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Appalachia CARES and AmeriCorps work to get things done

Katherine Scoggins • Apr 5, 2013 at 2:31 AM

AmeriCorps is a program that many may recognize as a national service organization that has been around for a number of years.

Actually, AmeriCorps was established in 1994 as a federal program to match trained students and volunteers with service opportunities throughout the country. A few short years later, Appalachia CARES was organized to provide funding and projects in this area of the state. A program of the Corporation for National and Community Service, AmeriCorps engages members to address critical community issues and make a difference in the lives of citizens while building valuable job skills and experience and earning an educational award to help pay for college or further education.

Each year, AmeriCorps offers over 75,000 opportunities for adults and students of all backgrounds to serve through a network of partnerships with local and national nonprofit groups. And that network is formidable: community kitchens, farm bureaus, public schools, secondary and adult education centers, disaster relief, city/town halls, family resource centers, senior centers, county health departments, and emergency services, to name just a few.

AmeriCorps State and National members are placed in numerous towns through Appalachia CARES/AmeriCorps, a program of the Clinch-Powell RC&D Council. Last year, Appalachia CARES members served over 57,000 hours, engaged 5,253 youth in 123 service-learning projects and involved over 200 community-based and non-profit organizations in their service. Over $160,000 in educational awards was disbursed throughout East Tennessee for members to pay for college and/or pay off school loans.

In addition to implementing meaningful service-learning projects in the community, individuals recruited through Appalachia CARES/AmeriCorps serve on one of five teams that address priority areas through the programs of various community organizations. The first of these, Basic Human Needs, addresses shelter, food and medical issues. Members may be placed in medical clinics, such as the Church Hill Free Medical Clinic, and soup kitchens or food pantries, such as Of One Accord Ministries.

Members placed on the Housing team may provide direct hands-on service through agencies like Habitat for Humanity, or they may provide education and mentoring in home ownership, financial and budget education, and foreclosure prevention.

Several area museums have benefited from members placed on the Education team, including the Gray Fossil Site, Carroll Reece Museum, Hands On! Regional Museum and Hammond House/Netherland Inn Museum, where they may curate exhibits or create educational outreach programs for schools and the community.

Arts & Heritage members often serve in local Chambers of Commerce, or on projects such as the Appalachian Quilt Trail, and protecting and restoring historic properties.

Conservation members may serve with a number of agencies, from the Middle Nolichucky Watershed Alliance, to area soil conservation districts, to organic farms to helping develop and teach best practices for small family farms.

To learn more about becoming a member or hosting a member, visit www.clinchpowell.net/appalachiacares or call 865-828-5927. To learn more about the national program, visit www.AmeriCorps.gov.

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