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Service to Country, Service to Community

by Bill Basl

On Friday, an enthusiastic crowd of more than 1,000 AmeriCorps members gathered at the Seattle Center to pledge their personal commitment to "get things done for America" during their year of service in Washington state. The annual event drew its largest crowd ever, proving that more and more citizens are choosing to serve during these difficult economic times.

Among the new inductees was Kara Hayes, a Gulf War veteran who is serving in the Vet Corps, a program sponsored by the Washington Department of Veterans Affairs. As part of the swearing-in ceremony Hayes shared why she’s honored to continue a mission of service to her country, “Veterans have so much to teach others and are being given the opportunity to use their skills to improve communities and inspire others through AmeriCorps national service programs.”

Hayes is one of 32 veterans, spouses and widows serving as AmeriCorps members to provide support to veterans and military families.

As part of the day’s activities, more than 500 AmeriCorps members received training to help them become better prepared in the event of an emergency and to learn about the important role that national service can play in disaster preparedness and response efforts. Tracy Connelly from the City of Seattle Office of Emergency Management offered an engaging and informative session on how to put together an emergency preparedness kit without breaking the bank. After completing the training, each member received a 72-hour personal preparedness kit courtesy of the Washington Commission for National and Community Service.

An additional 200 members and community volunteers got their hands dirty while serving at an environmental service project at the N.W. Queen Anne Greenbelt. The Greenbelt is a combination of two new parks: Trolley Hill Park and MacLean Park. Trolley Hill Park is home to a P-Patch and picnic area while MacLean Park commands a terrific view of the Cascade Mountains and Mount Rainier. These parks are home to beautiful and interesting native plants that are being threatened by non-native, invasive plants. At today’s event, volunteers removed invasive plants and performed restoration site maintenance. Special thanks to EarthCorps and the Green Seattle Partnership for hosting this worthwhile project.

The spirit and generosity of AmeriCorps members shows us that if you get good people together - no matter how different their backgrounds - through a shared value of service to others, they will change America. Today was a truly inspiring day.

Bill Basl is Executive Director of the Washington Commission on National and Community Service

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