Nick, age 25.
Host site: Common Threads in Bellingham, WA
“I came to Bellingham because of Mount Baker. It was after a transition in my life where my hand was sucked into a machine when I was working. I had pretty extensive hand surgery and have a bunch of metal in my pinkie. I was ready to transfer out of manual labor, but I didn’t know how to do that. It’s all I had known. Immediately after graduating high school, a couple of buddies working for a plant in Everett hooked me up with a job. I was doing the load and unload for a couple of years. After that, I was a mover for a moving company in Seattle. Tips were really good. Then I got into aerospace, and that’s when the accident with my hand happened. I’m a little bit disabled in my right hand because of the metal in there. It put things into perspective. I needed a change. It was either I needed to move out of the state or to Bellingham, where I had an outlet. And the outlet was my mom and her wife, who were living there.
At first, I was in Bellingham for over 90 days without a job, months after recovering from my injury. Fortunately, I got the job at Baker. It was wintertime, and I got a job there to teach skiing and snowboarding. In that community, every friend that I made was in school, already graduated, or worked for a nonprofit. They were all somehow already integrated into the Bellingham community. It was actually the close friends I made at Baker that told me to go to school. They kept telling me, ‘You really got to go to school. You have to go to school.’ So, I enrolled in a business class, a communications class, and an English class at Whatcom. And I fell in love with the English department at Whatcom. Now I’m a full-time student at Western. In my senior year.
When COVID hit, I was working at the Olive Garden. Then lockdown happened and all the restaurants had to close. March 13 was my last day of work. I had no money. I filed for unemployment that night. It was so hard. It was back to basics—cutting top ramen packs in half. But I’m resourceful. It wasn’t cool seeing my friends going through that, and seeing how it impacted them mentally, worrying about paying bills. There is food insecurity among the employees in the restaurant industry.
I still consider the restaurant industry my home, but it’s going through some hard changes right now. I really like what Common Threads and AmeriCorps are doing to help communities in Washington. I joined the WA COVID Response Corps because I wanted to find a way to give back to my community here in Bellingham. This opportunity was the one I wanted the most. I turned down other gigs because I wanted to be a part of the corps. I want to make a lasting impression. Bring optimism, positivity and joy in a time of stress and uncertainty.”
Carissa, age 23.
Host site: Clark County Food Bank in Vancouver, WA
I'm currently in my gap year between undergraduate and medical school, and I wanted to dedicate a year to service. Growing up, I volunteered for the Meals on Wheels program with my mother and sister; we did it together as a family. A big part of my family's values was that "If you can give back, it's your responsibility to give back."
AmeriCorps was the first thing that came to mind.
Looking back now, I don't know how everything aligned so well for me. This position combines two things I'm passionate about—food and nutrition. I love the work that I'm doing and the people I'm doing it with. The work we're doing is having an impact on the community because we are in a unique position to reach a lot of people with our mobile food pantries and home deliveries, beyond the more traditional food pantry model. COVID has had an enormous impact in Clark County. I know that there is a huge need right now because we see it every day. We're breaking records every week with how many families come to get food.
When we're onsite at the warehouse, there's never a worry about running out of food. However, our mobile food pantries have run out of food; months ago, we planned for 50 families, but over 70 showed up. We had to turn families away, which is heartbreaking. But the next time, we didn't have the same problem because we learned from our mistakes.
In my day-to-day, I'm most passionate about meeting and interacting with people from the community. All I'm doing is giving them a box of food, but it warms my heart and makes me smile. I recognize that I grew up in a bubble. I was born and raised in Traverse City, Michigan, and went to the University of Michigan, surrounded by similar people with similar backgrounds. I needed to meet different kinds of people to expand my definition of the world. So here I am. The Clark County Food Bank made me feel like I was joining a family—I don't know how I got so lucky. I just stumbled across this role. I love everyone here.
I've been learning so much. And though I get my heart broken a lot from meeting people and hearing their stories of why they're food insecure, I'm doing work that I value. It's not easy, but it's rewarding. It's something that in 10 years, I'll look back on and not regret a moment.
Maddie, age 24.
Host site: United Way King County in Seattle, WA
"It’s easy to feel like you’re not doing enough because of COVID. I wanted to directly help people, which is why I was interested in working at the United Way of King County. I needed to be doing something. I had served with AmeriCorps VISTA before and knew from that experience how fulfilling service could be. Since I’m a people person, when there was an opportunity to work with people, I was interested!
I currently serve in the High Point neighborhood in West Seattle, which is part of the Seattle Housing Authority. To have the opportunity to serve in the community that I live in is amazing, especially since South King County has historically been underserved and underrepresented in terms of resources. And COVID has only exacerbated these disparities, including food insecurity. Everyone has a right to basic needs – whether that’s housing, food, or clean water. The list goes on. It’s more important than ever to step up and connect as many people as possible to resources and help them navigate what is often a confusing and daunting process.
Two days a week, I drop off meals at people’s homes. I usually have the same route and have gotten to know the individuals and families receiving the deliveries. Last week, we delivered over 1,800 meals! Other days, I work with the volunteers to order and count the meals and map out delivery routes. I’ve also been supporting the rent assistance program by reaching out to tenants who need help applying and talking to their landlords. There’s always something I can do to help, from phone banking or subbing in at other sites if we’re low on volunteers.
Though I only recently moved to Seattle, I feel connected to my neighbors in the High Point community through this experience."