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When Service Makes a Sustained Community Impact

by Mike L.

Mike L., a member with the American Red Cross’ AmeriCorps Together We Prepare program, has been making quite an impact on Washtenaw County in Michigan. Through his service with the county’s Red Cross chapter, Mike’s usual service has been organizing a youth service group called Youth Community Action Team (YCAT) and responding to local disasters.  But following an AmeriCorps training session, another opportunity presented itself.

The opportunity was called Great Escapes, and was originated by an AmeriCorps program in Anchorage, Alaska. The program teaches youth about fire safety and engages local fire departments to expand training – beyond the usual “Stop, Drop, & Roll.”

“There had been several children in the area that had died in fires within the past year, from either running back into the house or hiding in a closet,” said Mike. “I knew these kids needed to learn about fire safety, so I initiated a Great Escapes program here.”

Mike’s Great Escapes program is sponsored by the Washtenaw County Chapter of the American Red Cross and uses firefighters from the city of Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township departments. Firefighters from both departments attend trainings with Mike at various elementary schools where they teach students several important things about fire safety, including multiple exit strategies and a meeting place once you’re outside.

Mike says the Great Escapes program in Washtenaw County has teamed with 11 area schools to present to nearly 2,200 children on fire safety. They’ve also distributed more than 5,200 pieces of information. More youth in the area will receive this knowledge even after Mike’s AmeriCorps term of service has been completed, as the Red Cross chapter will make Great Escapes an ongoing program.

This story is submitted by the Michigan Community Service Commission (MCSC). The MCSC builds a culture of service by providing vision and resources to strengthen communities through volunteerism. In 2009-2010, the MCSC will grant more than $7.7 million in federal and state funds to local communities for volunteer programs and activities, such as AmeriCorps and Learn and Serve. The Corporation for National and Community Service grants federal funding that the MCSC administers to its programs.

Click here to read more Safety and Security stories.

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