Join the AmeriCorps VISTA Team at CityLink!

Join CityLink AmeriCorps

Discover your passions and skills through a year of service as a CityLink Center AmeriCorps VISTA.

CityLink Center is a city-wide initiative bringing together various social services in Cincinnati all under one roof. Through integrated and holistic services, our team of expert staff, partners and volunteers are helping people break free from the cycle of poverty and reach of place of self-sustainability and hope. Volunteers In Service To America (VISTA) build CityLink Center’s capacity to better serve the community and create a platform for life change.

Through a year of service you will gain professional skills and experience, build a network of career professionals, and earn an education grant to kickstart your career in the field of your interest.

We are currently hiring for 7 positions starting in June 2017 in communications, development, hospitality and programming, partner development and volunteer systems. Applications are due by May 5, 2017.

For more information, please visit our VISTA engagement page for additional information on how to apply!

We believe in National Service

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Dating back to 1964, the concept and implementation of national service was mainstreamed when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act of 1965. The Act, which was intended to strength federal coordination of efforts to alleviate poverty, incorporated AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) as the domestic version of the Peace Corps. Since its implementation, AmeriCorps VISTA has led to service expansions to include programs such as the Summer Associates, Citizens Corps, and Senior Corps. Programming also expanded to include educational service to the disabled, job training, and addiction services in rural communities. Since 1964, more than 1 million Americans have served in AmeriCorps.

Here at CityLink, we trained and onboarded our first inaugural class of VISTAs in July 2012 and we’re currently recruiting our 5th VISTA class, learn more below.

VISTAs provide integral support to CityLink’s administrative operations in key function areas such as programming, communications, event management, client recruitment, volunteer training, and partner support. Recent VISTA projects have included the relaunch of CityLink’s event committee, implementing internal communication systems for volunteers, and developing new processes for our new client management system Sales Force.  CityLink over the years has been able to expand volunteer roles, optimize fundraising efforts, and provide transition support for new partners, thanks to dedicated and hardworking VISTAs that make those changes possible, keeping CityLink operating efficiently. Across America, thousands of people both young and old, are mobilizing within communities to build capacity within community organizations, filling resource gaps within schools, assisting teens with college prep, and much more.

The struggle against poverty is never over until every family, and every child, can live in a community where everyone can receive opportunities, something AmeriCorps and other national service programs alike work to establish. CityLink is thankful for the VISTAs who have served with us, furthering our mission in combating poverty. We are currently recruiting  our 5th VISTA class for the following positions:

Communication & Events VISTA

Workforce Development Partner VISTA

Volunteer Recruitment and Engagement VISTA

Hospitality/Service Coordinator Support VISTA

Development VISTA

Automotive Partner Support VISTA 

Resources

VISTA Campus: https://www.vistacampus.gov/vista-timeline-celebrating-50-years-vista-service

Finding Hope and Help After Incarceration

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Pictured from right to left: Johnmark Oudersluys, Executive Director of CityLink Center, Rev. Noel Julnes-Dehner, Filmaker of ‘The Right Track’, Matt Joyce, Director of Strategic Partnerships for CEO, Grant Doepel, 4/7 Ministries, Felicia Johnson, CityLink Client and Nehemiah Manufacturing Employee, Michael Taylor, Operations Director for Nehemiah Manufacturing

CityLink recently hosted its first CityLink Conversation around the topic of returning citizens and recidivism. A common theme of the discussion revolved around the significant challenges and barriers people face in finding employment. And a lack of employment is often one of the biggest drivers behind recidivism,  compromising the potential success for those reentering society.

The discussion was led by experts from local and national community organizations that tackle the issue of recidisvm, second chance employment and other resources geared at supporting one of our most vulnerable populations.   Panel members included Michael Taylor, Operations Manager from Nehemiah Manufacturing, Matt Joyce, Director of Strategic Partnerships from Center of Employment Opportunities (CEO), Grant Doepel Co-Founder of 4/7 Ministries, and CityLink and Nehemiah Manufacturing employee, client Felica Johnson.

The audience viewed “The Right Track” a documentary written and produced by Cincinnati native Reverend Noel Julnes – Dehner. Panelists and audience members shared about the effects of incarceration on families, mental health, the cycle of drugs and poverty, and second chance employment opportunities.

Emotions were raw as panel members spoke not only about barriers citizens face when leaving prison, but each recounted their own stories of triumph over early struggles and how they are extending their second chance to others.  Johnson spoke of her time in jail and how she felt labeled by society:

 “When you come out of those doors you have to start over and if your story is anything like mine where you have burned all your bridges with your family because of the choices you have made and the hurt you put on them and you have nowhere to go, you find yourself back in the same environment that you know because that’s the only way you know how to survive……Everybody who surrounds me now are God fearing people and that’s what got me here today, I know without God I wouldn’t be sitting here today.”  – Felicia Johnson

Being judged by his past, Michael Taylor found himself being rejected at every turn. With no one willing to give him a chance, Michael’s perseverance and his desire to flourish beyond his mistakes grew with each obstacle:

“There was so many times I was really close to going back to the drugs and the lifestyle because that’s the only place I felt like I belonged because of my past indiscretions, and that’s when I found Nehemiah. I came to Nehemiah, I walked in the door and the owner was standing there and he shook my hand and said welcome. That gave my hope and it changed my life right then and there. I remember telling him that I was going to work hard and not lose my job, I’ll come in and work my butt off and do whatever they ask me too. I would have done anything because I didn’t have to lie, I was comfortable there. Working at Nehemiah I gained 7 promotions and became Operations Manager.”            – Michael Taylor

Prisoners often attend church to renew faith, cope with the struggles of prison life, and begin on a positive life altering journey of redemption and forgiveness. When speaking about prison ministries and the need to invent something new to help combat recidivism, Grant Dopel talks of his involvement with other ministries and how he and his wife founded 4/7 Ministries.

“4/7 came to be because we saw a different need, there are many wonderful prison ministries that we have been a part of, and when you see the recidivism rate in this country of 49% half of the people who come out of prison go right back. We got to thinking, there are wonderful organization like ours that do good work on the inside, and other wonderful organization that help on the outside…..how do we bridge that gap? That’s what 4/7 became, let’s bring in people from our communities to meet those folks behind bars. That’s bringing in business owners, pastors, people of faith, people not of faith.”        – Grant Doepel

Employment opportunities for citizens exiting prison has long been a both a necessity and struggle within local communities. Both Nehemiah Manufacturing and CEO have invested many resources into not only providing employment for those leaving prison, but also forming communities among their employees, creating the positive structured social relationships lacking behind bars. Matt Joyce speaks about CEO’s program structure and how it’s intended to help people gain long term employment through partnership.

“Our work is centered on transitional employment, we work with cities, states, apartments, Habitat for Humanity, a whole lot of people committed to going to the private sector and saying ‘would you be willing to give us work?’ Anything from doing roadside maintenance, construction, and basic labor. We work with people as they are coming out of prison, ideally within the first couple of weeks of them coming out. Its this idea that when you’re coming out of prison and you have an employer there saying I’ve got a job for you. People are getting paid everyday and it’s something they can take home to their family and know they are contributing. This makes a huge difference.”  – Matt Joyce

CityLink is committed to partnerships that allow us to team with these awesome local organizations, with their expertise and our resources can effectively address this critical issue within our community and provide equal opportunity for all. The Center for Employment Opportunities will launch here in Cincinnati on April 14th.

Saturday Services Return in April

Saturday Hours

Spring is upon us and CityLink’s seasonal Saturday Services are returning in just a few weeks. Bi-weekly Saturday Programming will start April 8th and run through September 22nd. We identified Saturday Programming as a need based on client feedback. CityLink and our partners are fully committed to preserving a solution that will resolve the challenges our clients face, including the challenges of our employed clients. Many work long hours to support their families and face time constraints, transportation barriers and other obstacles that interfere with meeting their day to day needs.

 

Operating Hours Beginning April 8th are as follows:

Monday: 8:00-5:00 p.m.
Tuesday 8:00-5:00 p.m.
Wednesday 8:00-8:30 p.m.
Thursday 8:00-5:00 p.m.
Friday 8:00-5:00 p.m.
*Saturday 9:00-2:00 p.m.
*Offered the 2nd/4th Saturdays of the month April-September

Join Us for CityLink Conversations Inside Out: Life After Prison

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Every year thousands of our fellow citizens are released from prison, and left with little to no family support, no money, few resources to gain self-sufficiency. Gaining employment in an already competitive workforce labeled as “offender” has made getting a job an incredible challenge and statistics show that a lack of employment is one of the driving forces behind recidivism. As a society it is important that we change this narrative.

On March 2nd CityLink will be hosting an open dialogue event, intended to educate members of our community on the pressing issues facing citizens returning home incarceration.  Join us for a panel discussion and viewing of ‘The Right Track’ a 25 minute documentary about the struggle between justice and redemption as experienced by people who’ve spent time in prison and re-entered society.We will be joined by CityLink Clients and the following panelists:

  • “The Right Track” film producer Rev. Noel Julnes-Dehner
  • Michael Taylor of Nehemiah Manufacturing
  • Grant Doepel of 4/7 Ministries
  • A representative from The Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), a future collaborative partner of CityLink

Light refreshments will be provided. Limited free tickets are available for the event, click here to get your ticket now!

Meet Our Service Coordinator Team!

 

 

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Meet our Service Coordination Team (from left to right): Cassie Kolkebeck, Leah Steverson, Monica Benton, Meggie Kingsley and Brittany Sisson

At CityLink, our Service Coordination Team plays an integral role in preparing our clients for success. When new clients enter our doors, the SC Team is responsible for supporting them in identifying their needs and desired outcomes. As the front line of CityLink’s unique service integration model, our Service Coordinators serve as a single and familiar point of contact for all CityLink services and partner organizations. Under one roof, our clients are able to access various resources while having the individualized care and attention of a highly compassionate and skilled social worker who knows their story and supports them throughout their journey.

Our SC Team took some time to share some highlights of their work here at the Center, the benefits of the model and the most rewarding part of their jobs:

How does the holistic approach work in favor of our clients?

“I think that clients benefit greatly from service integration because most of our clients don’t have a singular issue-like most people in the world. We have to look at a person more holistically because getting a job isn’t going to fix your life if you have mental health issues, or if you don’t have a car to get to that job, or don’t have childcare etc. The integrated approach is very important and I value the spiritual component of our services here because sometimes people need help tapping into their spiritual selves which is where they can find their success.”  
Leah Stevenson, MSW

How are you able to better provide services for clients in the integrated service model at CityLink?

“One of the advantages of working at CityLink and providing services under one roof is that we have access to partners who are providing services to our clients, which allows for easier and more consistent communication. This is particularly helpful when trying to address or problem-solve an issue a client may be having.  We also have been able to establish relationships with external or visiting partners. For instance, we just had a meeting with Regina Campbell from Legal Aid to educate Service Coordinators on additional services Legal Aid can provide to our clients, which helps us to serve our clients better when we are working collaboratively.”
Cassie Kolkelbeck, MSW

What do you consider to be the most important part of your job and what would you consider the most rewarding part of your job? 

“Relationship building is the most important thing that we do. If we don’t have a relationship with our clients then that means they can’t trust us, and if they don’t trust us then as individuals they can’t progress in trying to meet their goals. I feel like the most rewarding part about my job is when people actually make it here and see what this place is about, so that they can sit down and have a goal session and map out where to go from there.”
Monica Benton, MSW

Marching On Together

 

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Photos of historic Women’s Marches and of the Women’s March here in Cincinnati on 1/21/17

The Women’s March on Washington gained worldwide attention as millions around the globe peacefully protested in the name of equality and justice for all women. Historically women’s freedom and rights have evolved and continue to face challenges even in 2017. American values at the core, represent the finest display of freedom by which our fathers founded this great nation upon.  However, in past decades women have struggled to obtain civil liberties matching those of men. The march was intended to show how differences in race, religion, and nationality do not separate us, but instead reflect our intersecting communities and diversity.

Here in Cincinnati, thousands gathered at Washington Park in unity with those around the world. One of CityLink’s own Americorps VISTA had an opportunity to join others at Washington Park. Here is what she had to say regarding her experience:

“Marching in solidarity on Saturday with thousands in Cincinnati was an incredible experience. Men, women, and child of all ages, races and beliefs unified locally, nationally and globally to say that equality and acceptance of all human beings is demanded. At time when it has felt as though true peace, equality and acceptance are unattainable, this march showed that there is hope and that America is still a place where people truly desire, welcome and celebrate diversity. I am proud to stand with the many who believe that beautifully diverse people and communities are the strength of our country.”
-Ashley Jacobs, 2016 Americorps VISTA at CityLink

The Women’s March demonstrated unequivocally our nation’s freedom in speech and protest. When confronted with issues regardless of age, color or religion each of us enjoys the First Amendment Right to allow our voices to be heard. Those voices are even louder when expressed in a peaceful and nonviolent forum. And while the struggle for women’s rights may be decades old, the need for change persists as we continue to strive towards the vision set forth in the U.S Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equally”and this notion is reflected upon in governing laws, policy, and in the heart and conscience of the American spirit.

Center Celebration February 9th!

 If you’re a volunteer, client or supporter around here, you’re invited to join us in celebration of some of the awesome milestones our clients are reaching along their journeys as well a number of volunteers who are making a big impact on our mission!
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RSVP REQUIRED BY FEBRUARY 3RD:
http://bit.ly/citylinkcelebration

Meet Our New Volunteer Director, Becky Heisler

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Here at CityLink, our volunteers are at the heart of how we carry out our mission. They’re a huge part of the CityLink family; over 400 passionate and talented people gave of their time throughout 2016 to support our clients and partner organizations. So it’s no wonder that our newest team member is a previous volunteer who began serving before we ever opened our doors in 2012. It is with great pleasure that we introduce our new Director of Volunteer Mobilization, Becky Heisler!

Becky wanted to share the following:

“ I am honored to be a part of the CityLink team as the new Director of Volunteer Mobilization and work with each of you. To share a little bit about myself as we are getting to know each other, I have been in the field of education for the past eleven years as both a kindergarten teacher and assistant principal. This past year my husband, Ric and I got married and we made the decision to move downtown because we are passionate about the change that is happening in our city and want to be a part of that change. Prior to joining the CityLink team I have always had a passion to help others through various volunteer opportunities, and now I am excited to continue this calling as a part of CityLink. I look forward to getting to know all of  my new CityLink family as we work together to create life-change in our city.”

– Becky

Becky brings with her a wealth of professional experience, leadership, and compassion for our city, our mission, and for each and every person who walks through our doors seeking support. We are confident in Becky’s authentic heart and her ability to provide thoughtful and strategic leadership as she works alongside our volunteers to bring help and hope to those seeking real life-change.

Please join us in welcoming Becky!

In His Own Words: MLK Continues to Lead

At CityLink, we are fortunate to have a team of AmeriCorps VISTAs who propel our work and our mission.   We asked that team of millennials to reflect on mlk-speech-1963, and share their reflections on his words in our modern age:

 

Federal holidays are often a welcome respite from day-to-day operations in offices, schools and organizations. However,the third Monday in January, is not simply a day off, but a time to reflect on the many teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. We live in a broken world. Amidst a time of great change, racial divide and overall social injustice, it is a time for us to be honest with ourselves and to look at where we have been, where we are now, and examine ways in which we can grow.

Over the past few years we have been challenged by events (locally, nationally and internationally) that have evoked anger, intolerance, and fear.  The riots and trials in Ferguson, MO, the attacks in Nice, France, a divisive election and other happenings have made us individually retreat into our own realm of safety and comfort.

We can refuse to challenge our own worldview.  We can refuse to listen to the needs of our neighbors. Or, we can choose to realize that the problems of “others” are our problems as well.  Dr. King knew this, taught this and preached this crazy notion that our lives are inevitably entwined:

 “…all life is interrelated… Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.  This is the interrelated structure of reality.”

Because our lives are connected we cannot sit idly by and accept the injustices we see every day. We must fight to step out of ourselves, confronting our own ignorance and the issues of our world. When we are fighting for justice for our neighbor, we are fighting for justice for ourselves. This is not a fight of hatred and violence but a call to unselfishly love one another. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. charges us to love others with an agape love:

“Agape is creative, understanding, redemptive good will for all men. It is an overflowing love that seeks nothing in return…When one rises to love on this level, he loves every man. He rises to the point of loving the person who does the evil deed while hating the deed the person does. I believe that this is the kind of love that can carry us through this period of transition.”

Just as this love propelled the actions of MLK Jr. and the civil rights movement, it can inspire and direct change in the challenges we are facing and will continue to face together as a community and as nation.  During this season of tension and conflict, we challenge you to not be passive. Lift your voice, use your gifts, question yourself and take an active role in loving your neighbors.

There is much work to be done, and while the road ahead may be long, arduous at times and riddled with struggle, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never loose infinite hope” in a reconciled world where poverty, pain, violence and injustice ceases to exist.