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by
Sacha Cohen

By: CNCS StaffTo mark the one-year anniversary of the May 22 Joplin tornado, we’ll be featuring a variety of content on the serve.gov blog, including Q&As with those who served in the community, like this one.Question: What went through your mind when you first landed in Joplin?Gardner: When I first got to Joplin, my immediate concern was connecting with my AmeriCorps St. Louis team and starting to problem solve and make sure the people that had been serving through the night could get some rest. It took days for me to have an emotional reaction because of the need to produce for our AmeriCorps Team, the volunteers, and of course the community of Joplin.I am so grateful that my three years with the Emergency Response Team prepared and enabled me to respond in a mechanical way, supporting my team and all our operations to just focus on getting things done, and emotionally processing the devastation later.Question: Tell us about the moment that touched you most.Gardner: As a non-profit, AmeriCorps St. Louis relies on conservation projects to produce funds we can use to support of disaster responses without burdening the local community. Within a few weeks we started to downsize the number of AmeriCorps members in Joplin so they could return to conservation projects and earn funds to support our operations and continue the disaster work in St. Louis and the South East that we had been engaged in before Joplin.We had a team debrief and it was instantly clear to me that this operation was a defining moment for the team. All of the training, team building, and seemingly “meaningless” projects they had engaged in prior had truly prepared them to produce and lead other programs’ members to producing incredible, life-altering results. That group hug, the pride, team work, love and family that is the AmeriCorps St. Louis Emergency Response Team is something I will never forget.Question: In what ways has National Service had the greatest impact in Joplin?Gardner: I don’t think there is one answer to this, or any way to summarize what AmeriCorps, specifically AmeriCorps St. Louis – which has provided to consistent leadership over the last year – has contributed to Joplin. I also don’t think there is a way to summarize what Joplin has contributed to AmeriCorps, or how the strength of the community has affected every single volunteer and AmeriCorps members.If I had to say one thing, it is that we are committed to being there to help the community recover until they do not need us any longer. I know that consistency and dedication has meant the world to the community. Many groups have come and gone.. Our team, truly committed to Joplin, has been there every single day (except the major holidays) doing direct service, and giving others a coordinated way to impact the community.Question: What convinced you to sign up for a second year of service?Gardner: Now in my forth year, that seems like a lifetime ago. I remember the end of my first term with the Emergency Response Team and feeling like I was just getting started. I wasn’t ready for the adventure, the relationships, or the lifestyle to end. So I began year two, and then three, and now four. And in all the struggles and difficult moments, the Ameri-Family, the love and commitment of each member to the team, and to national service, inspires me to keep going, to keep learning and growing, and of course, to keep givingQuestion: How have you changed? What skills have you gained since first arriving in Joplin after the storm?Gardner: The past year has been life changing is a variety of ways. I like to think my leadership, my ability to handle stress, and my ability to balance results with relationships have all improved. Before Joplin I thought I had a wide and strong network of disaster contacts. Now, I know that I have that network, and that network isn’t just contacts but a family.The relationships I have formed while serving with AmeriCorps St. Louis are irreplaceable. And that is a lesson Joplin helped reinforce. In a time where technology removes so much of personal contact, I am reminded that trusted relationships cannot be replaced. There is so much to be gained, personally and for the mission, by sincerely caring about those you serve and work alongside.Question: What do you see yourself doing in 5 years? How has your service in Joplin influenced that vision?Gardner: I have been offered a unique position with the State of Missouri, focusing on preparedness and response, and am looking forward to that new challenge. As long as I am serving others and contributing to the greater good I feel like any life path I choose will make me happy. Joplin helped solidify my specific interest in emergency management and the value of the whole community approach.

Keywords: AmeriCorps, AmeriCorps NCCC, Disaster, Joplin, 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.
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.    
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.
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.
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.
“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. Whether it is teaching kids how to make healthy food choices, working with them on educational skills, or helping families rebuild after a disaster, national service is there.  
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. As the federal agency tasked with leading the annual day of service named in his honor, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) draws inspiration from a life that encouraged service to others.
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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