Picture this: Early June 2015, I moved to Lansing. Two nights later, I was repacking my suitcase, placing a quart of strawberries on the passenger seat of my apple green car and cruising along to Chicago…well, Oak Lawn. After a tumultuous drive of heavy rains and construction zones, I arrived in the Chicago suburb an hour and half after originally planned and easily recognized the girl who walked up behind me to check into the hotel. Standing there frazzled after cursing profanities along my drive and eating every last strawberry in the plastic quart, I turned around to meet Clara Martinez–a girl who I had only previously interacted with via email and Facebook messenger.
After a week of learning about poverty in the United States, the role of an AmeriCorps VISTA, and the exact inexact science of gathering volunteers; Clara and I made our separate journeys back to Lansing. Go back to my first blog post to learn about our crazy beginning week: from a CATA bus challenge to creating our own tour, we did it all.
I have pondered what my last blog post would be about. Would I tell our readers about what I created as the Neighborhood Resource Development Coordinator–from the Neighborhood Resource Guide to becoming a metrics savant, I have been able to develop some great neighbor focused documents in Lansing. Or should I tell the readers about the grantees and what they have done? Like I wrote to the grantees earlier, their projects illuminate the neighborliness, love and innovation within Lansing. Finally, should I tell the readers about my feelings–the people I have met and the experiences I gained?
Choosing to expand on the last topic, I would like to dedicate my final blog post to the family and friends I have gained within Lansing. From Doris, the Senior Planner, who never fails at showing me that the office can be a home to Roxanne, the Office Manager, who isn’t afraid to tell it like it is and keep her ducks in a row; I have learned much from these amazing, unique people. Director Bob Johnson illuminated how to be a kind, but assertive boss. The Planning staff, Sue and Bill, prove time and time again the importance of following rules, but also the willingness to change rules when they no longer work. The Development staff is a hive of worker bees, who use each day as a mission to help Lansing. Development Manager, Don Kulhanek, showed me his wizardry in in creating contracts and Jami Garver taught me organization. Barb Kimmel is a powerhouse, who set an example of loving yourself first and being your own spokesperson–especially as a woman.
Andi Crawford is a dynamic boss–never critical, always guiding and gave us the free space to be ourselves and own our work. Along with her, the Cities of Service team–specifically Saundra and Rachel–prove that kindness, collaboration, and a little elbow grease are the key ingredients in motivating VISTAs, volunteers, and city staff.
Going outside of my immediate worker peers, I want to thank Land Bank’s Rawley Van Fossen, Tri County Planning Office’s Ken Hall, and Digital Media Manager Valerie Marchand for being great friends, an awesome Millennial team, and fun dinner buddies.
Finally, I would like to thank my fellow VISTA. Clara Martinez is a beautiful human, unwavering in her convictions, and welcoming to every person she meets. Her laugh goes for miles and she never fails to make a person feel warm. Without her friendship, this could have been the hardest year of my life. Transitioning out of college, I felt clueless and moving to a new city where, at first, I knew no one was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. Without the forced first year friendships and ice breakers of college, I felt lost on how to meet people–seriously, high school should really teach a class on how to make friends outside of institution. Clara became my best ally, biggest coach, and closest friend in Lansing–she is definitely in the future bridesmaid line up in that dream wedding scenario that we all secretly think about from time to time. Scott is lucky to have her as a work companion for the upcoming year and I am jealous of the time they will have together. I want Clara to know one of my favorite goodbye quotations from Peter Pan, “Never say goodbye because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting” (J.M. Barrie). I will never forget you, Clara Martinez.
Lansing is a wonderful place to live. From living in the Moores Park Neighborhood to shopping in South Lansing, I felt the sense of community in this city. Lansing has such a small town vibe because residents take the time to know their neighbors, know the businesses surrounding them, and know their city officials. I will truly miss this unique, always crazy, kind of weird, magnificent place to live. This is not goodbye. I promise to come back to see the wrap up of the inaugural Love Your Block projects and visit my great Lansing family.
Ta ta for now,