AmeriCorps volunteers played a pivotal role in efforts to help stricken areas recover and rebuild from Hurricane Katrina. One volunteer, Elena Velkov, worked with her team to gut homes in one of the hardest-hit areas, living for several months in tents and trailers on a gravel lot. Elena writes, "I really can't pinpoint an exact moment for myself, but somewhere in between the horrible heat and uncomfortable cots and bad lunches, I knew that I wanted to be here." Elena's group ended up voting unanimously to extend their stay in St. Bernard Parish to help for another six weeks. Of her work with AmeriCorps, Elena notes, "It's about knowing the actual enjoyment that comes from making sacrifices for things I believe in. And most importantly, it's about surrounding myself with people who feel the same way" [source: AmeriCorps].
AmeriCorps State and National
The AmeriCorps State and National program supports community organizations across the country, linking their efforts with federal volunteers and moneys. Organizations apply for grants of assistance, which are administered either by the Corporation for National and Community Service or by state service commissions.
The organizations that receive assistance from AmeriCorps State and National are quite varied. Although most are nonprofits, some are universities while others are Indian tribes. Some work towards providing housing for the underprivileged, or -- particularly in recent years -- helping people deal with foreclosures. Some help community members gain education, literacy and job skills. Some work to provide community members with access to health care. Some clean up parks or assist in other environmental efforts. Some offer assistance with financial planning. AmeriCorps volunteers can help with all of these efforts. Others work directly with the nonprofit to help it get stronger from the inside, through better management, organizational infrastructure, community relations, resource allocation and strategy.
AmeriCorps volunteers help community organizations dramatically increase their reach and efforts, as well as raise their profiles in the community. One AmeriCorps volunteer typically recruits and manages 12 community volunteers [source: CNCS].
The AmeriCorps State and National program asks a lot of its volunteers, but the commitment is somewhat more flexible than the full-time -- and intensive -- National Civilian Community Corps, or NCCC. State and National volunteers may serve for the full-time year, a commitment of at least 1,700 hours. Or they may serve part-time, or work full-time for only one season. The minimum volunteer commitment is about 300 hours [source: AmeriCorps State].
On the next page, we'll look at AmeriCorps VISTA.