Ask the Americorps member

As far as I know, though there are at least a couple of other AmeriDopers (including that_darn_cat and fizzestothetop) no one has ever started an “Ask the…Americorps member” thread. A void begs to be filled.

This January, chronicled in the following threads (I and II) I left my native Mississippi for the Americorps campus in Perry Point, Maryland. I am serving with Americorps NCCC, a volunteer organization that is similar to a domestic Peace Corps. I am currently stationed in Hartford, Connecticut working with Habitat for Humanity, as noted in my blog.

I am open to any questions regarding Americorps, my AmeriExperience, my AmeriTeam, my AmeriWear, and why all my words are now prefixed with “Ameri-”.

How is it possible to be a PAID Volunteer? Or is that Clintonspeak? Anyway, how much does the job pay? :smack:

Americorps pays me a “living stipend” – one of my teammates did the math and figured out that we made 47 cents an hour. It’s enough for the essentials of life, detergent, shampoo, toothpaste, etc. Our housing, transportation, food and health insurance is covered by Americorps.

This question again? Tell me, the US Army is a volunteer army - do they get paid?

Americorps is a government program, but despite some confusion, we are not military. We’re actually under the Department of Agriculture, believe it or not.

I know that there are some local-ish Americorps groups that do literacy education. Is there any may to get invovled without enlisting, per se? Due to the soon-to-be-Mr.-Angel, relocation for that kind of pay isn’t an option. Can I just help out (no pay)?

There are hundreds of Americorps programs, many of them localized, unlike NCCC. State and National Direct programs offer a stipend, health insurance, child care, and the $4,725 education award in return for 10 months of service in your local area. They can be found in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and American Indian tribal reservations.

Do a search for State and National Direct programs in your areahere.

Why did you choose to join? Has your experience met your expectations, and is your original purpose for joining being fulfilled?

There were a lot of reasons I joined. To save the world – idealistic, but yes, a factor. To escape Mississippi. To escape family drama. To explore the country. To have an adventure. To develop into a better person. To find myself. To lose myself.

It’s hard to say what I’ve gained – not much in material terms. Besides my AmeriWear, I bought a pair of black courderoy pants from Goodwill for $3. I’ve been trained and certified by the American Red Cross in damn near everything – First Aid/CPR, disaster relief, mass care. I’ve worked my ass off, until my fingers ache and my legs are numb, and then I work a few hours more. I’ve been to Maryland, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York. I’ve toured Baltimore, Philadelphia, D.C. and, tomorrow, I’m going to experience NYC.

I met a Doper, Biqu. I’ve had more guys hit on me than ever before in my life – it must be the man-getting pants. I’ve met some of the coolest, strangest people imaginable. AmeriFolks come from every state, every religion, every race, every walk of life. We have ex-hippies, lesbians, atheists, Native Americans, former gangbangers, and one Polo Jeans model.

There are times my life is so full that it seems I’m living in a whirl of activities, thought, and senses. Sometimes I’m so lonely that I can’t even cry. I’ve seen children play in rat-infested Baltimore back-alleys. I’ve worked side-by-side with Jamaican immigrants who are building their houses with dreams and nails. I’ve roasted marshmallows at Camp Norwich, the second oldest summer camp in the nation, on its first opening day in 15 years. I marched for women’s rights in D.C. I’ve met senators, generals, and crack-whores. I’ve lost friends and made new ones.

Sometimes I think I never want to go back to Mississippi, and other times my longing is so great I feel it in every atom. I couldn’t tell you what I’ve gained and lost – except that I lost myself, and I’m finding her again, piece by piece.

Thanks for the update, and a well-told tale it was.

Let me ask you this: I’ve heard that one can’t get sweet tea in eating establishments up there. You have to add the sugar yourself from packets that are provided on the table! This is a joke, right? Please say it’s another one of those “dumb yankee” jokes we’re so fond of telling, and not really the truth. :wink:

Take care, Home Girl.

I have one question for you. Is the living stipend more than seven hundred something a month now? (what it was in 2000 when I served.) That was really hard, especially for us AmeriCorps*VISTAs - regular AmeriCorps people could have another job, VISTAS could not. :mad: I hope your placement pays you for mileage!

elfkin, as a current AmeriCorps*VISTA, I can tell you that we’re still paid 105% of the poverty level, adjusted for the cost of living in the city in which we serve. In Portland, OR, that works out to just about $725 a month. It’s not a heck of a lot, but it can pay some bills.

No, I’ve yet to have a decent cup of tea. One Corps member from Missouri tried to make some; the look on my face when I tasted it must’ve been foul, because she asked me how I made it. I showed her, and afterwards her tea tasted great. :slight_smile:

Our living stipend is about $300 a month for NCCC, but Americorps pays for our food, health insurance, etc. so we really have no bills aside from those we incur ourselves, such as cell phones.

I realize that - I was just trying to head off the “what the hell is a *paid * volunteer?!?” question. I did a stint as an AmeriCorps volunteer in Jackson, MS several years ago. Who’s the new director of the NCS now? Les Lenkowski was a grad professor of mine, and it seems he’s back on the university payroll.

Really? Fascinating, especially since I’m from Raleigh, MS (about an hour from Jackson). It’s amazing how many Americorps members you’ll meet randomly – a week ago, I got to talking to a fellow on the street and found out he’d been VISTA a few years before.

AmeriDopers include: fizzestothetop, that_darn_cat, elfkin477, Munch, and myself, Mississippienne. Let me know if I’ve missed anyone.

Btw, are any of the AmeriDopers attending the Ten Year Anniversary celebration? It’s being held at the Perry Point campus in mid-June, and lots of former Corps members have been invited. I’ll be there, of course, as a member of Class X, the current class.

Me too! I worked with the Nevada Conservation Corps in 2002-03. I’m still working for a related organization now, but in a full time position.

Hey there, Enginerd! Good to hear from you. Yes, I’ve noticed lots of ex-Americorps members go on to work in non-profits and charitable organizations. In fact, my team’s current project supervisor for Hartford Area Habitat was a Corps member in Charleston a few years ago. Which organization do you work for now, if you don’t mind me asking?

Just wondering what you think of Hartford. I moved to Hartford from Mass. via DC and Cleveland (don’t ask), so I’m interested to hear your impressions. Are you living in Hartford, on in one of the suburbs?

I really liked Hartford. Everyone was so friendly and it felt so safe. We lived downtown, at the St. Patrick’s-St. Anthony’s convent just a couple blocks from Main Street. I popped in the Hartford Public Library regularly.

I didn’t care for Baltimore at all, which was dirty and scary. NYC and DC were great and Philly was okay. My next project is taking me to Waltham, Massachusetts, about 20 minutes outside of Boston, a city I’ve never visited. My team will be working on an organic farm.