on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ for more information.

Nuestra Casa: The Final Stretch

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Progress on Nuestra Casa neighborhood center as of March 2014

It’s spring! The snow is melting and the temperatures are rising. Who’s up for some volunteer work days at Nuestra Casa neighborhood center?

It’s amazing how much progress has been made, thanks to the teams of tireless volunteers and leaders–including many volunteers from Women’s Service Day. Check out how Nuestra Casa has transformed through time and energy donated by our volunteers:

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We’ve reached our fundraising goal, so we can keep our momentum going. Now let’s get ‘er done!

Beginning Saturday, March 29, we have several crews scheduled to work. You can join one that’s planned or you can create your own. Sign up as a volunteer or crew leader. Bring your friends, your family, your work team, or your book group. There are lots of Saturdays available late spring and early summer (except for May 10 because of Tulip Time).

The Women’s Service Day team is managing work days. If you’re interested in volunteering either as a crew leader or on a crew, please contact: womensserviceday@gmail.com.

Year-End Giving: Nuestra Casa Neighborhood Center

Nuestra Casa renovation projectIt’s amazing how much has been accomplished at Nuestra Casa since Women’s Service Day teamed up with Good Samaritan Ministries, Westcore Neighbors, and New Community/Fourth Reformed Church to renovate an abandoned home in the City of Holland for neighbors to use as a gathering place.

Volunteers, friends, neighbors, and generous donors have given their time and money to procure the materials needed, and make the work happen.

  • Women’s Service Day participants raised the roof this year on October 3.
  • Companies like Herman Miller and Johnson Controls have donated funds and also provided plenty of volunteers.
  • Hope College students contributed volunteer hours for work days both this year and last.
  • Women Who Care chose Nuestra Casa for its quarterly donation.
  • Tireless construction team leaders have shown up in all kinds of weather–with and without crews—to keep the project moving.

Thanks to the work by so many people, we’ve continued to make great strides in creating “pride of place” in the City of Holland.

But there are still ways to give. In addition to ongoing work days, we’re keeping the online gift registries open for purchasing gifts in kind to help equip Nuestra Casa with necessities for its educational, social, and community programs. Just in time for Cyber Monday! Simply link to our previous post about where and how to shop for Nuestra Casa online.

On December 19, stop by Orange Leaf in downtown Holland and eat yogurt for Nuestra Casa! Ten percent of all profits will go to the neighborhood center that day. Come between 11:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m.

You can also make a donation for the neighborhood center by writing a check to Good Samaritan Ministries, the project’s fiduciary agent, with “Nuestra Casa” in the memo line and send it to:

Good Samaritan Ministries
513 East 8th Street
Suite 25
Holland, MI 49423

Or, you can make an online donation through our website.

We appreciate any contribution you can make!

Thank you, and happy holidays!

The Women’s Service Day Organizing Committee
Marcia Davis, Cindy DeGraaf, Sue Gadbois, Angela Griffore, Lois Maassen, Cheryl Murdoch, Kallie Spidahl, Carrie Ypma