Tag Archives: Hartford

This is Why My Hart Beats

17 Jul

Below is my letter to the panelists reviewing my Presentation of Learning. It’s been a great year!

Dear Panel Members:

Thank you for taking the time to be here today. In the tale of my 22 months here in Hartford, this presentation marks the final chapter. You have all been central to my story and are central to the community that I have identified so strongly with.

During my initial Public Allies interview, I was asked, “How do you define community?” I hashed together a few thoughts and examples which I won’t bore you with. The truth is, I didn’t know. The only reason coherent sentences came out of my mouth was because in my first 7 months in Hartford I had began to grasp the concept of community. I want to remind you today that the term ‘community’ is abstract and difficult to grasp for most people in your community. All of us here have some understanding that ‘community’ means something different to each person, but do we understand that not everyone has had the experience necessary to define community for themselves? Just as an Oceanographer understands deep sea carbon sequestration and an Educator understands Piaget’s conservation of mass experiment and a Mathematician understands how to calculate the volume of a solid with rotational symmetry using disk integration and a Psychologist understands that there actually is no such thing as multi-tasking and a Philosopher can tell you that this list is actually an attempt at a logical statement…  a Public Ally understands community. And a good Political Scientist understands how important that is. There is an important distinction, however, between all of these seemingly analogous statements. Understanding community through my time with Public Allies gave me a passion for learning and work that was absent in all the other fields. That is a lesson so valuable that it may take me a lifetime to figure out what it’s worth, but I’ll wager it’s worth something close to a lifetime.

So now I close the book on my time here in Hartford, taking with me lessons and relationships that will last forever. I have confidence in my abilities, I think I’ve learned a tinge of modesty, I’ve developed new skills, and I’m beginning to understand who I am. I’ll never forget the community where all of this came to happen because, by my definition, my community here in Connecticut was the first community I was ever a part of.

Thank you for letting me ramble on, for letting me start sentences with conjunctions and end them with prepositions, and for being some of the most important people in my life.


Philip Drew – Hartford, CT


Global Youth Service Day – Reflection & Planning

30 Apr

Global Youth Service Day (GYSD) was last weekend, April 20-22! Although I’ve worked on other projects this year, GYSD is the central part of my Public Ally term of service. I am, after all, Our Piece of the Pie’s “2012 Global Youth Service Day Coordinator” … or I was. With the big day (April 21st) behind me, I’m experiencing an odd combination of feeling relief and feeling like I lost something very important. On my first day at Our Piece of the Pie, I was handed a massive binder left by last year’s GYSD Coordinator.

Since that day in September, everything I’ve worked on has been directly or indirectly geared towards a successful Global Youth Service Day. For the last month, I don’t think there is a single waking hour that I haven’t worked on, thought about, or talked about Global Youth Service Day… and I’ve certainly dreamed about it enough too. A few people have joked that I have a talent for turning any conversation topic into a discussion on Global Youth Service Day. I swear I’m not that self-involved… it’s just been the only thing bouncing around in my head! Regardless, a big THANK YOU is in order for all the people who have put up with me for the past month! The planning details are the boring bits of this whole story, but they give a glimpse at what I’ve spent the past months on. Here are some of the tasks involved in the GYSD planning process:

  • Find a venue for the main GYSD event, make arrangements with their staff, draft an MoU for the partnership, and understand the benefits and limitations of the facility
  • meet with community partners in planning meetings and one-on-one
  • creat and distribute flyers, permission forms, and other promotional materials
  • recruit youth volunteers at various schools and after-school programs
  • develop or support the development of over 30 service projects
  • work with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Fire Department to complete necessary permits and understand all safety concerns
  • write a Proclamation and work with the Mayor’s Office to have the Mayor and staff attend events and service projects
  • write a press release
  • seek in-kind donations (made easy by a HUGE food donation from the ShopRite of Manchester, CT)
  • buy multiple van-loads of supplies from Home Depot, BJ’s (warehouse store), and elsewhere
  • and lots more!

It’s been a whirlwind, but it’s over now and the day was a great success! I’ve received a lot of positive feedback and congratulations from others, but I always knew the toughest critic would be myself. I’m still totaling volunteer numbers, receiving photographs, reviewing surveys, and reading project reports; so I hope to only hear more good things! I’ll post a few more blogs on Global Youth Service Day events, projects, and outcomes over the next week!

Philip Drew – Hartford, CT

The Longest Night (Part 2)

23 Dec

…Continued from Part 1

December 21, 2011: Hartford Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day Service

Two weeks after the Peter’s Retreat Memorial Service, I attended a memorial service for people without a home who died in the past year. Each December, Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day is held on the first day of winter which heralds the year’s longest night. The service was very eclectic and inclusive as was emphasized in the opening words by Rabbi Donna Berman. She told a story about joining with representatives of many other faiths to provide a memorial service for an anonymous homeless man who had passed away. Since nobody knew what faith the homeless man belonged to, they put together a service that would hopefully do justice to his beliefs.

The Hartford Homeless Persons’ Memorial Service also featured testimonials by currently homeless individuals, poetry readings and eulogies given by writers for the Beat of the Street, a reading of names, and somber performances of Amazing Grace and Silent Night.

Another memorial service for another group of people who society keeps under a veil of anonymity. Another year’s list of people who died without a home. Another emotional performance of Amazing Grace.

I did leave the memorial service with some hope. There were many concerned people in attendance who all work hard each day on the issues of poverty, hunger, and homelessness in our community. We all want to see an end to homelessness and we all know what a terribly difficult goal that is to achieve. As a previously homeless man said (about the list of people who passed away), “We’re not going to end homelessness anytime soon, but we can hope to make this list shorter each year.”

At the blowing of the wind and the chill of winter, we remember them.

CNN won’t cover these lives during their recap of 2011 on New Year’s Eve and that terrible virus or perceived disgrace can isolate people from their loved ones to the point that their families might not take time to think of them on Christmas. During this time of year, which for many is a time of remembering those no longer here, don’t forget to remember those who we’re trained not to see.

Philip Drew – Hartford, CT

The Longest Night (Part 1)

22 Dec

The holiday season offers us all a variety of emotions. You can feel a part of the excitement and holiday spirit. You might look forward to some time off or hope for some time on. You may dread the family drama or look forward to seeing everyone together… or both. This may be your first holiday away from family or just one of many. You could be celebrating a holiday bonus or stressing over your holiday budget. At times, your thoughts may turn to those far away or no longer here.

On Christmas, I remember the loved ones who are no longer with me. On New Year’s Eve, the news media remembers the famous lives lost and recaps the horrors of the past year. This two-part blog post is about two other days this December on which I’ve taken time to remember.

December 8, 2011: Peter’s Retreat Annual Memorial Service

Peter’s Retreat is a supportive housing program for people living with HIV/AIDS who would otherwise be homeless. During my last AmeriCorps term with Hands On Hartford, I was fortunate enough to spend time and develop friendships with the residents of this home. Each December, around World AIDS Day (Dec. 1), Peter’s Retreat holds a memorial service to remember the friends who passed away and to honor the lives of friends lost in previous years.

Just four days before this year’s memorial service, a longtime resident of Peter’s Retreat and much-loved member of the community passed away. She remembered the names of our entire AmeriCorps team from the first time we were introduced. She smiled at and greeted everyone who entered Peter’s Retreat and she never missed an opportunity to get her nails and hair done. Together, we remembered her on December 8th at a wonderful service organized by another Public Ally, Emily Kaas.

In fact, the service was so wonderful that I wished many times to take pictures of the beautiful scenes or to film the heart-wrenching rendition of Amazing Grace performed by one of the residents. The problem wasn’t that I had forgotten my camera… it was fully charged and in my pocket. The reason I didn’t take pictures or video is that Peter’s Retreat is devoted to protecting the anonymity of its residents. After the room cleared, I took a picture of the candles that were each lit by a different member of the Peter’s Retreat community.

As each candle was lit, a name was recited and a life was remembered. To me, the candles began to symbolize lives that, in some way, society kept anonymous.

Continued in Part 2…

Philip Drew – Hartford, CT

My path to Public Allies

21 Nov

Welcome to my Public Ally Snapshots Blog! While writing my first blog post, it has been very helpful to look at my path to Public Allies as a series of snapshots in life. In the interest of curtailing the length and tedium of my life story, I’ve selected three snapshots of my path to where I am now.

Snapshot #1: Age 6 (nickname: Philster)
My parents have always been very involved in their community. When I was six, my dad organized an environmental project in my home town of Issaquah, Washington. He planned this project from start to finish and it was a great success! So when somebody else took credit for my dad’s project on the evening news, my six year-old self was about to burst with anger. Even more shocking to the self-absorbed psyche of a six year-old was the indifferent reaction of my father. When I asked him what he was going to do about the injustice, he said something like, “It doesn’t matter who took credit. What’s important is that the project was a success.”

It was an important lesson and, even now, I often think about how to best balance selfishness and selflessness in my life.

Snapshot #2: Age 16 (nickname: Phildogg)
Just about every Wednesday as a 16 year-old, I would catch a ride out to Seattle to volunteer with some of my Key Club friends. We volunteered with an organization that served a hot meal to homeless people and provided cell phones once a week for their clients to call friends or family. The organization’s goal was to find a safe, temporary home for Seattle’s homeless and help pay for transportation to wherever that place was.

Leaving my suburban bubble each week for such a contrasting environment gave me a perspective and passion that I may not have otherwise gained. I began to see volunteering as more personally rewarding than just about anything. Unfortunately, it took me a few college majors too long to figure out that this discovery dictated my passions in school and career choice as well.

Snapshot #3: Age 22 (nickname: Philliam)
I decided to take some time off school, so I applied for AmeriCorps positions all over the country. Soon, I was flying one-way to Hartford with my life in two suitcases and without any keys in my pocket (by the way, as someone who pats their right pant pocket every hour or so to make sure his keys are still there, having no keys at all was quite discomforting). As the year went by and I met one Public Ally after another, I realized that was the gig to get.

So here I am!

Philip Drew – Hartford, CT