Published on July 18, 2014
Pulling a Rabbit Out of a Hat: Pulling a Rabbit Out of a Hat Accessing the AmeriCorps program for copious amounts of free labor. Presented by: Melissa Burdick, Director of Horticulture, Lauritzen Gardens and Chris Neukom , Assistant Program Director, AmeriCorps NCCC About AmeriCorps: About AmeriCorps AmeriCorps programs provide opportunities for citizens to make an intensive commitment to service. The AmeriCorps network of local, state, and national service programs engages more than 80,000 Americans in projects around the nation each year. AmeriCorps is made up of a wide array of sub-groups; including the NCCC.: AmeriCorps is made up of a wide array of sub-groups; including the NCCC. The mission of the National Civilian Community Corps is to strengthen communities and develop leaders through direct, team-based national & community service NCCC’s roots are in the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s and the U.S. military Today’s NCCC Members are:: Today’s NCCC Members are: Men and women between the ages of 18 & 24 Come from across the USA Serve for a term of 9 to 12 months Upon completion of service, members are qualified to receive an award of about $5,000 for education or student loans. The Typical NCCC Team:: The Typical NCCC Team: Teams are made up of 6 to 12 people with one leader – usually someone who has gone through the program before. Teams are co-ed. The young age of the participants means that this is often their first time away from home. They are motivated, eager, and very civic-minded. Before They Arrive at a Work Site:: Before They Arrive at a Work Site: NCCC teams spend a month at one of 5 home campuses. During this time they train intensively in teamwork. They are trained on basic skills like driving vans, use of a camp stove, and pitching a tent. They will also prepare for any specific tasks that will be required of them on their upcoming work site. What They Will Do:: What They Will Do: Teams typically stay at a work site for 4 to 10 weeks. They work 40 hours per week with the host organization to accomplish the goals outlined in the application. Each teammate has a specific job within the group: leader, equipment manager, media relations, etc. Throughout their 9-12 month commitment the team must also accumulate 100+ hours of community service outside of the host institution. How to Get These Awesome Youngsters: How to Get These Awesome Youngsters The Application Process The Application Process: The Application Process NCCC teams are available to: Non-profits—secular and faith based Local municipalities State governments Federal government National or state parks Indian tribes Schools The Application Process:: The Application Process: Step 1 : Submit a Project Concept Form to your Regional Campus (go to www.nationalservice.gov ). Introduce your organization to AmeriCorps: what you are, your mission, the specific needs as they pertain to the help NCCC could give you. S tress how this work will benefit your community. Describe how this work will strengthen NCCC teammates leadership and life skills. The Application Process:: The Application Process: Step 2 : Upon approval of the Project Concept the Regional Campus will provide potential sponsors with the official Project Application . In this application you will supply: The detailed plan of work for the team. Inclement weather plans. Tools the team should bring: shovels, pruners, chain saw, etc. Housing accommodations . More on that later… The Application Process: The Application Process This is a federal program so they need to know everything the teams should expect in detail. If any changes occur between being granted a team and their arrival you will be required to submit a Project Update Form. Stress the timeliness of the work you need. Also stress the large scale impact of the project. The Site Pre-Visit:: The Site Pre-Visit: Step 3 : A Regional C oordinator will request an on-site visit during which he or she will need to: Review the physical site(s) where the work will take place. Personally view the housing accommodations. Review the policies, goals, and contact information relevant to that region. Tackling the Housing Situation:: Tackling the Housing Situation: A team’s needs are few and simple: The housing must be safe: lockable doors, ample fire escape routes, relatively crime-free area, etc. They need to be able to cook meals Access to a working bathroom with shower Electricity, unless they are in a camping situation Teams do not need: Furniture – they come with their own sleeping cots Dishes or cookware – they bring that too Internet, cable, telephones Lots of space – we put 11 co-ed teammates in a 2 bedroom basement apartment and they thought it was great! Tackling the Housing Situation:: Tackling the Housing Situation: Consider other housing options: Do any of your employees or volunteers have basement apartments? Is there a nearby church with a basement? Can you get a cheap rental apartment? How about a great rate (or donated) hotel/motel suite ? Any vacancies in a local retirement home? In the toughest situations you can request that the team live in a camp. This is especially useful for organizations in remote locations. The teams can bring their own tents, propane cook stoves, etc. They will still need access to clean running water for drinking and showering. After the Site-Visit:: After the Site-Visit: Step 4 : Regional Campus the Coordinators will compile all of the applicants and start making assignments based on: Relative need of the institution The type of work to be performed The preparedness of the potential host B enefit of the work to the community They’ll also work to match up a current team’s skills to the specific work If You Aren’t Granted a Team:: If You Aren’t Granted a Team: Don’t give up! The Regional Coordinator will give you tips on how to reapply next time. He or she may suggest changes to your proposed scope of work or housing arrangements. You might also be able to collaborate with another nearby organization and share a team. Just applying will get you on the AmeriCorps radar and boost your chances for a team in the future. Preparing for the Team’s Arrival: Preparing for the Team’s Arrival Yippee! They’re coming… now what? The Hand-off Call: The Hand-off Call Step 5 : About a week before the team’s arrival you will participate in a conference call with the Regional Coordinator, the Team Leader, and the Unit Leader. You’ll review your organization, the scope of work, and any specific tools that the team will need to bring with them. You’ll also review the itinerary for the team’s arrival. The Team’s Arrival:: The Team’s Arrival: Upon the team’s arrival you’ll: Orient them to the organization and site Explain their work and how it will benefit the community Review any organizational policies; including conduct, appearance, and safety A neighborhood safety orientation provided by a local police officer I also like an ice-breaker activity with the staff Settle them into their housing and sign off on their inspection form. Tips to Making Them Comfortable:: Tips to Making Them Comfortable: The teams are very self-sufficient, but there are a few things you can do to make them comfortable: Ease their grocery budget by providing items like toilet paper, dish cloths, cleaning supplies, etc. Try to coordinate free passes to a gym to help them achieve their weekly physical fitness training. Provide a welcome packet with a map of the area, a list of local banks, churches, grocery stores, etc ., a community events guide, etc. A driving tour of the area. If you plan to do this be sure to let them know during the handoff call so you can get approval to ride in their van. Speed Bumps in the Road:: Speed Bumps in the Road: Even after you’ve been granted a team; there could be obstacles: Government shut-downs will keep the teams on their campuses. NCCC provides supplemental help to FEMA in the event of natural disasters. In very rare cases, teams have to be disbanded. The Team on the Job: The Team on the Job Stand back! These guys are extreme! Putting the Team to Work:: Putting the Team to Work: The Team Leader is your main point of contact. Directions are given to the Leader and he or she will divvy up the work. These are young leaders and if you notice them faltering you can nudge them along a path you know will work. But don’t take over. Have projects in your pocket to keep them productive. They spend ALL of their time together; they will appreciate being able to divide up into smaller groups. In my experience the NCCC team usually knocks out a project in half the time I expected. Dealing with Conflict or Problems:: Dealing with Conflict or Problems: Generally, problems are extremely rare and handled entirely within the team. If there is a problem discuss it with the Leader. If the Team Leader is unable to resolve the problem call the Unit Leader. Unless the problem is extreme or poses an imminent danger you do not address it with a teammate directly. Dealing with Inclement Weather:: Dealing with Inclement Weather: Inevitably the weather will disrupt your detailed work calendar. Have useful work ready to keep them busy… you do not want a team of bored, squirrely 18 to 24 year olds underfoot! AmeriCorps prefers that NCCC teams’ work not include clerical tasks. Experience Enrichment:: Experience Enrichment: Teach them not only how to do the task, but why it is important and how it will impact the organization and community. Take advantage of the weekly “debriefing” to give the team feedback on how they’re doing. Give them an opportunity to give you feedback. Team them up with experienced staffers who can impart knowledge and wisdom. Seek opportunities to vary their work. Sneak in a field trip if you can. Wrapping Up:: Wrapping Up: At the end of the term the Team Leader will need to compile quantifiable data on the work accomplished number of yards of mulch spread, number of pansies planted, number of acres of invasive plants removed… A final housing inspection . Although the team is free to the organization; they aren’t technically “volunteers” so you may or may not want to report their hours as such. The Send Off:: The Send Off : Send the team off with a little pizza party or token of appreciation. In the final debrief, be sure to emphasize the great job they did, how they helped your organization, and how they helped the community or environment. Do everything you can to empower these young Americans’ commitment to community service!