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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 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
On June 25, President Obama made a federal disaster declaration for parts of Alaska along the Yukon River due to ice jam-related flooding from May 17 to June 11. On cue, a team of AmeriCorps members soon arrived in the remote village of Galena to help people there begin to recover.
A few years ago, a young teenager named Chris was living the street life in Austin, Texas, a high school dropout dealing drugs and facing bleak prospects for the future. While spending time at a juvenile detention center, two Senior Corps volunteers offered Chris love, support, and consistent finger-wagging, encouraging him to take his life in a new direction. Today, thanks to AmeriCorps, Chris has graduated from high school, gained valuable work skills, and found his passion in life -- becoming a wildland firefighter.
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.
A flash flood on July 17 swept through Bannack State Park, a ghost town near Dillon, MT, unearthing many historic artifacts that were scattered throughout the flood zone. Shortly thereafter, a 14-member team from Montana State Parks AmeriCorps sprang into action to locate, tag, and recover items from the site.
In the spirit of Let’s Read. Let’s Move., Atlanta is tackling  the challenge to keep kids’ brains and bodies active through the new Mayor’s Summer Reading Club, which will host  a series of events across the city that cater to the community’s young readers.
What an amazing week for national service!  From the White House to West Virginia, service was in the spotlight.
By Valerie Jarrett, Neil Bush, and Michelle Nunn   The first immigrants to America came seeking freedom, but they survived -- and, in time, came to thrive -- because of their determination and because of each other. They valued self-reliance, but in times of strife they also knew could rely on neighbors, friends, sometimes even strangers to offer a helping hand. That neighbor-helping-neighbor spirit is woven into the DNA of the American spirit. It defines in a very real sense who we are as a people. It also unites us.  
By Cecilia Muñoz and Wendy Spencer     In his 1989 Inaugural Address, when President George H.W. Bush uttered the words “a thousand points of light” he launched a movement. By signing the first National Service Act in 1990, President Bush ushered in the modern era of national service, setting the stage for the creation of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).
National service makes a difference for millions of Americans, but few examples demonstrate this idea better than the story of AmeriCorps member Chris Guzman. His inspirational speech during last week’s National Conference on Volunteering and Service in Washington, DC, drew a standing ovation, and we believe his journey is a prime example of how Corporation for National and Community Service programs change lives.
The suicide of 11-year-old Ty Smalley three years ago shined a spotlight on the bullying he had endured for years at his school in a small Oklahoma town.
Birthdays are big events for most people, but that’s not a given for those who are homeless and have few, if any, resources for life’s luxuries.
While Pedro Rosario’s love of animals was the impetus behind a successful 16-year career at New York City Animal Care and Control, the realities of the job meant he had to witness the euthanizing of many unadopted animals. Rosario believed he could do more to save animals on his own, leading him to create the nonprofit New Beginning Animal Rescue (NBAR) in the East Bronx in 2012.
When 10-year-old Autumn Blinn’s grandmother taught her to sew, they decided to make a pillow for her grandfather John Santiago, who undergoes kidney dialysis three times a week at a Utica, NY, hospital. After John asked her to make another to rest his arm on during his treatments, Autumn was inspired to use her skills to make “Pillows of Love” for as many people as possible.
Hurricane Sandy not only caused physical damage but wreaked havoc on many long-established community connections. In Rockaway Park, water damage to the St. Camillus-St. Virgilius Parish gym scuttled a weekly gathering for children and adults with disabilities. But the community behind Rockaway Special Athletes worked to keep the Monday night tradition alive.
The Corporation for National and Community Service is again collaborating with the New York Yankees during its fifth-annual HOPE Week (Helping Others Persevere & Excel) to highlight acts of goodwill and service in the community.
The Statue of Liberty withstood the force of Hurricane Sandy when it struck last fall, but storm damage closed Liberty Island to tourists just weeks after renovations were completed to the area. AmeriCorps Cape Cod FireCorps members working on Sandy recovery efforts joined the National Park Service to clean up the island, ensuring the American landmark would be ready when it reopens to visitors on July 4th.
Have you ever had one of those days where you can't stop smiling? This month was filled with them. Support for national service grows stronger and stronger; during the past two weeks, we've seen this momentum build in several major arenas. Here's the latest news:
Did you know students can experience learning loss when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer months? On average, students lose the equivalent of two months of math and reading skills during the summer months. More than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities.
This week, I had the opportunity to speak at the National Conference on Volunteering and Service here in Washington, DC. Sponsored by Points of Light, the conference is the world’s largest annual gathering of volunteering and service leaders and supporters. I also announced that President Obama and the First Lady will host a celebration at the White House, on July 15, 2013, in honor of the 5,000th Daily Point of Light award.
A construction project in the shadow of the Washington Monument brought 40 AmeriCorps and VISTA national service members to Washington, DC, to assemble frames for new Habitat for Humanity homes during the 2013 Veterans Build on the Mall June 2-5.
Today, we're pleased to share the truly inspiring story of Habitat for Humanity AmeriCorps member Regina Best. A U.S. Air Force veteran, Regina Best was recently homeless and became so passionate about service that she spent months building homes for others before finding one for herself. Now in her own apartment and back in school, Best is determined to keep serving well beyond her AmeriCorps term.
The Corporation for National and Community Service kicked off its national Let’s Read. Let’s Move. summer initiative by joining the Junior League of Washington to give away the first of more than 15,000 books to DC Public School students.
In the aftermath of the devastating tornado that struck Moore, Oklahoma, last week, the Corporation for National and Community Service is working closely with federal, state, and local officials to deploy AmeriCorps members to the region early Tuesday, May 21. As of Thursday, May 30, 96 AmeriCorps members had boots on the ground.
In the aftermath of the devastating tornado that struck Moore, Oklahoma, last week, we have witnessed remarkable courage and compassion. From the first responders who pulled survivors from the rubble, to the teachers who shielded their students, to the residents who sheltered their neighbors, Oklahomans have displayed extraordinary strength and resilience.
President Obama’s words remind us of the remarkable way in which Americans across the country will unite after tragedy strikes, just as they have done in the wake of the devastating tornado that struck Moore, Oklahoma yesterday.
Last year Senior Corps volunteers contributed more than 80 million hours of service and improved the lives of more than 1.5 million Americans. They tutored or mentored 300,000 children, served more than 560,000 veterans, and helped nearly 800,000 older Americans live independently in their homes.
This week, the Corporation for National and Community Service, elected officials, and community leaders are marking the contributions of Senior Corps volunteers across the country. In fact, more than 40 governors have issued proclamations for Senior Corps Week.
We'd like to introduce you to the new online home for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). You’ve probably noticed that we’ve made a few changes to the look and feel of our site, so we’ve put together this short guide to navigating the site and finding what you need.
Six months ago, Hurricane Sandy struck communities all along the East Coast. In the aftermath of this devastating super storm, AmeriCorps and national service members trained in disaster response are proving to be a valuable and cost-efficient resource for America as they help victims and survivors begin to rebuild their lives.
In recent days, we have witnessed remarkable acts of courage and compassion in the wake of tragedy. From the first responders in Boston who ran into danger to treat the wounded, to the volunteers who built floodwalls to save their Midwestern towns, to the firefighters who rushed in to battle a raging fire in West, Texas, citizens came together to help when it was needed most.


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