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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
Cisco employees decided that they wanted to “make an impact” and not just “write a check” for the Guadalupe River Park and Gardens in downtown San Jose, an area maintained entirely by volunteers. Thirty-eight Cisco employees rolled up their sleeves to clean and provide maintenance for the Guadalupe River Park and Gardens.
Joel Berg at the New York City Coalition Against Hunger works with community volunteers in 3 New York City neighborhoods to organize Community Supported Agriculture Projects - programs that make farm fresh produce accessible and affordable for all income levels.
“Number 3, number 3 number 2, number 2 number 9, number 9 number number 9, number 9 number 5!” The Student Conservation Association (SCA) youth crew chants out their rhythm game to warm up before hiking into National Park Service land to perform trail work at the Phleger Estate.
As a tornado touched down a few blocks away, volunteers from the Twin Cities Interfaith Youth Leadership Coalition gathered in the basement of a church, and without skipping a beat, continued their work with Groveland Food shelf.
The Mission Continues…even after the military. David has been awarded a Mission Continues Fellowship that will allow him to continue his work as head coach of the Baltimore Broncos. In this role, he not only teaches the game of football, but also strengthens the lives of his players. This non-profit football team focuses on providing an outlet for underprivileged youth, through football.
As a professional athlete, Rams linebacker Chris Draft has had to deal with many challenges on the field. No challenge may have been bigger than trying to tackle asthma through every stage of his career. Chris knows the challenges of having asthma as an athlete, and that’s why he’s partnered with the National Lt. Governor’s Association to challenge coaches across the country to educate themselves about the challenges and dangers of asthma to athletes.
Jim Thome of the Chicago White Sox talks about the White Sox Volunteer Corps and how his team is "stepping up to the plate" in the Chicagoland community.
Our Western Fraternal Life Association Lodge 236 members have done community services for decades and plan to expand our volunteer efforts - reminding present and future generations of historical events so that, hopefully, we can help prevent them from occurring again.
I'm a member of a couple of Tucson, Arizona groups that bring the barn-raising model to community greening projects.
The US Department of Health and Human Services partnered with Safe Shores on a back to school supply drive and flu educational event.
First-year students at American University participated in the school's largest-ever Freshman Service Experience.
I know cancer all too well. It robbed me of my father, aunt, grandmother, and grandfather. Because of that, I know how important a helping hand can be for cancer patients and their families.
The US Department of Commerce is answering the President's call to service through an all-volunteer "Green Team" at our headquarters building in Washington, DC. The Team is comprised 134 volunteers with representatives from the Office of the Secretary and all seven Operating Units located at, or nearby, the Herbert C. Hoover Building (HCHB).
Despite growing up in New Orleans, David never thought there was a reason for him to stay, especially when so much of what he loved about the city had been destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and crime. David's work with the Gulfsouth Youth Action Corps and Desire Street Ministries camp this summer, however, has made him realize that he plays a big part in the rebuilding of his hometown.
Operation Homefront, military families and local volunteers teamed up to take part in the President’s call to service during the Baseball Hall of Fame induction weekend. On Saturday, July 25, Operation Homefront hosted a project to prepare care packages for deployed service members and back-to-school backpacks for New York’s military children.
“It’s a good feeling to use my skills to volunteer and help the school," said Anne, a retired nurse serving her community.
All across the country, humanities scholars partner with national service members to engage in critical discussions of service, justice, and more. Here's one example of a parks crew in Montana that moves from cutting trail to digging deep into questions of community and social change.
I decided since I can't throw away things from my toothbrush to computers, to microwave or deck furniture; one thing I sure can do is to use reusable grocery bags to reduce the toxic trash.
Two weeks ago, Oregon residents came together with Clackamas County Volunteer Connection Center, RSVP and local service agencies to discuss who is homeless in the county and why, what is being done to support them and how local individuals and groups could help meet the needs of the community.
Voluntary organizations, governments, are working together to rebuild flood-damaged homes before winter.
It's never too late to start helping others.
Yesenia was taking filmmaking classes at Raw Art Works (RAW), in Lynn, MA, where she was learning to get creative. As she thought about applying for college – she would be the first in her family to go – she found the support she needed right at RAW.
This was the first I’d even heard of a Duck Drop Race, so I was intrigued and wanted to participate. It was a chance to bring together community youth, families, the Chamber of Commerce who started the event, and the community watershed organization with which I work: the Shamokin Creek Restoration Alliance (SCRA).
While completing certification for mediation and facilitation, Rebecca is volunteering as a mediator with the City of David, California's Community Mediation Services. During these tough economic times, she hopes to help those in her community who feel helpless and intimidated by small-claims court.
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Ella M. was restless during a brief period of retirement in Florida. Looking for new purpose in this phase of her life, she returned to her home state of New Jersey and started volunteering at the local hospital. It turned out to be the perfect fit. Now 93 years old, and after having battled and defeated cancer twice herself, Ella has volunteered nearly 32,000 hours at the hospital and has no plans to stop.
This summer, Sierra Club’s Cool Cities program launched its Home Energy Ambassador Training program in partnership with United We Serve
With the help of 800 Dow Chemical Company volunteers, local Bay City, Michigan, volunteers and homeowners, as well as the support of over 30 organizations, 38 homes were revitalized in the Rexer-Jablonski neighborhood in just one week.
Find a whole new community at your local Veterans Administration facility. They will welcome you with open arms - and there is BBQ!
A public school and a charter school in NYC put on the gloves and battle it out. Not boxing gloves, though - work gloves. And they're in the same corner.

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