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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
By: Wendy SpencerEarlier this week I traveled to Joplin, Missouri, for a trip I will never forget. The Joplin story is one of a community that never gave up, that demonstrated steely resolve in the face of tragedy, and that is coming back stronger and better than before.
By: Sandy Scott In the wake of the nation’s deadliest tornado in six decades, more than 80 AmeriCorps members are working night and day to assist first responders and victims in the recovery efforts in Joplin, MO.With the death toll at 126, more than 700 people injured, and thousands of structures destroyed, the EF-5 tornado that struck Joplin last Sunday flattened everything in its path, leaving residents to scramble to find missing family members and find immediate shelter.RAPID DEPLOYMENTAmeriCorps members have traveled from near and far to Joplin to help coordinate relief efforts.
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.
By: Will ChrysanthosTo those who have lived through devastation as complete as a tornado, every minute following the horror of wind and chaos is a perpetual memorial to the many who did not survive to see the skies clear again.Noon on January 31, 2012 will mark roughly eight months, eight days, and 18 hours since a cataclysmic, multi-vortex EF-5 tornado struck Joplin, MO.
By: Samantha Jo WarfieldAt a press conference last Tuesday, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon had this to say about the AmeriCorps members serving in the Joplin area: “I pushed more volunteers your way than maybe I should have. But I had the understanding that I could trust your operation. It appears I was right.”
By: Greg TuckerJust hours after a deadly EF-5 tornado struck Joplin, MO, in May 2011, AmeriCorps members began arriving to help with the recovery efforts.
By: CNCS Staff To 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.
By Joseph Clay, Former U.S. Marine Serves Tulsa Youth in AmeriCorps On Veterans Day 2015, CNCS CEO Wendy Spencer joined Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett in honoring veterans serving in AmeriCorps and Senior Corps at a Veterans Corps ceremony in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  One of the veterans she met that day was Joseph Clay, a former Marine Corps Sergeant now serving in AmeriCorps through Teach For America.  This is Joseph’s story.
By Jack Wingate, Teach for America
By Greg TuckerRuby Bridges’ walk to school became a symbol of the Civil Rights struggle  In 1960, 6-year-old Ruby Bridges’ daily walk to class took her past an angry mob and into Civil Rights history when she became the first African American child to attend an all-white elementary school in the South.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. dedicated his life to improving the world in which he lived—and challenged the rest of us to do the same. He not only championed the equal rights but also equal access to economic opportunity for all Americans. This year’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service will honor his legacy as hundreds of thousands of Americans pay tribute by serving their communities on Monday, Jan. 20.
By CNCS Staff
For too many years we have addressed the equation of “fit body and fit minds” as requiring two separate interventions. For the mind, we’ve looked toward mentoring. For the body, we’ve turned to physical activity and health education. But our AmeriCorps investment proves that a national service member can be the catalyst to fit bodies and fit minds. Our formula has been to train our AmeriCorps members on how to use the power of coaching to build relationships with at-risk youth that inspire their healthy futures.
Our nation is more health-conscious and health-aware than ever, but for many there are still obstacles – an untreated disease, obesity, or lack of healthy food -- that prevent them from living their lives to the fullest. That needs to change, and our AmeriCorps members are working to make that happen every day.
Lacking significant support from family, then-high school student Amanda Parris didn’t believe college was an option. But her enrollment in a dropout prevention program led to night classes at a local community college and awakened a desire to give back to others.
The idea of combining service and leadership is one that defined the life of Cesar Chavez. He dedicated his life to bringing attention to the poverty of migrant farmworkers and other segments of the population that were marginalized or overlooked. Chavez also showed us that, no matter how humble our beginnings, we can all accomplish great things.
During your life’s journey, I am sure that you can remember times when your path was made clearer or your baggage lighter because of someone who helped along the way. These thoughts came to mind today as President Obama outlined his plan to expand opportunity for boys and young men of color through the My Brother’s Keeper initiative and a new federal task force on which I am honored to serve.
After her seventh-grade teacher explained the connection between service and the Peace Corps, a 12-year-old Laura Glaub promised to factor service into her own life. Years later, she pursued opportunities that would support her dream of becoming a social worker. A quick online search led her to Partners for After School Success, a multi-site AmeriCorps program that targets middle and high school students.
Iowa can add another “first-in-the-nation” jewel to its crown with today’s announcement by Governor Terry Branstad of the creation of the Governor’s Council on National Service in Iowa.
In the months leading up to her college graduation, Diana Martin sketched a mental blueprint for her future. Her past volunteer work as a summer camp assistant, tutor, and soccer coach all added up to one thing—educating children must be part of that future. And the AmeriCorps program, Diana decided, would help her reach that goal.
Whenever the talk begins about our nation making quality education a priority, it’s no surprise that some may be cynical. After all, we have too many children entering school unprepared, too many falling behind early, and too many dropping out before graduation. Why can’t we change this story? The truth is, we can – and we are.
AmeriCorps member Margaret Montague is used to having a steady stream of students come to see her for college advice in her office at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, VA, just outside the nation's capital.
With another winter storm barreling across the Northern United States, we wanted to share some tips from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Ready.gov site that could come in handy for those in the path of the storm. The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) is partnering with FEMA to lead the America’s PrepareAthon! campaign to increase emergency preparedness across the nation.
Can a simple mentoring relationship rescue a life in peril? In a world with few easy solutions, there are innumerable stories -- and a new survey -- that demonstrate this could be possible. Let's start with one of these stories.
Tonight millions of Americans will watch President Obama deliver his fifth State of the Union Address.  One AmeriCorps alum will have a choice seat for all the action. Kathy Hollowell-Makle, who served for two years as an AmeriCorps member with Teach For America, will be a special guest of First Lady Michelle Obama.
“I am a guidance counselor and a teacher, den mother, referee, and confidant. I am a newspaper reporter, editor, and printer. I am a public relations man, chauffer, and pawn shop operator. I am also a scribe, medic, friend, buddy, and informer. I’m the low man on the totem pole, but the buck stops with me. I’m the middle man between Corpsman and staff, between staff and staff, and between Corpsmen and Corpsmen.” I wrote that paragraph almost 50 years ago, along with William “Tex” Arnold and Ed Nungesser, after my assignment to the nation’s first Job Corps Center, Camp Catoctin, located in the piney woods just up the hill from the Presidential Retreat at Camp David, in a former Civilian Conservation Corps camp in rural western Maryland.
As Christina Bodison navigated a demanding course load at Howard University, the former biology major actively searched for ways to be of service to others. First, she mentored high school students during an alternative spring break program in Detroit. Then, she researched HIV, AIDS, and the socioeconomic factors that bar access to health care. All of this compelled Christina to join the AmeriCorps VISTA program and the fight against poverty.
As AmeriCorps celebrates its 20th anniversary, it’s exciting to reflect on what the authors of the National Community Service Trust Act imagined for the power of national service. They believed that service should be an innovative public-private partnership, and Minnesota Reading Corps is bringing that vision to life.
During this holiday season, we are reminded of a timeless lesson: it is better to give than receive, more blessed to serve than be served. And our new Volunteering and Civic Life in America report shows that Americans embrace this idea -- not only during the holidays, but all year long.
The recent death of Nelson Mandela affected many who were touched by his inspirational life story, and his fight as a political prisoner to create a free and democratic South Africa. City Year, an AmeriCorps grantee, paid tribute to Mandela in a message from its CEO and co-founder, Michael Brown.

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