Last week, I visited an AmeriCorps program at Chicago’s Northwestern Settlement. Visiting AmeriCorps members in Illinois is always special for me because of my own Prairie State roots – and a rare treat in this age of social distancing.
At CNCS, we believe that our communities, states, and country are better when people work together to solve challenges. I am proud of how our national service community has continued to step up during the pandemic.
As our nation responds to COVID-19, AmeriCorps and Senior Corps continue to do amazing things. In Chicago alone, hundreds of AmeriCorps members have been helping combat food insecurity, tutoring and mentoring students virtually, and even supporting medical volunteer recruitment and contact tracing efforts. Serve Illinois has even activated their Illinois Disaster Corps to help coordinate medical volunteers through IllinoisHelps/Medical Reserve Corps, in partnership with American Red Cross.
I saw a passion for service on the faces of the five AmeriCorps members I visited. They spoke about their backgrounds, their interests, what inspired them to serve, and the careers they hoped to pursue.
They had signed on to an education-focused program, but COVID-19 changed that plan. Their community’s needs shifted with the pandemic’s arrival. Suddenly, new tasks were paramount, like distributing PPE and food to those in need. I was incredibly inspired to see their resilience. When COVID-19 hit, they did not turn away. Instead, they asked where their community could best put them to use.
I also saw a passion to serve in a Northwestern Settlement staff member, Yasmin, who works with the AmeriCorps program and has been working on-site since the pandemic hit. While I was inside thanking the members for their service, Yasmin headed back outside, back into the heat, to finish handing out needed supplies to her neighbors. It is this kind of servant leadership that will allow us to survive - and even thrive - in these difficult times.
To all of our national service partners: thank you for your service, because we all are counting on you. Know that your work matters. Know that every day you are making a difference, and that you are bringing out the best in all of us.