From Service to Impact: National AmeriCorps Week

AmeriCorps members Ashira (left) and Kristiana (right)

From Service to Impact: National AmeriCorps Week

March 10-16 is National AmeriCorps Week, and here at Milwaukee Habitat, we have a lot to celebrate. 

AmeriCorps is a network of local, state, and national service programs that connects over 70,000 Americans each year in intensive service to meet community needs. There are currently two AmeriCorps members serving at Milwaukee Habitat.

Ashira and Kristiana are AmeriCorps members working in our Family Services department reviewing applications and helping families schedule time to work on the build site. 

Since starting their AmeriCorps terms, they both quickly became influential members of the Milwaukee Habitat community. This AmeriCorps week, we want to highlight them and their impact on our mission. Below is a story highlighting Kristiana and her work. Check back later this month for a full story on Ashira!

After Kristiana graduated from University of Loyola, she joined the Milwaukee Habitat team in June of 2023. Originally, she was going to work a corporate job after graduation. However, she had a realization before graduation that changed her path.

“I realized I didn’t want to graduate and do a job I already wasn’t excited about,” Kristiana said. “I wanted something fulfilling in my job. [I wanted to] give.” 

She now helps Habitat homebuyers schedule time to work on the build site, reviews applicant documents, and communicates with the families. She is constantly impressed by the strength and energy of Habitat’s partner families. 

“It is really inspiring to work with [the homeowners],” Kristiana said. “The partner families have great energy. It is inspiring to see them on this journey. I’ve seen a handful of people from start to finish, seeing them fired up and eager to learn more. [I also] learn from them.”

One of the Habitat homeowners that Kristiana worked with from the beginning of their homeownership journey was Chelmicia. Chelmicia closed on her home late last year. 

“Chelmicia’s journey has been the most impactful,” Kristiana said. “Chelmicia was so excited and hopeful in the initial meeting. She completed her [sweat equity] hours really fast. It’s inspiring to see her doing something [like this] for herself…and knowing I played a tiny part in the process. [Her journey] will stick with me forever.”

Chelmicia on her front porch

Chelmicia is not the only homebuyer that Kristiana has helped. She works with several other families and has inspired homeowners to continue the process when they feel overwhelmed by it. 

When asked what it’s like to work with homeowners in her role, Kristiana compared it to being a teacher’s aid.

“You’re seeing people start the school year and seeing them grow and progress,” Kristiana said. “You see them at their dedication, like a graduation. It’s bittersweet but also so happy. You want them to enjoy their house.”

Now that Kristiana has been an AmeriCorps at Milwaukee Habitat since June, she can acknowledge the changes and growth she’s experienced.

“It’s daunting in the beginning,” Kristiana said. “For the first couple of days, I asked myself ‘why did I sign up to do this. I’m not making very much money.’” 

The program is a year-long volunteer commitment and members receive a living allowance that is determined by the national AmeriCorps organization.

“Now, I realize that the AmeriCorps term is over before you know it,” she said. “People need to soak it in.”

Kristiana is grateful for her role and the support of the Family Services team.

“I’m in such a lucky position right now,” Kristiana said. “I never feel judged about how I’m feeling. The team wants to make sure we are having a good experience and can be challenged and have an opportunity to try new things.” 

Kristiana has created other opportunities, like executing a holiday family photoshoot for homeowners and their families to come get holiday photos taken. 

Kristiana also feels connected to this role because she has a personal passion for housing. 

“I have such a passion for housing,” Kristiana said. “My Mom sold the house I grew up in and moved. There were a lot of changes. Ever since then, I’ve had a drive to own my house. I realized how naive I was about that when I first thought about it. This made me really tuned in on the housing market and how unattainable it is. It’s been good to learn the ins and outs of how Habitat makes it affordable. They stick with people. They try to work with people.” 

She sees and understands how unaffordable housing is in Milwaukee and beyond. Her work as an AmeriCorps is part of the solution to this housing crisis. She knows service work is important and is glad to be a part of it.

“I think [service work] is important because it makes you in tune with your community,” Kristiana said. “That is how communities are broken, if you don’t pay attention to what is around you. Your mindset is different when you are working for an organization that is tuned in and trying to build up a community. Service is what makes the world go round. Otherwise, people get left behind.” 

In less than a year, Kristiana has made herself a crucial part of the Milwaukee Habitat team. She has influenced numerous Habitat homebuyers and helped them achieve the dream of homeownership. 

Learn more about the AmeriCorps program and apply here.

Check back later this month for a full story on our other AmeriCorps member, Ashira! 

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