July 30, 2014
On Monday, Leland hosted a team of AmeriCorps volunteers, who spent a day of service fixing up vacant downtown storefronts. The program was part of a national initiative that deploys project teams out into communities to perform a variety of projects, and the Leland Chamber of Commerce was one of the lucky applicants to score a team this year.
The team of eight that spent the day in Leland are part of a special division of AmeriCorps called FEMA Corps, which stands for National Civilian Community Corps. The participants, all age 18 to 24, are based in Vicksburg for a month of training prior to being deployed in communities across the nation.
Melia Christensen, Executive Director of the Leland Chamber of Commerce, was leading the team through a number of repair activities. “We are so happy to have these folks join us for the day,” says Christensen. “We have some storefronts in desperate need of some TLC.”
The group focused on two main areas, including an old movie store on the corner of Main and Second Streets, right next door to Vince’s Restaurant, and an old Chinese restaurant near the corner of Third and Main. Repairs included mostly painting and cleaning.
“It was fun to get out as a group and really be able to see the difference we can make,” says Jennifer Lieb, FEMA Corps Team Leader. “We had several people stop by greeting us, thanking us, and asking questions about the program. We could really tell that people in Leland care about their community.”
When local restaurateur Ryan Moore of Cicero’s heard the team was coming to town, he offered to buy them lunch. “They’re out there working hard for us. It’s the least we could do.”
“We hope that when our property owners see the difference just one day of work can do, they will be inspired to continue the effort and make minor improvements to their own buildings,” says Christensen. She adds that the program fit into a larger effort underway at the Chamber to improve the aesthetics of Leland’s downtown in time for the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Christmas on Deer Creek. “We’re expecting a lot of visitors to town this holiday season, and we want folks who have been coming here year after year for the holidays to really notice an improvement.”
AmeriCorps NCCC is a full-time, residential, national service program in which 1,200 young adults serve nationwide each year. During their 10-month term, Corps Members – all 18 to 24 years old – work on teams of eight to 12 on projects that address critical needs related to natural and other disasters, infrastructure improvement, environmental stewardship and conservation, energy conservation, and urban and rural development. Members mentor students, construct and rehabilitate low-income housing, respond to natural disasters, clean up streams, help communities develop emergency plans, and address countless other local needs. The Southern Region campus in Vicksburg is one of five regional hubs in the United States and serves eleven states in the southeast part of the country. The other campuses are located in Denver, Colorado, Sacramento, California, Baltimore, Maryland and Vinton, Iowa.
In exchange for their service, Corps Members receive $5,645 to help pay for college, or to pay back existing student loans. Other benefits include a small living stipend, room and board, leadership development, increased self-confidence, and the knowledge that, through active citizenship, people can indeed make a difference. AmeriCorps NCCC is administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency. The Corporation improves lives, strengthens communities, and fosters civic engagement through service and volunteering. For more information about AmeriCorps NCCC, visit the website at www.NationalService.gov