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Emerson Collective at EPA Bloomhouse

Team Care Force 15, staff Hugh Harlow, Sam Sadlier, and Molly Stuber, and reserves Avery Brick, Vanessa Figueroa, Fabiola Meza, and Karli Swensen.

In December 2021, Care Force ventured to East Palo Alto, California to break out our yellow City Year jackets and prep and lead a service event with the Emerson Collective. Our event took place at Bloomhouse, a center for Emerson Collective’s commitment and ongoing work within the East Palo Alto community to create job opportunities, elevate cultural programs, foster sustainability, and much more. Bloomhouse serves as a place for community meetings and events, and it also houses an Emerson team dedicated to collaborating with the East Palo Alto community. For this event, the team was joined by four CF reserves, TCF14’s Avery Brick and Karli Swensen, TCF 12’s Fabiola Meza, and City Year Sacramento alum Vanessa Figueroa. These reserves joined six TCF 15 members along with staff members Hugh Harlow, Sam Sadlier, and Molly Stuber to prep and execute the successful service event.

To begin prep week, our team landed in San Francisco on Monday, December 6th, met up with our staff, and started gathering materials and tools for the week ahead. For five of the six Team Care Force members on this event, this was their first time traveling to California! On Tuesday morning, our team traveled to the Bloomhouse campus, took COVID-19 rapid tests, and began our on-site prep work. This service event engaged six distinct service partners (Boys & Girls Club of the Peninsula, Nuestra Casa, DREAMer’s Roadmap, Casa De Paz, City Year, and Bloomhouse) and therefore involved a myriad of projects.

Event Day project station for volunteers to write holiday cards to migrant famers and their families supported by the work of Casa De Paz.

For our City Year projects, volunteer groups would be constructing library carts for partner schools in San Jose and Sacramento and painting school logo murals for each of these carts. To prepare for these projects, our team measured, cut, and organized the wood into kits for volunteers to construct on event day. Our team also worked on sketching the murals, painting the background colors, and dotting each mural with the appropriate paint colors.

During our prep week, I focused on the physical prep tasks and also on editing and finalizing our Project Coordinator Guides (PCGs), which is the document that Care Force uses to compile all the information Project Coordinators need to be successful during an event. This document details the timing of the event, the specific service partner, the service project itself, the details of circles with volunteers, and helpful reminders about leading volunteers and safety. Throughout the prep week, our team used these documents to practice first and final circle, familiarize ourselves with the event timeline, and better understand more context about our service partners.

Garage mural for the EPA Bloomhouse during prep and post the service event.

On event day, our team led 185 Emerson employees in the following projects to drive impact for our six service partners and the communities they support. To be as safe as possible COVID-19 wise, projects took place outside or inside a large warehouse space with all doors open. Together volunteers accomplished the following:

  • Filled 300 bags with supplies and math games for the Boys and Girls Club of the Peninsula
  • Assembled 300 family holiday gifts kits for Nuestra Casa, as part of their effort to uplift Latino families in East Palo Alto
  • Constructed and painted 19 Library Carts for City Year partner schools in Sacramento and San Jose
  • Created 200 gift packages with gloves, socks, blankets, beanies and thank you cards for DREAMer’s Roadmap in support of migrant farmers
  • Wrote 200+ holiday cards for Casa de Paz in support of immigrants recently released from detention
  • Painted a new garage door mural as well as potted twelve new trees and ten new plants for the landscape
  • Weeded and replanted two existing raised garden beds, built three additional garden beds
  • Constructed and painted four outdoor tables to be used for events at Bloomhouse
A library cart mural completed by volunteers and the library carts themselves!

This event with Emerson Collective was a unique opportunity to engage multiple service partners when Care Force typically works with one to two service partners per event. Our team had the opportunity to meet and network with representatives from some of the service partners, and this made the service feel that much more impactful. Specifically for my project with the Boys & Girls Club of the Peninsula, I was fortunate enough to work with two staff who provided further insight into how the service volunteers were completing would be used in the organization’s programming. Through these partnerships with our service partners, as well as our partnership with our corporate partner Emerson Collective, we successfully facilitated a powerful day of service at the EPA Bloomhouse.

Following our exciting event, four of my teammates and I were able to extend our trips to stay and explore for another day! Given that five members of our team had never traveled to California before, the opportunity to extend our trips was a huge highlight. Team members ventured into San Francisco to visit Coit Tower, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Ferry Building, and Umbrella Alley, which houses seven murals by local artists. The team even trekked up Lombard Street, which is famously claimed as one of the most crooked streets in the world! All in all, the team had a blast exploring San Francisco for the first time, and it was a joy to learn more about the culture and surrounding areas of the city.

TCF 15 members Stuart Allen, Allison Anderson, and Alissa Cook in Umbrella Alley, San Francisco, CA.

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