Giorgie, age 22.
Host site: Common Threads in Bellingham, WA
“I’m originally from San Francisco and moved to Bellingham for college. Recently, I was one of three students who was awarded the Adventure Learning Grant from the Fairhaven College at Western Washington University. The grant gave me a stipend to design a trip anywhere in the world, a place where I could live for the year and where my world views would be challenged. I chose Lebanon. I was really excited. It was a fully-funded trip that otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to afford.
This all changed because of COVID, but I’m still learning about how nutrition works in refugee camps and reading Arabic literature because I’m interested in immigration studies and advocacy.
I learned about the WA COVID Response Corps because I needed to find something to give my days structure. The immense lack of structure was driving me to sloth. Even though I have lots of creative outlets to help relax—reading, drawing, cooking, watching Anime shows, and playing video games–I need a date, a time, and a place to do something more meaningful. I’ve always been interested in growing things, so I thought I could work in a garden or a nursery. The most satisfying elements for me are sprouting, when I grow something from a seed, and it survives. And I was looking for a chance to expand on this interest.
I found out about Common Threads, and I heard about the opportunity with the WA COVID Response Corps. The more I learned about it, the happier I got. I’ve only been part of the corps for two weeks, but I feel confident about the work. The experience so far with the kids has been positive. I was also able to watch some cool role models that have been here for a lot longer than me, handle it really well. It was a great learning experience. Talking with the middle schoolers is fun, and I can’t wait to dive into the work. I think it’s positive that three of the four new corps members at Common Threads are people of color. As a young person or a student, if you see a distinct racial difference between educators and students, even though it’s not explicitly recognized, it’s internalized. Having that type of representation is important, especially for students of color. I’m excited about the diversity. I’m also excited to learn more about gardening. And working with kids. It’s fulfilling work.”
Arden, age 22.
Host site: South Whidbey Good Cheer in Langley, WA
"I’ve always known I wanted to help people, but I was never quite sure how to make that happen. Should I be a teacher, or maybe a doctor? When I was nine years old, my parents decided to become foster parents. They recognized that we led very privileged lives and wanted to give back to the community. After being interviewed by my siblings' caseworker, I knew that social work is what I wanted to do. She was an incredible, vibrant person who loved what she did, and my heart was set.
I graduated last year from Seattle University with a degree in social work. Unfortunately, with the pandemic, it was a tough year to graduate and look for a job. I definitely didn’t expect to be unemployed for eight months. I learned about this position from an online job listing, but I had also met someone through my mom who served time with AmeriCorps and loved it. I was thrilled. It was exactly what I wanted- to give back to my community while also gaining relevant work experience.
Whidbey Island has a large population of working-class people, like in farming and construction, so shutdowns really affected us. About half of our residents are what we call ALICE households, or Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. They aren’t strictly below the poverty line, but have little to no expendable income. Knowing that my neighbors are struggling to meet their basic needs drives me to take action. I’ve already been giving eggs from my chickens to my neighbors, but now have the opportunity to do more as I serve them at the food bank.
Though the need is even greater, we’ve actually had fewer people coming through to the food bank. Part of it is that, due to COVID restrictions, they’re no longer able to come inside and shop for themselves. However, I’ve also learned from the on-site staff that when people get financial assistance, they often put it towards food instead of saving it for emergencies. We live in a shame-based society that tells people they need to support themselves, so they’re hesitant to ask for help. Many people think that resources should go to someone else that needs them more. It’s unfortunate, because if you’re struggling, that’s all the justification you need. If you can get food at a food bank, that’s money you could be saving for other things like rent and utilities. We encourage our clients to save their money and shop with us, even if they feel financially secure that month. As we’ve learned over the past year, you never know what the future will hold.
I love my work at South Whidbey Good Cheer. This morning, we processed an unbelievable amount of local apples, brought to us by the Gleeful Gleaners, and made five gallons of applesauce. We also do a lot of farm work, including planting, washing, and bagging vegetables in the on-site garden. My duties consist of anything we can do to support the food bank and its clients. It’s been wonderful knowing that my neighbors’ needs are being met, and it feels even better to know that I am playing my part in making sure of that."
Libby, age 23.
Host site: Second Harvest in Spokane, WA
"Before joining the Response Corps, I served as an AmeriCorps Vista member with the food pantry program at Eastern Washington University. Afterward, my original plan was to travel before going to graduate school, but then COVID happened, and I was scrambling to figure out what to do.
I ended up moving back home with my family and started volunteering at Second Harvest, which is how I learned about the Response Corps. It's been wonderful serving as the volunteer coordinator. One of my favorite parts is having the opportunity to build relationships with the volunteers each week. I appreciate them so much.
Some of our long-time volunteers had to stop coming in because they have family members who are immunocompromised. But luckily, we don't have a shortage of volunteers. We have new volunteers who were laid off from their jobs and had extra time to give back.
Service is very meaningful for me. Coming from a privileged background, I understand and appreciate the value of giving back. Even after this experience, when I attend graduate school, I want to make sure community needs and service are integrated into my studies and work. It's important for me to contribute to the larger good. That's my why.
I've done various service trips throughout college, too—it's always something I've enjoyed doing. I've met so many people. In a way, I found community in community service."