AmeriCorps crew making friends and working projects

A group of visiting AmeriCorps volunteers have been leaving their mark around Wrangell the past month, with the community being their last stop in a 10-month tour of service.

Ten volunteers coming from all corners of the country have already been doing an assortment of projects for the community. They are part of a wider program which operates one of its five campuses out of Sacramento, California.

"The program that we are in is the National Civilian Community Corps," explained Kara Riley, the visiting crew's leader.

Aimed at 18- to 24-year-olds, volunteers are sent around the country to support a variety of relief efforts and civic projects. In exchange, they receive a living stipend and accommodations for the duration of their service, and an education award at the conclusion.

"It's a really cool way to travel and meet diverse people, and live in different communities," said Riley. "You learn a lot of cool job skills, but also life skills."

The Sacramento campus fields around 250 volunteers at any one time, in crews of from eight to 10 members. Jobs are assigned based on need, with applicants often including nonprofit and governmental groups.

Coming from Indiana, Riley's crew features members from Iowa, New Mexico, Mississippi, Massachusetts, Colorado, Minnesota, Texas, Virginia and Missouri. Since starting service, the group has already served in two other locations before coming to Wrangell.

"We started out the year in October, and we started our year in Orange, Texas. We were doing disaster relief for Hurricane Harvey," she explained. "We were doing what's called 'mucking and gutting,' which is basically ripping the house down to the studs to get all the moldy drywall and everything out so it can be rebuilt.

"Then we came back in January, and my team headed to the Santa Rosa, California area, and we were there for the fires. We were actually working with the food bank there, mostly," Riley continued. "This is our last and final project before we're done with the program."

Sponsored by the Forest Service, the crew has been undertaking various cabin and trail repair projects, including an upcoming remote project at the upper portions of the Rainbow Falls trail system.

"We're also working with the city and the Parks and Rec. Department," added Riley. "We're also working with Wrangell Cooperative Association and the schools."

With WCA the group has helped with landscaping at Chief Shakes Island and the Totem Park, and has assisted the city with alder removal and maintenance of the lower graveyard. This week the volunteers have been helping with construction of the greenhouse at Evergreen Elementary, and have been building new cribs for its agricultural program.

"I love it so far," commented Kenyon Wilson, a 21-year-old crew member from Jackson, Mississippi. "My favorite thing of the tour is this," he said, gesturing toward the new joiner he was in the middle of helping put together for the high school's shop class last week. "Meeting new people, meeting new friends," he added.

Wilson also helped host a show with radio station KSTK as part of his in-service project, a broad sort of capstone every volunteer needs to arrange prior to completing their service. After AmeriCorps he wants to study psychology, with a long term aim of joining the Marine Corps.

The crew has so far had a pleasant experience in Wrangell, Riley explained. "People will stop us when we're working at Totem Park and thank us for our service. It's really cool, we kind of feel like we fit right in."

Before leaving, the group will also be helping out with Wrangell's July 4 celebrations. "We're going to help with the Forest Service float and will help the city with cleanup after." The group wraps up its time here July 14, heading back to California for graduation July 19. Many of the team's members will be heading to college in August, with a couple to work on their masters' programs.


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