Fresh off volunteering at the Wynne Home Arts and Visitor Center, we also wanted to help out in the downtown area. So, with rivet-gun in hand, we headed to the Old Town Theatre to do some light cleaning and affix numerals to the Theatre’s chairs.
The theatre is the only vintage venue in Huntsville, and it is the community’s finest example of Art Deco architecture–while also featuring the art work of world-renowned muralist Richard Haas.
And while it may be an local architectural treasure and a work of art in itself, it also had a disordered numbering system on the seats, which makes ushering pretty difficult.
So, we set about correcting that. With only one rivet gun, we set up a system of three people helping: one advance man putting in the number plates and rivets, one riveter, and one person taking left-over parts….
While three were riveting, others were cleaning, and we took turns doing all the tasks, so that we’d all be cross-trained. Stephanie did her best Carol Burnett impression….
…Quinn tried to get a break from Yvette and Morgan, and Morgan even tried her hand at vacuum repair.
About three hours later, we had a mostly-clean theatre, seats with a correct numbering system, and more skilled volunteer force….
…and some ideas for some fall activities–all of this in time for our sold-out Gene Watson show!
For the eighth consecutive year, the LEAP Center (and its forerunner, the Junior Fellows) partnered with the Huntsville Public Library to lead a spring Citizenship class to immigrants. The class is five weeks long, one night a week, and it covers the major material on the Naturalization Exam.
This year, we had more than 30 people sign up, but scheduling difficulties reduced the number of immigrants who actually attended. With a core of about 10-15 immigrants per night, the LEAP Center students and volunteers (thank you Terry Stivers, Roberta Plant, and Carol Hayes) worked with these immigrants to help them learn American history and government. We had a fun kick-off, with the Mayor and council members stopping by on the first night (on their way to the parade):
To become a citizen, an immigrant must meet certain legal requirements. They have to be in the country for a specific length of time (which varies by whether you are married to a US citizen), have generally followed the law, and not have any egregious moral failings.
The test itself includes an oral section, where immigrants read statements; a written section, where immigrants write down sentences read to them; an oral interview, in which immigrants are asked about their past and behaviors (“are you often drunk?“, “have you ever been a prostitute?”); and they must answer correctly at least six out of ten questions pertaining to American government and history.
These questions range from naming one of the two longest rivers in the US to knowing three cabinet posts to knowing the name of the national anthem.
We covered these major topics over the course of the first four weeks. Karla Rosales, who took a leadership role in the program by virtue of her internship with the Huntsville Public Library, led off the proceedings with a bit of instructions…
Although most of the presentations were led by Professor Yawn, the students worked with small groups of immigrants throughout the program.
It was also nice to receive community support. On week four, for example, the Daughters of the American Revolution attended and provided American-themed gifts to the immigrants–flags, pocket constitutions, pencils, and other fun things.
This was a big hit, especially among some of the immigrants’ children:
On the final week of the immigration class, the immigrants and volunteers relive the first Thanksgiving, with all participants bringing dishes from their native country and joining in a celebratory feast. The food is great!
Another special feature of the final week is the presentation made by Audrey Biggar, a local immigration attorney. She graciously agrees to assist the immigrants and provide advice for navigating the process. (She is also President of the Walker County Bar Association, making her one of the more civic-minded of the local bar.) She also brings great Thai food to the dinner!
Finally, the immigrants receive a certificate of completion, a prelude, we hope, to citizenship.
And with one final group photo, the class is over.
Fortunately, it wasn’t long before the students and immigrants got back together. The Huntsville City Council invited the immigrants to a City Council meeting to be recognized for their efforts.
For the immigrants and the students, it was their first-ever City Council meeting and, again, a big hit among the kids.
Over the past eight years, the LEAP Center has worked with about 150 immigrants from more than 20 countries. Approximately 40 have obtained their citizenship.
Today the Center for Law, Engagement, and Politics took a step back in time to the roaring 20’s, an era where the stakes were high and the wins were well worth the risks. Wearing our best 20’s attire, the LEAP team assisted the H.E.A.R.T.S Veterans Museum with their fundraising event. There was a full casino, a Bonnie & Clyde getaway V8 Ford car, a live band, great food, and of course the magnificent Marilyn Monroe. The event also featured many silent raffle drawings, as well as a major raffle drawing at the end of the event for an impressive grill.
The H.E.A.R.T.S Veterans Museum of Texas honors veterans both past and present. The museum serves as a place for former, present, and future veterans to all come together to reflect on and share their experiences serving the country. Just as important, the museum allows all people to see the price that our veterans and those serving today have paid for this country, and the Museum is an inspiration for those of all ages. Having the chance to talk to veterans and hear their experiences directly was amazing, and their true love of the USA was clear.
Of course, the night was about having an enjoyable evening, and that is what we did–all while volunteering! The event started off with the draw-dropping musical stylings of a convincing Marilyn Monroe (Jane Maddox).
It happened to be Rick McFarland’s lucky birthday, earning him the opportunity to be the object of Ms. Monroe’s happy birthday routine.
Attendees had the chance to enjoy some delicious food offerings from donations of local businesses like McKenzie’s, and even a few sides from generous families themselves. After getting their fill of food and drink, everyone moved on to the casino games, such as bingo, blackjack, poker, and even slot machines.
The LEAP team did our part in the even as well. Starting with introductions at the door, to the officiating of the silent raffle, LEAP had a thumbprint over many endeavors. At the request of many of the veterans, we took part in some of the casino games, to which there were many laughs, smiles, and of course some sad faces. All in good fun (and not with real money)!
By the end of the night, after much work and play, it was great to see the smiles on the faces of people that support the H.E.A.R.T.S Veterans Museum. And it was fun to play the part of 20s gangsters while volunteering.
As our school motto says “A measure of one’s life is in its service,” and LEAP strives to continue on that legacy with every event.
Many thanks to Letty Clark for inviting us to volunteer and for the chance to join the fun once much of the work was done.
The HEARTS Veterans Museum held their 15th Annual Veteran’s Day Banquet, appropriately, on Veterans Day, November 11, 2014. A silent auction, catered dinner, and a short but moving program rounded out the evening. We were fortunate to be asked to help in greeting attendees as they arrived, assisting with the silent auction, and meeting community members and leaders, and learning more about veterans and their sacrifice.
It was heartening to see soldiers, former and current, old and young, men and women, from all walks of life, stand while the Huntsville Community Men’s Choir performed a rendition of the Armed Forces Medley. All five branches of our nation’s armed forces were represented by local veterans. Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy veterans and current soldiers stood during their service’s song. You didn’t have to look far to see that not all eyes were dry.
There was a short presentation on putting the various services for Texas veterans in the palm of their hands – à la the new “Texas Veterans App” (free, available on iPhone and Android devices) by former TX Representative Suzanna Hupp. We were also able to meet several elected officials who took the time to honor those who have served to defend and protect our freedoms, including Congressman Kevin Brady.