Community service program helps address food and water needs and seniors’ mental well-being
In the past month, 24 AmeriCorps members have served hundreds of families, children and seniors across Danville, Pittsylvania County and South Boston during the COVID-19 public health crisis, and they continue to do so. This service-based group has provided a natural conduit for support of essential needs like food, water and mental wellness, as well as expanded manpower for the nonprofit and community partners who champion these resources.
“As the AmeriCorps pledge states, our members strive to ‘get things done,’ and we are so appreciative of their can-do attitude and enthusiasm, especially during these challenging times,’” said Dr. Julie Brown, Director of Advanced Learning at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR), which administers the Dan River Year AmeriCorps program across Southern Virginia. “These members usually serve at schools and other community sites that are currently closed; however, with careful planning and creativity, we have been delighted to offer new, meaningful and safe ways for them to continue to serve and positively impact our region.”
Five AmeriCorps members served for several days at God’s Storehouse packing food bags in support of the Malcom Huckabee Backpack Program that helps feed children when out of school. They continue to support God’s Storehouse with other initiatives, including the Urban Farm and at-home projects to help build the organization’s food capacity now that both food donations and needs have risen.
Ten members have also volunteered on a continual, regular basis with Pittsylvania County Schools to help pack and deliver lunches to families who come to the schools for weekly pick-ups. They have partnered with the Chatham Rotary and other local groups to organize more than 200 lunches at each middle school every week.
Bertina Wilson, an AmeriCorps member who normally serves at Bonner Middle School, organized a water drive and delivered hundreds of bottles of water to Danville communities in need. Paige Warren, who normally serves with the Danville Church-Based Tutorial Program, coordinated food packs for children and the elderly in the Seeland Crossing community in Danville.
Eight AmeriCorps members packed 75 “Stimulus Care Packages” for seniors and delivered them to Chatham Health and Rehabilitation Center and to Sentara Woodview in South Boston. To help stimulate the minds of seniors during this time of social distancing and restricted visits, bags were filled with the following items: playing cards, board games, puzzles or activity books, “thinking of you” greeting cards with stamped envelopes, art supplies and adult coloring books.
IALR’s Dan River Year AmeriCorps program is designed to address literacy challenges and engage youth in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Members usually serve as mentors, coaches and tutors for students during the school year and during summer educational or enrichment programs. They receive a stipend and Segal Education Award for their service. AmeriCorps leads the nation’s volunteering and service efforts and is a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency. For more information, visit www.NationalService.gov.