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  • Writer's pictureGreater Springfield Habitat for Humanity

AmeriCorps team volunteers with GSHFH October-November

They came. They saw. They are pitching in.

In mid-October, nine youths representing AmeriCorp National Civilian Community Corp (NCCC)’s Southern Region arrived in Western Massachusetts for their month-long team-based volunteering stint with Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity (GSHFH). Known as the “River 4” group, the young adults who range in age from 18 to 24, live and work in the community. At GSHFH, they primarily work at the construction sites assisting the crew.

River 4 team members work together to remove debris from a Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity construction site in Springfield.

For many of them, the choice to join the national service program is an opportunity to travel around the United States, engage in new and selfless opportunities, and figure out what they would like to pursue for a career. Prior to arriving in Springfield, the team volunteered in Louisiana where they worked with Lafayette Habitat for Humanity. Then, in Alabama they worked with elementary-age children in the Selma school district.

In Massachusetts, a state that’s foreign to many River 4 members, they are taking in all the experiences – fall foliage and snow in October, plus the kindness of gratitude of the Habitat community.

“I really enjoy working with Habitat for Humanity,” said Baylee Bluejacket, 20, from Tulsa, Oklahoma. “It makes me really want to get things done. Not only are we working with the homeowners, but we also see the framed picture of the whole family and their little bio and it motivates me to get this done so they can move in and start their lives.”

Prior to joining the NCCC, Baylee had attended college at two Oklahoma schools, but couldn’t decide on a major or career field. Since linking with NCCC in July, she’s discovered interests in broadcast journalism, speech pathology, and social work/counseling. When the program ends in May 2021, she’s thinking of continuing in AmeriCorps through Vista, a program that works to alleviate poverty.

The River 4 team begins their workdays between 6:30 and 7:15am, leaving their apartment at 7:30am. They work until 4pm, and have dinner as a group at 5:30pm.

Sheri Green, GSHFH Construction manager, who spends the most time with the youths assigning tasks and overseeing their work, said, “They’re hard workers. They want to feel proud, and they’re willing to learn.”

Mary Melchiskey, GSHFH Construction site supervisor, agreed.

“They’re exuberant and they excel. When they get going, they’re on it,” she said, specifically referring to their reorganization of the Habitat warehouse and the task of moving 16 tons of stone from a worksite.

The NCCC team’s days also include structured group physical training and work for their individual specialty roles. Each member of the group has one and they include reaching out to local media outlets to educate them on NCCC, or service learning initiatives, such as conducting research to understand how their service impacts the communities they’re in. Their nights end with downtime. Members have said they read, watch movies, play card games, or scroll through the social media apps on their mobile phones.

Baylee’s teammates, 20-year-old Tree Moses, of the Bay Area in California, and 24-year-old Pilar Righetti, of Sinajana, Guam, said the most challenging part of the NCCC is the lack of alone time.

“The challenge I’ve faced is living with such a diverse group and knowing you’re going to be doing that for 10 months,” said Pilar. “Although living with a variety of individuals is the most challenging for me, it is also the best learning opportunity for me. I have enjoyed it and have grown as a person and that is one of the many things this program has to offer.” 

Pilar said she spent much of her childhood traveling internationally, but hadn’t seen much of the mainland United States. Following her graduation from the University of Redlands in California, she returned to central Guam to pursue a career in the hospitality industry. For two years, she worked the front desk at a hotel when she questioned her next steps – should she pursue her master’s degree, follow a different path, or travel? By joining NCCC, she could dabble in a variety of career fields and give back to the community, a prospect she said she has enjoyed so far, particularly for Habitat, as she loves the mission.

Tree said he joined because he was unhappy with the university he selected in California and the overall college experience. By joining NCCC, he could travel – a hobby he enjoys – and explore various career paths. When the NCCC program ends, Tree said he figures he’ll try college again. But with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing students to attend classes online, he’s not sure about that path either.

The team leaves Massachusetts on Nov. 22 and heads to their next destination, Litchfield, Connecticut, where they will be working on maintaining outdoor trails.

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