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Commission Minutes

September 26, 2019

Present: F. Celeste Branham, Nicole M. Pellenz, Peter Doak, David Burns, Jamie Logan, John Portela, Maria Staples, Jenifer Tilton-Flood, Jonathan Barczyk, Luke Shorty, Ben Cooke. 

Commission met in room 110 in room 110 at 19 Elkins Lane, Augusta.

Public Comment:  
Stephen Colby from Gameloft AmeriCorps IKnowME reported on their intensive mentoring program. There are 20 youth being mentored in the IKnowME portion of the program and over 200 participants in the Gameloft portion of the program. 

Swearing in New and Returning Commissioners:  
John Portela, Deadimus Justice, administered the oath of office for the following individuals:

  • Celeste Branham, Commission Chair
  • Ben Cooke, New Commission Member

Convene.  The meeting was called to order at 10:15am by Commission Chair, Celeste Branham.  After introductions, the Commission Chair asked for a moment of silence to honor two recent losses. First was a colleague of the Commission who recently past, Brent Trueworthy. Brent has been a key figure in Maine VOAD and state plans for emergency response.  The other involved the explosion in Farmington and the first responders who who were injured and lost their life.

Commission Quiz. In October 1994, the first Commissioners were sworn in by Governor McKernan and then held the first business meeting in the Cabinet Room.  Commissioners were asked to identify the gentleman circled in red.  Despite the number of clues, no correct answers were submitted.  The answer was the first Commission chair, Daniel Reardon.

Announcements and Appreciations.  
America’s Service Commissions began a system to recognize Commission members who are appointed.  This year certificates were handed out to Commission members who began service in 2018.

Resignations. Deborah Johnson has resigned from the Commission due to her professional commitments.

Commissioner Making has reassigned the duty of Dept. of Education representative. Chief of Staff, Jessica Nixon, will take the seat recently filled by Joe Schmidt.

Celebration of 25 years of service in Maine.  The event is set for Friday, October 11, beginning at 5:30pm at the Waterville Opera House. Bill Greene of Newscenter Maine will be the Master of Ceremonies.  The new new logo and identity will be formally unveiled.  The Maine Volunteer Foundation will launch a new fundraiser CD, “Heart Beat of Home”, which speaks to Maine and community.  All Commissioners have a part to play in the evening. It is a great way to acknowledge both the commission and National Service in Maine.

Additions, Deletions, Changes to the Agenda.  None.  Peter Doak motioned to approve the agenda as published. Nicole Pellenz seconded the motion. Vote on the motion: In favor – unanimous.

Consent Agenda: Branham moved approval of the consent agenda published. Second by Portela.
Included motions: that the minutes of the Commission on June 21, 2019 to be approved;  that the report of the Executive Committee meetings for July 17th, August 6th, & September 3rd be accepted;  the report of the Communications Task Force meeting on August 14th be accepted; the report of the Maine Service Fellows Task Force meeting on July 18th be accepted.  Vote on the motion: In favor - unanimous.

Planning and Future Initiatives:  
Adoption of the Commission meeting schedule for 2019-2020:  November 1, 2019, December 20, 2019, January 17, 2020, February 14, 2020 or March 20, 2020 (depending on the inclement weather), April 17, 2020, May 15, 2020, June 19, 2020. Commissioners present agreed to the schedule.

New Volunteer Maine identity. Roche outlined the rebranding process to the Commission.  Everything needs to convey that our mission is to strengthen Maine through volunteerism. October 16th,is the official date of the change to Volunteer Maine.  The statutory name will remain the Maine Commission for Community Service which the logo shows. The goal is a full adoption of the new identity by October 2020. 

Business Reports: 
Financial Oversight. Burns distributed budget reports that included the office operating grants for quarter completed June 30, 2019. Funds included the federal dollars and match from special revenue and in-kind. The multi-year grants (TTA & VGF) have unusual periods because changes have been made to start and end dates at the Federal level and is something we have no control over.

Feedback:  It would be helpful to pull out indirect so that is clear.  The graphs are a great way to capture financial position.  The larger 3-dimensional graphs are easier to read than the small bars.  Need some explanation to accompany so there is context.

Other Business Reports: Branham asked that, due to time constraints, the Maine Service Fellows along with the Grant Selection and Performance updates be provided at the next Commission meeting.

Disaster Services Update: Ashmore outlined the Commission facets of emergency planning and response. The Commission is officially part of the state emergency response plan in the section related to donations and volunteer management.

One duty is to ensure there is an internet platform that can be used to manage donations and volunteers. The goal for using technology is to avoid the secondary disaster of unneeded donations of “stuff” and spontaneous volunteers who get in the way of response. The platform used by the United Ways had a disaster function for a while but it was not robust. The Commission linked to it through VolunteerMaine.org. The platform is run by Get Connected (GC) and the company recently redesigned and relaunched the disaster module. The Commission will share the license costs with Maine Emergency Management Agency and possibly another state disaster response unit. The new model gives county EMA and Maine VOAD agencies access before an event so they can input needs for volunteers and supplies or equipment. In an emergency, the platform is activated and offers of help screened before being connected to the needs activated by local managers. 

Maine Emergency Management Agency and the Commission created a disaster relief fund but used a model that puts management of the fund in the hands of a public long-term recovery board.  Funds will go to victims and to organizations that provide disaster relief.  Donations will be made through VolunteerMaine.org so there is some coordination of funds, supplies, and people. 

Third responsibility of the Commission is to stand up a volunteer reception center (VRC) when asked by MEMA. The ask is referred to as being activated. All AmeriCorps members in grantee programs are trained to operate a VRC and there are exercises. Maine AmeriCorps members are requested to deploy but there is no mechanism to require deployment. The function of a VRC is to screen unaffiliated volunteers, assign them to roles as requested by responders, orient and issue IDs, and schedule volunteers to meet the local needs. A physical VRC would be activated only if the online coordination was not possible for some reason. 

It was noted that Commission staff would all be required to respond if these functions were activated. There was a question about Commission involvement in the Portland refugee response and Farmington explosions. In the Portland situation, the city did not ask for state assistance which is a requirement under incident command. In Farmington, the state did not activate the Commission. 

Ashmore was asked where this work is referenced on the Commission website. It is described under Initiatives on the business website but the public interface is on VolunteerMaine.org under the Volunteer menu. 

National Public Policy Issues:  
Congress passed a Continuing Resolution to extend funding through November. The Senate committee with CNCS oversight is doing the mark up in a few days. The amount will be very different than the House budget so it will end up in conference, per usual. Tom Branen from ASC will give an update at the retreat this afternoon. 

Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) Update: No report as no representative of the federal agency was present. 

Staff Report:
Highlights from the Federal meeting in Washington DC.
  McFaul and Ashmore attended because the fall meeting focuses only on AmeriCorps. 

Of note among discussions among states is the CNCS decision to stand by procedural changes that have meant AmeriCorps members lose service hours. The procedures have mechanical glitches and use language that is not matched to the database functions people must execute. Ashmore did a lot of pushing back at the Washington, DC meeting.  There is a perception, by locking the system down and ignoring human error, they are eliminating risk.  In reality, they are eliminating the support side of risk management. The consequences of human error could bankrupt a small agency. 

The federal agency is planning to appoint its representative to Commissions from the grant managers in regional offices. This is widely seen as embracing a conflict of interest. 

Commission Operating Grant. CNCS issued instructions for the 2020 funding application today. The timeline is drastically changed, allowing only nine days to submit for a funding period that starts on January 1. There is no time for even Executive Committee to review the budget proposed. The plan is to submit, let Executive Committee review, and make any changes directed during the final negotiation stage with CNCS. 

Maine Volunteer Leadership Conference Update: 
The Maine Volunteer Leadership Conference will be held at the University of Maine, DP Corbett Hall on Flagstaff Road, Orono, Maine on Thursday, October 15.  Featured presenters are Elisa Kosarin, Twenty Hats (keynote and two workshops); Nate Wildes, Executive Director, Live + Work in Maine (plenary session); and Jeffrey L. Brudney, PhD, leading North American researcher on volunteerism (session discussing his research published Sept 2019). The Governor’s Awards for Service and Volunteerism will be presented at the conference for the first time in 20 years.  

Status of Volunteer Generation Grant activities. This review was moved to the November meeting. 

Business Wrap Up.
Next meeting will be on Friday, November 1, 2019.  We will begin the Commission Retreat at 1:00pm.  Motion to adjourn. Shorty. Seconded. Cooke. All in favor. Unanimous.  

Meeting was adjourned at 12:30 pm.