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Samantha Jo Warfield

By: Samantha Jo WarfieldAt 2:00 AM, on May 23rd, just eight hours after a deadly EF-5 tornado tore through Joplin, MO, the AmeriCorps St. Louis Emergency Response Team arrived in a community devastated by the latest in a string of natural disasters.The team immediately got to work setting up a Missing Persons hotline in collaboration with the Missouri Southern State University IT Department and had it up and running by 6:00 AM the next morning, just 12 hours after the tornado struck Joplin. Throughout the recovery process, this hotline has been the hub for missing persons and is crucial to the work of law enforcement and emergency response crews.While AmeriCorps teams often must wait until a disaster area is declared safe, the AmeriCorps St. Louis ERT was close and the need was great, so the first 11-person team headed to Joplin without knowing where they would stay, sleep, or work. An AmeriCorps NCCC team followed closely behind, and all together nearly 100 AmeriCorps members from six teams have coordinated more than 12,000 unaffiliated volunteers in more than 49,000 hours of service to the victims of the Joplin tornado.It is this kind of courage and determination that defines the AmeriCorps program and the Corporation for National and Community Service’s Disaster Service’s Unit. While in the field at FEMA’s Regional Response Coordinating Center, CNCS Senior Advisor for Disaster Services, Kelly DeGraff, reported via text and cell. Even as the self-described “Northeastern gal” experienced her first-ever tornado by taking cover in the local FEMA bunker, she was committed to telling the story of volunteers on the ground.AmeriCorps members and volunteers are doing tremendous work in an area struggling to recover and rebuild after being ripped apart by a powerful natural disaster. A few of them took a moment to reflect on how this experience has touched them:

  • On Saturday of Memorial Day weekend our AmeriCorps Team managed over 3,500 volunteers to recover disaster victims’ personal belongings from the wreckage of their homes. Between myself and one other AmeriCorps member we oversaw over 150 people working on four properties. We had a great deal of responsibility because we had to ensure the safety of so many untrained volunteers working in an unstable and destroyed environment, as well as make sure that the volunteers were able to recover the homeowners treasured possessions. I remember one homeowner returning to what was once her home and being brought to tears by the sight of over 40 strangers helping her bring some order to her life and recovering the photographs and material things which make up so many of the memories of her life.

                                                                          – Will M., AmeriCorps St. Louis

  • Without AmeriCorps coordinating the volunteers to the Joplin tornado, the disaster response would be out of control and lack the organization necessary to execute an effective recovery.

                                      – James Woodworth, Voluntary Agency Liaison, FEMA

  • During the Joplin relief effort, AmeriCorps has played a key role in connecting affected residents with the resources they need. Be it food, donations, or volunteer labor, AmeriCorps has worked long, hard hours to ensure the needs here in Joplin are being met. As a team leader in the field, I have led groups of volunteers – upwards of 80 at a time – in clearing debris and fallen trees from affected properties. Without AmeriCorps leading and coordinating the efforts of these volunteers, residents would not have access to the organized volunteer workforce that many of them need to recover and rebuild following this disaster.

                                                                 – Chris Matthews, AmeriCorps NCCC

  • AmeriCorps members have such an impact in these broken communities. With our boots on the ground, we have gone door to door shaking hands and helping storm victims in any way possible. As we searched through the wreckage, Eric found a Purple Heart. With the help of neighbors, we were able to return the medal to the homeowner, who was extremely thankful.

                                        - Matthew McKenney, Minnesota Conservation Corps

  • An AmeriCorps member leading a group of volunteers found a homeowner’s pet dog that had been buried under rubble from the Joplin tornado for a week. They then were able to track down the dog’s owner who had, unfortunately, lost his home and family in the tornado. Needless to say, the man was overjoyed by the discovery.

                                        –Mark Wilson, AmeriCorps, Iowa Conservation CorpsLearn more by visiting the CNCS Disaster Services page or read about some of the recent recovery and response work our AmeriCorps and RSVP members have been a part of.

Keywords: Joplin, AmeriCorps, AmeriCorps NCCC, Disaster, Missouri
The 2014 Martin Luther King Day of Service is a little more than a month away, and now is the time to order materials to promote the event and join Americans across the nation who will be volunteering in their communities.
As she attended classes in the California Bay Area, Naomi Shachter was struck by AmeriCorps’ ability to transform the lives of students in her high school. AmeriCorps members served as mentors, advocates, teachers, and friends. “I saw what a big difference service in the community could make,” she said.
Today Americans are remembering the legacy of President John F. Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of his assassination. Many in the national service family were inspired by his life, and his legacy lives on through AmeriCorps VISTA, one of the anti-poverty programs he envisioned before his untimely death.
When President Obama announced the Task Force on Expanding National Service in July, he asked federal agencies to work together to create a pipeline for national service participants to apply the skills they learned in the federal sector. Last week, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced new guidance from that will affect past, current, and future AmeriCorps members and other national service participants.
As you are undoubtedly aware, the impact of Super Typhoon Haiyan on the Philippines has been astonishing. The typhoon has caused widespread damage, including landslides and flooding, and is expected to claim the lives of thousands.
In Gen. George Washington’s farewell orders to the Continental Army, he encouraged the soldiers who united in battle to not only maintain their bond as a “patriotic band of Brothers” but to carry forward the virtues they had learned during military service when they returned home. His wisdom still rings true today, as we see example after example of our soldiers continuing to serve their communities after their military commitments end.
James Randall “Randy” Hindert served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam as a Sergeant from 1967-1970. Recently, he began serving our nation again, this time in the local community as a tutor for AmeriCorps at Big Brothers/Big Sisters of St. Lucie, Indian River, and Okeechobee Counties in Florida.
National service comes in many shapes and sizes. Tens of thousands of men and women answer the call to join the Armed Forces each year, and quickly find themselves inundated with the unique demands and expectations of their respective military branches. Many others choose to serve via Peace Corps or AmeriCorps programs, which offer their own unique challenges, not dissimilar from the military. I have had the unique experience of serving in both and have come to believe in the value of both.
He spent 10 years stationed in Fort Bragg, NC; two years in Italy; and more than one year in Iraq. Now his service continues here, on the homefront, as he helps save lives and rebuild communities.
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) is committed to providing opportunities that change the lives of those who serve, as well as those being served. With this commitment, we can create avenues for people with disabilities to greater economic opportunity through the service experience in AmeriCorps and Senior Corps.
It’s nearly impossible to find a silver lining in events like Hurricane Sandy. But the outpouring of volunteers from the affected communities and around the country who pulled together after the storm to do anything from running shelters, to feeding the displaced, to mucking and gutting homes revealed the heart of a caring nation.
While Hurricane Sandy showed nature at its worst, the response showed human nature at its best.  The courage and resilience of survivors was an inspiration to the nation. And the outpouring of compassion by volunteers from the local community and across the nation has been critical to the region’s recovery.    
When Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast last year, areas that rarely saw a storm of that magnitude discovered what it was like to live through a disaster. Experiences like this reinforce what it really means to say that we’re all in this together.
Last week, Veronica Boda returned to her Brigantine, NJ, home to pick up her favorite blankets. This weekend, she’ll go back to sort through winter clothes. Veronica is one of many survivors of Hurricane Sandy still struggling to adjust to life after last year’s storm.
“In the month and a half my team was in New York, the progress I witnessed was absolutely incredible. Although we all were frequently exhausted by the various assignments we had been given each day, it truly makes it all worth it when you can step back and realize that you've played even a small part in such a huge recovery effort.”  -- FEMA Corps member Elizabeth McSherry
One year ago, Hurricane Sandy left a trail of destruction in its wake across six states, doing the most damage in heavily populated areas of New Jersey and New York. The recovery that followed – and even continues to this day -- required a massive response and thousands of national service members joined their fellow Americans to answer the call for help.
On a late September afternoon sprinkled with snow flurries, eight young adults in mud-streaked protective bodysuits and breathing masks installed blankets of insulation to the underside of a weather-worn cabin in the Alaskan Bush.
Each day, thousands of AmeriCorps and Senior Corps national service members devote themselves to service that directly impacts the lives of children around the country.
On Saturday, PBS stations across the country aired programming to highlight solutions to the nation’s high school dropout crisis during the second American Graduate Day. The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) joined our partners at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and WNET in New York in support of the effort.
The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) recognized seven outstanding programs and participants with the 2013 National Service Impact Awards.
Is it possible to effectively harness youthful enthusiasm and idealism and turn it into it a renewable resource for good? We think so. Twenty years ago, President Clinton signed a bill that created AmeriCorps and gave our country a new outlet for national service that did just that.
Americans from around the country commemorated the 12th anniversary of the September 11th attacks with prayer, reflection, and remembrance.
Twelve years ago this month, nearly three thousand innocent men, women, and children lost their lives in attacks meant to terrorize our Nation. They had been going about their day, harming no one, when sudden violence struck. We will never undo the pain and injustice borne that terrible morning, nor will we ever forget those we lost.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans are participating in volunteer service activities today to commemorate the 9/11 anniversary on the September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance. The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) leads the annual effort to pay tribute to and honor the victims and heroes of 9/11 through service.
Each September, Americans pause to remember the 9/11 victims and survivors, and the responders who defined courage in the aftermath of the attacks.
To strengthen our communities, we have to break down the barriers that can discourage Americans from building a better life for themselves and their families. Whether these barriers to economic opportunity are structural or behavioral, change is possible, and our AmeriCorps VISTAs are leading the way by creating partnerships that support service as a solution to our nation's challenges.
Next week marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his I Have A Dream speech.
This weekend, First Lady Michelle Obama appeared in Parade Magazine and applauded the success of Let’s Move! Whether in school cafeterias or at the Kids' State Dinner, First Lady Michelle Obama has consistently promoted nutrition and getting active throughout her time at the White House. 
It’s back-to-school time. In the upcoming weeks, children across the country will be asked this quintessential question: “What did you do this summer?”  The answer for nearly 3,000 Baltimore elementary students may surprise you.
As a part of the National Preparedness & Response Corps (NPRC), over 100 AmeriCorps members recently joined the ranks of the American Red Cross and will take positions in 21 chapters around the country to help communities be better prepared for disasters.

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