06/19/13 — AmeriCorps team in town to help volunteer projects

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AmeriCorps team in town to help volunteer projects

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on June 19, 2013 1:46 PM

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John Daniel gives Alicia Battle, 8, a piggyback ride at Herman Park on Tuesday. Daniel is part of the AmeriCorps team, which was helping the Goldsboro Parks and Recreation Department with day camp.

A diverse team of young men and women recently arrived in Goldsboro, honing their leadership skills while rolling up their sleeves to volunteer with several agencies.

AmeriCorps, a national program for ages 18-24, assigns groups to work in communities around the U.S. for an eight-week stretch. A grant written by the local Habitat for Humanity secured the local stop on their itinerary.

The 9-member team, which will be in the community through July 9, has already plugged in to work in a variety of programs, such as Meals on Wheels and Habitat for Humanity.

"Thus far, the energetic bunch has been building a Habitat home," said Andrea Freile, development director for Habitat for Humanity. "In addition, they are partnering with Parks and Rec to lead a Camp Habitat open to all Wayne County children this summer.

"They'll also be speaking to Wayne Community College students, sharing with them what AmeriCorps can do for them and what they can do to our country. We're looking for other agencies in town to support them."

The Habitat camp, which started Tuesday and runs through Friday, will be held at Herman Park from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., is divided into two age groups, 5-8 and 9-12. There is a charge to attend. For more information, call 919-739-7480.

Like the AmeriCorps model, the camp focuses on service and building teamwork, lessons the team members have also been learning.

Group leader Katie Moir, 24, is from Litchfield, Minn. She has been with AmeriCorps since January. The recent college graduate of Saint Catherine University obtained her bachelor's degree in international relations and Spanish and decided to take a year off to participate in the 10-month service program.

"It's been awesome," she said. "I really like it so far. It's really helped me develop my leadership skills."

Matt Payne, 21, is from Southern California. He completed two years of college before deciding to take advantage of the AmeriCorps experience.

"I had a friend that was in AmeriCorps during the Katrina relief," he said. "One day I complained that I wanted to do something good for the world."

In just five months, he says he has gleaned some unexpected benefits.

"I would say learning to work with other people," he said. "We're with nine people 24 hours a day. Privacy doesn't exist. We're from different backgrounds. We have to learn to work with others."

"Every day's an opportunity to learn something," Ms. Moir said.

"I describe it as the most challenging and most rewarding experience of my life," Payne noted.

Fellow team member John Daniel is from Federal Way, Wash. Unlike some of his counterparts, he went into the work force after high school, but is considering enrolling in college.

"My hope is that when I go back to Seattle, I will be going for an associate in arts," he said. "I'm trying to go to community college. Then I would parlay that into a bachelor's."

The experience with AmeriCorps has caused him to more seriously consider service-oriented education plans, he said.

The 21-year-old said he has witnessed some unique ironies about his own generation, reflected often through causes on social media.

"There's an urgency about communicating," he said. "There's a lot of the emotional posts, but then it's like, hurry up and feel and then do nothing.

"One thing about this program that's really exciting is that it gives you a buffet of opportunities that you can learn from. On every single level possible, it's a development program for your skills as a worker and a service member."

Ms. Freile said it has been enjoyable having the AmeriCorps representatives in the Habitat office, strategizing and brainstorming on how to make good use of their limited time in Wayne County.

"It's so refreshing, they really brighten up the town," she said. "With these individual projects that they have, they have the ability to leave a footprint on the community when they leave."

Daniel said the feeling has been mutual as the local residents have been most welcoming.

"There's a surprising warmth, hospitality, people invite you to their house," he said. "We're seeing a confidence overall, because people also want a positive impression of the community."