Washington, D.C. – Employees of Corporation for National and Community Service were recognized with two prestigious national awards this week for working with communities to prepare for and respond to natural disasters.
At its annual conference in Norfolk, Va., the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (NVOAD) named the Corporation for National and Community Service its “Partner of the Year.” CNCS was selected for “exemplifying the core purpose of the VOAD movement of coordination, cooperation, communication and collaboration; and for embodying passion, dedication, and professionalism.”
In a video accepting the award, CNCS CEO Wendy Spencer recognized the nearly two-decade long partnership between CNCS and the nonprofit and faith-based organizations in the NVOAD family that has been critical to helping scores of communities recover from natural disasters. Spencer also saluted the thousands of Senior Corps volunteers, AmeriCorps members, and community volunteers who have provided vital help and hope in times of crisis.
“We are so excited and honored to be named National VOAD Partner of the Year. We accept this award on behalf of you, everyone in the room today, and those partners across the country who we have worked so closely with responding to disasters that have hit communities across the country,” Spencer said.
Also this week, the Partnership for Public Service named Kelly DeGraff, CNCS' Director of Disaster Services, and a team of CNCS employees as a finalist for the prestigious Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Awards. The awards honor outstanding federal employees whose important, behind-the-scenes work is advancing the health, safety and well-being of Americans.
DeGraff and her team were named in the Homeland Security category, recognizing federal employees for significant contributions to the nation in activities related to homeland security including border and transportation security, emergency preparedness and response, intelligence, and law enforcement.
The CNCS team was honored for its achievements in directing more than 300 AmeriCorps members deployed to Joplin, Missouri, where they coordinated the work of 60,000 volunteers who converged on the community to lend a hand and offer hope following the devastating tornado in May 2011. AmeriCorps members were instrumental in mobilizing and managing an influx of volunteers and donations which saved the city more than $17.7 million in disaster costs.
AmeriCorps' leadership role in Joplin and in other disaster sites led FEMA and the Corporation for National Service to develop FEMA Corps, an innovative cost-saving partnership that creates a new unit of the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps consisting of 1,600 members devoted solely to disaster response and recovery efforts each year.
“These awards really represent our extraordinary partners and their members and volunteers who serve on the front lines of disasters,” said DeGraff. “When devastating events occur, we look to our partners – emergency managers, nonprofit and community groups, and faith based organizations. The agility and impact of national service is due to the relationships we've built over many years. Given the frequency and severity of disasters today, those partnerships are more important than ever.”
As the one-year anniversary of the Joplin tornado approaches on May 22, AmeriCorps has a strong ongoing presence in Joplin. More than two dozen AmeriCorps members still serve in Joplin, assisting with home-building and repair, offering legal services to low-income families, providing support to students in Joplin public schools, and managing volunteers, donations, and homeowner requests through the AmeriCorps Recovery Center led by the AmeriCorps St. Louis Emergency Response Team.
From forest fires and floods, to hurricanes and tornadoes, to terror attacks and oil spills, participants in CNCS programs have provided critical support to millions of Americans affected by disasters since 1994. Reflecting the agency's growing expertise and commitment in disaster preparedness and response, CNCS has made disaster services one of agency's focus areas for its 2011-2015 Strategic Plan. The CNCS Disaster Services Unit has agency-wide responsibility for coordination of CNCS disaster services activities, providing expertise, ongoing support, and access to a network of dedicated volunteers.