This Can't Keep Happening

This can’t keep happening. I find myself uttering this phrase far too frequently. Last week, explosive packages were sent to dozens of people around the country, and a man with apparent intentions to target a Black church in Kentucky killed two people at a nearby grocery store. Then this past Saturday, we saw the tragic antisemitic attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, which left 11 people dead.

As I attended my own church yesterday for my weekly dose of refuge and comfort, I was overcome with emotion multiple times when I thought about how the day prior, our Jewish siblings had entered the Tree of Life Synagogue hoping for the same experience. My heart goes out so profoundly to everyone who was affected by such deplorable acts of hatred—to anyone who now feels added trauma, fear, or isolation as “others.” I am so sorry. This can’t keep happening.

Conversations over the weekend seemed to land on varying ends of the spectrum. To some, this felt like a fresh wound on top of multiple scars. Others articulated a sense of numbness, desensitized by the apparent normalcy of such senseless acts of violence. I have told myself that I must feel each incident; to never reach a point of desensitization. I worry that as soon as I desensitize, then I may become complacent—and complacency is never an option when it is at the expense of someone else’s life and right to hold safe space. This past weekend reminds me of my own Allyship responsibilities to ensure everyone’s rights to practice their faiths freely. This can’t keep happening.

When speaking to my parents, my most trusted advisors, about what to say, they noted that it would be very difficult to draw inspiration from this situation. I agree, and feel that trying to do so would dishonor those who have been so profoundly affected and hurt.

But we can draw motivation. We can be motivated to work tirelessly towards a socially just world, where we are all embraced for who we are and able to thrive to reach out highest potential.  We are strong believers in the “both/and” during times like these: We can hold pain and rage in our hearts as we feel empathy and compassion for everyone affected, and we can also feel urgency and commitment to the critical work ahead of love-in-action.  We can be gentle with ourselves as we heal from the wounds of experiencing the pains of this world, and we can take action to ensure that this harm stops.

SNS will always stand boldly and loudly against any form of hatred, and in unwavering Allyship and solidarity with our marginalized siblings who experience its harmful effects. Such loss and trauma should never have happened, and it makes us even more committed to the work ahead. During times like these, it is easy to lose hope amidst the rampant acts of hatred and harm. Then I think about how our work exposes us to thousands of people who want to be allies and work tirelessly toward social justice with us. It reminds me that love will always show up 1000 times stronger than hatred, and that love WILL win.

In Solidarity,

Whitney Parnell


Allyship Workshop Participant Blog: "It is Truly Transformative"

As Black History Month comes to an end, we are featuring the testimony of a workshop participant, Kristin, and the way that the training has allowed her to grow as an ally for racial justice.

Guest Blog by Kristin Keller Daus

I first learned of Service Never Sleeps (SNS) in the Fall of 2017, while attending an Allyship workshop at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington. One of the church’s missions is a pledge to end racism, and offer opportunities to examine our areas of privilege and marginalization in order to continue our growth in social justice issues.
I have sensed in my heart, for some time, a yearning to grow myself while simultaneously delving into something that mattered. Something that would benefit others. Allyship was the answer. And SNS was and is the one that is not only educating and inspiring me, but our community and beyond, on this collective journey of shared humanity to end all social and racial injustices.
SNS’ Allyship workshop is truly transformative. It is educational. Thought provoking. In your face but gentle and respectful. Reflective. It not only makes you do the work, it INSPIRES you to work on yourself so you can continue to stand up and do what is right for others.
Participants examine their areas of privilege and, most importantly, their own implicit bias. This journey cannot start, and will not sustain, until we start getting real with ourselves. Knowing we are human. Knowing we are all inherently good but that we have faults.  Knowing we can all change and move towards a world of inter-connectedness, respect, kindness and love.
Some of the most beneficial aspects of the Allyship workshop are recognizing situations in which you may be a bystander to a situation in which someone is being targeted, and learning practical tools to apply to not only provide safety to victims, but for a chance to actively practice your Allyship to make a positive impact and plant that seed that you hope will continue to grow in others.
In the past, I used to freeze in situations where someone was targeted or a racist joke was made. I felt I couldn’t make a difference. I felt I didn’t want to be involved.  Silence and inaction are destructive.  Silence and inaction risk lives. Silence and inaction are furthering one’s complicit tendencies.  I learned how to effectively and compassionately use the Allyship workshop tools to build proximity with others that may or may not share my same views, so I can use my areas of privilege to engage in these conversations that hopefully begin to change one heart and one mind at a time toward a more socially and racially just world.  
The work is hard.  The work and the risk are a necessity.  The work is RIGHT!  It is time for those in their areas of privilege, specifically their white privilege, to: Listen. Amplify. Follow.
SNS is moving mountains of racial justice one little rock at a time.  I am honored to know them, learn from them, follow them, and continue this work!

In Allyship,

Kristin Keller Daus

MLK Marathon Volunteer Blog: "I Became A Weekly Volunteer"

Martin Luther King Jr. Day represents participating in something bigger than ourselves; a commitment to actively working towards achieving Dr. King's dream for a world of shared humanity. There is no better way to kick off the day, and approach the final stretch of our service marathon, than to read the testimony of one of last year's service marathon volunteers:

Guest Blog by Joy Oguntimein:

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What was supposed to be a one-time experience a year ago has become part of my weekly routine. Inspired by Service Never Sleeps’ message to move from empathy to action, I chose to volunteer at Our Daily Bread (ODB) during the Service Never Sleeps (SNS) MLK Service Marathon in 2017. Our Daily Bread prepares and serves weekday breakfasts to those experiencing homelessness, out of Capitol Hill United Methodist Church’s kitchen. Since I enjoyed the experience, I decided to explore volunteering on a weekly basis.  As a full time consultant expected to work 40-50 hours per week, I wasn't sure if I would be able to make a consistent commitment to volunteering, but I was determined to try. When I spoke to my supervisor, she encouraged me to adjust my Friday work hours and go for it.
When I volunteer at ODB, I am not a consultant doing charity work to build her resume. I am a chef cutting, chopping, peeling and transforming random donated food items into balanced meals. I am a chef to a middle-age women who has fallen on tough times, and has been abandoned by her family. I am a chef to a father who lives in a shelter with a toddler son. I am a chef to a lady with a warm and friendly personality, and her own sense of style. I am a chef to a man who, despite the labels society attempts to place on him, has million dollar confidence (and inspires me). I am a chef playing a small part in fighting hunger by preparing and serving meals.
Volunteering at ODB is a rewarding opportunity to do something meaningful and tangible to support those experiencing homelessness. Honestly, I do not know the true impact that serving breakfast makes. What I do know is that I have the privilege of making a tangible difference, bringing a smile, and a sense of value and worth to someone simply by saying, "Good Morning, Sir!  Would you like French toast?"

In love-in-action,

Joy Oguntimein
2017 MLK Marathon Volunteer

Joy's testimony demonstrates the value of volunteerism. Service exposes us to issues, connects us to people, and ultimately motivates our commitment to social justice. Service builds allies. That is our goal, and we hope that you will join us in our Allyship movement of love-in-action beyond this important day.

Fellow Blog: "My Experience at Liberty's Promise"

Guest Post by Daniel Robles-Olson:

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The first time I met with my supervisor at Liberty’s Promise, I was stunned by his request: we don’t need help running our programs, we need help running a non-profit. Non-profits like Liberty’s Promise believe so firmly in the mission that they funnel all of their resources towards ensuring programmatic success. And who can blame them? In the competitive world of philanthropy, the percentage that goes towards administrative costs is a number organizations work to drive down. But what happens when a lack of support hampers your ability to manage and grow the organization?

Liberty’s Promise runs 18 after-school civic engagement programs of civic engagement in 14 locations around the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, to support young immigrants in need while encouraging them to be active and conscientious American citizens. The program is incredibly effective at ensuring high school and even college attainment among the young people that it serves, but the organization’s fundraising and administrative tasks often fall on a lean, over-worked team. The type of work they need help with are ones that most DC young professionals are familiar with: Data visualization, writing proposals, developing ideas on slides, and project management.

While I don’t spend my time supporting the program directly or working with immigrant youth (as much as that may be my passion), I am using skills that I have gained through my professional experience to have a measurable impact on the management of the non-profit. This has hopefully allowed the leadership and full time team to continue focusing on delivering excellent work while also thinking strategically, a luxury they cannot generally afford.

Service Never Sleeps is unique in that unlike most volunteer opportunities, this is truly a year of service, where I am expected to integrate into the non-profit, learn how to best use my skills, and put them to use in a meaningful way. It is also unique in that it fills a big gap in non-profits in the DC area by connecting the skills and knowledge of our highly educated young professional workforce with the need and mission of organizations doing impactful work. I’m grateful to be able to use my gifts to exercise Allyship in such an effective and meaningful way.

Yours in service,

Daniel Robles-Olson, 2017 SNS Fellow

I Was at Charlottesville--A Message from the CEO

I was in Charlottesville this past Saturday, promoting love, equality, opportunity, and inclusion.

I am still processing everything that I saw, heard, and felt (feel)—much of which I hope to never revisit. While I initially planned not to go due to intense fear, I decided that I must join my brothers and sisters in demonstrating a strong and united position that we would not stand for hatred.

I remember my anxiety during the drive down from DC to Charlottesville, and my prayers that the protests would remain peaceful. I remember my fear upon arrival as I waited in an open area for allies to come take us to the meeting site, wondering which “side” White passersby represented--my identity as a Black woman felt more vulnerable than ever during those minutes. I remember hearing White Supremacists’ chants echoing throughout the downtown area, as more people gathered for their rally throughout the course of the morning. I remember the crowds, the cries for help, the fights, the lock-downs, and the medics and supporters tending to injured participants. I remember the palpable taste of pepper spray that lingered in the air.

All of this was a result of White Supremacy. It has long existed throughout several facets of society, but reared its ugly head more blatantly this past weekend. I was appalled by how proudly people wore this hatred as badges of honor. They organized to intimidate, to inflict fear, and to hurt people. Saturday was a demonstration of the loathing, prejudice, and pain that is still all too prevalent; and it is a terrifying thing.

I don’t know if I will ever be the same after Saturday, and I don’t think that I should be. None of us should.
Service Never Sleeps will always be committed to promoting equality, opportunity, and inclusion for everyone; and we will unapologetically stand up against anything that compromises or challenges that objective. Our goal of shared humanity should unite us to mobilize in love--which also means speaking up against hatred.

Saturday's events will forever be seared into my brain and heart, but it includes beautiful examples of community and Allyship. I was encouraged by how so many individuals were willing to put their own bodies on the line, to stand up for shared humanity. Even my personal experience of being escorted down to Charlottesville by White allies—who stayed by my side the entire day—is testament to how strongly I believe that people WILL take a stand for good, even at the expense of their own safety. My thoughts and prayers go out to all who were injured, and to the loved ones of Heather Heyer, the brave woman who died from the act of terror that ensued.

So much of this experience was surreal, yet ever so demonstrative of our reality. Saturday was another example of just how much work we must commit to doing. Not only am I hopeful and more committed than ever, but I am convinced that I am not alone. Love MUST win.

In shared humanity,

Whitney Parnell
Co-Founder & CEO

We Build Allies

Service Never Sleeps (SNS) builds allies. When I awakened two years ago with the idea of a part-time year of service for young professionals, it was always rooted in social justice. The Fellowship program was a targeted way to empower our local nonprofits that already had solutions to pressing issues, with millennial professionals who were aching to serve. Meanwhile, the companies that sponsored them could both contribute to the community and invest in their employees’ continued development. The model was an innovative “triple-win” for multiple facets of the community. Our inaugural class’s graduation this January made clear that our Fellowship Program contributed to a larger SNS calling: A movement that we have coined “Allyship.”

"Allyship" is an active way of life that promotes bridge-building towards the common purpose of ensuring equality, opportunity, and inclusion for everyone. We have expanded our programming into a three-pronged model: (1) Our signature Fellowship Program facilitates millennial professionals engaging in meaningful service at the community level, building next-generation leaders in the Allyship movement; (2) Our Corporate Partnership Program allows companies to invest in social responsibility through skills-based service projects, demonstrating that Allyship can be incorporated through all sectors; (3) Lastly, our half-day Allyship Workshop, a new initiative launching this month, trains any engaged community members to be effective allies in their regular behaviors, and equips them to actively influence others.

SNS has a more laser-focused plan than ever before. Last week, we welcomed our newest class of Fellows, who are now embarking on their transformative year of service. Next weekend we will launch our first community Allyship Workshop, which will be the first of many public community and privately hosted training sessions. Help this vision reach its full potential by donating towards our new Allyship direction.

For months, the community has asked us to lead this effort to build bridges. We are now equipped to do just that through the presentation of this recently launched Allyship focus. Will you join us?

Yours in Allyship,

Whitney Parnell
CEO & Co-Founder

The Birds have Left the Nest

February 28th marked a huge milestone for Service Never Sleeps (SNS): Our inaugural class of Fellows graduated! Throughout the celebration of their completed service year, I was overwhelmed with a combined sentiment of pride and hope.

As I handed the Presidential Service Award to each Fellow this past Saturday, I reflected on what they had accomplished. Their service year required volunteering at least 10 hours monthly at their assigned nonprofits, participating in SNS’ monthly leadership sessions, and leading service efforts with their employers—all while still working full-time jobs.

We asked for quite a commitment from our Fellows, and I am so honored to have them as Ambassadors representing this organization. Through their dedication, they demonstrated that we all have the capacity to serve meaningfully. Through their spirits, they enforced my belief that there are wonderful people whose selfless intentions are to contribute to improving this world. Through their impact, they proved that just those two factors are enough to make a difference. My hope in positive change is kept alive through these Servant Leaders.

I often reflect on the most inspiring moments of this SNS journey, and examples of the Fellows’ impact continue to rank highest on the (long) list. I have watched them grow into change-agents. These alumni have left the nest as participants, and now join me as teammates as we continue to promote social justice on a macro-scale.  I couldn’t be more honored to serve with this fantastic crew in the journey ahead.

Yours in service,
Whitney Parnell
CEO & Co-Founder