The AmeriCorps program was founded in 1994 as a part of the establishment of the Corporation for National and Community Service. Since AmeriCorps began, over 1 million members have served over 1.4 billion hours and recruited more than 2.3 million volunteers for organizations they work with. AmeriCorps members have the opportunity to choose 21,600 unique sites to serve, including non-profits, schools, and more. Programs include the National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), State and National, and Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA).
AmeriCorps NCCC models the Civilian Conservation Corps and the U.S. military and is “built on the belief that civic responsibility is an inherent duty of all citizens and that national service programs work effectively with local communities to address pressing needs.” This team-based program serves locations throughout the U.S. in partnership with non-profits, Native American tribes, state and national parks, schools, and more. Within the NCCC program is Traditional Corps and FEMA Corps. Traditional Corps members are assigned to one of five regional campuses to complete a variety of two to three month projects, depending on needs of the community. Projects include flood preparation, trail maintenance and restoration, tree planting and invasive species removal, rehabilitating low-income homes, assising the elderly and veterans, and more. FEMA Corps members serve with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, assisting with disaster response and recovery. Projects include data collection and management, assessing community needs, assessing and reporting damage, setting up shelter operations, and more.
AmeriCorps State and National programs offer a wide variety of service opportunities, ranging in topics from environment, education, public safety and health. The program provides grants to local and national organizations and agencies that recruit and supervise AmeriCorps members. Opportunities for AmeriCorps State and National programs are in every state and U.S. territory, and there are opportunities to serve on tribal reservations, as well. Green Iowa AmeriCorps is a program of AmeriCorps State and National, and partners with non-profits and organizations throughout Iowa to promote home energy efficiency and homeowner and community education. According to the 2015 Green Iowa Program Manual, in one year, Green Iowa performed 981 home energy assessments and 490 weatherizations, leading to an estimated $1,778,520 in utility cost savings. Members also organized and implemented 867 educational and outreach events involving environmental stewardship topics.
President Kennedy introduced the idea of VISTA to congress in 1963, it was established in 1965, and became a part of the AmeriCorps program in 1993. VISTA members help communities alleviate poverty, through programs that fight illiteracy, improve health services, and other services assisting low-income communities. Members serve in some of the poorest rural and urban communities in the nation, helping organizations with administrative, financial and organizational needs. This helps to strengthen organizations, and in turn, the ability of organizations to create an impact on communities.
Each year, over 80,000 Americans are given the opportunity to serve- to give back and improve communities throughout the United States. AmeriCorps not only benefits the communities, but the members that serve. AmeriCorps members are able to develop their professional skills while making a difference. Benefits vary depending on the program, but often include a living stipend and education award. AmeriCorps has been a valuable program for over 20 years, simultaneously benefitting communities and members.