Ramona's Story

The Serve Illinois Commission continues to promote inclusion of people of all abilities in National Service Programs. The Illinois Inclusion Team is actively working to bring Illinois forward into the future through building awareness, strengthening programs and providing the tools needed to better embrace and support inclusive efforts.

"Ramona's Story" has been submitted by Gail Beard, Storybook Director, Lutheran Social Services of Illinois, Prisoner and Family Ministry, with the permission of Ramona and Jane Otte, Program Director. All concur this venture has been a success for all parties involved. Please read Gail's submission.

I am so happy to report that our Springfield AmeriCorps member, Ramona-Linda Veliz Von Berg, is doing beautifully! I think she has 'hit her stride' and we are both very happy with the arrangements. We are accommodating her by allowing her the freedom to work out of her home during the hours that work best for her. And, in turn, she is working very hard to fulfill every directive that I have given her.

Currently she is attending many community meetings to learn what supports are provided to the families of the incarcerated. Through this she is making herself known as an advocate in their behalf, and has shared that she is willing to speak to school staff, churches and community groups about their challenges.

Ramona is successfully interacting in classrooms at a Catholic grade school, located in a neighborhood known for much violence and gang activity (many are or have been "children of the incarcerated"). She is getting great reviews from teachers and the principal for her patience, understanding, and interesting way of interacting with the children. Her special presentation about not bullying and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in January was beautifully compiled and well received. Teachers are now requesting she do specific presentations to support classroom work.

In addition, she is leading a weekly support group at a homeless shelter in the area, and is getting great reviews there as well. The Director of the shelter appreciates her enthusiasm, and is very thankful for her kindness and understanding with the men and women, many of whom have mental illness diagnoses. Because of her education, training and professional skills as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker she has been able to create a safe, accepting environment where the participants feel comfortable interacting with her and with others in a group setting. Not an easy task!

Ramona has proven to be creative and tirelessly dedicated, spending many, many hours a week preparing interesting lessons and group activities for both sites. Finally, she also is serving as our LeaderCorps member and seems to have added that responsibility easily to her already busy schedule.

So things are going very, very well! She can be very proud of her persistence in overcoming personal challenges to be a very successful AmeriCorps member already, and we're only half way through her AmeriCorps year of service!

I look forward to seeing the many wonderful things she'll be accomplishing in service to others in the future, as a result of her personal growth and the opportunities she capitalized on during her time as an AmeriCorps member.

Well done, Ramona, Gail and Jane! Through continued commitment, dialogue and open exchange the three of you exemplify inclusion and have successfully retained a very, very valuable asset to your program! I look forward to hearing more about your great work in the future!