October 7th 2016 is an incredible milestone for the nation as we surpass 1 million men and women who have joined AmeriCorps to make our country stronger.
The National Swearing-in Day for AmeriCorps (October 7), is an opportunity to welcome new AmeriCorps members in a nationwide pledge ceremony and to celebrate the 1 million AmeriCorps members who have and will get things done for America.
In honor of this milestone, we at Volunteer Iowa would like to share a few stories with you from current AmeriCorps members who are reflecting on when they really knew their service was making the greatest difference in our state.
Below are stories from Iowa Legal Aid AmeriCorps Members:
Aubrey Corbin: One moment I knew I was making a difference in someone’s life was when a woman came to us for help getting out of a long-term relationship where she had been a victim of domestic violence. In addition to legal help, because her English abilities were limited, she needed me to interpret between her and her attorney. Further, years of abuse had left her in need of emotional support. She had been convinced by her abuser that she wasn’t worth anything and that what she had been through didn’t matter-that no one wanted to hear her story. I met with this woman and supported her decisions to get out of a bad relationship and to help her children move on from the abuse as well. We met on several occasions, but it wasn’t until after her first hearing, when the judge believed her and issued a protective order, that she broke down and thanked us for believing in her and helping her and her children get safe. She hugged me for 3-4 minutes and my shoulder was wet from her tears.
That day I felt the power of how my AmeriCorps service helped someone so strong, yet so vulnerable, and it pushed me even further to help LEP (limited English proficient) clients receive services they greatly needed. I am #1in1million.
Lisa Brown: Last summer I was helping one of the attorneys conduct a Senior 60+ legal rights workshop. In the beginning we quizzed everyone about who had what arrangements completed. There was an elderly woman in attendance that had not set-up any arrangements for a will, power of attorney, healthcare, etc. I would guess that she was late 70’s or early 80’s. I think she had lost her husband a few years earlier. I was surprised that she had not done anything. Here is my education side coming out… I like to watch behaviors. She was very quiet and shy. She did not engage too much in the conversation in the beginning. I don’t think she felt comfortable, almost maybe overwhelmed by her lack of confidence in what she did and did not know on the subjects. I got the sense that her husband possibly handled everything. She stayed quiet, but as we progressed thru the workshop she was taking numerous notes. I watched a woman became more confident and engaged, asking good questions by the end of the program. Our efforts and information made a real difference in her ability and/or confidence in moving forward and taking care of those arrangements. As I watched her, I felt very good about the community education workshop series. We reached out to the community and provided a low key and informal opportunity that she was able to attend and start to gain knowledge on the next step with Iowa Legal Aid. She had not been familiar with our organization and the services that we could provide for her. It made me wonder why she had not made those arrangements earlier and whether she had just not been confident in going to meet with an Attorney. I feel it is intimidating for some people. This education opportunity for her was fantastic and made the difference. It was also very rewarding for me to know that we had facilitated that opportunity. I am #1in1million.
Mackenzie Norton: I knew that I was making a difference during my service when one of the attorneys and I gave a community legal education program to teenagers at the Glenwood Alternative High School. The attorney, Cat Nelson, had been an AmeriCorps member with Iowa Legal Aid a number of years earlier, before she went to law school, and then came back to Iowa Legal Aid to serve low-income Iowans in a different capacity. She and I went to Glenwood to help the teens there understand some of the legal and financial problems that they were facing, or would soon face, and recognize solutions that would help them become independent. Cat and I built a lot of rapport with the kids there that day, and they asked great questions. I am #1in1million.