1.2 Billion (Hours) Served
This week, the Corporation for National and Community Service celebrates AmeriCorps Week, saluting AmeriCorps members helping communities across the country, responding to disaster, working in classrooms, and supporting veterans and military families. There have been 900,000 AmeriCorps volunteers since the program began in 1994, with over 1 billion (!) hours of service rendered. We’d like to celebrate the AmeriCorps members of North Carolina VetsCorps, a statewide AmeriCorps program offering resources and services to veterans, active duty service members, and military families. Supported by a grant from the North Carolina Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service in the Office of Governor Pat McCrory and with matching funds from corporations and foundations, MDC manages the service of 13 AmeriCorps members at nine community-based organizations that provide critical resources and services to veterans and military families.
Melanie Nelson and Allyson Lanzi are two NC VetsCorps members serving in the Wilmington area. Melanie, a Navy veteran, is hosted at United Way of the Cape Fear Area, supporting the 10 Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness and Reduce Homelessness in the Cape Fear Region. She leads community outreach efforts to try to give people a clearer picture of veterans’ needs and contributions and to build a supportive community for veterans. Allyson is an attorney, who is also familiar with the military; her husband currently serves in the Army Reserves. She has a “real-time” interest in veterans’ issues, so serving as a VetsCorps member at the NC Legal Aid office in Wilmington is a great way to match her skills and interests.
AmeriCorps members across the country organized service activities on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service in January. Melanie and Allyson joined this effort by recruiting local veterans to volunteer for the day. Melanie responded to an ad on the Cape Fear Volunteer Center website that said the USS North Carolina Battleship was looking for a crew of volunteers to assist with preservation and clean-up. Veterans from a Veterans Administration Supportive Housing group and the Sergeant Eugene Ashley Center, a transitional home for veterans recovering from substance abuse, came together to help clean out the second gun turret on the ship. The veterans represented all branches of the military, but the Navy and Marine veterans enjoyed visiting the ship the most because they got to learn about what life might have been like for them if they had been stationed there. Afterwards, the group visited the Wilmington aquarium—they were offering free admission for the holiday! Many of the veterans in Wilmington are new to the area and don’t have a lot of opportunities to visit local tourist attractions, so the service day gave them a chance to give back and enjoy the city. Both Melanie and Allyson said the day provided time for these veterans to enjoy good company and beautiful weather—and to feel like they were a part of the greater Wilmington community, instead of separate from it. It’s another great example of how NC VetsCorps members, as AmeriCorps volunteers, are uniting and strengthening communities wherever they serve.