- Associated Press - Saturday, October 1, 2016

TWO RIVERS, Wis. (AP) - Since joining FEMA Corps in February, Kevin Schiman has found himself in California, Louisiana, West Virginia and 15 other states, serving those dealing with tragedy in the wake of natural disasters.

“I wanted to jump outside of my comfort zone,” Schiman, 23, told the Herald Times Reporter (http://htrne.ws/2d9KFxp ). “I thought I could see the United States while helping others.”

This is not the first time Schiman, a Two Rivers High School 2011 graduate, has gone to work for others. As a student, he joined the Appalachia Service Project, a home repair and building service program for low-income families in Central Appalachia.

FEMA Corps is different, as members sign on for a 10-month period and are dedicated to disaster preparedness, response and recovery.

FEMA Corps is composed of a partnership between the Corporation for National and Community Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It is a track of the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps program.

Since the start of his term, he has helped with flood relief in Louisiana, served in Kansas City and worked in Montgomery, Alabama. Most recently, Schiman was in Maryland working in a call center connecting with flood victims in Baton Rouge.

Working in the call center, he connected with survivors who had registered with FEMA to check if they had a place to stay until their home was prepared. If they needed assistance, Schiman could direct them to resources and assist them in finding temporary housing.

When he was working in Charleston, West Virginia, earlier in the summer, he was on the other end of the call center process. Schiman and his team, the Blue Eight, went door-to-door ensuring flood survivors were getting their needs met and helping them register with FEMA.

In March, April and May, Schiman was in Louisiana helping with early spring flooding recovery.

He has been in Kansas City working in a regional office for FEMA archiving records, and he also worked in Montgomery, Alabama, improving the ability of Civil Air Patrol and FEMA to coordinate in the face of a disaster.

He and his team are part of the program’s total 2,800 young American workers, who dedicate themselves to the 10-month commitment on a full-time basis each year.

Schiman’s team is based in Sacramento, but has not been back there since February.

“We’ve been out at disasters for most of the time, which is rare for teams like ours,” Schiman said. “Our whole year has been going from disaster to disaster, and last year’s class only responded to one.”

He said the travels and work have been a really neat experience, and he has learned that he should not limit himself in the things he can do in his lifetime.

“Talking to people and survivors, and their homes are completely destroyed, but they are nothing but humble and concerned for their neighbors,” Schiman explained. “It makes you notice the smaller things, makes you worry about less and makes you appreciate your family.”

His team is made up of about 10 people, whom he has lived, shopped, cooked, traveled and worked with, forming strong bonds.

“Seeing people care for one another, see them get out of their comfort zones and you see how people really are, it’s a powerful exposure,” Schiman said.

Schiman explained that at all of the disasters he’s been to he is happy to see so many different volunteer organizations ready to help.

“You see on social media all the bad stuff that is out there, and you paint the world as a not-so-friendly place,” Schiman said. “But there is a lot of good, too, and it’s been nice to see that.”

Schiman said when he graduates from FEMA Corps Nov. 17, he will return to Wisconsin. He is considering looking at a career with FEMA, but he’s still weighing his options.

Schiman is the son of Judith Knutsen and Thomas Schiman and stepmom Elizabeth Schiman.

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Information from: HTR Media, http://www.htrnews.com

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