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Stepping Up During the #Shutdown

November 1, 2013

The October Shutdown brought bitter bipartisanship to Washington DC which then rippled outward and impacted core functions across the United States. In the midst of a conflict which seemed so disconnected from the needs of Americans, it also put a spotlight on the best of what national service builds in individuals and communities. On October 1st as the government shutdown began, AmeriCorps members kept serving including over 2000 AmeriCorps VISTA ‘standard’ members whose modest stipends were put in limbo. With little information on what was happening or how long the shutdown would last, Alums began to step forward asking for ways to help. CNN.com interview in the midst of the shutdown

Faced with adversity, we will persevere

VISTAs, like Christine Thomas from Birmingham, Alabama, continued to serve and support the over 350 attendees (27% of whom were veterans or veteran family members) of the career fair she had just organized the week prior.   Even as the shutdown put her family finances under serious stress, she remained resolute: “I live an outward-looking life that is not worried about my situation right now, but focused on the needs of others and how I can respond to those needs.”

During the 16 day shutdown, more than 200 organizations representing over 1000 VISTAs across the country reached out to AmeriCorps Alums for support. Some members were worried about phone bills and utility payments.  Others were simply seeking community from the alumni network that would uniquely understand their struggles.  VISTAS serving at Red Cross, Habitat Affiliates, and small housing and economic development nonprofits in over 20 states were met with immediate support.

AmeriCorps Alums chapter leaders in 20 cities quickly mobilized as well, raising their hands to say “we want to help support local AmeriCorps VISTA members, as they continue to SERVE communities during the Shutdown.”  Ranging from morale boosting happy hours, to potlucks and canned food drives, to gift card disbursements and bill payment assistance.  The generosity and community spirit of the Alums network really shown through – best reflected by this thank you note that was sent to our North Texas (Dallas) area chapter:

North Texas Chapter co-president Dhri Pandya shared “We provided hundreds of dollars in assistance, and many more Alums offered support even after we had reach our fundraising goal.” The Washington DC Chapter similarly sprung to action to provide emergency support to VISTAs impacted and collected $1,050 worth of gift cards and to support 20 AmeriCorps VISTA members. Special shout outs to Atlanta, Baltimore, Bay Area, Connecticut, Midcoast Maine, San Antonio and all the Alums chapters that stepped forward during this chaotic time for our country.

When we begin our service with AmeriCorps, we pledge to bring Americans together to strengthen our communities… this year and beyond. The strength of the AmeriCorps community spans programs, years, and cities.  And again during a time of crisis, the national service community showed what it means to wear the ‘A’ of AmeriCorps.

In Service,

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