Working to improve your neighborhood is generally something you do near home. But for Matt Soavics of Philadelphia and Megan Brook of Atlanta, "local" service extends across the country.
Soavics and Brook are members of AmeriCorps' National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) and recently have been working with local and national nonprofits in the Memphis area. The group, composed of 18-24-year-olds from all over the United States, has been in town since mid-January and will stay through March. Their largest project has been to work with the Wolf River Conservancy, clearing brush and weeds.
"It's like a temp agency for nonprofits," Brook says of the NCCC. "Organizations apply for us to come do work, and we go where we can help most."
Most of the work the NCCC does is environmental or construction, while other branches of AmeriCorps focus on poverty or education. Soavics' and Brook's NCCC group, based in Vicksburg, Mississippi, has about 150 members; it's one of five campuses in the nation.
"The experience has helped me with teamwork in ways I wouldn't have otherwise experienced," Brook says. In addition to the personal benefits of volunteering, NCCC members get a stipend during their year of service and receive a scholarship after they complete the program.
While in town, the group is also working with other local organizations such as the Vollintine-Evergreen Community Association. The group will be leaving Memphis in mid-March and heading to another Mid-South location to help. Their three-month stay in Memphis is typical. With members serving for 10 months, they're able to impact several areas in a short time.
"It's something I can turn into a job," Soavics says. "Before AmeriCorps, I thought I'd just stay in town and get work anywhere, really, but now I've seen how a nonprofit works. I've met people who travel and do it for a job; it's not just volunteering. Now I can do that kind of work."