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Habitat for Humanity and the Corporation for National and Community Service celebrate National AmeriCorps Week and launch Habitat Build-A-Thon

Five hundred AmeriCorps members descend on Gulfport to build 20 homes in five days

ATLANTA (May 16, 2007) — This Sunday, Habitat for Humanity International and the Corporation for National and Community Service will join forces to celebrate the closing of the first annual National AmeriCorps Week and the kick-off of Habitat’s annual AmeriCorps Build-A-Thon. Ceremonies will take place at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Coliseum and Convention Center in Biloxi, Miss.

From Sunday, May 20, through Friday, May 25, more than 500 AmeriCorps members and alumni from across the country will join Habitat for Humanity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast to blitz build 20 Habitat homes with Gulf Coast-area families displaced by Hurricane Katrina. This Build-A-Thon marks 13 years of AmeriCorps and Habitat for Humanity working together to build affordable houses and eliminate substandard housing. Since 1994, Habitat for Humanity AmeriCorps members have performed more than 5 million hours of service and engaged hundreds of thousands of community volunteers to build more than 6,500 houses. To date, Habitat has begun construction or completed more than 1,000 homes in its program to help low-income families throughout the Gulf Coast recovering from hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The first-ever National AmeriCorps Week, May 13 to May 20, marks AmeriCorps reaching 500,000 members since the program’s inception in 1994. More than 200 events are taking place across the country to recognize AmeriCorps members and alumni for their service, thank AmeriCorps’ community sponsors, and bring more Americans into service—both in the Gulf Coast and their communities.

“What better way to recognize the many contributions that AmeriCorps members make than to conclude National AmeriCorps Week with a Build-a-Thon that will result in 20 families securing safe, solid homes on terms they can afford?” said Jonathan Reckford, CEO, Habitat for Humanity International. “I am grateful for each AmeriCorps member and for the extent to which he or she is helping Habitat transform lives and communities in all corners of the country.”

“Since the day Katrina struck, AmeriCorps has been on the ground helping people in the Gulf Coast recover and rebuild, and we are in this for the long haul,” said David Eisner, CEO, Corporation for National and Community Service. “We are thrilled to support the extraordinary work of Habitat for Humanity, the Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Service, and other organizations that are providing critical help where it’s needed most. We chose this Build-A-Thon to be the capstone of our first-ever AmeriCorps Week to send a clear message: While great progress has been made, the job in the Gulf is far from done—and we need more Americans to get involved.”

At the ceremony, the Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Service—which administers a portfolio of AmeriCorps*State programs throughout Mississippi —will announce a three-year AmeriCorps grant to Habitat for Humanity. In year one, Habitat for Humanity will receive $642,916 to establish and support a Habitat-specific program in Mississippi. This grant will fund the placement, training and support of 52 full-time AmeriCorps members to serve with Mississippi Habitat affiliates. These AmeriCorps members will serve as construction crew leaders, volunteer service assistants, and family service assistants.

“Housing is a priority on the coast right now and will be for many years,” said Chris Monforton, CEO, Habitat for Humanity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. “We are excited about the hundreds of volunteers working alongside these homeowners who will share in the enthusiasm as the families build their dreams of homeownership.”

The houses constructed during the AmeriCorps Build-A-Thon will increase the total number of Habitat homes built in Harrison and Jackson counties in Mississippi, to more than 110 houses since the 2005 storm.

The closing ceremony will run from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. and will include remarks highlighting AmeriCorps Week, a welcome to the participants of the Habitat Build-A-Thon, administration of the AmeriCorps pledge, and recognition of the impact of the partnership between Habitat and AmeriCorps in the Gulf Coast. Event attendees will be treated to a special private concert by the North Mississippi Allstars, a Grammy-nominated blues-infused rock band that has released six full-length albums.

About Habitat for Humanity International
Habitat for Humanity International is an ecumenical Christian ministry that welcomes to its work all people dedicated to the cause of eliminating poverty housing. Since its founding in Americus, Ga., in 1976, Habitat has built more than 225,000 houses in nearly 100 countries, providing simple, decent and affordable shelter for more than 1 million people. For more information, visit www.habitat.org.

About AmeriCorps
AmeriCorps engages 75,000 Americans each year in intensive service to meet our country’s critical needs in education, public safety, health, and the environment. AmeriCorps members tutor and mentor youth, care for the elderly, improve health services, build affordable housing, help communities respond to disasters, and mobilize and manage other volunteers. For more information, visit www.americorps.gov.

About the Corporation for National and Community Service
The Corporation for National and Community Service improves lives, strengthens communities, and fosters civic engagement through service and volunteering. Each year, the corporation provides opportunities for more than 2 million Americans of all ages and backgrounds to serve their communities and country through Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn and Serve America. More than 35,000 national service participants have provided more than 2 million hours of service in the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, gutting thousands of homes, providing food and shelter, helping reopen schools, and playing a key role in supervising the more than 550,000 volunteers that have served in the Gulf. For more information, visit http://www.nationalservice.gov.

About the Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Service
The Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Service (MCVS), Mississippi’s state office of volunteerism, engages and supports Mississippians of all ages and backgrounds in service to their communities. MCVS administers AmeriCorps*State programs in Mississippi, supporting 12 AmeriCorps programs with more than 650 individuals serving in communities throughout the state addressing numerous needs: education; disaster relief; building or renovating affordable housing; and disability awareness, inclusion and transitioning of individuals with disabilities back into the community. MCVS also works closely with the state office of the Corporation for National and Community Service in an AmeriCorps*VISTA disaster preparedness and response project and in assisting in the startup of volunteer centers throughout the state. For more information on the Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Service, call (601) 432-6779, (888) 353-1793 (toll free) or visit www.MCVS.org.

About Habitat for Humanity Mississippi Gulf Coast
In January of 2007, Harrison County HFH and HFH of Jackson County merged organizations to form HFH of the Mississippi Gulf Coast (HFHMGC), serving all of Harrison and Jackson counties. HFHMGC has begun construction on more than 85 homes since its merger and is committed to serving families in need. To learn how you can help, visit www.hfhmgc.org.