I’ve been struggling with what I wanted to write about this month. And then I realized that it was NOVEMBER! I know, shocking! Anyway, this is the month where some of us reflect on what we have to be thankful for. So I started thinking, and the usual things popped into my head. I’m thankful for my friends and family, coffee, books, chocolate, peanut butter, the fact that someone decided to combine those last two! But then I realized that I am also pretty thankful for AmeriCorps and my time serving with AmeriCorps.
In my last post, I mentioned briefly that I was an AmeriCorps member and what that meant. I think it went something along the lines of “AmeriCorps is a federally funded national service program, made up of people ‘getting things done for America.’” But that does not really explain what AmeriCorps is and the impact AmeriCorps has on our communities. So to give you more of an idea of what AmeriCorps members have accomplished, here are some quick facts:
5.2 MILLION the number of disadvantaged youth tutored, mentored or served by AmeriCorps members in fiscal 2011.
4 MILLION the number of community volunteers managed or mobilized by AmeriCorps members in fiscal 2011.
$1 BILLION the value of cash and in-kind donations leveraged by AmeriCorps members in fiscal 2015.
17.6 MILLION people assisted in disaster areas
7.7 MILLION meals served
1.3 MILLION acres of land protected through firefighting and fire management.
1 MILLION Number of people who have served as AmeriCorps members since 1994.
Impressive right? Members tutor, mobilize volunteers, serve meals, raise money, fight fires and so much more. These accomplishments take A LOT of time and effort. 1 BILLION hours! That is the number of hours members have served since 1994. Do you know how impressive that number is?! That is 114,155 years! Members get things done. They work hard to strengthen our communities.
About two weeks ago, I attended a Leadership Conference in Alabama. This conference is held annually for AmeriCorps Habitat for Humanity members and is a required part of your service year. In one workshop our presenter, Jill Cleveland, left us with a prayer written by Archbishop Oscar Romero A Step Along the Way. The last few lines stuck with me, and I think resonate with all of the work that AmeriCorps does and Habitat for Humanity does:
“We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.”
AmeriCorps members and really, all of the people in Habitat for Humanity are working to secure futures for people they will never meet. This is where we have to be thankful for all of the little milestones we make along the way. When we see the light come into a student’s eyes when he finally can say the alphabet all the way through or watching a new homeowner and a volunteer connect as they paint a home.
I cannot speak for all members or alumni, but I am truly thankful for my time with AmeriCorps. The thing is, serving others is addicting and it makes you realize everything you have to be thankful for. After my first term of service, I had a whole new respect for my parents and for everything they provided for me. I had been working with kids that often only received a good meal, when they came to school. I worked with kids that went home to a house that was in complete disrepair. I worked with students that had only one parent at home. That is why I do what I do. I work towards helping people who live at or below the poverty line. Despite popular belief, these people do want to better themselves. They just do not have the right tools to do so.
So as we move into the season of thankfulness and giving, I ask you to ponder a few simple questions: What are you thankful for? What are you doing for others?
If you are a high school student or a college student or just someone who is looking for something different, I highly recommend checking out AmeriCorps. I can almost guarantee that you can find a position in or close to the community you live in. And if that is not something you are able to do right now, then check out your local Habitat for Humanity. Habitat for Humanity of Seminole and Greater Apopka is always looking for new volunteers and people who want to get involved. Do something for others.