Member Spotlight: Ellen Spitz

Another AIHTI Member Spotlight – Ellen Spitz, New Hope Family Shelter

Hello all! My name is Ellen, and my AmeriCorps term has just about come to an end. It seems very bittersweet – as I start my new life and move on to grad school and my career, I will greatly miss my time serving in AmeriCorps and all the passion, motivation and knowledge it has brought me. My service host site was New Hope Family Shelter. New Hope provides temporary shelter for homeless families in Bloomington and Monroe County and, in collaboration with other agencies, helps those families regain housing by addressing the problems that led to homelessness.

New Hope Garden, early in the Spring 2012 season

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My position at New Hope was Nutrition and Fitness Programs Coordinator. Because New Hope is a new organization and had no previous AmeriCorps members, I was able to create programs and take my position in any direction I felt was appropriate and necessary. This was one of my favorite parts of serving at New Hope. My supervisor and the other staff and volunteers were very confident in me and my abilities, and gave me the freedom and responsibility to choose how I wanted to use my time during my service.  Because of this, I discovered a creative and self-motivating side of myself that I never knew was there. At the beginning of my service, I didn’t really consider myself to be a very creative person, but now I believe quite the opposite. Developing programs from scratch and being able to choose the ways I felt would be most successful in effecting change in the nutrition and physical activity behaviors of our residents required a lot of creativity, and I was surprised at my ability to think outside the box. Another benefit of the freedom I was given was that I was able to create programs and serve with areas/topics that I was knowledgeable about and comfortable with.

My knowledge and experience with nutrition has led me to strongly believe that a focus on whole foods and fostering a strong connection with your food and where it comes from are key for life-long healthy eating. I was glad to be able to help many of the residents at New Hope begin to connect with their food chain and to see nutrition in a more positive way through the New Hope Garden, our weekly healthy (and usually vegetarian) dinners, a weekly share of healthy, organic and local produce from Getty’s Creek Farm. Our tour of Getty’s Creek Farm brought the concept of food full-circle for several children at the shelter.

A healthy vegetarian taco salad with homemade tortilla chips for dinner at the shelter

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Radishes and kale from New Hope Garden’s first harvest

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During my service, I strived to enact change in the children and adults’ lives that I touched, in addition to improving their access to important nutritional and physical activity resources. I very much enjoyed my time serving at New Hope. I hope that I have been able to make an impact on our residents as much as they have impacted my life. No one could have said it better than Gandhi: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

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