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Reflections from AmeriCorps NCCC Blue 2 Team

Lindsey Earl-Team Leader

Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful (KCCB) is a wonderful organization NCCC team Blue 2 has been working with for the past two weeks to beautify the waterways of San Jose. We have primarily worked with KCCB’s leader, Deb Kramer, who is a source of passion and drive for the cleanup of San Jose’s creeks. We have the privilege to work with Sarat Lue, the KCCB Intern, who has been a source of joy on the worksite.

AmeriCorps NCCC Blue 2 Team on their first day at the Muriel Wright Center in Santa Teresa County Park. Photo by Deb Kramer

Coyote Creek and surrounding creeks such as the Guadalupe and the Los Gatos used to be teeming with wildlife such as Chinook Salmon and Steelhead Trout, but the state of the creeks has been dramatically altered by human forces- particularly homelessness. The amount of trash left by human is sometimes daunting.

In two weeks, Blue 2 and KCCB have entered four previously occupied areas, including what was once known as “The Jungle”, to remove debris such as plastic bags, batteries, and electronics. These items, in particular, leach chemicals into the stream and kill anything that otherwise would thrive in the riparian ecosystem.

When Blue 2 first arrived on the scene at a bridge on Tully Rd., our initial impressions were shock and dismay. Some people felt disgusted by extent of the issue. I remember hearing certain comments such as, “this looks like a third world country” and “there is SO MUCH trash. How are you ever going to make a dent?” yet by the end of the day, with some teamwork, we cleared two tons of trash from the area so that it appeared like a nice place to have a picnic. The rewarding feeling was incredible.

In the following weeks, Deb set us up with opportunities to collaborate and learn from other homeless-serving organization in the San Jose area. We learned about what various entities such as the Downtown Streets Team, City of San Jose’s Homeless Response Team, and what San Jose State University are doing to alleviate homelessness. We were even given the opportunity to work alongside homeless and formerly homeless individuals on the worksite. Blue 2 has been given the opportunity to build relationships across the boundaries of socioeconomic status. The knowledge we gathered about the issue of homelessness made all of the hard work worth it. In fact, more than worth it.

KCCB has not only taught us about the larger social-economic factors that create homelessness, environmental degradation of vacant encampments, and initiatives to combat it, but the impact that two employees, Deb and Lue, can have on a regional issue…and a team of young people. They have taught us that all you need to make a difference is drive, compassion, and vision for what the future could be. Blue 2 thanks them for their service to our team and the people and wildlife of the San Jose region.

Shameka James

AmeriCorps Team at a Toys for Tots sorting event

I did not fully understand how much of an impact I would be making before arriving at Coyote Creek. I have learned so much in such a short time and the experience has been so rewarding. It has taught me that even though all problems cannot be solved overnight the amount can be lessened by choosing to make a difference daily. There are many hardworking dedicated key-players working towards eliminating this disparity. I really enjoyed meeting with some of them and learning about their specific roles in this matter. It was a pleasure working alongside a passionate project sponsor such as Deb Kramer. She has truly inspired me to volunteer more and to make a difference in communities I may not even directly be affected by. I have the ability to lend my hands! This has truly been a humbling experience.

Aude Girin

I feel truly honored to be a part of “Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful” this project round. Deb’s mission and passion for this cause is absolutely inspiring. With each new day, I am learning immensely and becoming more aware of the various facets of homelessness in San Jose. This project is so much more than just picking up trash alongside the creek. We are making a difference for the community of San Jose and it feels wonderful! Being able to see direct results of our work at the end of each day is incredibly rewarding.

AmeriCorps Team at Downtown Streets Team Meeting with Staff Photo by Virginia Becker

Additionally, meeting with the Downtown Streets Team has been incredibly eye opening and moving. The staff and members of DST have such genuine passion for helping others and I am amazingly inspired by their strength.

I am eager to see the long term efforts and successes of Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful and DST for the community of San Jose. They lead by example and are creating incredible positive movements in the effort to restore the creeks and put and end to homelessness in San Jose!

Gabe Pope

I really enjoy working for all the different nonprofit organizations who dedicate their time and effort into restoring the creeks of San Jose. Its inspiring how they work both simultaneously and collectively to improve the ecology so that future generations can benefit from the creeks. I value what they do for both the Environment and the community, and I hope that others do too.

Aude and Gabe working hard. Photo by Sarat Lue

Ward Westray

Cleaning up the creeks around San Jose has been a fantastic experience so far. The physical labor, variety of work, sense of making a difference, and helping alongside other groups has been simply incredible, and we’ve only been here for a few weeks! Hauling tons of trash is surprisingly very rewarding, and lest we get tired we’re also given opportunity to see the amazing work of organizations that address the city’s homelessness problem in more systemic fashion, such as Downtown Streets Team and the local government (City of San Jose’s Homeless Response Team). While we’re just barely scratching the surface of what San Jose and the greater Bay Area has to offer, I’ve already had terrific experiences here and am truly in love with everything I’ve seen so far. Lastly, our sponsor, Deb Kramer, and those working in tandem with her, have all been an absolute godsend! The great people we’ve worked with all seem to genuinely care that every single one of us is enjoying ourselves, and all of them have gone the extra mile time and time again. I’m incredibly grateful towards everyone involved in this project and cannot wait for the next great experience around the corner.

Out for a hike at Purisima Creek Park. Photo by Jay MacIntosh

Greta Schaff

My experience working on the creek has been very educational. I have learned a lot about homelessness and how much of a problem it is in the San Jose area.

The first day, we worked at Tully Road, and there was so much wet, damp trash that was hard to pick up. I didn’t understand how so much trash could get piled up.

After meeting with the Downtown Streets Team and the San Jose Homeless Task Force, the information I received really opened my eyes. I understood how hard it was for homeless people to live in this area and to get a job and how bad the trash is for the environment and the creeks. Without having the connection to the Downtown Streets Team, I would’ve thought picking up trash was endless and pointless. However, I now know how much the homeless impacts the community and the environment.

I’ve gained a good perspective on homelessness and trash clean ups, and I’m really glad we got such an amazing and inspiring sponsor for our first project.

Janetta Hoskins

So far I can honestly say that this is a very rewarding experience. I never expected cleaning up a creek would have such an impact on how I look at the world around me. It’s hard work I’ll admit, but the moment you realize you cleared an entire site is incredible. It makes you feel good show everyone the beauty of the land that was once covered.

Elise and Janetta find fun with the trash. Photo by Deb Kramer

Elise Ballan

My time working with Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful has been unlike any experience I’ve ever had. Our sponsor, Deb Kramer, has been so incredible not only in her refreshing work ethic and dedication to Coyote Creek, but also how she goes out of her way to make our time here well-rounded and varied. From encampment clean-ups in various sites along the Guadalupe River, each with a unique environment, to an inspiring Downtown Streets Team meeting; from doing research on the history of San Jose in the beautiful SJSU campus library, to an informative meeting with Michele from the City of San Jose Homeless Task Force that opened our eyes to the complexity of homelessness in San Jose; our time here has been anything but boring. Give us trash pickers and we would happily and blindly do the job we are here to do, but instead we have been given the tools to see how the work we have been doing plays into the collaborative effort a multi-faceted issue like homelessness requires. Our time here has shown me how to appreciate the compassion that so many members of the San Jose community display in their efforts to help the homeless and the environment, but has also shown me that there is still plenty of work to be done before Coyote Creek can be restored to the beautiful sanctuary it has the potential to be again.

Guilene Tiako

Working at the creek is a great experience; because it’s the first time for me to work with trash. I really felt overwhelmed the first time, but right now I can enjoy it. Also, the nice stuff like toys and electronics are sometimes funny and relaxing.

Sully Griffin

Sully finally gets the propane tank out! Photo by Sarat Lue

I am very happy with the work that my team and I have been doing these past for weeks. Deb Kramer has nothing short of an inspiration to me and so have the additional volunteers she has exposed me to. I am always happy working outside and cleaning up encampments along Coyote Creek has been a dream for me. I hope to have many more experiences!

Jessi Maniglia

Working with Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful has far exceeded my expectations. Working to remove trash from the creek and being able to see our direct impact on the environment is really rewarding. Although it is sometimes emotionally challenging to see the conditions that people who are homeless live in, Deb’s positive energy and passion for service learning are truly inspiring. I know I will be leaving this project with a new perspective on my life, and my view of those around me.

Big Thank You from the San Jose Community

Thank you AmeriCorps NCCC Blue 2 Team. We really enjoyed having you be part of our team, and are amazed by your terrific success to cleanup Coyote Creek and to make it beautiful. We hope to see you again.

Coyote Meadows stream before AmeriCorps cleanup Photo by Deb Kramer

Coyote Meadows stream before AmeriCorps cleanup Photo by Deb Kramer



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