New Allies

Public Allies Delaware welcomes a new class of service workers

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11:15 a.m., Nov. 12, 2012--From neighborhood revitalization to youth education, women’s health to juvenile justice, the newest class of Public Allies is entrenched in a term of service tackling the most pressing issues of the region.

The 28 members of the 19th class of Public Allies Delaware shared details about their placements as well as their motivation to serve during the annual “Meet the Allies” event held Oct. 26 at the Double Tree in downtown Wilmington.

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“This is an ambitious group,” said U.S. Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), who helped to open the gathering. The breakfast event drew more than 100 attendees, including friends and relatives of current Public Allies, alumni of the program and members of the community.

Public Allies Delaware is an AmeriCorps program affiliated with the University of Delaware Center for Community Research and Service. The state-based program is part of a national movement grounded in the conviction that everyone leads. There are Public Allies programs in 21 cities across the country, with each program bearing an affiliation to a local nonprofit or educational institution.

For Lauren Gliniak, who has been placed with Meeting Ground in Elkton, Md., and serves as the organization’s volunteer and community engagement coordinator, the choice to join Public Allies after graduating from the University of Delaware in 2011 was a simple one.

Through her placement, Gliniak serves the region’s homeless population. And while some of her work does not bear immediate results, she said she is happy to have a role in helping to reverse the course of homelessness in the lives of clients.

“It has been a really rewarding experience,” she said.

In addressing those gathered, Coons praised the Public Allies Delaware program as mentoring participants as they “launch a lifetime of service.” 

He spoke of his role as the First State’s junior U.S. Senator in working with his counterparts to help protect and preserve national service programs, including Public Allies, citing the tremendous “spirit of volunteerism” as well as the tangible impact that participants have in the communities they serve.

Since its founding in 1994, Public Allies Delaware has had 384 participants who have dedicated more than 652,800 hours of service through more than 150 local nonprofit organizations.

It is precisely such an opportunity that can help new leaders develop the skills necessary to provide effective service to the community, and Mary Kate Benson is a prime example.

“I want to dedicate my life to public service,” she said during her introduction. She is placed with the Delaware Community Investment Corporation, where she serves as communications coordinator. She sees Public Allies as an opportunity to get her career in service started, she said.

Malcolm Roberts, who is the Youth Achievers Program coordinator for the YMCA of Delaware, shared a similar sentiment.

“I am very passionate about making a change and a difference in my community,” he said.

Joseph Pika, James R. Soles Professor of Political Science and International Relations and interim associate dean in UD’s College of Arts and Sciences, said that the Public Allies Delaware program takes the city of Wilmington’s motto – “A Place to Be Somebody” – a step further, providing participants the chance “to be somebody and make a difference.”

The annual event also featured keynote speaker David Eisner, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center, Philadelphia, and former CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service. His first exposure to the Public Allies model came soon after his appointment to the federal post, and it is something he didn’t soon forget.

“The Public Allies model gets it right,” he said. “It is an extraordinary model that creates … change in the community.”

Eisner currently sits on the National Public Allies Board of Directors.

He spoke at length to the newest class of Public Allies about the importance of the commitment they have made, as well as the lasting impact they will have on the communities they serve.

“You are amazing … what an amazing commitment each and every one of you is making,” he said. “You know every day that you stand for something.”

Reflecting on what he learned about national service during his years in Washington, D.C., Eisner reflected on the importance of preserving such programs, as well as the impact they have on those who need a helping hand the most.

“Increasingly service, and the kind of service especially that is represented by Public Allies,” he said, “is not just nice. It is absolutely vital.”

Article by David Karas

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