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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
One of the things we love about our AmeriCorps Alums is that they are ready to answer the call when they hear of situations like those created by Hurricane Sandy. “Getting things done” is more than a slogan for our national service family – they are also words to live by. So let's talk about how you can help.
The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) today announced that approximately 936 national service members have been deployed to seven states affected by Hurricane Sandy, with 855 additional individuals on standby for assignments in the hardest-hit areas.
As the recovery efforts for Hurricane Sandy continue, the Corporation for National and Community Service will publish a digest of news items that underscore the response of national service participants across the nation. Visit this page regularly to see the latest updates.
When it comes to massive storms like Hurricane Sandy, many dangers remain long after the weather event has dissipated. Some areas far from the front lines of the devastation won’t make headlines but will continue to feel the storm’s effects for some time to come.
The devastation left behind by Hurricane Sandy is still being assessed, but there are several ways you can help those affected by storm. The information below is compiled from FEMA. We will update this post with the most up-to-date and location-specific information as it becomes available. Be sure to check back regularly.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who have been affected by Hurricane Sandy. While the worst of the weather is beyond some areas on the East Coast, Sandy remains a very large storm system that continues to pose life-threatening hazards for coastal and inland areas including high winds, heavy rains, dangerous storm surge and flash flooding, and snow and cold weather hazards in some areas.
An additional 112 AmeriCorps members have deployed as part of the CNCS response to Hurricane Sandy, bringing the total of national service members on the ground to 877. These members are serving in six states and include the 41 FEMA Corps teams previously deployed. An additional 900 members standby for deployment.
The Corporation for National and Community Service supports volunteer service across the nation, and we couldn’t let this weekend pass without saluting the millions who will take part in the annual Make a Difference Day. You can still find a project and join them if you hurry.
Each day more than 160,000 U.S. children stay home from school because they fear being bullied. Kids were once asked to accept and endure this treatment. But no longer. Children and adults are now taking a stand during National Bullying Prevention Month to end this form of harassment.
Recently discharged veterans shouldn't have to struggle to find work when they return home from service, but they often do. AmeriCorps VISTA Heather Hays is helping vets make the most of a program that lets them serve their country in a new way while placing them on a pathway to permanent employment.
We would like to introduce you to Percy Thomas and Dorothy Campbell, two amazing volunteers in our Foster Grandparent Program (FGP) whose service was profiled on Friday’s edition of the NBC Nightly News.
The formula to improve student achievement doesn’t start and end with the classroom -- talented teachers, committed parents, and engaged communities must also factor into the equation. Earlier this week, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and U.S. Department of Education recognized 31 organizations from across the nation for their pursuit of that goal in the Together for Tomorrow (TFT) Challenge.
If today is a typical day, someone's mother, sister, wife, or best friend won't be coming home tomorrow. If today is a typical day, three women in the United States will lose their lives to domestic violence. Today doesn't have to be another typical day.
The Social Innovation Fund is a Corporation for National and Community Service initiative that transforms lives by catalyzing broader impact of effective nonprofits. We've told its story in many ways, but sometimes a picture -- or in this case, a video -- is worth a thousand words.
The Coulee Region RSVP in La Crosse, Wisconsin, collaborates with Gundersen Lutheran Health System's environmental stewardship program to mitigate some of the waste that was being sent to the county's landfill and reuse the material to help others in the hospital.
What can YOU do? It’s such an interesting question because it’s wide open to interpretation. But I’ve found that most people, especially adults, tend to answer in the context of employment or occupation. And each time they do, it reaffirms my basic belief in the intrinsic value of work.
After defending our country in locations all around the world, many veterans find more battles await them when they return home. A new initiative was announced today to support and ease the reintegration of returning service members, veterans, and their families as they search for jobs and support services.
Utilizing the energy and enthusiasm of recent college grads from partner universities to serve as full-time advisers in underserved schools, the National College Advising Corps works to improve the prospects of economically disadvantaged students for post-secondary success.
Each year, the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll recognizes higher education institutions that reflect the values of exemplary community service and achieve meaningful outcomes in their communities through service.
You will hear the acronym STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) a lot whenever the discussion turns to improving education in the United States, and there is a good reason. Those disciplines are the cornerstones of the jobs that will keep America competitive in the near and distant future, and we have to get our students ready for that future now.
Physical activity is essential to a healthy lifestyle, and it can be especially important in helping kids do better in school. U.S. Health and Human Services studies show that regular physical activity for kids and teens improves strength and endurance, helps build healthy bones and muscles, and increases self-esteem. Parents, teachers, and community leaders can all play a supportive role, and help encourage a healthy lifestyle by promoting physical activity into everyday routines.
The Service News Digest is a regular feature on the Serve.gov blog. In this series, we showcase news highlights that feature national service, and Corporation for National and Community Service programs. Take a look at some of the great stories that had people talking recently.
Raising healthy families can be a challenge in today’s busy world, but an investment in a healthy lifestyle will reap many benefits for years to come. This is especially true for children, who are better equipped to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle when they are exposed to these habits early on.
Service comes naturally to Matt McCabe, the first AmeriCorps alum to join the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) Board of Directors. A commitment to service was instilled in him by his parents and grandparents from childhood. “They set the expectation that we give back to our community,” said McCabe.
In the spring of 2011, a Marine stood on the porch steps of his new home in Annapolis, MD. He was not thinking about the beautiful row house that he would now share with his wife and four children, but was looking down at the porch that he helped build with his own hands. He was contemplating his spirit of service with a renewed vigor and hope.
The Service News Digest is a regular feature on the Serve.gov blog. In this series, we showcase news highlights that feature national service, and Corporation for National and Community Service programs. Take a look at some of the great stories that had people talking recently.
Many homeless people face significant barriers to employment, including lack of work-appropriate clothing, limited access to computers or computer skills, and transportation issues. The dilemma is that these challenges are tough to surmount when people with a strong desire to work can’t access the practical tools they need to find and maintain long-term employment.
A passion for learning and service means one rotation was not enough for AmeriCorps member Rebbecca Bakre. So, after a stint with Civic Works, the 24-year-old, University of Maryland graduate joined Playworks Baltimore AmeriCorps while she pursues her master’s in public administration.
On May 22, 2011, an EF-5 tornado struck my hometown of Joplin, Missouri. Nearly every resident was affected. The tornado destroyed approximately 18,000 vehicles, 7,000 homes, 5,000 businesses, and took the lives of 162 people, including two of my high school classmates.
Earthquakes, unlike other natural disasters, strike suddenly and don’t provide advanced warning time to prepare for their arrival. Knowing what to do if a quake happens can greatly reduce your risk of injury or death.

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