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It's the start of a long Fourth of July weekend and for many that means a trip to the beach or backyard barbeques. For most it will mean an extra day or two off work and a patriotic celebration of some sort, possibly a parade or some fireworks.

Last week, five AmeriCorps alumni received the Congressional Gold Medal Award in Washington, DC. In our post last week, we talked a little bit about their work with the program, but we thought it would be fun to get to know them a bit better.

In April, more than 40 tornadoes tore through Alabama. The deadly storms killed more than 200, destroying buildings and homes along its path. Tuscaloosa was the epicenter of a deadly EF-4 tornado which killed more than 40 people.

Superwoman. That should be RSVP volunteer Evelyn Hildebrand's new name. If you're ever able to catch up with her, she's probably volunteering.

Pulling up to the home of Joplin resident Linda Smith, Kari Shields, an AmeriCorps NCCC member with the Southern region, was overcome with emotion. Shield’s team had already visited homes affected by the tornado that day, but they had only needed minor support such as tarps installed on roofs.

There are all kinds of emergencies out there that we can prepare for. Take a zombie apocalypse for example. That's right, I said z-o-m-b-i-e a-p-o-c-a-l-y-p-s-e. You may laugh now, but when it happens you'll be happy you read this, and hey, maybe you'll even learn a thing or two about how to prepare for a real emergency.

In Bastrop, TX, AmeriCorps members are helping to match volunteer and nonprofit agency workers with wildfire survivors who need help with recovery tasks.

On April 27, Tuscaloosa, Alabama was on the minds of many Americans, but most didn't realize the damage statewide, especially in the small town of Hackleburg, population 1,500. In a rural area nearly 100 miles away from Birmingham, Hackleburg remains in the shadow of Tuscaloosa but the damage was just as bad, if not worse. The majority of the town was demolished and 17 residents were killed in the storm.

Volunteers motivate and inspire us. In the weeks following the tornado that destroyed much of Joplin, MO, we've received an outpouring of volunteers from various states and countries.

This year has shown us that disasters can strike anywhere, and can often come unexpectedly. This year alone, we've seen historic flooding along many rivers, deadly tornadoes in several states, a hurricane hit the East Coast (including New England), and recently, even an earthquake in Virginia.


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