More than a year after the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in Michigan, we have seen every industry impacted in one way or another — but the crisis’s unwavering ripple effect was especially evident in the area of community economic development. Eviction posed a rising threat, many people in need were not receiving federal stimulus checks, and food access became unpredictable. Still, during times of uncertainty and crisis, CEDAM’s AmeriCorps members offered a team of individuals ready to roll up their sleeves and help their neighbors. From working one-on-one with clients through eviction diversion programs to loading boxes of food into cars, these members wasted no time to extend a helping hand and, as a whole, proved essential to their organizations during this time of need.
AmeriCorps is a voluntary civil society program supported by the federal government and other organizations that engages adults in public service work to help others meet critical needs, at both state and national levels. At CEDAM, our AmeriCorps members directly impact communities across Michigan to build capacity for nonprofit organizations and, more importantly, help alleviate poverty and promote financial stability in their region. These members build community and capacity for their organizations through support through everything from planning events and community resource fairs to offering one-on-one financial support for clients.
While the work of our AmeriCorps members is always critical, the past year brought to light just how much these individuals can offer for their organizations in times of crisis. For example, when CEDAM recognized a gap wherein many community members were not receiving federal stimulus checks due tax filing methods, AmeriCorps members stepped up to the plate. Collectively, members like Suzanne Fenske at Community Housing Network in Troy got on the phone and contacted a total of 2,083 people across the state to provide information on how to receive this aid, all within an extremely tight turnaround. Agility is key; AmeriCorps members help CEDAM and their organizations respond quickly and effectively to address community members’ needs during a crisis.
Additionally, because food security became an even more pressing issue as a result of the pandemic, CEDAM AmeriCorps members volunteered in whatever way they could, from connecting with food pantries to loading food boxes into the trunks of cars. This expansion into food security proved such a success that CEDAM is adding 15 food access-centric AmeriCorps positions this summer, giving us the opportunity to directly aid food pantries, urban gardening efforts, and COVID-19-response availability efforts across Michigan.
To do this work, CEDAM deploys both AmeriCorps State and AmeriCorps VISTA members. AmeriCorps State members commit their service to supporting financial well-being in their communities, while AmeriCorps VISTA members build capacity for their organizations by expanding on existing programming or creating new programs in a broader range of areas. Members represent a range of backgrounds, ages, and experience levels, and serve anywhere from one to four years.
For our AmeriCorps members, the opportunity isn’t just a job — it’s service. Across CEDAM’s AmeriCorps programs, both members and host sites understand that, when their community is in need, it’s their responsibility to step up and provide the tools, resources, and support to empower their neighbors. CEDAM is currently recruiting host sites and accepting AmeriCorps member applications; learn more and see how you can make a real difference for Michigan communities when they need our support the most.