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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
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 Lemon Lounge, a community project inspired by one little girl's dream to find the cure for childhood cancer, has raised nearly $1,500 for pediatric cancer research.
In 2005 I left a successful career in tv advertising to join the staff of A Child's Place of Charlotte, a local 501(c)(3) nonprofit helping to erase the impact of homelessness on children and their education.
To honor the first annual 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance, Rebuilding Together partnered with United We Serve to distribute 50,000 outreach bags filled with energy efficient savings information in 19 states.
A DC resident joins the President and First Lady by honoring the victims of September 11, 2001 through service.
I’ve done everything from coordinating search and rescue activities to cleaning up and carrying out the trash. After a transfer to Hugo, Colorado, my latest unique volunteer opportunity began.
For the first time ever, I felt I was doing something with a purpose and in turn it gave me a sense of worth and meaning. Up until then I had felt like I was a burden to people around me. Whereas at the event, I felt like I meant something to someone and was doing good for those around me. I then immersed myself in volunteer work.
Today, girls face many obstacles. Girls in the Game empowers girls to overcome challenges. Game Day events introduce girls of all ages to different sports and fitness activities while teaching leadership, nutrition, and life-skills.
I am a mentor for the Y-FRIENDz Mentoring Children of Prisoners Program with YMCA Youth & Family Services in San Diego. For the past year and a half I have mentored a now 10-year-old girl who has both parents in and out of prison.
EPA's ENERGY STAR and Boys & Girls Club offer Dallas homeowner a youthful energy check-up.
In Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, local youth groups have stepped up to lead local community renewal efforts.
By tagging on to the President’s initiative and encouraging service this summer, we have engaged people in community service work to help make it a part of the everyday lives of all Americans with a hope that they will make an ongoing commitment to each other, their communities, and volunteer work throughout their lives
This halloween International Hand Foundation a non profit charity focusing on education would like introduce "Treat for Good", a halloween program that has kids reaching out for more than candy but for a life lesson in compassion for a child across the world.
The high cost of energy in rural Alaska prompted a VISTA member serving with the Rural Alaska Community Action Program to look into using the local hot springs as an energy source.
The adjustment from Brooklyn to Ajo, AZ was made easier when Maria embraced her responsibility to her community and herself.
I have been battling some medical conditions. I use to be flat in bed for five and a half and now live with daily chronic pain. However, I have been sending all handwritten letters to the troops since Nov. 2000.
Tay-bandz, an nonprofit organization founded by a young cancer patient, raises public awareness about childhood cancer and funds for research.
It started with one woman’s belief that helping kids learn to read would make a difference. A flight attendant flying for one of the major airline carriers on 9/11, LeeAnn Butler-Owens was prompted by the loss of friends and coworkers to examine her part in making the world a better place. By combining her interest in early childhood development with a love of music and the arts, Butler-Owens started by developing a children’s musical audio book.
Creating a New Path is a Learn and Serve America sub grantee at CASMAN Alternative Academy in Manistee, Michigan. Students at the school recognized a need for a better place to walk dogs instead of down a dirt road.
I became certified as a Guardian ad Litem in Marion County, Florida in April 2009. In case you are not familiar, guardians are volunteers that are appointed to cases where children have been removed from their homes by DCF due to abuse/safety conditions. It is our job to be the voice for the children in the courts and advocate for them.
October has been a milestone in our Chapters history with the signing of a "COMMUNITY COVENANT" by our Chapters 1st Vice President, John Snyder, and the Commanders of American Legion Posts 129;316.233; VFW Post 3270; and FRA 290, along with the Mayors of Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach and Atlantic Beach.
Jobs and homes have been lost, but if Dr. Alan Singer can help it marriages will not be lost to this recession. Dr. Singer, a family therapist in central New Jersey, volunteers his services on the weekends for couples hard-hit by the recession.
Twenty-five Foster Grandparent volunteers in Hamilton, Bradley and McMinn counties participated in an educational campaign to share basic character traits with students in their classrooms.
I volunteer at a community Food Bank which serves approximately 2,000 people a week's worth of groceries each month. The need for food has increased about 35% in our community.
To most people, digging up dirt and spreading mulch may not sound like a good time. However, that’s exactly what over 30 volunteers of all ages at RAF Mildenhall UK Air Force Base did in early September when they came together to create a remembrance garden for armed services veterans.
Shafia Clinic is a community-oriented alternative for people who cannot afford medical treatment. Operated by a volunteer team of physicians, nurses, and administrative staff, Shifa Clinic also receives generous donations from the community.
Staff members from The Hitachi Foundation and Hitachi, Ltd. in Washington, DC spent the 9/11 Day of Service with Covenant House.
Crenshaw High School opened in 1968 in the historic Crenshaw District of South Los Angeles. Students here face more than the normal teenage dramas; they also deal with shifting cultural alliances and the threat of gang violence. 85% qualify for the Free/Reduced Lunch Program. Out of these difficult circumstances, the Crenshaw Eco Club has risen to become the largest and most ethnically diverse club on campus.
This year during Ramadan, right before the start of the United We Serve Interfaith Week of Service, the Interfaith Committee at my church, St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Arlington, Virginia, organized an iftar (dinner to break the Ramadan fast) for members of local Muslim communities. More than 60 Catholics and Muslims attended the dinner, a turnout far surpassing our expectations.
Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, and Kathy Calvin, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for the UN Foundation educated students about malaria and encouraged them to work within their communities to help prevent the deadly disease.

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