Hurricane Maria Recovery: A Washington Conservation Corps Story from the U.S. Virgin Islands


Washington Conservation Corps members with All Hands, a disaster response organization.
 

In early November, 12 Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) AmeriCorps members finished a 30-day disaster response deployment to the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Corpsmembers assisted communities affected by Hurricane Maria, a Category 5 storm that made landfall in September. An additional 18 WCC AmeriCorps members were deployed recently and will be on the ground through mid-December. Korey Nuehs shares a personal account from serving on the first wave of responders to communities on St. Thomas.
 


By Korey Nuehs, WCC AmeriCorps member
 

Another day of rain. I see the homeowner grab an old leather bag from the bed and clutch it in her arms. 

"This needs to be saved," she says.

"It's wet and moldy," her daughter responds.

"It was your father's."

The mother grabs the bag and walks outside without saying another word. Both she and her daughter are wearing white M95 masks to protect against the mold. It's still raining, there is a hole in the roof, and I'm tearing down the daughter's bedroom. 

I tear down her bed and move it outside to be thrown into a dumpster. I come back to tear down the shelves that used to hold the daughter's belongings. They are empty now. I see a quote stuck to the middle shelf. I tear it off and set it aside. I grab the shelves and move them outside to the trash heap beginning to form. 

Only it's not trash. It is years of memories and attachments that can't be saved. I walk back into the house. My boots and socks are wet from walking through the foot of standing water inside the house. As I walk back into the daughter's bedroom, I see her hunched over, reading the quote I pulled from the shelf. I step outside to give her a moment alone. The quote reads:

"The will of God will never take you where the grace of God will not protect you."

I served four years in the U.S. Army. I'm used to deploying to foreign countries, used to living in stressful conditions, used to being uncomfortable and dealing with the forces of Mother Nature. But in the Army, there are always barriers between you and the people. Language, culture, animosity, time, and space all help to distance the soldier from the people in their homeland. I wasn't used to stepping into someone's wound, watching it bleed, watching it attempt to heal. 

I wasn't used to seeing a mother struggle to make the choice between which belongings to keep and which to throw away, or watch her try to keep a calm face while a disaster has destroyed almost everything she's owned. I saw both her pain and her resilience. She baked us cookies and blessed us by name.

More importantly, I listened to her story. I listened to her tell us how she and her husband moved out to the island and bought a house. I listened to her tell us that her husband died when the kids were young and how she made the decision to stay on the island. And then a storm hits. Old wounds are cracked open, but somehow, through it all is not an ending, but a beginning.

"The will of God will never take you where the grace of God will not protect you."

I joined AmeriCorps because I needed a job. I know where I am going and where I have been. I want to go to law school. I want to have a family. I want to make a difference. And yet, life happens. It moves without us and shapes us, tells us where we will go, and sometimes, sometimes, we just have to move forward. 

The woman we helped probably had plans like mine. She might have even sat down one morning this summer on the porch overlooking the valley below, letting her imagination run, perhaps coming to similar conclusions about where she was going. And yet, life happens. Two category five hurricanes hit, and all she can do is move forward.

Our AmeriCorps Disaster Response Team is responding to a disaster that will show lasting impacts years from now. We are “mucking and gutting” people’s homes, deconstructing them to remove material damaged by water and mold so people can eventually rebuild.

Yet, a creation of sorts has already begun. Out of the disaster, a web of millions of lives are now intertwined because of these two hurricanes. Now I know this woman and her daughter. I know their story, and, because of that, I share in it, and another story forms. One where individuals no longer move forward alone, but as a community supporting each other. An island and a people form a story of renewal amidst a landscape of devastation. 


A WCC AmeriCorps member on the most recent deployment treats mold.

Hurricane Harvey Recovery: Firsthand Account of Relief Efforts in TX from Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa AmeriCorps Member Caleb Bell


AmeriCorps members gut homes damaged in Hurricane Harvey.
 

In response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, several member organizations of The Corps Network have sent crews to Texas, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Cooridnation of most of these deployments has been through the AmeriCorps Disaster Response Team (A-DRT) program.

Corpsmembers from across the country have assisted with a range of activities, including clearing debris, coordinating volunteers and donations, conducting damage assessments, and helping muck, gut and tarp homes. Below, read the firsthand account of Caleb Bell, an AmeriCorps member from Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa who deployed to Texas.

 


By Caleb Bell

My name is Caleb Bell. I was born in Des Moines, IA, raised in Colorado, and I went to Iowa State University for college.

My AmeriCorps term this year has been great. I joined Conservation Corps Minnesota and Iowa (CCMI) for the professional experience of leading a crew and learning new land management skills. I wanted to get more field and leadership experience and I have received both during my AmeriCorps term.

One big reason I joined AmeriCorps is because I didn’t know what to expect. It was something new and unpredictable. My home base is in Western Iowa. All I knew going into my term was that I would be doing land management: using chainsaws, brush sawing, treating invasive species, and hopefully having the chance to work on prescribed burns. I ended up doing a lot of burning. My crew completed over 6,000 acres of prescribed burns in about three months. Before being deployed on disaster, my plant identification skills increased and my professional communication and leadership skills grew.

 


 

Heading to Texas

When I found out I would be deployed for disaster response, I was excited. I knew there would be a lot more to learn; that’s a huge reason I joined AmeriCorps.

Going into the disaster response deployment, all I knew was that I was leaving for Texas. I knew that I would be in Austin for training, but had no idea what would come after that. I was told either Corpus Christi or Houston were the most likely locations, but I wasn’t told what I would be doing. I left my shop in Honey Creek, IA at 7:00 am on September 5 for Ames, IA; then I drove from Ames to St. Louis, MO that same night. I arrived in Austin just before midnight on September 6.

When I got to Austin, I thought my deployment would only be for 30 days. Three weeks into my deployment I was told I could stay until November 13. This would make 72 days of deployment. When I arrived, six of the seven people from my crew were deployed to Texas. In total, there were 52 Corpsmembers from CCMI.

 


Houston

We were originally sent to Houston. We lived in an old Wal-Mart that had been turned into a FEMA responder camp. The space had a capacity of 1,400 cots and a small dining area. We had shower trailers and were doing laundry at the laundromat.

Houston was definitely different than I expected. It was a shock at first to see how much devastation the flooding caused. In the neighborhood where we served, there were people who had experienced four or five feet of water in their homes. The people we helped hadn’t started mucking and gutting at all; the water had just receded a few days prior to our arrival.

I was in one house that really needed help. The homeowner had belongings in every room, floor to ceiling. At first it was extremely difficult to work on her home. I had a really hard time believing what I was seeing, and she had a hard time letting things go. The more I worked on the home and talked to the owner, the easier it became to help her. She knew that things needed to go, and began to let us throw things away, even though it was hard for her.

The most rewarding part of helping this survivor was when she thanked my team for helping her. She told me she hadn’t seen her walls in 25 years. It was so moving for me when we finished the house. Just before I drove away, the trash collectors started picking up the 200+ cubic yards of debris we had moved. It really showed how 10 strong backs and three long days can really change someone’s life. In the case of this survivor, she would never have been able to remove everything herself. Both physically because of her health condition and mentally because it was so hard to let things go.

Around the time this house was being started, our living situation changed. We moved from the responder camp at Wal-Mart to Hilton Americas in downtown Houston. The Hilton had been rented out by another agency and they didn’t want the rooms to go to waste, so, for five days, all 52 of us had our own room in a Hilton. I would say the Hilton offered a huge attitude boost. I was exhausted. Mentally, it was hard to see everyone’s lives affected so much by the storm. Physically, I was tired from working 14-15 hour days with a 110+ heat index. I needed the break, and the rooftop pool didn’t hurt.

 


Brazoria County

Right before our day off, we were told that we would be leaving Houston and going south to Brazoria County. The news that we were leaving Houston was really hard for me. After canvassing and working in the neighborhood, I knew there was a huge need for us in Houston; it was really hard to wrap my head around the fact that we had to tell homeowners that we wouldn’t be able to stay in Houston. I know that Brazoria County fit with AmeriCorps’ mission, but I still had a hard time. I was happy being deployed because I had a really good chance to help people who truly needed our assistance, and in Houston we found just as much need as I found in Brazoria County.

In Brazoria County, it was definitely easier to find a place to stay, laundry facilities, food, and there was a very supportive community, but it was much harder to find people who needed help. The first day in Brazoria County, my team drove around for four hours canvassing and didn’t find any homeowners who needed our help. Part of this was because we were later in the recovery process in this county, and part was because it is a lot less densely populated than Houston.

We have been able to find survivors who needed assistance, it just took more looking to find the ones who were hardest hit. There are some homes in Brazoria County that had 10 - 11 feet of water in them. A lot of homes here had water sitting in them for 10 days before the flooding receded. These homes were in really rough shape; the ones we found in the last week that hadn’t been touched yet were so full of mold that even ceiling panels needed to come out. Most houses being mucked and gutted now need full floor to ceiling mucking.

 




Change of Responsibilities

With the move from Houston to Brazoria, I transitioned from strike team lead to the assessment team. As a member of the assessment team I was often one of the first AmeriCorps faces these survivors met. This was definitely a change of pace. In the city, there was an attitude that everyone was all promises; we definitely weren’t the first group that had showed up offering help. In the county, we were often the first group that had stopped to even ask if people needed assistance.

After a week or so, I switched from assessments to AmeriCorps Liaison. As Liaison I really helped to build relationships within the community. These relationships have led to continued community support and a lot of help from the community in feeding and housing the AmeriCorps members here, and helping find high-priority homes for us to clean.

The relationship with United Way has been extremely helpful. The Long Term Recovery Executive Committee voted to donate money towards our food needs, helped us relocate a survivor whose home hadn’t been worked on at all, and continues to help us with our needs. We also help them by doing assessments and muck-and-guts for some of their cases. This kind of teamwork is making it so this community has a really good chance at recovery. As Liaison I have also really learned to talk to people. Whether it is asking for help, asking someone if they need help, or just starting small talk, I have definitely grown as a communicator because of my role with A-DRT (AmeriCorps Disaster Response Team).

One role I’m really proud of is helping to create an AmeriCorps presence in Little Cambodia. Some of the connections I made at the Long Term Recovery meetings asked me one day if I could help bring some pallets of food to the refugee village. The process of moving the food and helping the survivors unload the food was amazing. It really felt like I was doing something meaningful. Since the first food delivery, I have helped with a water delivery and a second food delivery. Each time I went to the village, more of the residents recognized me, and I just felt like I was doing the right thing. Between my donation visits and the assessment team spending time there, we were beginning to gain the trust of the village. I believe A-DRT has a few houses scheduled for roof tarps in Little Cambodia soon. I’m definitely glad that I was able to be part of such a unique opportunity.

 


A Learning Experience

In the community, I have met people from all walks of life. There have been people who always see the positive, even though their life was flipped upside down, and there are also those who only see the negative, even when their lives haven’t changed a lot. It is really interesting to see the effect that just listening to people’s stories has on their outlook. I have definitely found that some people who are having a hard time with everything that has happened tend to do a lot better after you just listen to their story. This is definitely something I will try and take with me after deployment.

My interactions with survivors have been really good for the most part. Most people are really happy to receive help, and I had only a couple of negative encounters. I think the people who I had rough encounters with were just at a really tough point; after we helped them, they really opened up and were very happy with the work we were able to do.

I think I have learned a lot about people during this deployment. I’ve learned that a lot of people who seem strong and confident have a hard time during times of crisis because they aren’t used to things not going well. I’ve also learned that a lot of quiet, more reserved people really shine during situations like this. However, I’ve also learned that neither of these things are true for everyone. Each person deals with stress differently.

I’ve become a lot more comfortable talking with people I don’t know. I can talk to someone I meet on the street about the work that A-DRT is doing here, or just about how their day is going. Before deployment I wasn’t much for small talk. I tended to avoid social events and had a really hard time talking to strangers. Now I can talk to anyone about almost anything.

I think that everyone should take the opportunity to help with disaster response if they have the chance. This deployment has definitely been life-changing for me. I wish that I had been able to stay longer. It’s hard for me to know that there is no more work to do here, but I have to go home and have three weeks off. I think there is a lot I would change about this deployment, but I am really happy with the difference I feel that I’ve made here.

Corps Recognize 9-11 National Day of Service and Remembrance 2017

September 11 is known as “Patriot Day” or the “National Day of Service and Remembrance.” It is a time when Americans honor the lives lost in the terrorist attacks of 2001 by coming together to volunteer and make our communities stronger.

Every day, young adults at America’s Corps engage in service to our communities and public lands. On September 11, Corps often coordinate neighborhood volunteer events or participate in emergency preparedness and resiliency trainings.  

Here are just a few ways member organizations of The Corps Network are recognizing the September 11 National Day of Service and Remembrance this year.

 

Maine Conservation Corps

More than 50 AmeriCorps members with Maine Conservation Corps will gather in Canann, ME to complete a short hiking path with two observation decks along the Carrabassett Stream. The year’s event stemmed from the wishes of Canaan citizens to build a trail in memory of Bill Townsend, a prominent lawyer and environmental advocate who passed away last December. 

Concurrently, other teams will upgrade trails at Lake George Regional Park as a thank you for hosting the Corps’ annual Summer Recognition Event.

Update 9/13/17: Click here for a report summarizing project outcomes from the day's event.

 

Texas Conservation Corps at American YouthWorks

In the morning, members of Texas Conservation Corps (TxCC) will join participants of American YouthWorks’ YouthBuild program for a moment of silence and a recitation of the AmeriCorps pledge.

Afterwards, members of TxCC and YouthBuild students will disperse to two projects: a park clean-up at Montopolis Greenbelt (which TxCC adopted through the Keep Austin Beautiful “Adopt-A-Creek” program), and a trail project in Austin’s Zilker Nature Preserve.

Meanwhile, TxCC currently has more than 20 AmeriCorps members participating in the Hurricane Harvey response effort.

 

Great Lakes Community Conservation Corps

In recognition of National Preparedness Month (September), AmeriCorps members with Great Lakes Community Conservation Corps (GLCCC) will participate in a functional training exercise as a capstone to their summer-long disaster response and emergency preparedness education classes.

Corpsmembers will respond to a scenario where a twin-engine aircraft crashes into a housing enclave. The members will perform search and rescue operations (incorporating drone flight and HAM radio operations), manage vehicular and pedestrian traffic, and staff a spontaneous volunteer management center adjacent to the Incident Command Center in the Town of Burlington, WI.

Read more about the project here. 

Update 9/13/17: Click here for a TV news report on the event

 

Southwest Conservation Corps

[From SCC Facebook page, following their 9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance event]

9/11 is a day of remembrance and acknowledgment to all of those we have lost and to those who have served our country. In honor of this our Veterans Fire Corps Crews and several staff members in Durango cut, split, and hauled fire wood for a couple local Veteran families in need.

We cannot thank our crews enough for volunteering their time today to help others. Big thanks also go out to the San Juan National Forest for donating fire wood permits as well as Ted's Rental and Sales, Grand Rental Station for the use of a log splitter.

 

The Corps Network Receives More than $5.6 Million in AmeriCorps National Direct Grant Awards to Continue Education Awards Program (EAP) and Opportunity Youth Service Initiative (OYSI)

Over the coming program year, EAP and OYSI will engage more than 3,600 AmeriCorps members in environmental stewardship projects, giving them the opportunity to collectively earn over $9.1 million in Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards.

Sweat and Long Hours: Texas Conservation Corps Puts in the Work to Maintain Trails

Corps play an essential role in helping address the maintenance backlog on America’s public trails. In 2016 alone, young adults enrolled in member organizations of The Corps Network built or improved almost 22,000 miles of trail!

In honor of National Trails Day this Saturday, June 3, we’re recognizing Trails Across Texas (TAT), an AmeriCorps program of Austin-based Texas Conservation Corps (TxCC) at American YouthWorks. Learn about how the TAT crew connects their community to trails and helps get more people outdoors.


 

Meet the Crew Leaders:

Trail work isn’t easy. Keeping popular public trails in operation requires hours of physical labor, often in harsh conditions. However, as the members of the Trails Across Texas (TAT) program at Austin-based Texas Conservation Corps will tell you, maintaining trails is one of the most rewarding jobs out there.

“Trail crews put in sweat and long hours to make the public's experience greater,” said Ian Munoz, a TAT Crew Leader. “It’s hard, but I do it because it brings me joy like nothing else. I am constantly motivated by my surroundings when I’m working on a trail. Having the chance to work on or create something that people from all over can come to enjoy will keep me working on a trail crew for as long as I can.”

Born and raised in El Paso, Munoz is a self-described “Texas Outdoorsman” who joined TAT to give back to his home state. He recently led a project at Bastrop State Park in Central Texas. Using chainsaws and a range of hand tools – including mattocks, Pulaskis, shovels and McLeods – the crew removed hazardous trees and constructed hundreds of feet of new tread for the Lost Pine Loop.   

“With all of these tools comes daily maintenance and skills to keep them working well,” said Munoz. “The skills needed for chainsaw operation and hazard felling can be overwhelming, but safety and sound judgement are essential. With trail digging comes the skill to understand the science of water-flow and erosion.”
 


 

Managing water-flow is critical to maintaining trails. Karissa Killian, another TAT Crew Leader, also recently served at Bastrop. In addition to felling hazardous trees, her crew removed woody debris from the downslope of the trail. This allows water to flow off the trail instead of pooling.

“Trail crews maintain trails so that users can enjoy them,” said Killian. “We focus on making trails sustainable so that they can be used by many future generations.”

A native of Salt Lake City, Killian graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Science. Her first job was with a U.S. Forest Service trails and wilderness crew. Her passion for this work led her to the TAT program, where she became immersed in the routine of working and living outdoors on multi-day assignments, or “hitches.”

“I enjoy working outside, using my hands, and being engaged in physical activity,” said Killian. “[Trail work] is like working in a community. Everyone is so nice and supportive. It can be a hard transition to living on hitch for most of your time, but it is rewarding to make close connections with other crewmembers.”

The TAT crewmembers are a diverse group of young men and women. Some came to TAT with experience in the outdoors, while others came from office jobs, looking to get more in touch with nature. As AmeriCorps members, these young adults receive a modest stipend for their service and can receive an AmeriCorps education award (scholarship) upon completing their service. Through their day-to-day service with the TAT program, the crewmembers gain the skills and experience to later seek jobs in conservation and lands management. Here are some of their insights from the trail.

 

 

Meet Trails Across Texas Crewmembers:

Carl Woody
Age: 28
Austin, TX

“Before this I did a previous AmeriCorps program, but before that I was working at a law office for about 3 years. So, this is a little bit different from what I’ve been doing before.”

“I absolutely feel more connected with nature. When it is your office and your home, you kind of have to appreciate it. You learn to really care for what’s important and how important it is to take care of the environment. It’s the only one we’ve got, so we might as well take the best care of it we can.”

“Well, trail work requires a lot of communication and team work. It’s 10 people trying to accomplish one goal at the same time, so you have to really know how to work with each other and communicate well.

“What do I like the most? I just like working with my hands a lot. Getting dirty, hard work, sweating a lot, obviously. What do I like the least? Probably sweating a lot…it’s hot and nasty outside here most of the time.”

“I’m actually going to graduate school next fall for environmental policy and environmental science. So, keep fighting the good fight!”

 

Brigid MulRoe
Age: 22
Malta, NJ

“Before I joined this program, I graduated from college a year ago and I did another Conservation Corps last fall, just for 3 months. I liked it so much; I got a little taste of the Conservation Corps world and decided that I wanted to do more, so I joined the Texas Conservation Corps for a 5-month term.”

My perspective on the environment has definitely changed since I’ve been living outside every day in a tent. We’re definitely forced to get up close and personal with the dirt and bugs and the rain, but I have really enjoyed it! I think that I feel a lot more connected to the work that I’m doing than if I were just sitting in an office thinking about it.”

“I’m a lot stronger than I thought I was. Just the fact that I’m capable of doing this work has surprised me and made me think about myself a lot differently”

“I really enjoy hitch life and living with a group of 10 people that are coming from different places and have totally different perspectives on everything, but working as a team when working on the trail or camp life. The thing I like the least, at least for this week is the bugs. Bombarded with ants, mosquitoes, chiggers, so we’re all learning to deal with that.”

“I’m planning on doing another AmeriCorps program. An emergency response program in St. Louis.”

 

Arturo Gonzalez
Age: 25
Salinas, CA

“Before this program I was in a back country trails crew with an AmeriCorps program with a California Conservation Corps. My supervisor told me about the TxCC program, so I came here after that.”

“I feel like I already was connected to nature. I really love nature, so even though I enjoyed it before, I still enjoy it now.”

“Being on this crew has taught me that you don’t need technology or a lot of the stuff that you’re used to having.”

“The things I enjoy the most about being on TAT crew is probably all the hiking and the general work itself, especially backcountry style rock work. My least favorite is probably chores, especially dishes.”

“Right after this, I’m not sure what I want to do, but I am gold-listed to be a sponsor for a backcountry trails crew.”

 

Michael “Mikey” Thomas
Age: 29
Rhode Island & Austin, TX

“I’m originally from Rhode Island but I’ve lived in Texas since I was 15 years old. I have lived in Austin for 11 years now. Before I joined TxCC, I was a kitchen lead at a restaurant. I have been doing that, primarily, my whole life. I was traveling and playing music, also.”

“I would say I always felt connected to nature, but through this program I feel more so.”

“As for what I’ve learned through this program - Lots of technique, but as far as life skills or lessons, there is a level of contentment that you learn when you’re outside, away from everything for 10 days at a time. You find pleasure in simple things; when you go back into the city, that carries over. So, I’m more content in general.”

“I love the work itself. I like the lifestyle of living in a small group and sharing food. I also like the solitude and rock, tread, and chainsaw work. There’s nothing I don’t really like. I enjoy working with my hands, so I like it all.”

“The initial goal coming here was to get a job doing park maintenance, but after doing this for a long time, I think I would like to eventually get into trail design and layout.”

 

Ryan Garwood
North Texas

“I’ve been living in Austin, TX for about 5 years now. Originally, I am from North Texas. Before this, I was working in an automotive shop.”

“I joined this program to do something new. I started working in the shop and being in the daily grind, and then I found this job on Craigslist. I didn’t know it was in Austin and I had been living in Austin for 5 years and never heard about it. Thankfully I found it and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.”

“Since working on this crew, I feel way more connected to nature now. Being out 10 days at a time, you definitely get one-on-one with nature. One of the biggest things I have learned is just how powerful nature really is. That it can rebuild itself; the elements are very powerful.”

“The most valuable lesson I have learned is walk in a single file line, not shoulder to shoulder so you don’t broaden the trail out.”

I like the comradery of the trail crew. It’s like a family environment everyone has each other’s back. Do chores, one person does one thing, and another person does another thing and it all works out. My least favorite thing is probably the bugs and insects, and creepy crawlies.”

“After my term of service, I would like to do another term, but, at the end of the day, I would like to be in Texas Parks and Wildlife or do some firefighting. That would be cool.”

 

Anna Jones
Age: 21
Waco, TX

“Before this I was working in a zoo at their gift shop, and before that I was working as a grocery store clerk. I heard about TxCC on Reddit and it sounded like something I would be interested in and maybe a career field that I would like to move towards. I’m really glad I made the decision!”

“I do feel more connected to nature. I’ve never really camped a lot in my life, only once before this program. It’s a different experience completely to be out in the wilderness for 10 days at a time. Especially out at Cap Rock where we were primitive camping, which was a unique experience but I really enjoyed it! Something I have learned about nature is that it is amazing what the environment can do. Out at Cap Rock we had to the stone staircase, because the rain just carves out gullies and stuff. Erosion is a big thing, it’s amazing what can happen to the earth over a span of a few years.”

“Honestly, my favorite part about this work is probably camp related things. Learning how to live out here and learning to live with minimal things. It’s a very different life than living in the city with all of these things you think you need, until you just go out into the wilderness and realize you don’t need any of them.”

“I think what I enjoy the most is honestly the comradery in the crew. You get so close with these people, working with them 10 days at a time and living with them for hours. My least favorite thing is probably the bugs. I love animals, just not insects. They get in my tent and it’s very upsetting.”

“After this, I plan to go back and finish off my degree. I want to get a degree in Wildlife Biology.”

 

Josh DelRio
Age: 28

“I joined TxCC for a new experience. Before TxCC, I was playing Rock n’ Roll and working for a moving company.”

“My perspective on nature has changed. What I’ve learned is that nature heals itself pretty readily, considering what humans do to it. That’s definitely the best thing I have learned about trails and nature.”

The most valuable skill I have learned is how to live outside for more than a week. Definitely got that on lock down.

“Being on a trail crew, at least for TAT, we’ve been to a lot of different areas. So, being able to go to all of those places and different environments were the coolest part. My least favorite, recently, is the chiggers.”

“After my term of service, I would like to get into wildland firefighting. Hopefully get the Travis County fire rescue gig. Somewhere around there, chainsaws are cool and fire is awesome. After seeing that at Cooper Lake, that probably sparked my interest very much.”

 

 

 

Tell Congress the President's Proposed Budget Cuts are Unacceptable

Use our templates to send letters to Congress. Let your Senators and Representatives know how the proposed cuts in the president's budget would affect your community. 


CLICK HERE - SUMMARY OF THE PRESIDENT'S BUDGET


TEMPLATE LETTERS TO CONGRESS

FY18 Appropriations Advocacy Action Items

  1. Mail this National Service Appropriations letter to your House and Senate Members
  2. Mail this Public Lands Appropriations letter to your House and Senate Members
  3. Mail this Workforce Development Appropriations letter to your House and Senate Members
  4. Submit programmatic appropriations funding requests to your House and Senate Members in support of National Service, Public Lands, and Workforce Development
     

A MESSAGE FROM OUR CEO

Dear Friends,
You may have heard in the news that President Trump has released his initial budget proposal. This is our first real glimpse into this administration’s policy and spending priorities, and there is unfortunately significant reason for concern. 
 
I want to reach out to you directly and let you know we are paying close attention to these issues here in DC and will work hard to advocate for the funding Corps need to continue engaging youth and veterans in serving our communities and nation. This budget is simply the first step in a long budget and appropriations process. There is near certainty of major changes to the president’s current proposal in Congress.
 
The President’s Budget proposes the complete elimination of the Corporation for National and Community Service, which includes AmeriCorps. It also proposes massive cuts to USDA and the Forest Service of 21%, and a 12% cut to the Department of Interior. Department of Labor would also be cut by 21%. If these changes go into effect, they would have a devastating impact on our Corps and opportunities for our Corpsmembers and partners around the country.
 
The key word though, is “if” - the president has no power to enforce these changes without Congress. Per the constitution, Congress (and the House specifically) makes the final decision on spending. This is why we must keep the pressure on our Members of Congress and use our most effective local tools - your voice - to let Congress know that #CorpsWork. We need to use use these letter templates today to let Congress know this budget is unacceptable in the areas of National Service, Public Lands, and Workforce Development.
 
Thankfully, after multiple years of budget caps, we’re hearing from Republicans in Congress that there have been too many cuts to smaller programs and they cannot continue. There’s also room to be optimistic that our advocacy is paying off. AmeriCorps received a $50 million increase in FY16 and the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee in the Senate, along with Chair of the LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee (which funds AmeriCorps), both joined a resolution honoring AmeriCorps last week. Additionally, the Chairman of the subcommittee in the House expressed his support for AmeriCorps in a recent committee hearing.
 
Interior Secretary Zinke has also pledged to be a champion of public lands funding and budget issues for DOI and it’s sub-agencies. We also know that Interior Appropriations Committee members want to work harder to address the growing list of backlog maintenance and ensure more access and recreation opportunities on public lands. Corps are well positioned to help accomplish all these goals on public lands. We have a strong case to make and years of quality work to stand on.
 
Along with our own appropriations strategy and convening monthly advocacy calls with our issue-focused coalitions, we're going to be working with our partners here in DC and a variety of appropriations advocacy groups. We hope you will join those monthly advocacy calls to learn more about what you can do. In the meantime, please use the letter templates above in the areas of National Service, Public Lands, and Workforce funding to reach out to your House and Senate members today to tell them about the impact these cuts would have on your Corps and community.
 
Thank you as always for all that you do, and keep up the good work!

Mary Ellen Sprenkel
CEO
The Corps Network

Actions You Can Take to Help Protect AmeriCorps

In this current budget cycle, AmeriCorps could face major cuts or even total elimination. This would be a major blow to the member organizations of The Corps Network and the young people and communities our Corps serve.

Creating the federal budget is a long process that involves many players, but Congress ultimately decides what gets funded. Here are some steps you can take to show support for AmeriCorps.*
 


REACH THE WHITE HOUSE:
Do you, your organization, or your organization’s board members/sponsors/funders have any connections to the White House? This includes any connections you may have with Republican Governors. If so, let us know ASAP. We have a small window to let the Administration know it's a mistake to include AmeriCorps on the elimination list.

 

TARGET APPROPRIATORS: 
Reach out key members of Congress who sit on the Labor, HHS Appropriations Subcommittees in the House and Senate. Encourage your organization’s board members and partners to do the same. Congress will ultimately decide whether AmeriCorps survives.

REQUEST APPROPRIATIONS: 
Reach out to your Members of Congress (House and Senate) and let them know that you want them to support appropriations requests for AmeriCorps and other key CNCS programs. See this message we’ve sent out to the network. Cut and paste the CNCS/AmeriCorps requests into an email or word doc, and send to your Member of Congress and ask for their support on these funding levels. 
 

ENGAGE PARTNERS IN MEDIA OUTREACH:
Identify a Republican Governor, Mayor, State Legislator or former Member of Congress who could write an Op-Ed or Letters to the Editor. We need outside Republican voices who can validate the local impact of AmeriCorps. Let us know if you have connections with any such officials so we can help craft the message. It is more than likely that AmeriCorps members have, in some way, helped improve your community. Now is the time to ask your elected officials for their help. 
 

CALL YOUR MEMBERS OF CONGRESS:
Join with the national service community today to let you Senators and House Member know that #AmeriCorpsWorks and #CorpsWork! Simply click this link, enter your information, and you’ll be connected with both your Senators and House Member on the same call and given a short script.

of Congress to urge them to support AmeriCorps. You can do so by using the online systems of BOTH Service Year Alliance and Voices for National Service. We need all the help we can get, so encourage your friends and coworkers to make their voices heard, too!


STRATEGIZE:
Join The Corps Network's National Service Coalition on Thursday, February 23, at 1:00pm EST. During this call, we'll discuss the service community's united national strategy, and how Corps should be engaged.
 

GET SOCIAL: 
Post your support for AmeriCorps on social media using the hashtags #AmeriCorpsWorks and #CorpsWork. Use photos and stories to show the huge LOCAL impact AmeriCorps has in communities around the country. Tweet @ your House and Senate Members and ask them to protect AmeriCorps! See below for some shareable images.

 

*IMPORTANT
Please note that AmeriCorps grantees are prohibited from performing advocacy activities, and social media activities related to advocacy, directly with grant funds, equipment, or while counting AmeriCorps hours of Corpsmembers or volunteers. You may perform education on program activities and operations with AmeriCorps funds.

You may perform advocacy on non-AmeriCorps funded time, staff positions or staff time, Corpsmembers' non-AmeriCorps service hours, or on personal time. Please refer to this recent post from CNCS on social media considerations and this general advocacy post.


 

 

We Must Act Now to Save AmeriCorps

AmeriCorps could be eliminated; we need your help to ensure this vital program does not get cut from the federal budget.
 

Dear Friends,
 
I hope you are still as energized as I am from the national conference last week. If there was one thing I took away from the advocacy discussions, it’s that now is the time to be loud and proud about the work Corps do in communities and on public lands every day.
 
Right now we urgently need your help. AmeriCorps faces more than just budget cuts; it could face total elimination. Late last week, The New York Times received a leaked memo from the Office of Management and Budget. The memo lists the Corporation for National & Community Service (CNCS) – the agency that oversees AmeriCorps – as one of the first federal programs to cut.
 
The budget is still in its preliminary stages, but note that this is not a drill. If we act now to show our support for national service, there is still hope AmeriCorps and CNCS could be saved from the chopping block. We know #CorpsWork and #AmeriCorpsWorks. Every dollar invested in national service returns nearly four dollars to society in terms of higher earnings, increased economic output and meeting public needs.
 
The majority of The Corps Network’s member organizations receive AmeriCorps funding. In the communities where our Corps operate, people depend on the services AmeriCorps members provide. Through their service, our young adults and veterans develop valuable experience on the path to careers. Whether or not you directly work with or benefit from AmeriCorps, your community does.
 
If your organization receives AmeriCorps funding or Education Awards, you need to act now. If you currently serve in AmeriCorps, or previously benefited from an AmeriCorps term of service, you need to act now. If you believe in giving people the opportunity to serve our country, you need to act now. We all need to act if we want to save AmeriCorps.
 
This budget is not the end of the road; Congress ultimately decides what is funded and what is not. All of this is to say that we are just at the beginning of a long budget and appropriations process during which we will need to continue to make our voices heard in support of the programs and funding streams on which Corps depend.
 
If you hear from us in coming days and months about this topic, PLEASE consider it important and have at least one member of your organization act on our suggestions. SEE BELOW FOR ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE NOW.
 
Sincerely,
 
Mary Ellen Sprenkel
CEO
The Corps Network

 

How You Can Help Save AmeriCorps

  1. REACH THE WHITEHOUSE:
    Do you, your organization, or your organization’s board members/sponsors/funders have any connections to the White House? This includes any connections you may have with Republican Governors. If so, let us know ASAP. We have a small window to let the Administration know it's a mistake to include AmeriCorps on the elimination list.

     
  2. TARGET APPROPRIATORS: 
    Reach out key members of Congress who sit on the Labor, HHS Appropriations Subcommittees in the House and Senate. Encourage your organization’s board members and partners to do the same. Congress will ultimately decide whether AmeriCorps survives.
    list of key members on Labor, HHS Subcommittees
    please let us know about your outreach so we can track efforts
     
  3. REQUEST APPROPRIATIONS
    Reach out to your Members of Congress (House and Senate) and let them know that you want them to support appropriations requests for AmeriCorps and other key CNCS programs. See this message we’ve sent out to the network. Cut and paste the CNCS/AmeriCorps requests into an email or word doc, and send to your Member of Congress and ask for their support on these funding levels.
     
  4. ENGAGE PARTNERS IN MEDIA OUTREACH
    Identify a Republican Governor, Mayor, State Legislator or former Member of Congress who could write an Op-Ed or Letters to the Editor. We need outside Republican voices who can validate the local impact of AmeriCorps. Let us know if you have connections with any such officials so we can help craft the message. It is more than likely that AmeriCorps members have, in some way, helped improve your community. Now is the time to ask your elected officials for their help.

     
  5. CALL YOUR MEMBERS OF CONGRESS
    Join with the national service community today to let you Senators and House Member know that #AmeriCorpsWorks and #CorpsWork! Simply click this link, enter your information, and you’ll be connected with both your Senators and House Member on the same call and given a short script.

     
  6. STRATEGIZE
    Member organizations of The Corps Network - especially those that receive AmeriCorps funding - are encouraged to join our National Service Coalition. We host regular strategy calls and send out an email on national service-related news. If someone on your organization is not already participating in the Coalition, please contact us to join!

     
  7. GET SOCIAL
    Post your support for AmeriCorps on social media using the hashtags #AmeriCorpsWorks and #CorpsWork. Use photos and stories to show the huge LOCAL impact AmeriCorps has in communities around the country. Tweet @ your House and Senate Members and ask them to protect AmeriCorps! See below for some shareable images. Along with these images, be sure to share a personalized message to let your members of Congress know about the important work AmeriCorps members do in their district

     

*IMPORTANT
Please note that AmeriCorps grantees are prohibited from performing advocacy activities, and social media activities related to advocacy, directly with grant funds, equipment, or while counting AmeriCorps hours of Corpsmembers or volunteers. You may perform education on program activities and operations with AmeriCorps funds. 

You may perform advocacy on non-AmeriCorps funded time, staff positions or staff time, Corpsmembers' non-AmeriCorps service hours, or on personal time. Please refer to this recent post from CNCS on social media considerations and this general advocacy post

 


 

The Corps Network Celebrates One-Millionth AmeriCorps Member this Week as New Program Year Begins for The Corps Network’s AmeriCorps Education Awards Program and Opportunity Youth Service Initiative

AmeriCorps Members inducted this week, including those in The Corps Network's Education Awards Program (EAP) and Opportunity Youth Service Initiative (OYSI), are part of the cohort that includes the one-millionth AmeriCorps member

 

AmeriCorps Crews from Two Member Organizations of The Corps Network to Restore Iconic Trails in Mt. Rainier and Olympic National Parks

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