For more than 50 years AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) members have served within communities as a domestic version of the Peace Corps to eradicate poverty by serving in six priority areas: disaster services, economic opportunity, education, environmental stewardship, healthy futures, and veterans and military families.
AmeriCorps members have been serving the Waynesville and surrounding areas for nine years within the school district and various community agencies. Since its establishment in the Waynesville area, AmeriCorps members’ service has become more than a way to give back - it has become a family tradition, a connection to the community, and a brother/sisterhood of alumni. Members have met and later married, families and friends have served alongside each other, and lifelong friendships were rooted all while serving.
The tradition of families serving together is prevalent in the Waynesville AmeriCorps program. The program currently has mothers serving with their children, spouses and siblings serving together, and an aunt serving with her niece.
One such family is the Albrecht family, comprised of Nadine and her two sons, Neil and Michael. Nadine has served two years providing professional development training as an AmeriCorps VISTA, while Neil and Michael have served a total of two summers as VISTA Summer Associates (VSA). Michael is serving with the administration at Waynesville High School and says, “Serving with my mom and brother is normal for me because it’s how I was raised. Our family has always volunteered together in our community so serving with AmeriCorps VISTA together was natural.”
The Garridos, comprised of Colleen and her daughter, Trina, have both served two years each with AmeriCorps. Colleen shares what it is like to work with her daughter, “It has been a great experience to have my daughter serve alongside me and watch her grow as a person and gain that experience in the educational field as she is wanting to be a teacher. Being a role model towards the youth in the community has been an amazing experience, knowing we have made an impact in some child’s life and their family.” Colleen serves as a human resource and volunteer coordinator, while Trina serves as a tutor with school-age students.
When couples serve together it reinforces their shared values and creates new memories. Michael and Callie Norris have served four years collectively as tutors for elementary students,. In addition, they have had the opportunity to be a part of the Waynesville Middle School Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service and serve as scorekeepers and concession attendants at the 3-on-3 Basketball Madness Tournament in support of Snack In a Pack (SIAP). This summer they welcomed their first child.
The program has two groups of siblings serving together. The first group of siblings serving together are Taylor and Keara Cogdill. Taylor started out as a VSA and continued to serve as a VISTA doing website development, while Keara is completing her first summer as a VSA. Keara is serving with the American Red Cross and assists directly with incoming military members to the Fort Leonard Wood area. Keara says, “Briefing the incoming military members for the American Red Cross is personally impactful to me because it is a service I know my dad has had to use while he was serving in the military as a Military Police Officer.” Keara also had the privilege to help a family she knew that was affected by the flood in Devils Elbow.
Our second group of siblings, Halle and Megan Craven are both serving their first summer as VSAs. Halle supported students during Tiger Leadership Camp and at The Ark Community and Sports Center. Megan served at the Fort Leonard Wood John B. Mahaffey Museum Complex and expressed that her favorite part of serving has been “seeing the smiles and building relationships in such a short time.”
Lastly, is an aunt/niece duo, Robin Edwards and Megan Leal. Robin is serving in her first year as a VISTA and Megan is serving her first summer as a VSA. Robin said of her experience “Having my niece serve with me this summer has been amazing. This unique experience has bonded us with something special, becoming AmeriCorps VISTA alumni together!”
There are various reasons these families and others serve as AmeriCorps, AmeriCorps VISTA, and VSA members. Regardless of the reason, the ultimate goal is to strengthen the capacity of an organization and enhance its ability to serve the community while getting things done. The sum of hours served by these family members equal 26,240 hours of service within the community.
AmeriCorps members serve in a variety of areas, such as tutoring, volunteer coordination, Club TIGER Afterschool program, Tiger Leadership Camp, professional development, implementation, and so much more. To apply for the paid service opportunities through AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps VISTA candidates should go the my.americorps.gov website. For more specific instructions and for more information, contact the Community Resource Office (CRO) at (573) 842-2250 and be sure to like us on Facebook at “Waynesville Tiger Way.”