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National Service Blog - Archive
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
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: what are you doing for others?" Across the country, Americans will answer that question by making the January 18, 2010 King Holiday a national day of service. We here at the Corporation for National and Community Service are asking individuals in the tech community to think about how you can help serve others on the King holiday and throughout the year. What can technologists do to help others on the King Holiday? There is a spectrum of involvement - from organizing a large-scale hackathon, to utilizing the King Holiday to build a blog for charity - everyone fits in according to whatever you can give.
Now is a great time to start planning a King Holiday project and I thought I would share this email from our Acting CEO, Nicola Goren.
With his Michigan town in need of a cleaning and beautifying committee, a local resident took matters into his own hands.
Volunteers have the power to transform their community. As co-founder of Friends of the San Jose Rose Garden, I have witnessed how people of all ages and abilities can come together to make a difference, transform neglect into beauty, and inspire change in other communities. In less than two years, volunteers took a historic landmark park from probation to elation. This is our story.
Our project is the landscaping and on-going care of the grounds of the new Hospice House of St. Mary's County.
From January 9 in San Diego to June 12 in Sacramento, Melissa W. will join others to walk up the California coast and over to Sacramento to raise diabetes awareness and encourage healthy habits among middle school students.
The Beaches Veterans Association holds monthly cook-outs, rotating between organizations. All proceeds goes to the USO No Dough Dinners.
Feeling overwhelmed sometimes by the magnitude of the poverty, homelessness, and violence in this country and in our world, a volunteer learns to keep giving, keep loving, keep trying. “You never run out of capacity for these things,” she says.
My partners and I have started an off season youth football camp to better prepare the youth of our community in the fundamentals of the game and at the same time keep them occupied and off the streets.
This past September 12, Pepperdine University alumni, parents, and friends took part in service projects around campus, across the nation, and around the world as part of the 21st annual Step Forward Day.
The College Assistance Migrant Program Alumni Association will launch the 2nd National Cesar E. Chavez Blood Drive Challenge in March 2010. This national service learning program promotes the engagement of U.S. Hispanic college health students as organizers in a national donor recruitment campaign. The students organize blood drive campaigns on their college/university campuses as part of this national competition.
I am currently serving my second AmeriCorps term with Youth Service Opportunities Project (YSOP) in Washington, DC. YSOP coordinates opportunities for youth to engage in meaningful service in Washington, DC and New York City.
In my hometown of Reno, Nevada, about 60 low income, older veterans live in a subsidized-housing complex. Most live alone and have no family living nearby to help. The majority of them have no cars or even telephones. An added complication is that several are physically or mentally disabled.
In celebration of Global Youth Service Day 2009, high school students in El Paso planted tree seedlings behind three major non-profit organizations to provide a windbreak and safety screen for their outdoor areas.
The members of Western Fraternal Life Association Lodge #144 in Mosinee have made addressing community needs their top priority.
The folks are trained through the city's Community Emergency Response Team and are prepared for wind, snow, ice, power outages and earthquakes. Kloshe Illahee is a community of citizens ages 55 and up. Residents embarked on their neighborhood emergency plan in 2005. The plan was finalized in 2006. Now, the group is preparing a revision, with the goal of continuing self-sustainability in preparation for a disaster.
For 32 years, Chore Service has performed minor household repairs to help elderly and disabled remain safe in their homes. The driving force of Chore Service has been the dedicated, compassionate volunteers who perform the repairs. These are extraordinary people, willing to lend their time and considerable talents to help others.
I have taken the call of our President. I started an organization in my Community called ' Wheels for Education " . What we do is take students from the inner city of Philadelphia to College campuses.
Green Road Community Center in Raleigh has a brand new playground today thanks to a coordinated effort of 200 volunteers from Foresters™ and the community who erected the facility.
Students in Murtaugh, Idaho are building a community entrance to their town to attract highway passerby’s and highlight their town's natural beauty.
I have been working with American WWII veterans since 1994, making many of them guests of honor where once they were in combat.
A student learns that "art can be an exceptionally powerful tool toward communications and healing when words and discussions fall short." The exhibit she organizes is about restoring a connection: between victims of domestic violence and a community through a visual narrative form -- ART.
During the first "Make a Delicious Difference Week," 10,000 Kraft Foods employees in more than 32 countries gave their time to help fight hunger, support healthy lifestyles, and build stronger communities around the world. It was the largest volunteer initiative ever in Kraft Foods’ history.
Gary van der Wege, a member of the 2004 U.S. Paralympic Fencing Team, visited with the youth at the Boys & Girls Club of San Antonio on September 11th. Gary shared with the club his inspiring story of how he became a paralympian.
Our team members grab a cup of coffee, some eggs and bacon, a tool, and a hardhat – and the day’s adventure begins.
In Wimberley, $3 million dollars has been collected through monthly, volunteer-driven Market Days. Since the 1960's, that money has gone exclusively towards providing important resources to the town and its citizens.
Volunteering, Teamwork, Learning and Growing, Being Prepared- proactive choices that make a difference in our social security as a nation, community, family and individual.
Volunteers at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C., have contributed more than 32,00 hours of service to the community. Celebrating 50 years of service, the hospital established the Sibley Heart Pillow Project this year to provide heart-shaped pillows to breast cancer patients for use after surgery.
We have heard your engaging message across the Atlantic. Since President Obama and the First Lady have launched "United We Serve" in June, the students of the American School of Barcelona, Spain, from pre-school to high school, are responding enthusiastically to your call of service with volunteerism in our community to strengthen the world.
The current economic downturn and challenges of raising a family in the 21st century has an impact on young boys.

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