Americorps to become part of Joplin’s tornado recovery

Ben Harrison, Staff Writer

Two fresh Americorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) teams have joined the Joplin recovery effort.

Earth 4, one half of the two Americorps teams in Joplin formerly worked with the Denver Mountain Parks and Recreation Department. They fed bison, remodeled old CCC barracks for future Americorps teams, installed insulation and did electrical work.

“We lived on a mountain with no running water,” Meg Boley, team media representative for Earth 4 said. “We had port-a-potties and our showers were a five-minute drive down the mountain, which we had to pay quarters for.”

One other team shares Americorps responsibilities with Earth 4. Sun 6 previously worked with Habitat Re-store in Colorado. Habitat Re-store is a thrift-type store for home-improvement goods.

The media representative for Sun 6, Neal Vercler, said, “We worked with associates to move items, and also handled some deconstruction. ”

Sun 6 worked with Habitat Re-store in November and December before coming to Joplin to aid in disaster recovery.

Eight months of cleanup have passed, and though he’s fresh on the scene, Vercler said, “It’s humbling to see the bits and pieces of what used to be people’s daily lives scattered about from this tragedy, even this long after.”

The recovery effort in Joplin is only the second project these Americorps teams have taken part in. Their term of service began on Oct. 12, 2011, and will run until July 27, 2012. Presently, the 18- to 24-year-old volunteers are assessing the needs of homeowners. They will eventually rebuild many of the homes.

Amanda Bilke, Rebuild Joplin’s volunteer coordinator, said, “The team will initially help us hit the ground running by completing various tasks to get our office organized.”

Americorps case managers send homeowners in need to Rebuild Joplin, and the clientele grows from there. “We had someone today that needed shrubs,” Boley said. “When everything is approved, we go out and remove the shrubs. It’s very organized.”

The goal is rebuilding homes. Sun 6 and Earth 4 have started their first rebuilding project. “We’re reworking the siding,” Boley said. “When that’s finished, we’ll finish up the caulking and start painting.”

While there was some concern about volunteer efforts, Boley says the number applying to assist the Americorps teams is overwhelming.

“I check the volunteer database every day,” she said. “People fill out an application on Rebuild Joplin’s website and send it to our database. I call them, check in, and send them a volunteer packet. That gets the process going.”