On October 3rd, me and four other AmeriCorps alums had the honor and adventure of advocating for national service on Capitol Hill with Service Year Alliance. What a whirlwind 24 hours! We met with congressional staffers with two goals in mind: to share our service stories — particularly as they related to disaster relief efforts — and ask members of Congress to make the AmeriCorps education award tax-free.
My work with disaster preparedness and response came in my second service year with AmeriCorps when I served as a Disaster Preparedness, Ready Corps member at VolunteerNow. My service year was spent educating underserved communities on planning and preparing for emergency situations, connecting community members with nonprofits, and building relationships with emergency response organizations. As Hurricane Harvey formed in the Gulf, VolunteerNow, a partner in the Mass Care Task Force, was activated and I was quickly called upon to help support volunteer efforts and assemble a volunteer check in at the mega-shelter in Dallas. I worked side by side with the City of Dallas Office of Emergency Management, American Red Cross, and Salvation Army to recruit volunteers and manage the huge influx of interest from around the country.
As we worked day and night to onboard volunteers and meet shelter needs, I was greeted by familiar faces and words of encouragement from those I had previously worked with during my AmeriCorps year. My experience in the field was invaluable as I worked with community partners and established new collaborations to support daily needs. Our established partnerships with local VOAD’s and the City of Dallas and the City of Fort Worth, provided strength in our efforts as we knew who could provide what kind of service and how best to utilize community volunteers who were so eager to help.
As I looked across the shelter, I saw AmeriCorps members from every branch serving and training others. Numerous local AmeriCorps chapters contacted me seeking how to use their emergency response skills even after they had already served all week in their traditional AmeriCorps role. It was a proud moment to see the AmeriCorps emblem throughout the shelter and heartwarming to know these are the people who come when they are called. No matter the job, no matter the time — AmeriCorps members will fill the need. The AmeriCorps logo is a symbol of community, strength, and hope, which is just what shelter guests needed to see. My year of service as a Ready Corps member gave me the training and hands on experience to support volunteer needs in an emergency situation as well as the partnerships to work together to accomplish big goals.
It is incredible to see our community come together to serve those affected by Hurricane Harvey and continue to provide services to advance recovery efforts. I know other critical work is happening in Florida,Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands, as well, and I was proud to share those stories with congressional staff earlier this week. Giving back is a trait that has been in my DNA since I was a child and I’m proud to continue working with the AmeriCorps Alums of North Texas and Service Year Alliance, and supporting nonprofits of all cause areas with VolunteerNow.