The inaugural class of Central Florida Public Allies officially launched on October 8, 2010
Family Services’ commitment to capacity building and creating possibilities for the Central Florida community was made even stronger this month with the official launch of the Public Allies program in Central Florida.
The national Public Allies program was founded in Chicago in 1992 by a diverse group of non-profit leaders. They believed that there were many talented young people in the up-and-coming generations who could tackle community and national issues, but first needed support and training. Public Allies works with local non-profits to place these paid volunteers in positions that benefit both the organization and the individual through training for real-world positions in the non-profit sector as well as leadership classes.
Over the past 13 years, the program has expanded into major cities across the nation including Pittsburg, Cincinnati, Miami, Las Angeles and Milwaukee. This year, Orlando, Washington D.C. and Minneapolis-St. Paul were the three newest cities to join the Public Allies’ network. For Family Services Chief Executive Officer Gregory Kurth, Family Services’ successful campaign to bring Public Allies to Central Florida has great personal significance.
“Almost 18 years ago, I was introduced to the vision of Public Allies when I was included in a national planning conference that created its name. Through the planning process, I was introduced to some of our nation’s strongest community leaders dedicated to community service,” said Kurth. “Their commitment to serve inspired me to help plan Chicago’s Public Ally program and continue on a career path that focused on serving my community… This is the next step in the evolution of Central Florida’s nonprofit sector.”
After a week of training, the 26 Central Florida Public Allies began their work following a launch event on Friday, October 8, 2010 at the Broadway United Methodist Church in downtown Orlando. These individuals – selected from over 150 applicants to the program – will serve for 10 months in eighteen local non-profits, many of whom work largely on behalf of children and families.
After being warmly welcomed to the program by Pastor Clare Chance of Broadway United Methodist Church, Sharbrika Jackson – a member of the inaugural class of Public Allies – stood at the podium to deliver a powerful message about where she has been and where she wants to go.
“Hello. I am Sharbrika Jackson,” she began. “And I am a statistic. I am a single, black mother of two, both from two different fathers. I am homeless. I grew up in a household where domestic violence was prevalent… but now I am a Public Ally.”
Macarthur Antigua, himself alumni of the program and now the Director of National Recruitment and Expansion for Public Allies, also spoke about the importance of the Allies to our community. He shared that of the national AmeriCorps family which consists of over 2,500 people, only 656 of them are a part of Public Allies. Keynote speaker Pastor Joel Hunter, locally and nationally known as the Pastor of Northland Church and a 2009-2010 member of President Obama’s President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, spoke to the allies about what it means to be a leader in modern times.
“Leadership is the combined action of the many – not the position of a few,” said Hunter. “Remember that you’re in this program because people have seen strength in you… You have been chosen, but you were chosen not only for your ability, but because people have seen in you the ability to love and to serve and to hold other people up… We are a strong nation, but we will not be saved by consumerism – we will not be saved until our lives are about picking up the weak. ”
Family and friends of the new Allies had the opportunity to meet the representatives of many of the non-profits hosting them, including Children’s Home Society, Quest, Federation of Congregations United to Serve, Florida United Methodist Children’s Home, Harbor House of Central Florida and Legal Aid Society of the OCBA, Heart of Florida United Way and Professional Opportunities Program for Students, Inc.
Family Services’ team leaders Karla Radka, Site Director for Public Allies, as well as Jessica Brown and Diana Delgado, Program Managers for Public Allies, were also on hand to welcome guests and answer questions.