Upon reflection for this entry, I couldn’t help but think about how I got here and where in the world I had the crazy idea to (twice) agree to a year of service, on a very small stipend in a place so far from my roots in South Carolina.
Both of my parents have qualities that I admire and have tried to embrace my whole life – empathy and selflessness from my Mom and a love and respect for nature from my Dad. In high school, I often volunteered at a retirement home and joined clubs to serve my community. In college, my self-defined final project for my degree in landscape architecture focused on a community in West Virginia and what could be done to enliven the community in the aftermath of mountain top removal. After college, I interned for a year at the Sierra Nevada Alliance before becoming an AmeriCorps member. Looking back to these experiences it’s starting to seem obvious how I got here.
Kelly educating residents about the Truckee River Friendly Landscaping.
So why did I agree to “Serve the Sierra”? I had a feeling the work I’d be doing was a perfect combination of everything that I enjoyed and found value in – my love and respect for nature, as well as, empathy and service for others. The feeling was right
on. The main project of my service year, Truckee River Friendly Landscaping, is focused on reducing sediment entering the Truckee River through education, outreach and working with homeowners to encourage them to take personal responsibility on their property to reduce sediment from entering the Truckee River. The residents of Truckee love their river and are always looking for ways to help. For me, it’s exciting to see their eyes light up when I explain the Truckee River Friendly Landscaping program and provide them with a way to help the river they love so much.
To me, service is more than making yourself feel good about what you’re doing. Sure, I’m not getting paid as much as my friends from college, driving a brand new car or traveling around the world (yet) but service is humbling and I can’t compare myself to those who chose a different road. To me, it’s about helping others and doing what I can to save the streams, rivers, mountains and wild places I love. In my case, I’m helping the community I live in while making an impact in the Sierra and I couldn’t ask for much more! And well, let’s be honest, living two blocks away from Lake Tahoe isn’t horrible. More and more it seems like the “crazy idea” I had to join AmeriCorps wasn’t such a crazy idea after all. Being in the Sierra and serving with the Sierra Nevada AmeriCorps Partnership has been one of the best ideas I’ve had.
Consider Martin Luther King, Jr.’s affirming words on service:
“Everyone can be great because anyone can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t even have to make your subject and verb agree to serve…you only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
If you’re interested in making service a part of your life, AmeriCorps has a variety of opportunities all around the United States. For more information about AmeriCorps click here. Also you can consider volunteering in your own community at the local soup kitchen, at a river cleanup or retirement home. The opportunities are endless and your contribution no matter the size will always be appreciated. To find volunteer opportunities in your community you can visit volunteermatch.org and idealist.org.
And as a final Service Affirmation – the AmeriCorps Pledge:
I will get things done for America – to make our people safer, smarter and healthier.
I will bring Americans together to strengthen our communities.
Faced with apathy, I will take action.
Faced with conflict, I will seek common ground.
Faced with adversity, I will persevere.
I will carry this commitment with me this year and beyond.
I am an AmeriCorps member, and I will get things done.