Today, our new AmeriCorps NCCC team is en route to Sound View. They will be arriving Wednesday and we are excited about this. It is wonderful to have a team of young adults in camp. It brings back that summer feeling. Hayley is planning a welcome dinner and we know that they will get right to work on Thursday - and look out! An enthusiastic team of twelve can accomplish so much in just one day, and they will be with us for six weeks!
Back in 1993, I was working at a Y camp in Massachusetts and was invited to a gathering/celebration with Sen. Ted Kennedy concerning the AmeriCorps legislation just signed into law by President Clinton. My camp at the time was the host for the City Year program - particular to Boston - of which, AmeriCorps was partially modeled. The concept behind City Year was that young people had their “high school years”, “college years”, “career years” and could be given an opportunity for a “city year” to give back to their community. This year of service was usually sandwiched between high school and college, or college and career.
Prior to this, President George H. W. Bush introduced his catch-phrase, Thousand Points of Light, to describe the non-profits, faith communities, municipalities doing great work in their communities yet could use a pool of eager volunteers. He believed that the government should get out of the business of inventing social programs (Peace Corps) and jump instead into supporting the programs that are already being implemented well by others.
So - AmeriCorps came into being. AmeriCorps members are paid poverty wages to volunteer with the promise of a larger (around $5,000) educational award at the end of their service year. AmeriCorps programs come in many flavors to augment the good work being done all around the nation to assist people. The AmeriCorps NCCC “flavor” is reminiscent of the CCC programs that help rebuild and employ America during the Great Depression.
In my camping career I have worked with AmeriCorps individuals and teams in Massachusetts, Mississippi, Upstate New York, and now at Sound View. Each challenge/project has been unique but each time, the work has been cheerfully done by dedicated young adults eager to serve their country. Concurrently, all across the United States, AmeriCorps members are tutoring in schools, sheltering the homeless, feeding the hungry, aiding in disaster relief, and assisting the most vulnerable among us. Just the past weekend, an AmeriCorps group sponsored by the Jesuits, came to Sound View Camp for training. These volunteers will assist in several hospitals in Washington and Oregon.
Every year, some misinformed person in Congress proposes that AmeriCorps should end. Money will be saved (he/she says). If they want to volunteer they should do so on their own (he/she says). If they want to serve their country, they should join the military (he/she says). He/she fails to realize that AmeriCorps was a Republican idea implemented by a Democrat president. Hopefully reasonable minds prevail each year and the program continues to thrive.
Please keep an eye on our Facebook page for posts on what this fall’s team will be up to at Sound View. And - if you want to send cookies, pies, and other goodies - I’m sure that they will appreciate it.