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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
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The Mid-South Lions Club donates a life changing surgery to a little girl who was attacked by a pit bull.
If you are reading these words with your eyes scanning across the screen, you might forget that there are many for whom that is not possible. Nancy wants to make sure all people, whether blind or sighted, have a chance at a great education.
Approximately 1,500 global Cisco employees and contingent workers volunteer their time to train and respond to a variety of emergency situations through Cisco's Emergency Response Team (ERT).
As part of their Leadership Morgan Hill class project, the Class of 2009 is organizing a community Volunteer Fair in September that will connect organizations with community members looking for opportunities to volunteer. Their goal is to make their new organization, Volunteer Morgan Hill, and the Volunteer Faire a permanent part of the community.
I am a summer intern in the Office of the Mayor of New York City, and I am a proud member of the brand new NYC Service team. NYC Service is a new municipal initiative by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to answer President Obama’s national call to service, and its primary goal is to increase volunteerism and civic engagement in the city
I know that volunteering makes our community a better place to live and extends a helping hand to those in need.
Right To Play sponsored an exchange program between athletes in Jordan and the United States. The program recognizes the universal appeal of sport as an ideal vehicle to inform, educate and empower entire communities.
Kids and teens with behavior problems often fall far behind in their academic development. Mary knew this because of her own son. She decided to get involved with a local literacy program to help youth involved in the juvenile justice system get a solid education.
Mary was weary of responding to the President's call to service, but during an afternoon working with special needs children at a local pool, she quickly discovered that volunteering offered much more.
Among the many difficulties facing the Appalachian communities of Southwest Virginia is the quality of education. With limited funding, many primary and high schools struggle to meet the Standards of Learning (SOL), set forth by the state of Virginia in accordance with the No Child Left Behind Act. In recent years, the rural elementary schools of Russell County have sought to incorporate an environmental education aspect in their curriculum. They’ve experienced difficulty in implementing the project due to lack of resources and few qualified instructors.
Veterans First Executive Director, Deanne Tate, was moved to tears thanking volunteers for volunteering and spending the day helping veterans in need. It was an honor to participate on this rebuild project and help honor the service men and women who have given so much to our country.
Health Corps strives to help stem the crisis of child obesity through school-based health education and mentoring, as well as community events and outreach to underserved populations.
The local Czechoslovak Society of America group in North Riverside, IL, volunteered over 300 hours at the town library to complete a special project.
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On August 6th, nearly 40 volunteers - some as young as 7, donned gloves, grabbed shovels and rakes, and hauled trash to help beautify and revitalize Milwaukee's 30th Street Industrial Corridor. Many of the community's industrial sites are underutilized and volunteers hope that clean-up projects like this one will help attract new business and revitalize the community.
Linda Loi has been volunteering in the Golden Gate National Park for the last five years. First in the Urban Trail Blazers Program and most recently with the program Inspiring Young Emerging Leaders, Loi has dedicated hours of her time each week to giving back, not just environmentally but also as a youth leader and role model to others in her programs.
What started with a single vegetable garden on the grounds of USDA headquarters in Washington, D.C. has grown into global movement. In their offices across the country and all over the world, USDA employees are volunteering their time to create community gardens, demonstrate sustainable agricultural techniques that everyday people can incorporate into their homes and lives, and showcase the importance of preserving the environment and conserving energy.
These citizens will be especially active during National Health Center Week, August 9th - 16th, 2009. Visit NACHC’s site www.healthcenterweek.com to find out about Health Center Week events near you.
Summer Advantage USA, a national non-profit that provides summer learning opportunities for youth in grades K - 8, led its young scholars through a process of identifying community challenges and implementing service projects. Here, these young people reflect on their work.
Keeping the veterans community active is the best way to honor those who have served.
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Busy working mom Kenya was driving home from her children's little league game when she wondered, "why don't we have this for service?" To teach her children and others in the community the importance of service and time with family, Kenya came up with the Family Service Team Program.
We found a solution to help military girls fight low self-esteem, grow in leadership, and unite with those who understand their struggles. The Sisterhood of the Traveling BDUs will bring together 500 military girls from across California for the first ever weekend conference for military girls to empower one another in sisterly support.
The YMCA Earth Service Corps joined forces with the Washington Trails Association to get dirty at Mount Saint Helens for a week of environmental restoration.
A Community Health Corps member shares their story of service.
This young man learns that putting his still-struggling second-language skills to work in his community parent education role is a win-win.
United We Serve to Save Energy & the Earth!! I organized a home energy efficiency event in Battle Creek, Michigan. The overarching goal was to reach out to the Battle Creek community to help lower their energy costs and decrease carbon pollution emissions.
160 Odyssey House staff, clients and community volunteers tackle record breaking rainfall to build a new playground at the Family Re-Entry supportive housing facility in the South Bronx.
One volunteer shares the story of how she benefitted personally through service to her community.

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