Commission Minutes

Public Comment Period: Kristina Cannon and an AmeriCorps member, Anne Rilke, shared developments within the AmeriCorps Outdoor Recreation Program, which grew from three to five members in the previous year. Cannon explained how the service project positions outdoor recreation as a tool for economic development and the revitalization of Skowhegan. Also, the project is very community-focused and helps improve health and social engagement outcomes. Somerset County has troubling public health data for adverse experiences in children as well as low rankings relative to other Maine counties in health outcomes and the service project works to improve access to outdoor experiences to remedy these difficulties. The project is doing so well that it is moving into a larger location (a “base camp”) that will hold a larger gear library plus instructional facilities for courses such as bike maintenance. The service project’s activities are well received; last week, fifty families attended a community skiing event.

Cannon plans to transition the service project from a rural fixed-amount grant to a regular fixed-amount grant in the next grant cycle in order to increase capacity for more AmeriCorps members.  

Present: Ed Barrett (remote), Philip Bosse, F. Celeste Branham, Susan Cheesman, Chelsey Fortin-Trimble (remote), William Guidon Jr., Stacie Haines, Becky Hayes-Boober, Diane Lebson, Janet May, Jeffrey McCabe (remote), Robert Meinders, Thomas Meuser (remote), Pamela Proulx-Curry (remote), Nathaniel Rudy (remote), Luke Shorty, Jenifer Tilton-Flood, Julia Van Steenberghe, Susan Wiggin

Guests: Kristina Cannon and Anne Rilke, AC Outdoor Recreation Program

Call to Order: Chair Tilton-Flood called the meeting to order at 10:36 a.m.

Welcome, Announcements, Agenda Adjustments: Commissioners introduced themselves and stated which seats they occupy within the Commission. Staff were also introduced. Executive Director Crofton announced that Barrett and Proulx-Curry answered the March quiz question correctly. Tilton-Flood reminded the board that the 2023 AmeriCorps Member Conference will be hosted at the Hutchinson Center on April 5th and that May’s Commission meeting will be changed to May 12th to accommodate the formula grant submission schedule.

There were no changes to the agenda.

Consent Agenda: MOVED by Shorty to approve the consent agenda. SECONDED by Branham. 

Vote on the motion: In favor – Barrett, Bosse, Branham, Cheesman, Fortin-Trimble, Guidon Jr., Haines, Hayes-Boober, Lebson, May, McCabe, Meinders, Meuser, Proulx-Curry, Rudy, Shorty, Tilton-Flood. Opposed – none. Abstention – Van Steenberghe, Wiggin. Motion passed.

Items approved by the motion were the Commission meeting minutes for December 16, 2022, the reports of the Executive Committee meetings for January 3, February 7, and March 7, 2023, the report of the Communications Task Force meeting for January 24, 2023, the report of the Climate Corps Task Force meeting for February 15, 2023, the reports of the Grant Selection and Performance Task Force meetings for January 13, February 10, and March 10, 2023, the reports of the Public Policy Task Force for February 8 and March 8, 2023, and the report of the Transition Task Force for February 8, 2023.

Planning and Future Initiatives 
A.    Proposed new membership Maine Service Fellows advisory committee
(Branham, Hurner): The Commission was presented with a list of professional biographies for proposed external members to the Maine Service Fellows Task Force. These additional members will aid with finalizing the selection process for MSF candidates in addition to revising the program structure, service length, and community partnerships. MSF projects currently include expansions of accessible transportation in rural areas and a project in Pleasant Point, ME that targets energy efficiency by providing window dressings to local residences.

Focus on Mission Responsibilities
A. New Strategic Plan Development
(Tilton-Flood, Crofton):
The planning model used allows for nimble adjustment of priorities in the case of unexpected scenarios. Staff are working to identify a facilitator for the planning process which will include the board retreat in September 2023. Board members will be involved in outreach, data gathering, and interviews to be conducted over the summer. This year, the retreat has been increased to a day and a half.

Business Reports
A. Transition Task Force
(Shorty): Thenera Bailey from SISGI is helping the task force assess the issues that include a potential change in the Commission’s fiscal agent. Recently, the task force heard from staff at New Jersey’s service commission (that commission changed departments in NJ state government) to better prepare for the move. Research conversations with civil servants in New Mexico and Georgia will happen soon. Additionally, the task force is exploring the succession process for the Commission’s next executive director.

B. Grant Selection and Performance Task Force (Barrett): KVCAP has struggled with member recruitment this year. Maine Conservation Corps lacks sufficient data (due to starting a new grant year in January) to discuss funding processes with the task force. 

National direct proposals have been received by the task force:

  • Campus Compact: Campus Climate Action Corps 
    Recommend: Support  
  • College for Social Innovation: College for Social Innovation AmeriCorps Program  
    Recommend: Neutral
  • Conservation Legacy: Conservation Legacy AmeriCorps Program   
    Recommend: Support    
  • Health360, Inc.: Healthy Minds Alliance - ASN  
    Recommend: Support  
  • Lead For America: Lead for America National Hometown Fellows  
    Recommend: Neutral  
  • Local Initiatives Support Corporation: Economic Mobility AmeriCorps  
    Recommend: Neutral

These are the multi-state AmeriCorps programs that have indicated they will place members in Maine if funded. The final status of their awards has not been determined by the federal agency.

C. Climate Corps Task Force (Haines): If the Climate Corps bill is fully funded by the Legislature, Climate Corps will have 50 available member positions. Climate Corps Coordinator Brewer has made progress with marketing materials and frequently promotes Climate Corps at regional and national conferences.

D. Public Policy Task Force (Shorty): Two L.R.s are currently in the Legislature’s Revisor of Statutes office. One would approve of a study regarding the Commission’s process of transferring from MDOE to MSOS. The other would make education award payments earned in a service program tax exempt at the state level and include a check box in state job applications that asks whether applicants served in AmeriCorps or other corps programs in Maine (such as MSF or Climate Corps).

LD 666: An Act To Support Community-based Volunteer Organizations establishes technical support for community organizations, was proposed as a responsibility of DECD. Members of the legislature’s IDEA committee asked at Representative Fey decided to develop an amendment to this bill that would assign this support work to Volunteer Maine.

E. AmeriCorps federal agency update (Cheesman): CEO Smith visited Arizona to celebrate AmeriCorps week. New agency staff include a regional member recruitment associate (RMRA) covered by ARP funds; this role recruits for all AmeriCorps programs. The federal agency acknowledges the low AmeriCorps recruitment numbers are a byproduct of a strong labor market in the private sector.

F. Commission Staff Reports (Various): 
Training Officer Michael Ashmore explained the new micro-credential opportunities for AmeriCorps member that being done in partnership with cooperative extensions. These electronic badges demonstrate skills developed during service and enhance resumes; the badges are a positive development given that AmeriCorps members are already required to spend one percent of their service time in volunteer management training.

Program Officer Kelsey Preecs explained new VGF funding opportunities targeting new Mainers with visa or refugee status; since these individuals have strict limitations on the labor they are able to perform in the US, there are new VGF initiatives that work with community partners to ensure that these new Mainers can still forge connections to their local communities and develop skills.

G.  Business Wrap-Up:  
MOVED by Lebson to adjourn the business meeting. SECONDED Hayes-Boober.

Vote on the Motion: In favor – Barrett, Bosse, Branham, Cheesman, Fortin-Trimble, Guidon Jr., Haines, Hayes-Boober, Lebson, May, McCabe, Meinders, Meuser , Proulx-Curry, Rudy, Shorty, Tilton-Flood, Van Steenberghe, Wiggin. Opposed – none. Motion passed.

Chair Tilton-Flood adjourned the business meeting at 12:26 p.m.