A "Mature" AmeriCorps Volunteer's Experience
In 1998 I took care of my mother during the last seven months of her life. I held her in my arms and sang to her during our last few hours together on December 29, nine days before her 75th birthday. Being with my Mom and the hospice nurses taught me much about love, life, sharing and giving. After her death, the months that followed began to become somewhat normal again, and I knew I wanted to get back to work. But returning to professional corporate sales and marketing just didn't feel right. Doing something from my heart, on a temporary basis while reassessing where I wanted to be, was important to me. However, I was stuck and didn't know where to begin.
Fortunately, a friend called me about a volunteer program called AmeriCorps. She and I both had thought this was for young college students only…and I was 51 years old at the time. The description of the 11 month stipend volunteer job with Intergenerational Innovations seemed to have all the areas I liked. Working with and helping to connect seniors and young people sounded just like what I needed. This was also a good fit based on previous jobs and careers. So I sent in my application, had two interviews, and in July of 1999 was offered the opportunity to join the AmeriCorps program Intergenerational Innovations.
My initial AmeriCorps training began in August, and my assignment at the Mayor's Office for Senior Citizens (MOSC) would be from September 1999 to July 2000. As a Volunteer Coordinator for the MOSC, I had the privilege of successfully expanding Seniors (& Others!) In Service to Seattle, a volunteer matching program. The greatest gift to me was seeing connections made between the generations that grew into lifelong friendships—and between non-profits who needed dedicated volunteers to help them grow. In the fall of 2001, I also inherited a pilot program called Seniors Training Seniors in Computer Technology, which has become very popular. In this program, senior volunteers teach their peers how to use e-mail and the Internet—fun for everyone involved!
When my 11-month AmeriCorps assignment ended, I continued in a temporary position with the City of Seattle working on both of these programs. When the Volunteer Programs Coordinator position was approved by Seattle City Council, I and many others applied for the position. I became a full-time employee in the summer of 2001. I love my job, especially making connections that feel right for both non-profits and individuals, partnering with Human Services Department staff, and finding non-profit partnerships to enhance both of my programs.
AmeriCorps was my bridge to a new beginning. There are many ways to become involved, and the AmeriCorps experience is a perfect one for those of you who would like to take the skills and talents you have gained throughout your lifetime to benefit yourself and others. Many non-profits, large and small, will have new AmeriCorps volunteer opportunities for the 2008-2009 year. If you have a favorite non-profit, give them a call and see what they have planned. The volunteer postings and interviews usually begin in the spring and early summer, as most opportunities start in September or October.
If you need guidance, or would like to attend a workshop on how to search for these upcoming AmeriCorps opportunities, please feel free to give me a call at (206) 684-0639.
More About AmeriCorps/VISTA Programs
AmeriCorps is a national network of programs that engages more than 70,000 Americans each year in intensive service to meet critical needs in communities throughout the nation. AmeriCorps offers several ways to get involved, from part-time local service programs to full-time residential programs. Members receive guidance and training so they can make a contribution that suits their talents, interests, and availability.
Where can you serve in AmeriCorps State and National? AmeriCorps members serve in AmeriCorps State and National projects in every state, U.S. territories, and on tribal reservations.
Eligibility for AmeriCorps State and National: AmeriCorps State and National programs are open to U.S. citizens, nationals, or lawful permanent resident aliens age 17 and older. Members serve full- or part-time over a 9- to 12-month period.
What are the benefits? AmeriCorps members receive a modest living allowance, student-loan forbearance, health coverage, and child care for those who qualify. After successfully completing their term of service, they receive an AmeriCorps Education Award of up to $4,725. This award can be used to pay off qualified student loans or to finance college, graduate school, or vocational training at eligible institutions
AmeriCorps VISTA: AmeriCorps VISTA provides full-time members to community organizations and public agencies to create and expand programs that build capacity and ultimately bring low-income individuals and communities out of poverty.
Ready*Corps is a statewide AmeriCorps VISTA program administered by the Washington Service Corps (WSC) based in Olympia, WA. The program focuses on homeland security issues relating to disaster preparedness, emergency planning and community outreach activities.
Patti-lyn Bell is Volunteer Program Coordinator at the Mayor's Office for Senior Citizens