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Things We Learned Serving in West Virginia

by Greg Tucker

Last week, members of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) family joined Volunteer West Virginia and the Citizens Conservation Corps of West Virginia as more than 40,000 volunteers descended on the Mountain State to perform 350 service projects across nine counties. By the time all was said and done, volunteers performed more than 300,000 hours of service during a five-day period.

The Reaching the Summit Community Service Initiative identified local needs and developed projects that could be addressed during a time to coincide with the 2013 Boy Scout Jamboree taking place nearby in Beckley and Glen Jean, WVA.

CNCS CEO Wendy Spencer poses with KUPU Corps AmeriCorps members from Hawaii.National service participants included Senior Corps members, 14 AmeriCorps NCCC teams, and VISTA members from groups far and wide --even a team from Hawaii’s KUPU Corps came to help during the event. CNCS CEO Wendy Spencer dropped in to get a firsthand view of the event that also enlisted the help of 40,000 Boy Scouts attending their annual Jamboree.

As we look back on the events of last week, a few things came to mind …

We’re Good Organizers

CNCS CEO Wendy Spencer speaks with an AmeriCorps member at the command center during the Reaching the Summit Community Service Initiative in West Virginia. Well, we already knew this, but it bears repeating. A project of this scope required a lot of planning and coordination – fortunately our NCCC members are more than ready for the task. The Citizens Conservation Corps of West Virginia, an AmeriCorps program, led the effort.

AmeriCorps members are experts in managing large-scale volunteer efforts, and they are often called into service after natural disasters to provide similar support. This is built into their DNA, and they demonstrate this whenever and wherever duty calls.

National Service Members Are Versatile

An AmeriCorps member works with Boy Scouts on a community garden near a school in West Virginia.The Initiative’s 350 projects ranged in size and scope, and covered five areas: green friendly, art and education, construction, infrastructure, and wellness. In addition to staffing the command center, national service members fanned out across the state to tackle a wide variety of projects such as construction at scenic overlooks, building a volleyball pit at recreation facility, and working in community gardens.

We worked with the Boy Scouts, the West Virginia University football team, veterans groups, and at historic sites. Our national service members rallied from across the state and nation to lend a hand to this program, and their example demonstrated what great teammates and leaders look like.

Work Hard, Play Hard

Members of North Carolina’s Piedmont Service Corps from Winston Salem, NC, pause for a photo after working on a volleyball pit at a West Virginia state park during the Reaching the Summit Community Service Initiative.

Hard work is often its own reward, but it’s OK to celebrate, too. Anyone who has heard CNCS CEO Wendy Spencer speak knows that she is an enthusiastic advocate for CNCS and national service, which is a good thing because that enthusiasm runs through our programs.

CNCS CEO Wendy Spencer cheers while celebrating with AmeriCorps members in West Virginia
Whether the members serving are young adults or just young at heart, the smiles on their faces show the passion they have for the causes and communities they support.  

A member of the Vet Corps smiles as he poses with team members from the American Red Cross.

West Virginia is Wild, Wonderful, and Beautiful

This is just one of the scenic views of the New River Gorge available across southern West Virginia.
We all know the shortest distance between two points is a straight line but that doesn’t apply to the state’s roads. (CNCS CEO Wendy Spencer discovered this during her whirlwind, 12-hour tour of just seven of the projects.) Even areas that seem close to each other require travelers to take the scenic route -- which is not a bad thing when you have West Virginia’s scenic views.

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