Why AmeriCorps is important
By Amanda Adams, Habitat AmeriCorps alum
By middle school, I had moved seven times. A few were simple across-town moves, but the majority were major cross-county moves that required me to switch schools, make new friends and acclimate to a whole new community. Unsurprisingly, I never felt very connected to any of those communities.
After multiple stints in California and time in Texas and in Alabama, I landed in Oregon. That final move with my family seemed like it was bound to be just the next city, but we ended up staying. I finished high school there, went off to college and still live in the Pacific Northwest.
After getting my degree in human services from Oregon State University, I was headed for the nonprofit world, and Portland seemed like the perfect place. When I learned about an open AmeriCorps service position with Habitat Portland/Metro East, I jumped at the opportunity and applied for the volunteer engagement position.
After watching my parents — and so many others — struggle to afford their homes, I knew I wanted to make a difference in the housing sector. I was thrilled to be selected for the position and dropped everything to move to Portland and begin my year of service. I was one of about 15 AmeriCorps members at Habitat Portland/Metro East, and I got right to work scheduling volunteer groups, researching affordable housing and putting together presentations. My goal was to teach volunteers and community members about the far-reaching impacts of affordable housing.
I gave lunchtime talks to volunteer groups about Habitat’s mission, told homeowner stories and addressed the negative impacts of poverty housing. Often speaking from my own experiences, I educated and thanked volunteers for the time and energy they spent ensuring more families would have a safe, affordable place to call home. By the end of my AmeriCorps service, I had spoken to nearly 1,000 volunteers and community members.
In Portland, which is still in the midst of a housing crisis, the community is very aware of the lack of affordable homeownership opportunities, and many people seek out community service to help change this — including myself. Through the Habitat AmeriCorps program, I was able to spend two years helping to expand these opportunities in the Portland area and across the country during Habitat’s AmeriCorps Build-a-Thon events. I worked on construction sites in Portland, Iowa and New Orleans, alongside hundreds of volunteers, future Habitat homeowners and fellow AmeriCorps members.
Those two years were some of the most rewarding and impactful years I’ve ever had. As someone who has experienced housing instability, I got to see dozens of families achieve something that will forever change their lives and the lives of their children. I worked with thousands of volunteers and gave them realistic ways to make a difference in their community, one that I had quickly become a part of.
Having just finished my time with Habitat AmeriCorps, I can really appreciate how much I learned, personally and professionally. I’m stepping into a role with a new organization as a leadership programs coordinator with vast work experience, invaluable training, and a stellar network of friends and professional contacts. I walked away having made a tremendous difference and with education awards to help pay off student loans and a resume that is hard to ignore. It is an experience that will be with me forever, and I will always be a Habitat supporter and an advocate for national service.
I did. You can.