Last week, all across the country, AmeriCorps members gathered to celebrate and participate in a week long of recognition known as AmeriCorps Week. As AmeriCorps members, we are long-term volunteers, serving our nation and getting things done for America! We all put in a lot of hours and energy into our service for a not so large salary, so AmeriCorps Week really puts all of that work into perspective, as we are nationally recognized, uplifted, and supported.
Green Iowa AmeriCorps has given me the opportunity to put my college education to use in an extremely hands on way. I chose to become a GIA member because with energy efficiency as their main focus, I knew it would be something I was extremely passionate about. I enjoy the thankfulness of the homeowners we are able to serve as they feel more comfortable in their home, use less energy, and save money on their utility bills. I’m a person who needs to see tangible results from my work and to actually make an impact in my community; GIA allows me to do just that!
Tuesday March 18th was AmeriCorps Day at Iowa’s state capitol. The Des Moines GIA team was able to join about 25 other AmeriCorps members from around the state to network with each other and our representatives. Upon arriving at the capital, we gathered in both the House of Representatives and the Senate to be recognized before their day on the floor began. It felt totally awesome standing in the chambers, being applauded by our legislators for the hard work we put in each day. I felt extremely proud to be both an Iowan and an AmeriCorps member in that moment.
After our recognition, we had the opportunity to meet with our local representatives to educate them on the importance of AmeriCorps in Iowa and how Green Iowa AmeriCorps specifically is helping to improve our great state. Unfortunately both the House and Senate were in committee and caucus meetings, so we were unable to meet with Ruth Ann Gaines or Nate Boulton (Polk County legislators). However, we were able to Senator Bill Dotzler and Senator Jeff Danielson of Black Hawk County! We shared our experiences as AmeriCorps members, as well as the mission of GIA and they were extremely receptive! We snagged a quick picture with both the senators before they headed to a meeting and us to lunch.
This wasn’t my first interaction with Senator Danielson. As a part of my last semester at the University of Iowa, I was able to participate in a course Environmental Policy in Practice. The course included a weeklong experience at the capital where the students were able to shadow senators and join in on committee meetings. Being a Black Hawk County native, I was able to shadow Senator Danielson and follow him along his packed schedule for a few days. It was great to be able to see him again, and in fact he remembered who I was!
After lunch the Des Moines GIA team hosted a woodland restoration at Easter Lake Park as the service project for AmeriCorps day at the capital. We had an amazing turnout of almost 40 volunteers, including a majority of the AmeriCorps members that were at the capitol with us earlier that day! We all spent the afternoon cutting, pulling, and treating invasive species in a heavily wooded area of the park. By the end of the day we were able to see a significant difference our work had made in clearing the area out. The Des Moines GIA team has adopted that section of Easter lake Park and plans to return throughout our term to continue restoring the woodland.
All in all, AmeriCorps day at the capital was an amazing experience that we were lucky to be apart of. We are proud to be AmeriCorps members, and to be getting things done for America!