AmeriCorps Aims to be The Greater Good
March 5, 2020
Perhaps you've spoken to one at your city hall offices. Maybe one helped you find your way at a state or county park. Or perhaps one offered you assistance at a local community non-profit organization. AmeriCorps volunteers are everywhere-and you've likely come into contact with them and just were not aware of it.
In Garden City, AmeriCorps volunteer Faith Briggs works as Community Project Coordinator at the Maplewood Community Center. "I'm an AmeriCorps member," she says proudly. Briggs, who grew up in Garden City, is part of AmeriCorps VISTA, a program founded in 1965 as a domestic version of the Peace Corps and later incorporated into AmeriCorps. VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) members serve in organizations that help to alleviate poverty. VISTA volunteers commit themselves to one year of full-time service and use their time and energy to advance local solutions to challenges facing communities such as improving education or expanding community-based organizations. "We build capacity in smaller organizations to help hat organization be able to help more people in that community," says Briggs.
Other programs within AmeriCorps include AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps), which is a full-time, residential, team-based program for young adults aged 18 to 24. Volunteers can work in disaster preparedness and relief, and other assignments that also help meet urgent community needs. Volunteers serve for a commitment of 10 months.
AmeriCorps State and National, alsothe largest program, puts volunteers to work meeting critical needs in education, public safety, health, and the environment. Volunteers engage in direct service activities such as tutoring, homebuilding, or park restoration. Programs are flexible and full and part-time positions are an option in the State and National Program.
In 1993, President Bill Clinton incorporated VISTA and the NCCC with the State and National and gave it the name AmeriCorps. AmeriCorps partners with organizations such as City Year, Habitat for Humanity, and the Red Cross to impact communities across the nation.
Volunteers receive a small stipend and opportunities are available to get assistance with student loans or future education expenses. The experience can help young people to develop or enhance a variety of skills. "I went into AmeriCorps because I graduated from Valparaiso University with a business degree but I didn't have a lot of professional skills," says Briggs. "Working in the community, working on grant-writing, recruiting volunteers, all those thingsare really needed at this community, but also things that I needed to learn as well."
AmeriCorps Week will be March 8 to 14. "That is the week AmeriCorps members all over the county are really trying to show their communities the work that AmeriCorps does," says Briggs. Volunteers will be raising awareness of the work they do and what AmeriCorps has done for them, along with the opportunities available for others. "It was really satisfying for me to be able to come back and give back to the community that raised me, as well as the fact that when I'm done with my service in August I'll have skills that I didn't have before," says Briggs. "It's been an amazing learning experience for me to be her and get a crash course in how a non-profit or a city government works."
To find out more about AmeriCorps, go to http://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps.