National AmeriCorps Week: “This Work Means Everything”
This week is national AmeriCorps week. It is a week where we recognize and celebrate the commitment of those who chose to serve their community through AmeriCorps.
AmeriCorps is a network of local, state, and national service programs that bring people together through service and volunteering to address the country’s urgent needs. AmeriCorps members serve with organizations that are dedicated to bettering their communities.
This year we are highlighting a Milwaukee Habitat AmeriCorps member who became a staff member: Ciara.
Ciara joined us as a construction AmeriCorps over a year ago and spent the year out on site building homes and leading volunteer groups.
Before joining the team as an AmeriCorps, Ciara graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Upon graduation, she knew she wanted to branch out and do something different.
“I wanted to help build the community,” Ciara said. “It’s something I’m passionate about.”
She joined Milwaukee Habitat as an AmeriCorps member because of this passion and her past experience with the organization. When at UWM, Ciara was the Vice President of Community Service in her business fraternity. She brought her fraternity members to volunteer at Habitat during her time as VP and stayed connected with the organization after. Even after graduating from UWM and leaving the VP position, the fraternity members still volunteer at Milwaukee Habitat every year.
During her term as an AmeriCorps member at Milwaukee Habitat, she led volunteer groups out on site and grew as a leader.
“It’s a learning experience,” Ciara said. “When working with so many different skill sets and levels [of volunteers], you learn how to juggle all of that and see where each person is most useful. It creates a lot of growth opportunities for me.”
When her term as an AmeriCorps was coming to an end, Ciara knew she wanted to stay at Habitat.
“I wanted to stay because of the mission,” Ciara said. “[This work] means everything.”
Now that Ciara is a staff member at Milwaukee Habitat, she continues her work to bring safe, affordable housing to the city.
“AmeriCorps members have been key to Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity’s evolution as an organization,” Director of Volunteer Services and Advocacy Beth Van Gorp said. “We’ve had many great staff members start as AmeriCorps members and they bring to their staff positions great enthusiasm, commitment, and perspective.”
Since starting at Habitat as an AmeriCorps member, Ciara said she has learned so much about affordable housing in Milwaukee. She is grateful that she can be part of changing the housing landscape in the city.
“It puts purpose to the work,” Ciara said. “With all of the connections you make and stories you hear [at this job], you naturally learn so much. It makes me enjoy being at work and appreciate what I’m doing.”
Ciara has learned a lot in her time at Habitat, and conquered a few fears along the way. Before joining Habitat, she was afraid of heights. Now, her favorite construction task is the installation of trusses, the structural elements of the roof. She stands on top of the house and guides the trusses into the correct place before securing them to the home.
Although Ciara loves working at Milwaukee Habitat because of her dedication to the community and because she’s grown to love certain construction tasks, she stays because of how it all works together.
“Sometimes after a good build day, it feels so rewarding,” Ciara said. “Thinking about what that [work will mean] to someone else. It hits me what I’m doing… I can’t believe I’m here.”
This week, and every week, we are grateful for our AmeriCorps members, new and old, who dedicate their time and energy to our mission.
Thank you to our three current AmeriCorps members Will Babka, Cameron Flynn, and Natalia Watson!
Interested in becoming an AmeriCorps member with Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity? Learn more and apply here: https://milwaukeehabitat.org/volunteer/americorps/