VISTA Alumna Charity Led with Love to Serve Friends, Neighbors and Strangers
On Saturday, June 12, 2021, the nation will mark five years since the shooting tragedy at Pulse nightclub, where 49 people were killed and dozens injured, many of them LGBTQ+ people. Even more heartbreaking was that it happened during Pride Month, a celebration that emerged from violence against LGBTQ+ people.
Charity frequented Pulse. It was a place where she would go to dance and celebrate graduations, birthdays, and life’s other milestones. When the tragedy happened she wasn’t at the club, she was serving in AmeriCorps as a VISTA member with the City of Orlando.
But she soon found herself back in the spot that used to be filled with happy memories. Charity, along with a team of AmeriCorps members, stood up the Family Assistance Center at Camping World Stadium to help family, friends and staff with the immediate fallout from the deadly attack. Nearly 30 AmeriCorps members, including those serving through programs administered by Volunteer Florida and the Mayor’s office, were assigned to the Family Assistance Center in Orlando. Together, they coordinated donation management, referrals to social service providers, language translation, funeral arrangements, counseling, towing services for cars of the deceased left at the club, legal aid, and anything else survivors needed.
Charity helped family members of survivors who were recovering in the hospital find local places to stay and transportation to and from the hospital. She also rehomed a dog whose owner died in the shooting.
“Serving in AmeriCorps showed me how a group of people, committed to helping others, can drive real change for a community in need,” said Charity. “We, as AmeriCorps members, did all of these little things that added up to be huge supports for those affected by the tragedy and for the City of Orlando as whole."
Today, Charity is proud to be an important part of the community’s healing process.
Even more, as an AmeriCorps team, they looked to one another to heal from the tragedy. They picked each other up; they offered shoulders to cry on. And they never backed away from their oath to strengthen their community, to get things done – no matter how difficult.
This power – to take action, to persevere, to bring Americans together – is at the core of what it means to be an AmeriCorps member.
AmeriCorps provides strong support, expertise, and trained and dedicated volunteers to help communities recover from crisis. The center created in Orlando was relocated from the Camping World Stadium, but still focuses on survivors, their chosen family, and families of those devastated by the tragedy. It continues to evolve as well. Recently, the center’s service curriculum was adopted by The Center Orlando, an organization dedicated to serving Central Florida’s LGBTQ+ community.
This Pride Month, AmeriCorps honors those who lost their lives, and those who witnessed such tragedy. The work isn’t done—not in Orlando and not in communities around the country. No one should face discrimination or live in fear because of who they are or whom they love. AmeriCorps members partner each day with communities to address systemic challenges and break down barriers. During Pride Month, AmeriCorps stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Americans in the march toward full equality.