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Vinton, Iowa: New Home for AmeriCorps NCCC Members

posted on January 7, 2009 at 6:02 PM

AmeriCorps, like its better-known predecessor,  the PeaceCorps, is an organization set up to help people. One AmeriCorps group, the NCCC, has a new home in Vinton, Iowa.

Set in place just before floods washed through the area, the NCCC was able to organize volunteers to help with flood clean-up.

The Iowa Journal asked some of the young (18-24 year old) NCCC members to talk about service, and why they enjoy the work they do for others. NCCC stands for National Civilian Community Corps.

In June of 2008, Vinton, Iowa, was one of dozens of Iowa towns damaged by prolonged rains and serious flooding. Luckily for them, a group of young people had just moved to town – with the goal of serving American communities.

Nathan Schmitz, Team Leader, AmeriCorps NCCC:  “The team leaders arrived, I believe, June 8th, to start our training. And we, the first day of training, we trained for about an hour and 45 minutes, and then all the lights went out ‘cause the power went off, the power station in Vinton flooded out. So, we ended up shutting down our training and we ran the Red Cross shelter for ‘em, there at the Braille School in Vinton.”

AmeriCorps NCCC (or N-triple C as it’s called) was created as the “Peace Corps” for America in 1993. But it was only in this past year, 2008, that Vinton Iowa became a residential center for AmeriCorps. The town was chosen because the community wanted the honor, and also because the town’s 150-year-old Iowa Braille and Sight-Saving School had space that could be converted into living quarters.

Dan Milnes, Region Director, AmeriCorps NCCC: “We’re in charge of what’s called the North Central Region. We’re headquartered out of Vinton; we house and train our members – our Corps members – here in Vinton. And then we deploy them to one of 10 states.”

AmeriCorps NCCC members, like Peace Corps members, are given room and board, and a small stipend, to be followed by an education incentive. But, unlike the Peace Corps, N-triple C members stay in this country, live and work in small groups of 10-12, and only sign up for a year at a time. For these patriotic 18-24-year-olds, those incentives fit them to a “T.”   

Javier Leon: “I wanted to get out of California and travel and help people at the same time.”

Victoria Bailey: “Compared to my life in Florida, where I was waitressing, it’s a lot harder. But, it’s a lot more rewarding.”

Lindsay Leigh: “I graduated college and I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do after college. I didn’t know, I studied Psychology, but I didn’t know if I wanted to pursue that or not. So, I found out about AmeriCorps in New Orleans and decided to join.”

Ashley Gibson: “I wasn’t ready yet for a desk job. And I really wanted to help people in the United States, ‘cause there’s such a big need. I feel like everyone wants to go overseas, they advertise it more. I feel like they need to advertise more in the United States.

“When I got the call saying I was going to Iowa, I was like, ‘Well, I’ve never been. And so it’ll be a neat place to see.’ And with everything happening in Iowa, it was kind of cool to come here and see, and be able to jump right in to helping out. Right in Cedar Rapids.”

This team is learning first-hand about Iowa’s cold weather, as they clean out a flood-damaged home in sub-zero temperatures. 

Javier Leon: “Our half of the team is gutting & mucking a house. And mucking is taking the personal property out of it, that was damaged by the flood. So they don’t want it any more. Throwing it out of the house so they can pick it up – the garbage people.

“Me and Lindsay are mucking the garage. And Vicki and Ashley are gutting the house. Taking the walls and the floors out.”

This Cedar Rapids neighborhood needs lots of help. Six months after the flood swamped every home, there are still a number of damaged houses needing work. But, through AmeriCorps N-triple-C, at least this house has a chance at new life. And helping clear the way for new life is what the Corps members are excited about.

Ashley Gibson: “It’s really rewarding, actually. You see all this mold and everything and all these personal belongings – everything just ruined. And you’re taking them right to the curb just to throw them away. You see these people’s lives like, gone. And it makes me really think twice about life and about why we’re here.”

Dan Milnes, Region Director, AmeriCorps NCCC: “We’re glad we’re here. I think we’ve developed a wonderful partnership and more great things to follow from the folks of N triple C and the young adults that serve their country.”

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