Program Served: AmeriCorps - 2004-2005; New Orleans, LA; Biloxi, MS - Hands on New Orleans
Hometown: Cincinnati, OH
Alma Mater: College of Charleston
Currently: Air BnB - Global Disaster Relief; San Francisco, CA
Kellie Bentz joined AmeriCorps in 2004 after graduating from the College of Charleston. As a recent graduate, Bentz was unsure of what direction she wanted to be going in, and her desire to serve helped her choose AmeriCorps as her next step.
Bentz served as an AmeriCorps Team Lead in Atlanta, Georgia where she was inspired by many of her experiences. “The second grader I had been tutoring for an entire year could finally write his ABCs,” Bentz shared. “It made me realize how grateful I was for having this little boy in my life to show me what a privilege it was to be able to read and write, and to never take that for granted.” It was moments like these that made Bentz wish to continue her path of service.
Bentz then went on to be a project sponsor for AmeriCorps NCCC teams in New Orleans, where she made lifelong friends and had, what she considers, the most formative experience of her life. She was involved with building, managing, and directing what became HandsOn New Orleans. HONO helps provide service opportunities to those in search of service, including out-of-state individuals, local residents, corporate teams, and tourists.
“Most days I would stand in our HandsOn New Orleans community meetings with 100 volunteers from around the world telling stories of the service they had completed that day over dinner, and have goosebumps realizing that human connection is what so many of us are thirsty for, and it was happening here,” said Bentz. “Watching people come in and do one day of service mucking and gutting a home and be ‘changed’ by their experience was amazing.”
Since March 2006, HONO has saved the community of New Orleans an estimated $13 million. They’ve engaged over 35,000 volunteers for more than 600,000 completed hours of service. Bentz served as the Executive Director for HONO until 2010, and is currently with Airbnb working with Global Disaster Relief.
The most memorable moment of Bentz’ time in New Orleans was rebuilding the Mother-in-Law Jazz Lounge with Ms. Antoinette K-doe. “I was frustrated and tired and she said to me, ‘If you give up, I give up,’” shared Bentz. “This was a 65 year old woman who had lost almost everything, working alongside us every day to rebuild her jazz lounge. She cooked lunch every day and never complained, and I realized, I had nothing to complain about.”
Serving after Hurricane Katrina helped Bentz realize she had found the path for which she had been seeking. “By joining AmeriCorps it gave me the direction for where I wanted to go in my career,” said Bentz. “It became my life’s work instead of just a job.”