Friday, July 19, 2013

S.O.S. Appreciates Our Volunteers, Receives Appreciation in Return


S.O.S. staff and volunteers gathered at the Mediation Center on Wednesday night to celebrate volunteers' service and dedication to our work and our community. Over 30 volunteers, some of whom have worked with the Mediation Center since its inception, and others who this year became integrally involved in our work, shared in the food, drinks and warm atmosphere of the evening.

Volunteer coordinator Ariana Siegel thanked volunteers for the vital role they play in S.O.S. operations, often acting as the face of our events as they greet guests, hand out food, or run activities. "Every day brings a reason to thank volunteers," she said, "whether it's an old friend coming by to stay in touch, a new volunteer offering his or her expertise, a volunteer photographer documenting our events, or a youth volunteer bringing enthusiasm to an internship. We appreciate you every day, and today we get a chance to say it."
YO S.O.S. Youth Organizer Victoria Renna Speaks to the volunteers

Several Mediation Center and community leaders spoke to the volunteers to share their gratitude. Mediation Center director Amy Ellenbogen quoted Richard Green of the Crown Heights Youth Collective, who said, "Spiders united can tie up an elephant." She added, "I really believe that the folks in this room can be the spiders that tie up the violence that is plaguing the community and replace it with a caring compassionate community."

S.O.S. Program manager Allen James told the volunteers that their efforts to improve the community distinguished them. "It's actually the most natural thing in the world to volunteer" he said, "but you wouldn't know it because so few people do. You are the people that do."

After watching a slideshow depicting the work they did this year, volunteers Willard Hawkins, Antoinette Brice, Tiffany Murray and Victoria Renna shared thoughts on their experiences. Willard, who has volunteered with the Mediation Center for many years, as well as worked with labor organizing and other endeavors, said that this was "the most meaningful and rewarding experience" he's had as an activist. Antoinette spoke of the son she lost to gun violence, and how she now works with S.O.S. to tell young black and latino men that they are "men of purpose and men of destiny," whose lives are meaningful and not worth wasting on gun violence.

Volunteer Antoinette Brice admires her new volunteer shirt
Tiffany Murray, who began volunteering this year and ultimately hosted and planned an event, spoke of the many communities she has lived in, and how she particularly wanted to be involved in this one because it is, "one of the most vibrant and empowering communities I've ever encountered." Our Mediation Center intern and YO S.O.S. Youth Organizer Victoria Renna said that her experience here taught her how to speak to people and be an activist. "People here actually like coming to work every day," she said, admiring the S.O.S. team and Mediation Center staff for their hard work to help the community.

Finally, the S.O.S. team came out to thank the volunteers for their support. Outreach Worker Supervisor Lavon Walker explained how important it was for the team, who risk their lives in their work to reduce gun violence in the streets, to feel that people in the community appreciated and supported their work. Before heading home volunteers received t-shirts and certificates of merit, and promised to join us for our "100 Man March to End Gun Violence" next Sunday, June 27th.

To get involved with the S.O.S. as a volunteer, email Ariana Siegel at siegelar@crownheights.org, or contact the Mediation Center at 718-773-6886, or visit us at 256 Kingston Avenue.


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