Corps Responding to Wildfires, Floods, and More

Article, written by CNCS Staff, appears on the National Service Tumblr. Published July 25, 2014.

Disaster Services Unit update

Washington Wildfires 

69 AmeriCorps members and staff from Washington Conservation Corps have responded to destructive wildfires in Washington state, serving more than 6,800 hours so far. Disasters include the Mills Canyon Fire in Entiat, the Carlton Fire Complex in Winthrop, and the Chiwaukum Creek Fire in Leavenworth.

We’re collaborating with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, the state agency tasked with wildfire response and management. AmeriCorps members are supporting firefighting camp operations including supply management, distribution of firefighting resources, inventory control, order processing, food distribution, and camp upkeep. 

Also, Senior Corps RSVP volunteers from Chelan-Douglas Community Action Council and AmeriCorps VISTA members are assisting the Red Cross with shelter operations in Wenatchee, Chelan, and Brewster. 

AmeriCorps St. Louis Responds to Clarksville Flooding

On July 2, a 14-member AmeriCorps St. Louis Emergency Response Team answered the call to help the area that sits about 75 miles north of its home base, performing flood protection work in and around Clarksville’s historic district, businesses, and homes. This marked the third time the Emergency Response Team has provided services to the town in 15 months. The latest reports from earlier this week found that AmeriCorps St. Louis members had served more than 1,072 hours, registered 268 volunteers, leveraged another 2,143 volunteers, and supervised 382 volunteers. 

Floods in the north: A community comes together

AmeriCorps members with Conservation Corps Minnesota and Iowa are responding to flooding in Minnesota:

"We are the community. We serve the people who need help the most, wherever it may be. We do what needs to be done and we don’t stop working until it is done."

Read more at the Conservation Corps website.

Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa Enhances Trails in American Gothic Town



Photo: Iowa corps members Sara Anderson and Derek Bean pose in front of
the famed American Gothic house in Eldon, Iowa


From the Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa newsletter - April 11, 2014

In mid-March, an Iowa crew cleared brush from a creek edge to enhance a trail running through the city of Eldon, Iowa, famous for the Grant Wood painting, “American Gothic.” They had a little fun while on site!

An AmeriCorps member reflects on Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts

Taken from Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa

 

A few years ago, Tara Sloane couldn’t imagine picking up a chainsaw. Yet this fall she spent seven weeks mucking and gutting houses and managing volunteers as a member of the Conservation Corps’ Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. It was one of the most extraordinary experiences of her life.

A 2012 Three Rivers field crew member, Tara stepped into leadership roles she never imagined with behind-the-scenes deployment preparations, financial management and leading cleanup crews ― even though she felt like a novice during her year in the Corps.

“Coming out here, I didn’t even know how a house was constructed or even really where the wires were,” Tara said. “But after a week out here, I was leading crews, making sure all the crewmembers were safe, managing the emotions of the devastated homeowners and keeping their trust to know that I would not ruin their home.”

Tara originally heard about the Corps from a couch surfer friend. “It sounded like an incredible program but definitely not one for me… Chainsaws really weren’t something I could see myself getting into,” Tara said.

 After traveling in Eastern Europe where she worked on organic farms, Tara discovered she liked working outside, getting her hands dirty and being exhausted at the end of a work day. So she applied for a Conservation Corps field crew position.

Early in her Corps term, Tara didn’t have much confidence or see herself as a leader. “I didn’t even know the difference between an elm and an oak,” she said. When she was given the opportunity to join the Hurricane Sandy relief response, Tara didn’t know what to expect. Corps members were told they would working mainly in shelters, but were soon running Team Rubicon’s cleanup operation and training and managing other AmeriCorps volunteers in the Rockaway neighborhood. Men and veterans who had experience working on houses came back again and again to volunteer on her crew. 

The work touched Tara’s life. Her crew worked on the family homes of Vilmarie and Jose, which had sustained incredible damages. While corps members gutted the houses, Tara helped Vilmarie wash, hang and dry an entire garbage bag of family photos. Tara got to know the family through the pictures and stories Vilmarie told her in Spanish. “I felt so connected to them because I was literally hanging photos of her entire life, from holidays to weddings to vacations,” Tara said.

When the gutting work was done and all the pictures were saved, Jose and Vilmarie cried, hugged and said they always had a home there in the Rockaways.

During her second deployment, Tara was reunited with Jose and Vilmarie while canvassing for FEMA. They welcomed her with open arms, showed her their nearly completed house and reminded her she was always welcome in their home.

Tara knows her success in the relief effort came from the basic skills she learned during her time in Conservation Corps. As a crew member she was familiar with working long hours, knowing how to be safe with tools and working with different types of people.

“I loved AmeriCorps… I saw so much growth in myself,” Tara said. “This opportunity gave me a lot of resume builders and I am excited to see how this will translate into my other experiences.”

Providing Relief – What Corps Have Done to Assist in Hurricane Sandy Recovery Efforts

 

Washington Conservation Corps members remove damaged household items from a flooded home

Hurricane Sandy took lives, destroyed homes and businesses, and left millions of people without power. As the storm bore down on the Northeast coast during the last days of October, Corps across the country were already mobilizing to help with the relief effort. Corpsmembers have played a significant role in helping communities in New York, New Jersey and 5 other states recover and rebuild.

Some Corps worked through the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and FEMA, while others organized independent of the federal response. Some Corps worked in shelters, while others cleared debris. Some Corps travelled thousands of miles to assist in the relief efforts, while other Corps worked in their own backyards.

Find out which Corps have been involved in Sandy recovery, read about what they’ve done to help, and see pictures from the field:

Corps Involved in recovery efforts 

Conservation Corps Minnesota and Iowa Corpsmembers “mucking out” a home damaged by flood water

What are some of the things Corps have done?

  • Operated emergency shelters throughout New York City: managed volunteers, monitored and assisted residents, cared for children and pets, maintained the facilities
  • Cleared debris
  • Cut down damaged trees and limbs
  • “Mucking out” - removing water and water damaged items and building materials from homes and businesses affected by flooding
  • Solicited donations of food and emergency supplies from individuals and businesses not hit as hard by the storm
  • Operated distribution centers and packaged emergency supplies for Sandy victims in need of food, water, blankets, clothing, toiletries, and other necessities
  • Canvassed neighborhoods to find people in need and spread information about repair work
  • Restored parks damaged by high winds 

NYRP clearing a downed tree in New York City 


AmeriCorps NCCC/FEMA Corps members assisting with water distribution in Far Rockaway, NY.
 

Get more pictures and more information on the recovery efforts and Corpsmember experiences

Student Conservation Association (SCA) Corpsmember in New Jersey


Southwest Conservation Corps members working with FDNY


Utah Conservation Corps members surrounded by the devastation of Hurricane Sandy 


Green City Force Corpsmembers and staff serving food 


Montana Conservation Corps members organize supplies at a distribution center


New Jersey Youth Corps clearing a downed tree


 


 

 

 

 

 

Corpsmembers at Forest History Center Bring CCC History Alive


For the third summer, a crew from the Conservation Corps Minnesota and Iowa served at the Forest History Center in Grand Rapids, Minnesota working as interpreters in the Center’s early 1900s-era living history museum, and doing field work such as trail maintenance and fence construction. Corps members Willie Storm and Marjie Shrimpton spend their afternoons in costume: Storm as a woodsman teaching about logging practices and Shrimpton singing and dancing in the kitchen as a cook assistant. Jen Sikkink and Riley Cavanaugh worked the forester’s cabin and fire tower, teaching visitors about the CCC’s role in logging history and tying it to the Corps’ current work in maintaining, restoring and educating the public about Minnesota forests. Becky Jennings, interim FHC program director, praised the work of the crews in initiating and maintaining projects that enhance the experience for visitors. “They are ambitious, hard-working, able to think on their feet and work independently, but also work really well as a crew,” said Jennings. “We’ve been thrilled to have them here.”