AmeriCorp Alums - Called to Serve in Response to 9/11

Shock. Sadness. Serve.

This was the response of a generation of young Americans, forever changed by the horrors of 9/11.  Coming of age in the new millennium, their response to terrorism and tragedy was immediate.  While many Americans lined up to give blood in the days after 9/11, the instantaneous opportunity to give back started as a surplus of volunteers that unfortunately dissipated over time.   At the same time, young people around the ages of 18-24 responded in compelling numbers to a much deeper call of national service.  They sought out programs like AmeriCorps in record numbers with over 400,000 Americans serving in AmeriCorps since 2001 and over one million applying.  A generation formed, believing the only response to tragedies like 9/11 (and Hurricane Katrina and other disasters) is a significant human dedication to others, through service. 

AmeriCorps Alums, the national nonprofit alumni network of Americans that served in AmeriCorps, is using the 9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance to empower new civic leadership through the planning and execution of local events by our national network of chapters.  In 2011, using a micro-grant strategy, we’ve been able to seed 5 grants of $2,000 in diverse communities that empower AmeriCorps Alums as local leaders in guiding their city through reflection and service in recognition of September 11th.  Our 2011 funded activities are occurring in Des Moines, Iowa; Buffalo, New York; Metro Dallas, Texas; St. Louis, Missouri / East St. Louis, Illinois; and Salt Lake City, Utah.  Three of the events are detailed below, additional information available upon request.

In Des Moines, on September 11th the Des Moines AmeriCorps Alums Chapter will host the first annual September 11th Day of Service and Remembrance Community Walk, engaging more than 250 veterans, active duty members, military families, emergency responders, and community members in a two-mile walk “in the shoes of a soldier” along a path lined with American flags, quotes, and statistics about September 11th.  Throughout the week leading up to the signature event, in partnership with the Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service, the Corporation for National and Community Service Iowa State Office, and the AmeriCorps*NCCC campus in Vinton, the Des Moines AmeriCorps Alums Chapter will lead a statewide initiative to collect winter coats for homeless veterans and  items for military children and youth.  To educate children who have no memory of September 11th, the chapter will also host an educational event and service project with Community! Youth Concepts.

To represent inclusiveness, and honor the religious beliefs of the Mormon community, the Salt Lake City chapter of AmeriCorps Alums will convene their event on Saturday, September 10, in respect of the Latter-Day Saints’ Sunday observance.  Commemoration of those who were affected by the events on 9/11/2001 is central to 9/11 service project led by the Salt Lake City AmeriCorps Alums chapter.  Three speakers will address the volunteers before they begin their service, including George Van De Water, an AmeriCorps VISTA alum and military veteran;  Colonel Keith Squires, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety and retired colonel of the Utah Highway Patrol; and Brian Garrett who is 1st Vice Chair of the Utah Commission on Volunteers, the Vice President of Zions Bank, and a retired Senior Master Sergeant from the US Air Force Reserve.  Volunteers will write hand written thank you notes to those currently deployed and also participate in a video tribute that will be filmed on site during the service project.   Project volunteers will also assemble 72-hour survival/disaster preparation kits to distribute to families of deployed soldiers.

The St. Louis Chapter of AmeriCorps Alums, in partnership with United Way of Greater St. Louis, will remember and honor the events of September 11, 2001 by mobilizing at least 250 volunteers to serve in East St. Louis, Illinois. On Saturday, September 10, 2011, AmeriCorps Alums will pay tribute to veterans and military families by volunteering at the annual Patriot’s Day celebration.  On Sunday, September 11, the AmeriCorps Alums Chapter of St. Louis will partner with the City of East St. Louis and local schools, churches, and community agencies to conduct a large-scale street clean up, distribute disaster preparedness information, and repair homes of seniors on Sunday, September 11, 2011.  AmeriCorps Alums will serve as service leaders, using their AmeriCorps experience and volunteer management training to organize high-impact projects and lead community volunteers through a meaningful and enjoyable day of service.

Each project described above demonstrates the effective engagement of a micro-grant strategy to catalyze local volunteers in service, empower AmeriCorps alumni as leaders, and exhibit genuine reverence to the tragedies of September 11th.  These events all include both a service and a reflection component, require the active engagement of the military veteran community, provide leadership and exposure for AmeriCorps alumni in their communities, and will engage the local media through a mix of outreach, op-eds, and social media. We anticipate the five events will leverage over 1600 volunteers in these five cities, engaging in meaningful service opportunities like the creation of disaster readiness kits, supporting the elderly with home maintenance, and community clean-ups.  Of particular note is the way in which communities are honoring military veterans through service (kits for families), recognition (thank you notes), and education (service learning walk).  

AmeriCorps Alums is providing national coaching and support across all required areas, including leveraging our significant social media assets, to shine maximum light on the role that alumni of national service can play in leading their communities.  Through a micro-grant strategy, we were able to identify five September 11th service events this year that best meet the guidelines which this white paper requires.  This is a scalable model, and in future years we would be able to invest significant additional dollars in a greater number of chapters to more deeply engage the over 600,000 alumni of AmeriCorps in the communities where they live.