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Profile of an Award Winner: Becca Constantine

by Samantha Jo Warfield

 

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.

Amidst all the celebration, we stole them away for some quick interviews and will be sharing their thoughts on service, inspiration, and volunteering with you this week.

Next up, Becca Constantine.

Becca Constantine joined AmeriCorps NCCC in February 2010 and served in sites across the country from the Parks and People Foundation in Baltimore, MD to the Massachusetts Audubon Society in Westport, MA and Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans, LA.

She was also called on by FEMA to help flood victims in Tennessee, leading a team to muck and gut houses, saving homes from black mold and salvaging whatever possible. Although Constantine's term with AmeriCorps NCCC ended in November, she will begin another term of service in August 2011, this time with AmeriCorps VISTA.

What inspired you to become an AmeriCorps member?

Before Senator Ted Kennedy spoke, [at the 2008 Democratic National Convention] a brief video aired in which his passion for service was highlighted. I read up on his involvement with City Year, and found out that AmeriCorps NCCC was a partner program of City Year. I immediately knew that this was a way I could share, learn and grow in an amazing, productive environment.

In your time as a member, what moment has stayed with you the most?

I remember spending two days working with my team members to rip out all the lovely hardwood flooring from an older couple's home in Carthage, TN so we could expose the flood-soaked sub-flooring to allow it to dry.

On the first day, the woman, visibly shaken by the process of her home being torn apart, was kind enough to show me her beautiful garden as she offered my teammate and me refreshments.

It was clear that the garden, untouched by the storm, was a calming place for her. I told her that I loved the purple butterfly flowers that open in the sunlight. The next afternoon, as we finished our work, her husband called me out to the porch and the woman gave me a pot in which she had planted a few stems of her butterfly flowers. The plants will always symbolize for me sharing, hope, and renewal.

Do you remember your first experience volunteering or serving? What was that like?

While a student at Brown University, I selected the Rhode Island Food Bank for my first service experience. I knew I wanted to address access issues surrounding food and shelter. When I showed up, I found myself surrounded by retiree volunteers over the age of 60, all of whom were regulars discussing dentures and eye problems during snack breaks.

I felt like an outsider -- the youngest one there by 40 years, the newest volunteer by five years on that day. That was for all of 20 minutes until a couple volunteers shepherded me off to a mandatory snack break, encouraged me to try the sweet cakes, and welcomed me into their volunteer family.

I ended up serving over 40 hours at the Food Bank over the next three months. Volunteering can create a wonderful support system that spans all generations.

What would you tell individuals thinking about applying for AmeriCorps?

Service seeks to help those we serve, but we often gain most of all. Take a few moments each day to reflect on all that you've learned. Your life will be enriched irrevocably by this time you have given to our communities.

What would you say to encourage Americans to make service a part of their everyday lives?

You have the power to change the world. Maybe you won't end world hunger or put a roof over every home. But if you spend one day volunteering at your local food bank or help build a roof over one home, you've brightened life for one individual, one family, one community.

Each of us can choose, each and every day, to make the world a better place whether with a kind word or with an hour of service.

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