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“Never No Downside” to Serving in AmeriCorps

October 1, 2012

Dorothy Lei Brown, a 72 “years young” AmeriCorps Alum!

A couple weeks ago, Bethany Hamilton of our National Advisory Council and an Alum of Community Health Corps had let AmeriCorps Alums know that there was an energetic and fantastic alum out of Nashville, TN who we had to interview. She described this Alum as being an older AmeriCorps service member, but was still very passionate about her service. When I  finally connected with the Alum, I couldn’t help but be caught in her infectious personality and enthusiasm for service

Meet Dorothy Lei Brown:

Dorothy Brown is a 72 “years young” two-term AmeriCorps Alum of the Fall Hamilton Family Resource Center who currently works for FiftyForward (FF), an nonprofit organization that enriches the lives of adults 50+ by providing pathways to health, well-being and lifelong learning.

Her current position at the FiftyForward Bordeaux Center seems to be a great fit for her as she reflects how active and engaged the members of FF are. When I first called her, she had to return my call as she was in the middle of leading a group of seniors to Second Harvest Food Bank for lunch. One of their members is 96 years old and the senior groups stay active going on trips and tending to the raised beds in their garden. She stays connected with local AmeriCorps members through one of the FiftyForward programs they offer as a weekly Wednesday fitness class led by AmeriCorps service members from Vanderbilt University.

Looking back on her two years of service, Dorothy reflects back and simply replies, “I LOVED it,” and the enthusiasm in her voice doesn’t leave as she continue the interview. Dorothy first heard of AmeriCorps from George Bush’s first term as President during a speech where he was promoting the program and she made a decision at that point to serve in AmeriCorps.

Though making the initial arrangements to begin her service, a massive heart attack and open-heart surgery postponed her initial start. Even during her surgery and recover, Dorothy had AmeriCorps on her mind and looking forward to moving on to the next chapter in her life. She thought, “What am I doing here, when I should be at my AmeriCorps training?” After recovery from her surgery finished, she began calling people again to reconnect and join AmeriCorps.

During her service with FallHamiltonFamilyResourceCenter, she learned more about her Nashville community than expected. She saw how many women in the community didn’t have access to their own mode of transportation and many had to rely on walking or public transportation.  She also saw many families still go hungry even with the assistance of food stamps. While serving in those communities, she realized that this is the area of work she wants to stay in. Dorothy encourages members to be able to see the need all around us and know that we can all make a difference.

With the uncertainty of the future of National Service regularly being debated, she hopes that AmeriCorps program doesn’t go away, especially for young people as she sees it being a real opportunity to work, learn skills, and pay off college. She tells many young people about the program because she feels that it’s a life changing experience that they shouldn’t miss out on.

In regards to joining AmeriCorps at a late age, she never felt isolated serving alongside younger generations like Millennials. She always felt like she was always part of a group, had fun, and felt respected by her peers. She enjoyed working on different projects and encouraged older and younger generations to continue finding opportunities to work alongside one another. To her, regardless of your age and the situation of the economy, you always have the opportunity to move forward, learn, and grow. Her AmeriCorps story and life after are testaments to that as she looks forward to putting her education award to use through going back to school to take more trainings for her current position!

Serving in AmeriCorps was an uplifting experience for Dorothy and “never no downside” to being in a member. She hopes to continue serving for the rest of her life and encourages current members to continue looking for opportunities to serving beyond their initial term. She credits AmeriCorps for providing the training and experience for where she is professionally and believes that, “If you’re doing what you love, you’ll always go that extra mile.”

Thank you Dorothy for inspiring Alums, young and old, to continue giving back in their Lifetime of Service!

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