Clark County Green Schools utilizes the AmeriCorps program to extend our reach in Clark County schools. It's a national employment program that pairs young people with service opportunities. I've been serving in the program since October.
As the AmeriCorps Green Schools Environmental Outreach Coordinator, my main duties were to conduct school lunch visits to learn how each school was doing with waste reduction and recycling and assist with student waste audits and community events.
My roles and responsibilities changed drastically over the past three months with the closing of schools. Instead of coming into the office and preparing for the day's school visit, I now typically spend my mornings attending a virtual meeting from home or at an alternative service site in the community.
AmeriCorps and Washington Service Corps (WSC), the local agency, has long permitted members to serve a limited portion of their service term with state agencies, tribal government, or charitable organizations other than their sponsoring organization. During the COVID-19 crisis, WSC has been encouraging members to participate in Washington's emergency response plan by serving either full-time or part-time at local food banks and food pantries to support their efforts in helping some of the state's most vulnerable citizens. In Clark County alone, over 100,000 individuals are considered to be food insecure or lack consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.
My own emergency response work has included growing and harvesting food for the Clark County Food Bank, sorting and repackaging donated items at the Share and FISH of Vancouver food pantries, and preparing and serving meals at the Share men's shelter. Though each of these organizations run separate programs and initiatives, they all provide emergency food and/or services to low-income people in the community and depend on volunteers to run many of their key operations.
Along with adding some structure and routine to my work day, serving at these alternative sites has helped me to feel deeper gratitude for my physical health and financial well-being and a stronger connection to my community. Alternative service has also acted as an antidote to feeling social isolation and loneliness during this time, giving me interaction with other AmeriCorps and community members, and an opportunity to serve others during this difficult time.