Commission Minutes

Public Comment Period: There were no comments to report.

Present: Jenifer Tilton-Flood, Ed Barrett, F. Celeste Branham, Becky Hayes-Boober, Susan Cheesman (remote), Gary Dugal, Jacinda Goodwin (remote), Julia Fiori (remote), Stacie Haines, Diane Lebson, Zachery Maher (remote), Rob Meinders (remote), Thomas Meuser, John Portela, Pamela Proulx-Curry, Nathaniel Rudy (remote), Susan Wiggin, Julia Van Steenberghe.

Guests: Bill Birney, Maine Volunteer Foundation. Sara Knowles, Maine Conservation Corps.  

Call to Order: Chair Tilton-Flood called the meeting to order at 10:07 a.m.

Welcome, Announcements, Agenda Adjustments: Commissioners introduced themselves and stated which seats they held occupied on the Commission. Staff were also introduced. Executive Director Crofton announced October quiz answer: the community provides two positions: a technical supervisor for program oversight and for the weaving of AmeriCorps members and program staff into the community. Chair Tilton-Flood praised the Commission and staff for their dedicated efforts to ensure a smooth visit for AmeriCorps CEO Michael Smith. Smith was impressed by his experience with Maine’s AmeriCorps members, service projects, and alumni.

Consent Agenda: There were no concerns, additions, or deletions regarding the consent agenda. MOTION by Portela to approve the agenda. SECOND by Proulx-Curry. 

Vote on the motion: In favor –Tilton-Flood, Barrett, Branham Hayes-Boober, Cheesman, Dugal, Goodwin, Fiori, Haines, Lebson, Maher, Meinders, Meuser, Portela, Proulx-Curry, Rudy, Wiggin, Van Steenberghe. Opposed – none. Motion passed.

Items approved by the motion were the Commission meeting minutes for September 16, 2022, the reports of the Executive Committee meetings for October 4, 2022, the report of the Excellence and Expertise Task Force for October 5, 2022, the report of the Communications and Public Policy Task Force for September 20, 2022, and the report of the Research and Evaluation Task Force for September 21, 2022 be accepted.

Planning and Future Initiatives 
A.    Maine Volunteer Foundation Update
(Birney): MVF hopes to recruit another board member. Also, it hopes to execute another sponsorship soon and is currently looking for an another while exploring potential opportunities Maine’s private schools.

B.    Maine Conservation Corps Grantee Briefing (Knowles): Supervised by Maine Department of Agriculture, Forestry, and Conservation, MCC was founded 1983 and has been using AmeriCorps grants since 1990s. The program creates conservation initiatives that inspire people and enhance communities through partnerships with cities and towns throughout Maine and with additional federal partners like the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. Environmental steward initiatives involve AmeriCorps members serving across volunteer management, recruitment of volunteers, water quality monitoring, protection of endangered species, invasive monitoring and removal, GIS, and education. MCC has some challenges with enrollment and retention rates. To improve matters, the service project shall restructure recruitment and advertise member positions as experiences that can help people find their path, grow, get certifications and launch a new direction in life. Additionally, MCC is able to lodge members in Boy Scouts of America facilities and provide resources for affordable housing thanks to the of area projects and AmeriCorps alums. Overall, the program is optimistic about recruitment as there are impressive additions to the MCC program staff. Also, the recent increase to general fund allocation has improved the program by making program costs easier to shoulder.

Commissioners asked questions about member data calculation and member demographic. Knowles clarified that members range from 17 to 50 at the moment, though there is no age limit.

C.    Report on Commission Engagement with AmeriCorps CEO (Tilton-Flood, et al): Chair Tilton-Flood praised staff and Commissioners for skillfully showcasing Maine’s AmeriCorps service projects to AmeriCorps CEO Michael Smith while taking him through the rural backroads of “the real Maine.”

D.    Introduction of new staff member Jake Harner to the Commission: Hurner, Volunteer Maine’s new Maine Service Fellows Coordinator, talked about how his role pertains to MSF recruitment and partnerships. He previously served as a VISTA in a Maine-based Ending Hunger Corps service project.

Focus on Mission Responsibilities
A. Budget and funding applications for 2023
operations for approval (Crofton):
Crofton presented the Commission budget as it currently stands as of last Executive Committee approval, noting that the fiscal year follows that of our commission support grant. She explained that recently, a new federal mandate released by the AmeriCorps agency requires a half-time recruiter be added to every state Commission. The mandate is unclear about length of this position, though it may be a consideration for future budget approvals. She then walked the Commission through the purpose of each grant and its funding. Also, the Office Administrator position only funded part-time, we only have person part-time and share it with the Office of School Facilities.

Business Reports
A. Funding recommendations for new Climate Corps grant, Grant Selection and Performance Task Force
MOVED by Barrett that Downeast Community Partners’ grant proposal for a one-year commitment to the Climate Corps planning grant be funded for no less than $1,000 with the stipulation that corrections from reviewers are addressed before the reward is finalized. SECOND by Branham. 

Vote on the motion: In favor –Tilton-Flood, Barrett, Branham Hayes-Boober, Cheesman, Dugal, Goodwin, Fiori, Haines, Lebson, Maher, Meinders, Meuser, Portela, Proulx-Curry, Rudy, Wiggin, Van Steenberghe. Opposed – none. Motion passed.

The Commission clarified that there are no match requirements for Climate Corps planning grants. A second application, GPCOG, was assessed but not recommended for funding.

B. Research and Evaluation Task Force (Brewer, Haines): The recent Climate Corps policy breakfast was considered a success by all participants. Additionally, a scoping meeting with prospective program partners went well and applications to the Climate Corps planning grant RFA are expected to arrive for review soon. looking forward to applicants. Brewer presented at the Maine Climate Council and met with its philanthropy representative about how to best move forward with additional funding for Climate Corps, which lead to encouragement about the Commission applying to small grant from a private foundation. Also, Brewer was recently quoted by the Washington Post speaking about Climate Corps.

C. DEI Subcommittee (Branham): Since it is insufficient to merely distribute DEI materials without having contextual conversations, the subcommittee thinking about hosting “lunch and learns” to supplement Commission meetings. Also, since the subcommittee was created in part to work with task forces on specific issues, it is currently thinking about expanding diversity within task forces by adding more public members with diverse perspectives.  Also, there is discussion about how to integrate DEI into succession planning.

D. National Public Policy Committees (Crofton): There was discussion about how the current proposed AmeriCorps budget would result in a reduction of AmeriCorps State/National programs. That is not a good sign because the AmeriCorps A.R.P.A funds will end in 2024. Also, there were discussions about how climate corps programs could impact housing, energy, and health, though concerns were raised about the federal agency might not implement climate corps well without the assistance of a white paper on the topic. Opportunities for micro-credentialing in climate corps were also discussed.

E. AmeriCorps Federal Agency Update (Cheesman): Much praise for the Commission’s handling of the recent AmeriCorps CEO Michael Smith visit. Also, Smith’s interactions with Maine’s service projects were displayed to much interest at a recent National Board of Directors meeting.

E. Commission Staff Reports (Various): Program Officer Kelsey Preecs noted that the Maine Volunteer Leadership Conference has been delayed until November and will be hosted at the Hutchinson Center in Belfast. The Commission then discussed the possibility of hosting a Commission meeting in the Hutchinson Center on the same day. It was decided to have the November meeting in Belfast.

Business Wrap-Up:  
New commissioners informed Tilton-Flood that their orientation to the Commission left them with few questions and that they considered it a positive experience. 

MOVED by Portela to adjourn the business meeting. SECOND by Branham.
Vote on the motion: In favor –Tilton-Flood, Barrett, Branham Hayes-Boober, Cheesman, Dugal, Goodwin, Fiori, Haines, Lebson, Maher, Meinders, Meuser, Portela, Proulx-Curry, Rudy, Wiggin, Van Steenberghe. Opposed – none. Motion passed.

Chair Tilton-Flood adjourned the business meeting at 11:55 a.m. 
The next Commission meeting will be on November 18th, 2022 at the Hutchinson Center in Belfast.