The Southeast Anchor Branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library received a hand up last Saturday, as Americorps NCCC volunteers spruced up the grounds with a weeding and greening project, while entertaining local kids with arts and crafts and a cookout.
The event was a “Day of Service” activity chosen by AmeriCorps, which was already in the neighborhood surveying the alleys. (See “AmeriCorps surveys state of Highlandtown and Baltimore Highlands’ alleys,” Baltimore Guide, May 28.)
While young volunteers from far-flung locations like Indiana, Chicago, Mississippi and Oregon were present, the Day of Service was lead by a native of west Baltimore, Kristal Wiggins.
“It’s interesting to me because I’m still in the city, but it’s not like I’m in my backyard,” Wiggins said. “There’s a lot going on over here! And a lot of people I don’t know; we just stay on our sides of the city.”
Agatha So of the Southeast Community Development Corp., the organization which first reached out to AmeriCorps to study the alleys in southeast Baltimore, noted that many of the gardening and other supplies for the Day of Service had been donated by local businesses and organizations, including DJ Liquidators and the Enoch Pratt Free Library.
Volunteer Rachel Davis-Schnoor, from Portland, Or., said that she signed on with AmeriCorps because she “just wanted to go out and help people—strengthen communities.” She said that volunteers work “more than full time,” as they have their full-time group projects and, outside of that, “individual projects that we ourselves set up.” In addition to the satisfaction of making a difference, AmeriCorps NCCC volunteers receive a $5,600 educational award at the end of their stints, as well as some “educational benefits,” and food and housing, Davis-Schnoor said.
“We learn a lot of job skills,” she added. “For a lot of people, it’s a real big stepping stone.”
“They expose us to a lot of professional settings,” put in Spencer Varner, from Indiana, “like doing a briefing in front of government employees. It teaches you to be comfortable in professional settings.”
by Erik Zygmont