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Samantha Jo Warfield

By: Samantha Jo WarfieldAt 2:00 AM, on May 23rd, just eight hours after a deadly EF-5 tornado tore through Joplin, MO, the AmeriCorps St. Louis Emergency Response Team arrived in a community devastated by the latest in a string of natural disasters.The team immediately got to work setting up a Missing Persons hotline in collaboration with the Missouri Southern State University IT Department and had it up and running by 6:00 AM the next morning, just 12 hours after the tornado struck Joplin. Throughout the recovery process, this hotline has been the hub for missing persons and is crucial to the work of law enforcement and emergency response crews.While AmeriCorps teams often must wait until a disaster area is declared safe, the AmeriCorps St. Louis ERT was close and the need was great, so the first 11-person team headed to Joplin without knowing where they would stay, sleep, or work. An AmeriCorps NCCC team followed closely behind, and all together nearly 100 AmeriCorps members from six teams have coordinated more than 12,000 unaffiliated volunteers in more than 49,000 hours of service to the victims of the Joplin tornado.It is this kind of courage and determination that defines the AmeriCorps program and the Corporation for National and Community Service’s Disaster Service’s Unit. While in the field at FEMA’s Regional Response Coordinating Center, CNCS Senior Advisor for Disaster Services, Kelly DeGraff, reported via text and cell. Even as the self-described “Northeastern gal” experienced her first-ever tornado by taking cover in the local FEMA bunker, she was committed to telling the story of volunteers on the ground.AmeriCorps members and volunteers are doing tremendous work in an area struggling to recover and rebuild after being ripped apart by a powerful natural disaster. A few of them took a moment to reflect on how this experience has touched them:

  • On Saturday of Memorial Day weekend our AmeriCorps Team managed over 3,500 volunteers to recover disaster victims’ personal belongings from the wreckage of their homes. Between myself and one other AmeriCorps member we oversaw over 150 people working on four properties. We had a great deal of responsibility because we had to ensure the safety of so many untrained volunteers working in an unstable and destroyed environment, as well as make sure that the volunteers were able to recover the homeowners treasured possessions. I remember one homeowner returning to what was once her home and being brought to tears by the sight of over 40 strangers helping her bring some order to her life and recovering the photographs and material things which make up so many of the memories of her life.

                                                                          – Will M., AmeriCorps St. Louis

  • Without AmeriCorps coordinating the volunteers to the Joplin tornado, the disaster response would be out of control and lack the organization necessary to execute an effective recovery.

                                      – James Woodworth, Voluntary Agency Liaison, FEMA

  • During the Joplin relief effort, AmeriCorps has played a key role in connecting affected residents with the resources they need. Be it food, donations, or volunteer labor, AmeriCorps has worked long, hard hours to ensure the needs here in Joplin are being met. As a team leader in the field, I have led groups of volunteers – upwards of 80 at a time – in clearing debris and fallen trees from affected properties. Without AmeriCorps leading and coordinating the efforts of these volunteers, residents would not have access to the organized volunteer workforce that many of them need to recover and rebuild following this disaster.

                                                                 – Chris Matthews, AmeriCorps NCCC

  • AmeriCorps members have such an impact in these broken communities. With our boots on the ground, we have gone door to door shaking hands and helping storm victims in any way possible. As we searched through the wreckage, Eric found a Purple Heart. With the help of neighbors, we were able to return the medal to the homeowner, who was extremely thankful.

                                        - Matthew McKenney, Minnesota Conservation Corps

  • An AmeriCorps member leading a group of volunteers found a homeowner’s pet dog that had been buried under rubble from the Joplin tornado for a week. They then were able to track down the dog’s owner who had, unfortunately, lost his home and family in the tornado. Needless to say, the man was overjoyed by the discovery.

                                        –Mark Wilson, AmeriCorps, Iowa Conservation CorpsLearn more by visiting the CNCS Disaster Services page or read about some of the recent recovery and response work our AmeriCorps and RSVP members have been a part of.

Keywords: Joplin, AmeriCorps, AmeriCorps NCCC, Disaster, 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.
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.
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.
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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