AmeriCorps volunteers help in Jamestown, JudFour young people from out of state scraped paint off wooden benches Friday in Jamestown. It was a bit of manual labor they say they’ve grown accustomed to in their six months of full-time service.
Four young people from out of state scraped paint off wooden benches Friday in Jamestown. It was a bit of manual labor they say they’ve grown accustomed to in their six months of full-time service.
AmeriCorps volunteers Taylor Maciosek, 19, Stevens Point, Wis., Juan Garcia, 23, Bealeton, Va., Shannon Sylvia, 22, Buffalo, N.Y., and Josh Williams, 19, Peoria, Ill., arrived in Jamestown Thursday to start work at the city’s Frontier Village and Fort Seward Interpretive Center.
Four of their counterparts, meanwhile, will aid the Great Plains Assistance Dog Foundation in Jud, N.D. The group is part of the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps, which is a full-time, team-based residential program for 18-24 year olds. They are here through Aug. 25.
The 50 or so bleachers at Frontier Village need an overhaul, said Tina Busche, Frontier Village manager. But until the Village can afford to re-do the seating, it will continue to refurbish its current facility. Those repairs, however, are labor intensive and don’t always fit into the schedules of the Village’s two part-time maintenance workers, Busche said. So the Frontier Village applied for assistance from AmeriCorps.
“They’re going to be a big help to us on a lot of projects we just don’t have time for in one season,” Busche said.
The AmeriCorps group began its 10-month tour of service in February. Their most recent stop before Jamestown and Jud was in Minot, where they helped with flood cleanup and demolition for more than two weeks. Volunteers in the AmeriCorps NCCC support local disaster relief organizations to help communities prepare for, respond to and recover from natural or man-made disasters, according to an AmeriCorps press release.
In many cases, volunteers choose AmeriCorps as a side-step between high school and college or as a break between college semesters, sometimes in a quest to determine what to study and where to work. Sylvia, for example, took a break from her studies of biology and chemistry to serve with the program. When she returns to school, she intends to acquire an additional undergraduate degree, this time in international social work.
“Ideally, I’d like to work in a refugee camp someday,” she said.
As part of the 10 months with AmeriCorps, the volunteers receive six credit hours towards their college degrees as well as a $5,500 scholarship.
“It’s definitely not for everyone,” Garcia said, saying the group of eight has been together the entire six months. Members are always together, even for a quick run to the grocery store, which can put a strain on time alone.
Plus, accommodations are makeshift — they’re setting up camp at Great Plains, for example — and they launder their grey t-shirts and AmeriCorps khaki cargo pants when laundry services are available. For that they use their $5 per week laundry allowance.
The work can be difficult, especially in the heat and when days off are a rarity. But, every once in a while, the group gets to have a good time. Maciosek said she hopes the group gets to attend The Band Perry concert in Aberdeen, S.D., on Aug. 19. To earn enough money for the $30 ticket, she’ll have to work three days. Each AmeriCorp volunteer is allotted a $13 per day stipend as well as $4.50 per day for food.
“I thought this was a great way to give back,” Garcia said, saying he’s studying international marketing, but hopes to work for a nonprofit someday.
Expenses like medical insurance and travel are covered, however, and the group has visited sites from Canada to Wisconsin.
And although they’d only recently arrived in Jamestown, the group of four agreed they liked the view in the Peace Garden state.
“North Dakota is beautiful,” Maciosek said. “The sky is beautiful. We all noticed that right away.”
Despite the difficult work and nontraditional accommodations, the volunteers agreed what they do is rewarding.
“It’s still fun, but it gets really hard sometimes,” Maciosek said.
Sun reporter Katie Ryan-Anderson can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at kryan-anderson@ jamestownsun.com