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Stephen Packard, 24, could have taken his degree in Economics from the University of Connecticut and found a comfortable desk job. Instead, he opted for a more adventurous path when he joined AmeriCorps NCCC. Never did he imagine he'd one day be working on the front lines of Colorado's biggest wildfire in history, sleeping just feet from the flames.

Recent wildfires have threatened communities across Colorado and the Southwest and national service has been working day and night to help put out the flames and support survivors.

Earlier this week, National Service traveled to Missouri to help the community of Joplin mark the one-year anniversary of the tornado that struck the town last year. The response to the destruction has been remarkable - with volunteers traveling from near and far to help rebuild Joplin. On Tuesday, May 22, 2012, thousands of Joplin residents, volunteers, and supporters came together to honor those lost and celebrate the last year's progress.

One year ago today, Joplin MO was ravaged by a devastating E5 tornado. In the 12 months that followed, the community responded with an unmatched sense of hope and a determination to rebound. National Service is proud to have been a part of these recovery efforts and continues to provide services there today.

Donations from around the country piled up and volunteers turned out in droves in the days and weeks that followed last year's devastating May 22 tornado in Joplin, MO. City officials estimate that Joplin received donated resources and volunteer hours totaling $17.7 million, the largest amount in Missouri's history and the largest amount ever recorded in FEMA's Region VII.

Millions of Americans will be making the journey to their respective hometowns this weekend to celebrate the holidays with friends and family. Today and tomorrow, a 26-member AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) team will leave Denver, CO, for the East Coast to spend their holidays helping families recover from Hurricane Sandy.

Growing up, I was fortunate enough to live a different experience than most. My parents were treasure hunters and I spent a majority of my childhood on their boat traveling in the Bahamas. Looking back, I almost feel as if I took those years a bit for granted; I never would have thought that the very boat I grew up on would be lifted and dropped in someone else’s yard.

We’ve been tracking news coverage of the role our national service participants have played in the Hurricane Sandy relief and recovery effort for the last few months. Here are some of the latest stories, including two personal reflections by AmeriCorps members.

As an AmeriCorps VISTA at Habitat for Humanity International, I spend most of my days planning for events, attending meetings for upcoming projects, and supporting the wonderful and exciting things my fellow Habitaters (coworkers) are doing. Recently, I had an opportunity to see the impact Habitat makes firsthand as we led a project to help homeowners affected by Hurricane Sandy.

Last month, Corporation for National and Community Service staff visited several sites in New York and New Jersey where national service members were helping with the Hurricane Sandy recovery effort. Today, we'd like to share two of the videos from that trip.

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