AmeriCorps Blog: Making a Difference Here and There (But Mainly Here)

In this monthly installment, our AmeriCorps member Cydney will share bits and pieces of her service year.

My name is Cydney and I am the newest member to Habitat for Humanity of Seminole County and Greater Apopka! Technically I am a Floridian by birth but I haven’t lived in the state since I was about one, so not really sure if that counts. You tell me.

I grew up moving around from state to state. No, not a military brat but a cereal brat (my dad works for General Mills). I tell you this, because I think this is one of the big reasons I have a wandering spirit. Well, that and the last place I lived was Iowa and after ten years I have firmly decided that I do not like winter. Although, I must say if you have never visited Iowa add it to your list because it is beautiful in the summer and fall!

Trail building in MO is a messy business

Trail building in MO is a messy business

So how did I end up back in Florida?  Well, I am a National Service member through AmeriCorps. And what is AmeriCorps?  AmeriCorps is a federally funded national service program that is made up of people “getting things done for America!" National members serve with different nonprofits all over the country. The organization I chose to work with was Habitat for Humanity. As part of my position I must serve 1700 hours of service through Habitat for Humanity of Seminole County and Greater Apopka. There are several different positions available to apply for depending on the needs of the local Habitat for Humanity. My particular position for my term of service is Community Engagement Coordinator.

Third Ward aka Lost Ward, Houston, Texas

Third Ward aka Lost Ward, Houston, Texas

As Community Engagement Coordinator, my job is to help develop and work on the Neighborhood Revitalization (NR) program.  To do this I have to work alongside community members and find out what it is they want to see happen in their community. This can be arranging neighborhood cleanups to helping organize a community garden. The most important factor of this is getting the community’s input or “engaging the community.” Without this critical information, NR cannot happen effectively.

Abandoned properties like this one are very common sightings in the Third Ward

Abandoned properties like this one are very common sightings in the Third Ward

This is my second term of service with AmeriCorps. My first term was through a different AmeriCorps program called the National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC). When I graduated from college I knew I wanted to work for a nonprofit. I just had no idea what nonprofit I wanted to work for. So I joined NCCC!

NCCC is a team based program and involves traveling the United States working with different nonprofits, government and religious organizations. I learned so much from my first term of service. I did everything from trail building in St. Louis, MO to working as a Kindergarten Teaching Assistant in Mesa, AZ. My last project, however, was the project that really made me want to work in NR. That project was working in the Third Ward of Houston, Texas. This is one of the poorest neighborhoods in the United States. During this project my team and I helped to organize neighborhood cleanups, build wheelchair ramps, and add a fresh coat of paint to people’s homes. We helped to organize almost two thousand volunteers during that time, to accomplish these tasks.

Veggie Hats for the letter of the day, which was ‘V’ if you hadn’t guessed

Veggie Hats for the letter of the day, which was ‘V’ if you hadn’t guessed

There is so much you can learn about yourself and other people in this line of work.  Sometimes the work consists of adding a wheelchair ramp to the home of an elderly gentleman with an amputated leg, so he can safely get in and out of his home. Other times it may be cutting the grass in an empty lot next to the home of young family with small children or adding a fresh coat of paint to the home of family who just lost their father. NR work is all about building people up and bringing life back into the community. It is giving people ownership in the place they call home. I am excited to be a part of that here in Florida, in Seminole County, in my new home. And I am looking forward to “getting things done!’