CityServe Off Ground at South Street School

There’s a lot happening behind the scenes as CityServe, Jericho’s initiative to reach new pockets of need in Danbury, continues to ramp up. Volunteers and participants are being vetted, training materials have been purchased, and logistic coordination is underway so that CityServe’s first two projects – working with South Street School and the city’s homeless – can move forward.

“We are so excited about the huge potential here,” said Carrie L. Amos, Jericho’s President. “We’ve had lots of volunteers step forward already, but, as always, there’s room for many more. Our biggest need right now, for South Street School, is for people to serve as Reading Buddies, so if you have a heart for helping children for even an hour or two a month, please get in touch with us.”

In the weeks since the school partnership was announced, one of the school’s main beautification projects – creating an “outdoor classroom” with teaching areas and a vegetable and flower garden – is being undertaken by Grace Community Church of New Canaan, who’ll provide the resources and manpower for the project. This underscores the beautiful fact that churches from both within and outside of the Jericho Partnership are participating in CityServe.

“After many months of discussions, and meeting, and setting up tours, it’s really exciting to see things actually getting underway,” said South Street School Principal Heather Pellicone. She, along with school Social Worker Brian Troiano, had the opportunity last month to meet with member of the Jericho Leadership Advisory Council. Pellicone shared about the school’s needs and gave council members a tour of the building. They came away moved.

“The dedicated teachers and staff there are working very diligently on behalf of their students, but they’re up against some very significant issues and challenges,” said JLAC member Linda Weiss. “What an amazing opportunity Jericho has to come alongside them and offer backup and support as they work to improve the children’s’ future.”

“What struck me is how what we learned about school mirrors what we saw in the inner city, in the sense that we all have blind spots toward what is actually happening,” JLAC member Jeff Eberts said. “We assume that all public school in one district have equal access and priorities to resources. That isn’t the case. The underserved can be among us and we are blind to actually see them. This is a huge opportunity, but at the same time, it’s very sobering.”

Members of JLAC contributed 70% of the seed money required to get CityServe off to a fantastic start, funding what it will cost for supplies, and for training, vetting, and equipping participants. Additional contributions for CityStart can be made here.

And just last week, Jericho staff and volunteers spent several hours with students at the school, taking part in recess and facilitating lunch-table talk using curriculum from the “Start with Hello” program, developed by Sandy Hook Promise.

CityServe’s other project – CleanStart, designed to help some of Danbury’s chronic homeless people by compensating them for cleaning up the city – will begin in full force in April, when the weather is more accommodating to outdoor work.

“Right now, we’re working with city officials on developing a process for vetting the people in our homeless population to determine who’ll be participants for this work,” Amos said. “We’re also looking for volunteers who’d be interested in giving one or two hours a week to serve as job coaches. So if you’re someone who can be flexible with a lunch hour during the workday and you want to help the chronically homeless become more productive members of our community, then we need you.”  Amos said the vision is for work teams to be out, cleaning up city streets, for five or six hours on a given work day. They’d be compensated by the city of Danbury.

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