- Associated Press - Sunday, August 6, 2017

FREMONT, Neb. (AP) - Service to the community can be performed in a variety of ways.

Whether it is volunteering time at a local non-profit organization, donating to a local food bank, or even coaching a youth sports team, there are a multitude of opportunities to make a difference in Fremont.

While most community service in Fremont is done by and for local residents a group of young adults from as far south as Georgia, and as far east as Maryland, are spending the last month of their summer in Fremont serving a community far from their own hometowns.

Members of the Americorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) have been spending their days assisting in the construction of several Fremont Area Habitat for Humanity homes, and will continue to serve the Fremont community throughout the month of August.

On July 28, the group of eight members, known as Team Cedar 7, from Americorps NCCC’s North Central Region campus in Vinton, Iowa installed windows, laid shingles and put up siding at two Habitat homes being built north of 23rd street near the corner of East Churchill Drive and Dover Street, and on Victoria Lane.

“It’s been pretty hot,” Aliza Mendelowitz, Americorps NCCC member, told the Fremont Tribune . “I think it has been over 100 degrees almost every day since we’ve arrived, but everyone in the community has been great and we are just excited to help get these houses finished.”

Mendelowitz recently graduated from Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland with a degree in environmental studies and decided to join Americorps NCCC for the 10-month program while searching for her first job out of college.

“I was just kind of deciding what to do next, looking for jobs, and wanted to do something where I could travel and help people so I decided that this program would be a good way to do that,” she said. “I also have never lived in the Midwest so this has been a great opportunity for me to travel and see all these different states.”

While the group will be doing construction for Habitat during their time in Fremont, the Americorps NCCC program allows team members to perform a variety of services to the communities they visit.

Before coming to Fremont, Team Cedar 7 spent time in Cedar Rapids, Iowa where they served at Ushers Ferry Historic Village and in Waupon, Wisconsin where they worked at the Marsh Haven Nature Center.

During their time in Cedar Rapids at Ushers Ferry Historic Village, the group got the chance to work with kids at several day camps.

“Basically we were assisting parents on school tours, guiding kids through daily camps such as Zombie Camp and American Girls Camp and that was a really great fun opportunity,” Ramion Smith, Americorps NCCC member, said. “I never thought I would like working with kids but it turned out pretty great, and I would love to work with kids and that is what this program is all about changing, learning and growing.”

In Wisconsin the team aided Marsh Haven Nature Center by assembling a fence cage for a wood duck, assembling door, roof, and wall panels for three raptor bird cages and two vestibules, and removing invasive species such as Garlic Mustard and Buckthorn.

“You never know what you will run into in Americorps there are some many different tasks but you’re getting the experience for free and having a great time,” Smith said. “It can be stressful at times but at the end of the ten months I’ll definitely have some really good memories to share with my family back home.”

The group will be in Fremont through August 30th, and are staying at First Lutheran Church throughout the month.

“It’s my favorite housing so far,” Smith said. “Our very first round in Cedar Rapids we stayed on campus, and we were really the only ones on campus so that was kind of a bummer, we made it through but were just ready to explore and travel like the other teams.”

Along with an enjoyable place to stay while in the community, the team is also grateful for the courteousness extended by Habitat.

“(Fremont Area) Habitat for Humanity has been great to us they are really courteous and always offer us lunch, and they are flexible with showing us the ropes,” Smith said. “Some of our corps members don’t have a previous construction background, so for people who haven’t done any construction at all they are getting some really great experience.”

Smith, who just recently celebrated his 20th birthday, is from Savannah, Georgia and got involved with Americorps through several friends who were already members.

“I just went to their website and then talked to some friends who were already in Americorps and they just said it was a great opportunity, where you can earn money for college, and it is a free program,” he said. “You travel for free, get experience for free and meet some really nice people at the same time, and it has definitely opened a lot of doors for me personally.”

AmeriCorps NCCC members receive a modest living allowance of approximately $4,000 for the 10 months of service, while Team Leaders receive a living allowance of approximately $12,000 for 11 months of service. Both types of members receive limited medical benefits, up to $400 a month for childcare, if necessary, member uniforms, and Segal AmeriCorps Education Award (currently $5,815) upon successful completion of the program. In addition, members do not have to pay for meals and housing.


Information from: Fremont Tribune, https://www.fremontneb.com

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