Wherever They Lead, Volunteers Follow

By Greg Tucker

AmeriCorps members with shovels outside

When disasters strike, it’s not unusual to see teams from AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) respond to provide relief and recovery services soon thereafter. But they don’t come alone. NCCC members, like all AmeriCorps members, are force multipliers, recruiting extra volunteers to serve with them wherever they go.

AmeriCorps NCCC members serve in every state and U.S. territory, performing team-based national and community service that addresses local needs. Their service includes environmental stewardship and conservation projects, urban and rural development, and energy conservation efforts. And while they serve, NCCC members join other AmeriCorps programs, including AmeriCorps State and National and VISTA, to guide or recruit local volunteers – more than 4.1 million last year – and help communities get things done, something that’s especially important in the disaster arena.

Helping Volunteers Serve

The initial hours after a disaster are some of the most chaotic as rescue efforts overlap with a stream of calls from those who want to find ways to help. NCCC teams receive training in disaster relief and other leadership skills that help communities manage and effectively utilize the resources that arrive in the initial hours, as well as the days and weeks that follow.  

When the Deepwater Horizon oil spill occurred in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, NCCC’s Cedar One team worked with the Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Services to open two volunteer reception centers for those who wanted to help with the cleanup effort. The NCCC team’s outreach helped 1,700 Mississippi residents volunteer and helped centralize the service effort.

During the response to the deadly 2011 tornadoes in Joplin, MO, 21 NCCC teams from the Southwest Region participated in response and recovery efforts. AmeriCorps members staffed volunteer reception centers, conducted orientations for volunteers, and led volunteers in the field. In the year following the storm, teams coordinated and recruited 473,722 volunteers while assisting 97,209 people in affected areas.

Last year, AmeriCorps members from NCCC and NCCC’s FEMA Corps unit contributed to the Hurricane Sandy relief and recovery, providing more than 500,000 hours of service across storm-affected areas. In addition to supporting numerous volunteer facilities, members connected community members to local resources, mucked and gutted homes, and registered hurricane survivors at local shelters, among many other tasks.

These are just a few examples of how AmeriCorps NCCC mobilizes and connects volunteers to service. There are many others, from 10 NCCC members in Oklahoma who leveraged 393 volunteers for a Habitat for Humanity project to a team in New Orleans that guided 1,600 in a community energy conservation effort last year. 

And they all show what we can all do, together, when someone asks a simple question: “How can I help?”

The Corporation for National and Community Service is celebrating the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps and highlighting methods that have contributed to the program’s success. For more information about the 20th anniversary, please visit the AmeriCorps 20th Anniversary Resource Center.

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