The VISTA Experience

I come from a family that has a heritage of military service and was raised understanding that being of service is a blessing. As someone who is legally blind I always felt that direct service to my country was out of reach for me. This all changed this past August when I began a term of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA with Decatur County Development Corporation.

AmeriCorps VISTA members, unlike those found through AmeriCorps State or AmeriCorps National programs are distinct in two ways: first, VISTA members serve only in communities with poverty issues and second, they only work on creating programs and not serving directly with individuals or groups.  The VISTA experience is giving me the opportunity to use my technology skills while gaining new insights to understanding education, community issues and poverty issues.

In late August, just prior to beginning my year of service I attended Preservice Orientation in Philadelphia, PA.  This orientation included information about the benefits of service and focused heavily on understanding the impact of poverty.

About a month after beginning my service, an article written by a former member of the military who then served as a VISTA, landed in my e-mail inbox.  The article gave thanks to those who serve our country as members of the armed forces, but went on to encourage those who participate in National Service programs, such as AmeriCorps, AmeriCorps VISTA, RSVP and others, to count their VISTA time as service to the country and when asked what they did to say something like “I am serving my country as an AmeriCorps VISTA member.”

The Preservice Orientation experience and the article changed how I think about my year of service.  Not only do I now connect with other VISTA members differently, I consider how the projects I am engaged in with Decatur county Development Corporation could be adapted for use in other communities.

The projects I am working on for the next year include the development of a program to place professionals in 4th-8th grade classrooms to discuss careers, an internship program for high school students and programs and services to help individuals better understand personal finance and engage in new ways with available resources.

Over the remainder of my term of service as a VISTA, I encourage anyone who has questions, comments or ideas about how to improve the quality of life in Decatur County to contact me.  I enjoy having conversations with individual who wish to share their own personal experience and am always willing to visit with any individual or group. Please feel free to contact me by phone at (641)455-2896 or by e-mail at jbolinger@dcdciowa.org.

10 daily activities

10 daily activities

I come across a lot of interesting life coaching exercises that are designed to motivate, inspire and engage individuals.  I have implemented several of these, but there is one that is especially interesting to me.

The idea is simple, make a list of five or ten things you want to accomplish, without question, every day.  As I said above, this is not hard (the making the list part) however, you may be surprised at how difficult it may be to implement, but over time it will take hold.  The most important thing, and I missed this myself at first, is to post the list.

Here is an example:

1. Kiss my wife
2. Spend time with my wife
3.  Brush the dog
4.Stretch
5.  Shower
6. Have breakfast
7. Review daily schedule
8. Play guitar
9. Read
10. Listen to a podcast

My list obviously has the name of my wife and the name of the dog, but I removed those for privacy reasons.  The hard one on the list for me is playing guitar.  I love to play, and most days I pick up the guitar for a few seconds and strum a little or play something that has been in my head.  The hard part is sitting down and really playing, say for an hour or two.  However, that is the point of an exercise like this, to develop good habits.  I will also point out that I do show every day, but having it on the list is important because something seemingly simple like a shower can get omitted on particularly busy days for some folks.

What are your top ten things to do each day?

Eat Healthy

I will admit right off the bat that I may be the worst person to give nutritional advice.  I have the knowledge, but like many of us, I do not necessarily apply it.  This is one of the things that I am working on improving in my own life.  However, gaining knowledge is one of the ways of improving habits.  Through my continued research into the Blue Zones concepts, I came across this article to help us all improve how we eat!

Click here to read the article.

Engaging children in volunteerism

A few years back I served as program director for the Retired Senior Volunteer Program at Graceland University.  When I took the job, it was a new position so I had a lot of work to do.  One of the decisions I had to make was if I should recruit volunteers first or set up volunteer sites (stations in RSVP lingo) first.  I chose to set up the stations first, and it did not take long.  Before I knew it, I was recruiting volunteers from the two county area served by the program.

One day while I was sitting in my office a gentleman I had known since my days as a student at Graceland came in and indicated that he wanted to sign up for RSVP.  I was certain that he was age eligible, but I was required to ask and was shocked to find out that he was over eighty years old, he was in great shape!

As we chatted I learned that he had a few other volunteer roles and he questioned how these may be able to be incorporated into RSVP.  Somehow that part of the conversation stuck with me and I finally decided to do some research.  My findings told me that this gentleman had been volunteering for at a minimum fifty years, that volunteerism ran in his family and that quite possibly he was qualified for a Presidents Volunteer Service Award (PVSA).  I continued digging, met all of his children virtually and eventually surprised him with the ward at a recognition event!

While this story is important to me, more important is what I learned about volunteerism through generations.  While the family had one issue that they all really cared about, each had individual issues that their own families focused on.  This got me thinking about how to get children involved.  We all know that it is possible to find something to do in your community, but finding something to do based on your education, work and mental health may be harder when you are doing it with your children.

Over the past few months my family has considered this as well.  For a short time, we volunteered at a local thrift center.  In the beginning I questioned the utilization of past work, education and metal health but I quickly answered my own question.  For me, the utilization of past work experience was important in this position.  When I was in high school I worked for the family real estate business managing technology, this came in handy when sorting, testing, pricing and sometimes disposing of electronics.  For my daughters, they both had the ability to utilize math skills learned in school and my wife utilized her knowledge of all of the above mentioned skills that she had gained through her own formal education.

This is a small example.  Websites like volunteermatch.com provide search options to find opportunities good for children or for groups such as families.  When considering these positions, have a conversation with your family to find out what they value from their education, any jobs they have held and what elements of daily life make them happy and what they do on a daily basis to keep their mental health in check.  I encourage you to utilize these elements in the selection process as opposed to simply checking off skills that you have.  I believe you will find greater satisfaction in selecting your volunteer engagement based on work, education and mental health than simply on skills you possess.

Stress

Those close to me know that I recently stated researching the idea of Blue Zones.  This concept basically says that it is possible for individuals in a given geographic area to live longer if they all do the same things such as following diet, exercise and other activities.  The article found here talks about how stress plays a role in our lives.

I use to be a firm believer that stress in any form is a bad thing.  I am not saying that I was a totally zen person who thought we should all sit in little circle and hum, but I did feel that we should all be low stressed all of thetime.  I felt that if we had stress in our lives that it should be reduced and theat there are specific techniques that we should all utilize to do so.

After engaging in personal development activities, learning about motivation and personality types I have come to a new conclusion.  My new conclusion is that stress is not a bad thing.  A little of the proper kind of stress can be a good thing for some people.  If you are the type of person who works well under pressure then stress is a good thing.  What I say now is that we should not necessarily eliminate our stress but manage it.  As individuals we need to learn what kind of stress is good for us as an individuals and utilize that stress to our advantage.

Servant leaders as board members/trustees

For those of us that work in the nonprofit sector, we are use to having, or being part of, a board.  Boards are great, they are necessary and they do important work.  However, in many cases they do it with somewhat of a disconnect from the organization.  They see themselves as being at the top and only there to make decisions.

Instead of simply attending meetings once a month, sitting on various committees and hopefully doing some work from home I believe that board members should be engaged in the organization on a more regular basis.  I am not calling out every nonprofit in the world, what I am saying is that a significant number could change the wy the board operates by encouraging board members to be engaged in the day-to-day activities of the organization.

When I was an intern at the Southern Prairie YMCA I became familiar with many of the board members.  I also became familiar with the fact that one of the local banks came out with an advertising campaign that basically said “________ makes great bankers”  Insert words like grandmother, volunteer and so on.  One campaign was just that “volunteers make great bankers.”  To the untrained eye, this may seem like just an advertising stunt, however, it was true reality.  I recall the photo clearly, I won’t use the name of the banker even though I know it, but the photo of him playing basketball with a few kids was absolute reality.

To all the board members, executives and stakeholders out there, I encourage you to get involved.  Be a servant and a leader!

Finding a new way to help the homeless

As some may know, I earned my Masters of Nonprofit Management (MNM) degree from Regis University.  While I completed my degree online, I insisted on visiting the campus before beginning the program.  As a result of this visit, I learned that Regis has a strong belief with regard to community outreach!  This article was recently in a Regis alumni e-mail.  I never would have considered making sleeping mats and pillows from shopping bags.  Click here to read the story!

On ATTITUDE

A great portion of someones attitude is driven by positivity.  If someone is positive, glass half full versus half empty, they will be a more positive person.  Increased positivity increases drive and desire to develop and maintain good habits.  I think that the development of habits not only takes time, typically thirty days, but also the desire to do it.  One theory, in the social sciences, says that if an individual has the desire to perform an action they are more likely to do it.  Having the desire to be positive will increase the likelihood that it will happen!  Likewise, if the individuals in your life are positive, this will simply be an aid in the development of your own positive outlook on your life and the world around you.  As has been said in many books, articles and interviews over the years, surround yourself with the people who have the characteristics you desire.  I think this may be the biggest key to a positive attitude and outlook on life.

Habits to save/make money

Yesterday, I shared my habits as shared in the book “Habits and Attitudes.”  Now, lets look at habits that can help save you, and make you, money.  Click here to read the article!

My top habits!

I was recently asked to share my habits and attitudes in a compilation book written by Lance Casazza!  I am thrilled to be one of fifty-three individuals featured in the book and I think that you should all have a copy on your book shelf.  However, if you aren’t in the habit of buying books, I at least want to share the habits with you!

  • Make time for family, all the time. Family is everything and without it, one can feel empty.  Communicate your needs it’s your family, let them know what you are doing, how you are doing it and what you need from them to be successful.  Showing your children how you are successful will help them to intern be successful.
  • Get up and get going, start your day early. Set an alarm for a few weeks,  then before you know it, your body will be up and ready for the day.  Start your day with meaningful tasks that will help you be prepared for the day.  Eat well, go outside do something that makes you happy!
  • Purposely learn something new every day. This may be by reading, watching a documentary and talking with someone new.  Either way, take one hour each day to learn.
  • Make your e-mail and social media less of a priority. E-mail has become central to many workplaces and how many of us communicate.  However, it takes up a lot of time.  First thing in the work day, do the things that need the most attention, save your e-mail for when you have some down time or set a time to do it later in the day.  Social media is important to many businesses, however, the endless scroll on Facebook or Twitter takes valuable time away from the things that really matter.
  • Touch something as little a possible. What I mean here is things like a piece of mail.  Instead of taking it out of the mailbox and throwing it on the table, take it and do whatever really needs done with it.  For example, if it’s a magazine your are not going to read, throw it out immediately.  If its information about a project you are working on, put it in the project file.

The best place to live for Millennials

Every generation has characteristics that make it unique.  Younger generations have developed specific traits regarding family, career, entertainment and their views on society.  Check out the best cities for Millennials to live by clicking here.

One of my favorite quotes!

Don’t complain, volunteer!

Even with my educational background, and some pretty interesting experiences, learning to blog has been interesting. That is why you may have noticed that my bloc posts often include a link to more information or an article i found interesting.

The same can be said for this post. As I said on my personal Facebook page yesterday, “I have not said much, but all of the unrest in the world right now is disturbing to me.”

As I have been watching events unfold over the past few weeks, I have been thinking to myself “I wonder how volunteers could help make a differnece?” Obviously, all of us would like to see the violence simply stop, but we all know that this is not goign to just happen. So, the solution is to assist individuals who are victims of violence and the communities that surround them. It is important to remember that others, not just those who are physically harmed, have been forever changed by what has taken placed to their friend or loved one.

I encourage everyone to consider your own feelings. If something bothers you, do someting about it. Complaining, worrying and wondering what others will do will not do anything. Taking action will. The way you take action will differ from what someone else may do. For me, this blog post is my first action. As a Christian, my every-day action is to pray. As someone interested in virtual volunteerism I will be looking or opporutnities to help from afar.

Those in wheelchairs want to workout too!

Recently, in an article found here I was pleased to learn more about Apple Computers quest to make their products even more accessible to individuals with disabilities.

To my understanding, at the onset of hte apple Watch, there was no way for an individual with a disability to interact with it. Now, not only can someone with a visual impairment read the watch face, but someone in a wheel chair can be notified when it is time to move. With the new “time to roll” feature, individuals are notified if they have been sitting still too long.

For individuals who have traditional abilities, the ability to move and the importance of such movements are often taken for granted. For those in wheel chairs, the importance of movement still exists, as does the importance of muscle strength.

Props to Apple for making this great product and making it work for everyone!

The 5 hour rule

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m always interested and willing to learn. They also know that I can learn something from just about anything. Enact, I sometimes like to sit through things that people may otherwise find uninteresting just to find out what I may be able to learn. This article, regarding the learning style of Benjamin Franklin, provides a great concept. Basically, spend one hour each week day learning. The way you spend this time may be reading news papers, books or studying a concept. This article, found here, gives more details.

Volunteerism Pathways to Healthy Living

Voluntary service is an element of our society that, in some cases, may be taken for granted. For nonprofit organizations, volunteers are the backbone for the success seen by the organization and for volunteers, the time they spend helping others can be life changing. It is common for someone to volunteer to fill some time in their schedule or to help an organization in need, however, few individuals think about the benefits their service can have on their health.

According to the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS, volunteers experience fewer health problems later in life, see higher cognitive function, and experience a longer quality of life as opposed to those individuals who choose not to share their skills and time. In addition, volunteers experience a lower chance of depression and anxiety and a lower risk of cardiovascular problems.

Traditionally, providing service has been viewed as being done in a face-to-face and hands-on setting. Advances in technology have changed the way organizations operate; therefore, creating skills-based needs for organizations and providing more opportunity and flexibility for individuals to serve remotely. Today’s mobile society allows updating a website, knitting a blanket, making phone calls, or hand-writing thank you cards possible from almost anywhere at almost anytime increasing the capacity for the volunteer’s success and satisfaction.

Achieving satisfaction as a volunteer means finding the proper fit with an organization and position. Through evaluating your past work experience, educational background, and the elements of life that make you the happiest, it will be possible to find a position that best fits your needs and lifestyle. A number of websites and organizations exist to assist in pairing individuals with their area of interest.

One of the most common, volunteermatch.com, allows individuals to search for virtual and traditional opportunities. Basic registration on the site is free; therefore, even the smallest nonprofits can find volunteers. Female professionals looking to utilize their talents, may have success providing pro bono service like graphic design, fundraising, strategic planning, etc. through a nonprofit called WomenOnCall.

Want to feel better physically, emotionally, and mentally? Volunteer opportunities that fit your lifestyle are at your fingertips, now more than ever. Consider adding service as a way to bring balance to your life. The BeeHealthy Program provides “community points” that can be utilized for volunteering…ways to engage in the community opportunity for you

Age is not a number, it is a state of mind!

I’m working on research to expand on my PhD dissertation so I can submit a book proposal at some point in the near future. The good thing about being done wiht the PhD is not having so many restrictions, so now I can pretty well read what I want and find out what I missed out on. While doing some reading today I expanded on something I thought about during the dissertation, but did not really have a good way to say. Age is not defined by a number, it is an attitude. With that in mind, I wanted to share this:

People who achieved great things later in life

Frank Lloyd Wright was working on the Guggenheim Museum when he died at age 91.

At age 70, Dr. William Worrall Mayo founded the Mayo Clinic
Irma Rombauer wrote The Joy of Cooking at age 60

Benjamin Franklin invented bifocal glasses at age 78 to correct his own visual issues

Just a thought for the day!

What to do when you have nothing to do?

Have you ever been working on a project, gotten to the end and wondered what to do next?  This happens to me quite often and there are times that I wonder what to do next.  I finally solved this problem.  I learned a trick several years back, keep a folder with things to do in it!  These are things that you start working on and get interupted, the things you are not quite sure what to do with and so on.  For example, someone send you an article in the mail but you don’t have time to read it just then, bills that need filed, school papers you kids brought home last week and so on.  Fill this file and work on it when you do not think you have anyhing else to do.  If you are eager to clear the pile, take ten or fifteen minutes each day and work on the folder, you will feel better!

eSight

After 33 years, I have pretty well adapted to being legally blind and know what my visual limitations are.  However, I have always had the drive to do more, learn something new and work with new technology.

I have used, or at least tried, just abut every adaptive device for someone with low vision from black and white and color CCTV units, tried protable CCTV devices, various telescopes and the JORDY (Joint Optical Reflecting Display) and a three or four different types of GPS.  The GPS has ranged from the Trekker another portable GPS to various phone-based applications.

Now comes eSight!  About three years ago, a Canadian company began making a high definition head-mounted magnification unit.  The $15,000 price-tag has quite possibly made eSight not gain the traction of much less expensive products like JORDY, however, JORDY is no longer available and to be quite honest there is nothing else on the market in terms of head-mounted technology for those with low vision.

So with 20/200 vision in my left eye and 20/400 acuity in my right, I traveled to Kansas City, MO in April to try eSight for myself!  I will admit that I was a bit uncertain of even doing the demo, but I knew that without trying, I would never know.  Long story short, I achieved near perfect vision, see my fundraising page for images of my results!

Now, here comes the fun part, putting together the $15,000 for eSight plus $1,000 to cover credit card processing fees!  Thanks to youcaring.com my fundraiser is off to a great start and an amazing video will be released soon!  If you are low vision, eSight is worth the look, and if it turns out not to be for you it was at least worth the look!

I am looking forward to the journey ahead, new adventures that I will have and the new things that are ahead!

Working from home: Getting organized, setting goals and staying organized has been rescheudled

The webinar “Working from home: Getting organized, setting goals and staying organized” originally scheduled for Monday May 2 has been rescheduled for Tuesday May 31 at 10:00AM CST.  If you have any questions, please e-mail jesse@bolingersolutions.com.