AmeriCorps Volunteers Digging the Island


It’s a cold and rainy spring day on the Island as AmeriCorps National Community Civilian Corps (NCCC) team Raven One breaks for lunch around a table at the Farm Institute in Katama. Dressed in cargo pants, black work boots and gray sweatshirts bearing the AmeriCorps logo, these nine young corps members have been on the Island for about two weeks working on projects to support a variety of local nonprofit organizations. The Farm Institute, Vineyard Voyagers, Island Grown Schools, Whippoorwill Farm, Island Cohousing, Native Earth Farm, The Trustees of Reservations and The Martha’s Vineyard Charter School have all benefited from the volunteers’ help in improving infrastructures, assisting with sustainability efforts and development of young leaders.

Raven One was invited to the Island by the Stone Soup Leadership Institute and the Martha’s Vineyard Youth Leadership Initiative, which will sponsor the team for the two months that they serve on the Island. In bringing Raven One here, Stone Soup founding director Marianne Larned said that she “wanted to give back to all of our partners who out of the goodness of their hearts want to share with the kids their green initiatives.”

Ms. Larned has had an ongoing relationship with AmeriCorps. Each of the Raven One team members are currently reading stories from her book Stone Soup for the World: Life Changing Stories of Everyday Heroes in which several AmeriCorps stories are featured. The book and corresponding curriculum are used in many AmeriCorps training programs.

Raven One team member Ellen Leoni is working with Stone Soup’s new global technology initiative to help develop further ways to access their curriculum including filming the upcoming Youth Leadership for Sustainable Development summit that takes place on July 7.

Ranging in age from 18 to 26, the team members make up a diverse group from seven different states. They include high school graduates taking a year off before starting college, recent college graduates, and current college students who have chosen to take a break from their studies to work with communities. “It’s a great way to get additional money for school, to travel and to serve the country,” Raven One team leader Kevin Jones said. This is Mr. Jones’s third year in AmeriCorps and his second as an NCCC team leader.

Reflecting on the team’s mission here on the Island, Mr. Jones looks to “helping bring the institute one step closer to realizing their hopes and dreams for a sustainable Island, and not having to depend on so many resources from the mainland.”

In exchange for their 10-month commitment of full-time service, AmeriCorps members receive a modest living allowance, housing, meals, limited medical benefits and uniforms. They are also given a financial award at the end of their service to be put toward existing loans or for future educational expenses.

All the members of Raven One are officially assigned to the Perry Point, Md. campus. They started their service in Delaware before arriving on the Island on April 30. Team member Maddy Gribbon pointed out that some NCCC members have been taken out of their original assignments and sent to Alabama and Mississippi in response to the natural disasters that have recently occurred there. “Every member receives disaster relief training through the Red Cross,” she said. “If a disaster happens, they go there.”

On Saturday, May 14 from 3 to 4 p.m, Miss Gribbon will lead a presentation at the Vineyard Haven Library for Vineyard youth and their families to learn more about AmeriCorps NCCC.

In addition to Raven One’s daily service activities, the team also sponsors a community day of service where they invite the local community to work alongside them on a project. On Sunday, May 15 from 1 to 5 p.m. Raven One will lead a beach cleanup with Island youth at the Cape Pogue Wildlife Refuge on Chappaquiddick.

Raven One will be working on the Island until June 25. After that they return to Perry Point to give a presentation of their work. They will also find out at that time what their next assignment will be and where this journey of commitment to service will take them next.

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