Human Services and Boardsmanship Day

Motivations and Connections 2013 and Beyond!

by Michaelene Milo

Quote for the day:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

~Margaret Mead

All the design team members for Human Services & Boardsmanship Day showed up at the Rescue Mission Chapel to get everything set up for the day and make sure we had all the last minute details worked out.  It was exciting to finally have all our hard work and planning come to fruition.  All the employees and staff at the Rescue Mission were energetic and just as excited to be hosting us for the day.  As people started arriving we filled up the top and covered underneath a banquet table set up for donations with over 40 personal care kits, bags upon bags of clothing and several bags of bottles and cans to help benefit the Rescue Mission.  It is so inspiring to see how generous all of our classmates are!

Once we had the class announcements we set the tone for the day with a TED video clip of a volunteer firefighter with the message “Don’t wait to make a difference if you have something to give, give it now.”  Check out the video at:

The “Lives Change Here” segment started with a welcoming video from the Rescue Mission CEO since he was unable to be there in person to welcome us.  Then the Director of Programs at the Rescue Mission gave a presentation that explained the programs that the RM offers and gave some numbers to help put in to prospective the impact they have in our community.  The RM offers a variety of support services to those in need not just a place to stay.  They serve approximately 706 meals per day to people in the community in need.  In 2012, they helped place 440 people in housing and helped 152 gain employment opportunities.  These numbers have increased over the last couple years and the Rescue Mission is working towards expanding their capacity on campus to offer more affordable housing.   They have recently started “Mission Returns” a bottle and can redemption center as a way to make additional money and give people in their programs work force development opportunities.  We also learned about several collaborations the Rescue Mission has with local organizations.  One example is there collaboration with Syracuse University; the leftover food from the Dome is served the next day at the Rescue Mission.  Wow…I had never realized how many different services and clients the Rescue Mission served.  Check out their website for more information and volunteer opportunities:

To help us start making an impact “One person at a time” we split up into 4 separate groups and spent an hour volunteering at the Rescue Mission.  One group headed over to Food Services and helped to prepare the food for lunch and dinner services for the approximately 706 meals they serve a day by prepping the salads and desserts.  Another group helped organize the pantry in Clothing Outreach to allow the staff quick access to get what the clients need.  A third group helped in the mailroom by stuffing 3,500 of the Operation Drumstick mailers to be distributed to the Southern tier.  Direct mail is still the largest source of the Rescue Mission’s Fundraising.  The group I was in headed over to Volunteer Services to sort clothes donated by the local East Syracuse, Walmart.  These clothes had to have all the tags and any packaging removed and were sorted into men’s, women’s and children’s so they could be brought over the Clothing Outreach store to be given away to the clients for free.  Men’s underclothes were separated out for distribution at the emergency shelter.  I learned two interesting facts, due to the nick name associated with ribbed tank tops – “Wife Beater” – the Rescue Mission will not make them available to their clients, they are salvaged.  Second, all the clothes that are stained, ripped, salvaged and damaged are recycled by the Rescue Mission.  The RM is able to get money from all the recycled clothes.  We were told that the 12 bags we sorted today will be gone by the end of the week.

To help emphasize the value of our hands on volunteer time we watched a short video clip that showed different ways you can use your hands to get people thinking about what they can do with their own hands to help others.  Check out the video at:

To help everyone in our class “Gain New Perspective” we brought in representatives from 5 different organizations to share their mission and volunteer opportunities.  We had AIDS Community Resource soon to be ACR, Ronald McDonald House, Vera House, McMahon-Ryan Child Advocacy Center, and Syracuse Community Health Center represented.  The AIDS Community Resource has a mission to prevent the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, provide support services to those who are living with HIV/AIDS and to promote sexual literacy and improved medical outcomes.  They have numerous volunteer activities available which include anything from maintenance work to helping with their events.  The Ronald McDonald House has a 25 bedroom house that allows families to stay while their child is receiving care at the local hospitals.  There are volunteer opportunities available to help maintain the house.  Vera House has a mission to end all domestic and sexual violence, to assist families in crisis, to support those affected by domestic and sexual violence to live safe, self-sufficient lives, to empower women and children, and to promote a culture of equality and respect in all relationships.  The volunteer opportunities available include crisis calls, sexual assault advocacy, shelter programs, non-direct services and special events.  The McMahon-Ryan Child Advocacy Center has a mission dedicated to ending child abuse through intervention and education.  They have volunteer opportunities giving support on site or at special events.  The Syracuse Community Health Center’s (SCHC) mission is to provide quality health care services to all individuals with a commitment to those who might otherwise be excluded from the health care system.  There are numerous opportunities to get involved at the SCHC as an advocate.  If you are interested in getting involved in any of the organizations check out their websites at the following links:


Ronald McDonald House:

Vera House:

McMahon-Ryan Child Advocacy Center:

Syracuse Community Health Center:


We took a tour of the Rescue Mission campus to get a better idea of the services they provide to the community.  During the tour we were able to see how the Rescue Mission offers support systems to help get clients back on their feet.  Not just giving them a place to stay the night in one of their 132 beds in the Emergency Shelter facility and food to eat but assigning every person to a case manager to work out what steps they need to take to get themselves in an independent living situation.  They have an employment resource center that has space to allow computer use, resume help, interview practice, voicemail boxes that can be assigned individually and a barbershop.  They have an unmarked HIS (homeless intervention services) van that can help provide transportation to and from interviews to give clients more opportunities.  The Clothing outreach center gives clients a place to get much needed clothing at no cost.  In the chapel there are activities every night to give clients an opportunity to interact and have a sense of community.  There is also a 69 men long term facility called the Crossroads Residence available that service as a permanent home to clients that have a need.   To “Put our Money where our Mouth is” we shared with the class that the total LGS class day budget was donated to the Rescue Mission.  We had our lunch in the dining center used to feed all the Rescue Mission clients.  We were hoping to have a chance to have lunch and meet some new people but the timing didn’t quite work out so we had lunch with our LGS group.

We started the second half of the day with another short video clip that had a dying college professor’s graduation speech that reminded everyone to find their passion in life and that you won’t regret the opportunities you do take in life only the ones that you don’t.  Check out the video at:

We went “Up on the Boardwalk” with a presentation on the basics of boardmanship.   The presentation covered things to think about and ask before getting involved in a board.  You need to find an organization that is right for you, something that fuels your passion, fits into your lifestyle and that you can benefit from professionally and personally.  One recommendation that was given by the presenter was to get involved on a subcommittee to get a better understanding of the organization before getting involved on the board.  We also covered what to expect when serving on a board and the type of characteristics that make up a good board member.

The Liabilities of Serving on a Board” presentation helped people understand what is involved with serving on a board from a legal perspective.  You can check out the ‘Right From The Start: Responsibilities of Directors of Not-for-Profit Corporations’ publication at  It is a booklet that the New York State Attorney General put out to help assist current and future boards of directors not-for-profit corporations to understand and carry out their fiduciary responsibilities to the organizations they serve. And don’t worry we were reassured, “You ain’t going to jail or going broke working on a board!” J

For the “Next Order of Business” we broke up in small groups and worked through case studies that gave examples of some common problems that people might face on a board from lack of participation, an unfavorable press release, outdated mission, and implementing term limits.  Each breakout group had a different scenario to work through by having a mock board meeting to address their particular problem.  This exercise was meant to focus on exploring the role of board leadership in decision making not necessarily focused on the details of the scenario.  A lot of great discussion was generated from the class.

In “Leadership Classmates in Action” we asked several of our fellow classmates to share their personal experiences about serving on a board. They talked about the great leadership skills they gained serving on a board and the professional and personal growth they experienced.  Serving on a committee or a board is a great way to give back to the community.

One last video clip was shown, filled with inspiring quotes on why you should volunteer.  Check out the video at:

With some closing remarks from our fellow design team member we let the class know, “Now it’s up to You”.  Find your passion and go out and make an impact on the community!  Hopefully everyone discovered the value of ONE and the power of personal involvement, I know I did.

After a great class day, maybe the best yet (I could be bias), we headed over to “Rosie’s for Happy Hour”.  We all sat outside on the patio and enjoyed the sun, some drinks, yummy appetizers courtesy of Rosie’s, and some great conversation.  What a great way to end the day!