Happy Anniversary, AmeriCorps!
NC VetsCorps is 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 members across the state at community-based organizations that provide critical resources and services to veterans and military families.
AmeriCorps, the U.S. national service corps, turns 20 this year. Instead of baking a cake, we’re highlighting the work of three people who are carrying out their AmeriCorps service with NC VetsCorps. We asked Matt Willcut, Lavinia Jackson, and Shelley Bennett to share what attracted them to national service and how they’ve been supporting veterans and military families in North Carolina this year.
- Matt Wilcut is serving at Legal Aid of North Carolina in Greensboro. He finished law school in May 2013, took the bar in July, and was just beginning his job search when he found the NC VetsCorps announcement. He started his service term two weeks later and says, “I learn something new every day. It’s eye-opening to be doing what I went to school to do and to not know this was a field I could have chosen.” Matt has learned about administrative law from a veteran’s perspective, helping vets navigate VA benefits processes—from financial payments, to education, to housing—or pursue discharge upgrades. Matt is also doing his part to spread the word about the unique legal challenges veterans face, serving on the N.C. Bar Association’s Military and Veterans Affairs committee, and a related Pro Bono Veteran Network subcommittee. He’s made connections with pro bono coordinators at N.C. law schools and organizations and hopes to help establish more veterans’ law clinics across the state, including at his alma mater, Elon University School of Law.
- Lavinia Jackson’s commitment to national service began as a member of the U.S. Coast Guard. She brings her personal experience to bear on her NC VetsCorps service at the Interactive Resource Center (IRC), a day center for the homeless in Greensboro. Lavinia works with clients who are veterans, guiding them through the IRC intake process and providing referrals for food, clothing, and housing. Just as important as providing these services is the opportunity to say, “Thank you for your service,” Lavinia says. “That’s been one of the greatest gifts that I’ve gotten. I get to say thank you to someone else, whether they’re 90 or 21. Lots of time they don’t get that.” While she began her service working solely with veterans, she helps with the training and supervision of IRC interns and college volunteers. She also attends events where vets may not be represented in order to help other support organizations understand the varied needs of veterans.
- Shelley Bennett served in the U.S. Marine Corps and saw NC VetsCorps as an opportunity to assist his fellow veterans; he knew they needed someone who could relate to their experiences. Shelley is placed at Legal Aid NC (LANC) in Durham. He supports the LANC attorneys, assisting vets as they work through issues from child support and visitation to benefits access. Shelley is also helping clients develop healthy personal financial practices and even testing out ideas about employment and entrepreneurship. He enjoys exploring ways for vets to secure immediate employment with the skills they’ve developed, as well as seeking opportunities to work for themselves.