KEYS at the Pennsylvania AmeriCorps Launch in Philadelphia

By Jenalee Schenk and Dan Slowey

It was a cold, bleary Sunday morning as KEYS members and staff prepared to embark on our journey to the 2012-13 Pennsylvania AmeriCorps Launch in Philadelphia. Despite the weather and the early departure time, spirits were at an all-time high. The delightfully complementary scents of adventure, service, and Cool Ranch Doritos were in the air, and it was apparent from the outset that our motor coach driver, Prince, was not a man to be trifled with.

Approximately two hours after we left Pittsburgh, we arrived in Philadelphia, and Prince’s status as some sort of highway necromancer was confirmed.

Once we settled in at the hotel, there was a bit of time for sightseeing or relaxing, and then we all headed to the Continental restaurant for a truly delightful dinner. Tucked into a modern, stylish banquet room, we were swarmed with a dazzling array of dishes that surely must have satisfied everyone present. A few representative quotes: “These mashed potatoes are excellent.” – Deshawn Legrand. “I really like the ravioli. Hehehe.” – Madelyn Wallace. “Give me your extra dessert or I will hurt you.” – Meredythe Kimmel.

At the conclusion of our feast, the entire lot of us was unleashed upon the rainy streets of Philadelphia for a combination of (1) karaoke, (2) social interactions, (3) karaoke, and (4) more karaoke. That city has certainly seen its fair share of extraordinary events throughout the years, but let’s just say it won’t soon be forgetting any of what it witnessed that wonderful night. {Photos redacted to ensure against future blackmail.}

Early Monday morning, we all gathered for breakfast to fuel ourselves for a service project at the Philadelphia Veterans Comfort House. Tasks included cleaning and organizing, inventory of canned goods and clothing, and removing a forest of bamboo from the back yard. According to John, a Vietnam War army veteran, the home serves as temporary housing for veterans in need. At the time of our service, about seven people were living at the house, including one family. Stays usually range from two to three weeks, or until a more permanent solution is found. John told us that many of the veterans arrive at the home in need of treatment for cancer or addiction. This is the only place in Philadelphia for veterans to find this kind of housing.

After completing our work at the Veterans’ Comfort House, we loaded back onto our trusty steed and headed to the Constitution Center for the Launch. We met up with hundreds of fellow PA AmeriCorps members for a series of rousing speeches from state and national leaders, a stirring rendition of the AmeriCorps pledge, and a truly inspirational banner ceremony. Afterwards, we all enjoyed a delicious lunch, got to know each other a little bit better, and were treated to a complimentary showing of the truly inspirational “Freedom Rising.”

After an exciting trip, AmeriCorps members boarded the bus; geared up from an eventful day, the bus buzzed with energy. Debates over movies were had (Team Muppets vs. Team The Wiz), but in the end it was a bonding experience. Thanks to the AmeriCorps Launch, this bus full of KEYS members is now ready to get things done for America.


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