by Bob Moore
Well, here goes nothing – first time blogging for me!
When Anne Schink of the Maine Commission for Community Service contacted me last November to see if I would be interested in becoming a “Guest Blogger” for VolunteerMaine.org, my first question was, “What do I have to do?” Anne was pretty persuasive – a valuable skill in volunteer recruitment – plus I feel a certain indebtedness to the MCCS and AmeriCorps. Our organization wouldn’t be close to where we are today without them. Another important factor – January 28, 2008 (my first post date) seemed sooooo far off!
My experience with blogging is minimal – reading (never responding) to Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling’s blog. Then I decided to google the “world’s oldest blogger” and came across 107 year-old Olive Riley of Australia, who started a blog of her own in February 2007. Though she refers to it as her “blob”, I figured that if Olive could blog, I might stand a chance after all.
Many of you may be aware of the AmeriCorps-State positions that are coordinated in Maine through the MCCS. But did you know that AmeriCorps has another arm – the National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC)?
In 2003 when I was hired as our first employee – no staff, no volunteers, no office – we looked to staff a team of local high school youth to work on shoreline protection projects. When our efforts to obtain sufficient funding hit a wall, one of our Board members mentioned that his daughter-in-law had been a member of a program called AmeriCorps in the early 1990’s – even met with President Clinton during the first year that the program was started. I contacted her the next day, she told me about her incredible experience as a first year member of the NCCC, and put me in touch with a former teammate of hers who was now Project Coordinator for the Perry Point, MD region. The rest, as they say, is history.
Twelve young adults from all across America landed on our shores during that summer of 2003 to staff our first Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) – and we haven’t looked back since. After NCCC teams were also awarded to us in 2004 and 2005, we added our own local YCC in 2005; 2008 will be our fourth year employing twelve area students as YCC members. With funding obtained from member donations, local business sponsorships and private and public grants, we used that first AmeriCorps experience to help create an annual, sustainable effort.
It gets better. In 2004, we were introduced to the AmeriCorps*State program through the MCCS and the Training Resource Center in Portland. Through the TRC, we were awarded seasonal AmeriCorps positions to oversee our growing program needs. I can honestly say that we would not have been able to afford this type of skilled service on the open market, and the quality of personnel we have had every year has been outstanding. We are now transitioning these positions as well to seasonal, full-time staff as our funding sources allow. I’d like to think that we have provided these Corps members with a valuable experience as well as we have integrated them not only into our organization, but into our community as well.
Five years ago, I had never heard of AmeriCorps – now you can’t stop me from singing their virtues. Let me know if you have any similar stories or need further information on how we worked through the process. You’ll be glad you did.