June 11: AmeriCorps and Senior Corps COVID-19 Response

AmeriCorps member sorts food at a food bank
CNCS

More than 9,400 AmeriCorps and Senior Corps Members Actively Engaged in COVID-19 Emergency Response.

Despite the obstacles presented by COVID-19, AmeriCorps and Senior Corps programs across the country have acted quickly and creatively to continue their critical work in new ways, or to pivot to meet emerging needs.

Since the start of the national emergency, more than 9,400 AmeriCorps members and Senior Corps volunteers have served in direct response to COVID-19. Collectively, these national service members have:

  • Assisted an estimated 1.5 million people
  • Provided more than 2.5 million meals
  • Collected and distributed more than 15.6 million pounds of food, and
  • Conducted more than 100,000 wellness checks.

They are joined in service by thousands of AmeriCorps members and Senior Corps volunteers who continue to meet the needs of their communities by virtually teaching, tutoring and mentoring students, restoring public lands, helping families remain in their homes and referring homeless individuals to supportive services, building capacity for local nonprofits, or connecting with isolated seniors.

Additionally, CNCS, State Service Commissions, and grantees are creating innovative new initiatives and service opportunities to respond to the immediate needs using existing resources.

  • In Iowa, the state’s new COVID-19 Recovery AmeriCorps is engaging approximately 100 AmeriCorps State and National and AmeriCorps VISTA members in intensive, full-time positions this summer and beyond, to support ongoing needs as a result of the impact of COVID-19. The Iowa COVID-19 Recovery AmeriCorps members will help address food insecurity, support independent living needs, manage volunteers, or provide other supports that help address the challenges facing communities and citizens with the implication of COVID-19.
  • In Minnesota, the state’s new Minnesota AmeriCorps Emergency Response Initiative, which was just launched by ServeMinnesota, will engage hundreds of AmeriCorps members who will serve full-time from June to August in various places of need around the state during the pandemic. The first 240 AmeriCorps members took the pledge to “Get Things Done” this week and are immediately beginning to serve.
  • In New Hampshire, the NH COVID Community Care Corps (NHCCCC) pilot program will engage approximately 10 AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associates will serve across Greater Manchester and Nashua by helping residents respond to and recover from COVID-19.
  • In Colorado, more than 800 AmeriCorps and Senior Corps members to support the State of Colorado’s COVID-19 response. The national service members will conduct contact tracing and other work important to help Colorado reopen and get people back to work. Initially, the service assignments for the positions announced this week will be for remote work, as the members help provide temporary surge capacity for the initial phases of contact-tracing.
  • In Maine, the state service commission, Volunteer Maine, allocated additional funding to Volunteer Generation Fund grantees to increase COVID-19 response efforts. Three grantees were awarded an additional $10,000 that will be used to build capacity at the nonprofit organizations and support additional volunteers in their efforts to combat food insecurity, which has increased during COVID-19. 

Stories of the Week

The stories of service coming from across the country demonstrate the commitment of AmeriCorps members and Senior Corps volunteers to continue to “get things done” for the communities and residents that are counting on them. Below are a few stories that show how we continue to serve our communities in impactful ways.

Emergency Food Team aids Genesis Gardens (Illinois)
Director John Curtis of Genesis Garden introduced the public Friday to Miranda, leader of the Emergency Food Response Team. Miranda and other AmeriCorps Vista volunteers prepare and deliver food to 150 homes in McDonough County. Curtis said, “Families receive bags filled with bread, meat, eggs, milk, other dairy products, and other frozen or dried goods.” The Genesis Garden director said children had just completed the second week of the summer “Kids Cook!” program. He said the children have learned safety tips for working with knives, how to clean up the kitchen after cooking, and how to wash the dishes. Curtis said donations have allowed Genesis Garden to equip each child with an electronic tablet, a first aid kit, kitchen tools, and a weekly supply of food.

Endless Network and Teach For America Distribute Hundreds of Computers to Support Distance Learning for Students With Limited or No Home Internet Access (California)
Today, Endless Network and Teach For America announced they will distribute up to 400 computers to support students' ability to participate in distance learning during the coronavirus pandemic. The computers run Endless OS, which provides reliable access to online content, curriculum, and apps through an asynchronous, or intermittent, internet connection. Students receiving the computers will be able to access learning materials selected by educators, enabling distance learning at home regardless of reliable connectivity. With its expansive network of educators, TFA will help shape the pedagogical content on these donated computers, which will be distributed to urban and rural students in New York City, the Bay Area, Washington, D.C., South Carolina, the Greater Delta in Mississippi and Arkansas, and South Louisiana whose families lack computer access or reliable internet connectivity at home.

Saving for a Not-so-Rainy Day (New Jersey)
Lisa Schroeder has given workshops on making rain barrels, but they usually include a hands-on element that was impossible May 27. This time, she was giving her presentation remotely, in a virtual event presented by the Atlantic-Cape May Sustainability Hub. Schroeder is the watershed ambassador for the Great Egg Harbor River watershed, under a program run through the state Department of Environmental Protection and AmeriCorps, a national community service organization. “Typically, we do stewardship projects where we get volunteers together,” Schroeder said, but in-person gatherings remain out of reach due to COVID-19, and a project to collect data on water quality is also on hold. “Right now, we’re doing a lot of the outreach and education virtually,” Schroeder said at the workshop. The remote format allowed those interested to view the workshop in real time and ask questions through messages or a chat feature. This meant a bigger turnout than usual, and the entire presentation is posted to the Facebook page of the Hub.

United Way COVID-19 HungerCorps to help with hunger relief efforts (Washington)
The first cohort of United Way of King County’s new HungerCorps began assisting in hunger relief efforts on Tuesday, May 26, as part of the organization’s overall operations to help families that have been economically impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. These first 30 HungerCorps members, out of a total of 100 that United way has hired for the summer, will join current AmeriCorps members who are already working at area schools, community college pantries and other sites. HungerCorps members will work at food banks and meal sites, where they will prepare and serve meals, pack food boxes and engage with community members to provide them with information about available resources. They will also deliver meals to families at apartment complexes and will serve grab-and-go packaged meals at parks and community centers. Many of the people who will receive food assistance are refugees, people of color and undocumented immigrant families.

Health care workers gets keys to new home thanks to Habitat for Humanity (Virginia)
A Richmond woman, who has been working on the front line during the COVID-19 pandemic, gets the key to her new home thanks to the Richmond Metropolitan Habitat for Humanity! For more than a year Terri Wingfield has gone through several financial and homeownership education classes through the Richmond Habitat’s Affordable Homeownership Program. “She will purchase the home from Richmond Habitat and pay an affordable mortgage that will make her dream of homeownership, and the safety and security that it brings, a reality,” a news release said. Despite the lights now on at Wingfield’s Randolph neighborhood home, construction hit a slight snag due to COVID-19. In the end, staff through Habitat for Humanity along with AmeriCorps helped put the finishing touches on the home for Wingfield and her son Derrick.

Volunteers team up to make, distribute masks to Cleveland’s homeless population (Ohio)
As people scramble for masks during the coronavirus pandemic, leaders in the Campus District are more concerned with protecting some of Cleveland’s most exposed people. The Campus District and Across the Lines are collaborating to make masks and distribute them to the homeless population through “Mask the District.” “[The homeless] are more vulnerable and at-risk, and just not at the forefront of a lot of our minds,” says Morgan Clark, AmeriCorps VISTA member with Campus District. She adds that the homeless are especially vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 because hygiene education on is lacking, many public restrooms are closed, and the shelters are densely populated. So far, the Mask the District campaign has distributed about 500 masks and will continue to make and hand out more masks indefinitely. As word got out about Mask the District, more volunteers have come forward. There are now about 20 different organizations and individuals gathering materials and making masks.

A Recipe To Thrive: Farmers, Restaurants, Students Come Together To Buck Pandemic Woes, West Virginia Public Broadcasting (West Virginia)
Organizations in Ohio County have come together to address community needs during this pandemic. In a bid to lift each other up, local restaurants and farmers are teaming up to help feed kids. At an elementary school in Wheeling, AmeriCorps serving with the nonprofit Grow Ohio Valley are handing out free dinners to students. While counties across the state have started feeding programs for breakfast and lunch, what makes this dinner program unique is the partnership between farmers, restaurants and schools to make this meal.

ACES Grad Sparks Interest in Nature However She Can (Missouri)
While Kate Owen prefers teaching face to face, reaching young students online from Yellowstone National Park during the COVID-19 pandemic still produces the rewarding moments that drive her passion and career. Besides, who wouldn't want to learn the history of human/bison interaction or the importance of water quality at the Grand Canyon from Owen? You can see the sparkle in the education technician's eyes just as clearly on Zoom.

NCO Volunteer Network supports the community (California)
While the days and even weeks continue to bleed together and the sun captures inland Mendocino towns in tantalizing sunlight, the county tentatively moves towards the next phase of reopening. Citizens begin to gradually dip into open parks and restaurants once again crack their doors open. Though these slow reopenings leave the county with a sense of optimism, health officials have urged caution as the formidable disease, the coronavirus, is not yet extinct. With these new measures in place, citizens look to those bearing the weight of the county on their backs: essential workers. And beside them, those aiding them in their efforts: volunteers.

Video of the Week

AmeriCorps Members *Still* Get Things Done During COVID-19 Pandemic

In New Hampshire, Goodwill Northern New England's AmeriCorps members continue to serve our vulnerable communities at home and (safely) on the ground during the COVID-19 pandemic.

These are just a few examples of how AmeriCorps and Senior Corps programs continue to make an impact in communities across the country. No matter the circumstances, our programs have the flexibility and our national service members have the commitment to meet the needs of Americans wherever and whenever they are needed.

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