Bringing together young volunteers from across the country for the purpose of serving others, AmeriCorps has positively impacted many communities across America. Now Habitat for Humanity of Summit and Wasatch Counties has a group of volunteers who are making a difference with housing issues.
The AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps, or NCCC, has been working with Habitat since the beginning of the month, conducting outreach about Habitat's services as well as doing surveys of aging housing on the East Side. Eight volunteers known as the "Blue Team" are serving a 10-week session as part of a regional 10-month program.
"[The volunteers] are taking a look at the housing stock in the community with a survey. We want to have a picture of what kind of housing is available in the community," said Lisa Schneider, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Summit and Wasatch Counties. "[The survey] is looking at [housing] from the outside perspective and what some of the maintenance issues are that are visible to the eye."
Sean Savage, one of the AmeriCorps members, hails from Woodbridge, Conn. He said he heard about AmeriCorps during his senior year of college and that he always wanted to travel and has a great desire to help people.
After graduating college in 2011, he volunteered to help disabled individuals learn to sail. He began working at a law firm in New York City but left the job to pursue more rewarding opportunities.
Another member, Heidi Livingston, comes from Portland, Ore., and said she heard about AmeriCorps from her sister, who participated with the organization four years ago. She was studying graphic design in Portland but, like Savage, wanted to broaden her skill set and help people at the same time.
The crew members have also been out independently volunteering in the community. They have worked with the Christian Center of Park City, the Sundance Film Festival and the National Ability Center. They also worked on revamping Habitat's ReStore Home Improvement Re-Use Store in Silver Creek.
Although much of AmeriCorps' work with Habitat is related to affordable housing, Schneider said that the services Habitat provides go far beyond that.
"People may not know that our housing services complete a full spectrum from full exterior maintenance to critical [interior] rehab," Schneider said, adding that volunteers help with roofing, yard maintenance and more.
Helping those in the community who may be struggling financially to get by is a key goal of Habitat's work, especially since many of those who are struggling are the very ones supporting Park City's resort economy.
"To help create this amazing, thriving resort community, we have a lot of people in the service sector," Schneider said. "If you earn $9 to $12 an hour, you're struggling to pay rent [here]. It's going to take a couple of full-time service sector incomes to keep a roof over your head, buy groceries and have a vehicle."
Savage said he appreciates the contributions that service sector workers make to communities and that being able to help them is one of the most rewarding aspects of the work he does with AmeriCorps.
The AmeriCorps team will be with Habitat through March 19, when they will move on to another project in the Pacific region. Schneider hopes that Habitat can secure another AmeriCorps crew, which would actually go out in the community and conduct repair and maintenance of houses.
In the meantime, Schneider is proud of the impact that the "Blue Team" is having on what she says is already a volunteer-minded community.
"The core values of what service means to a community are here, and for this AmeriCorps team to be here, inspiring our young people coming up through high school for them to know that [AmeriCorps] is an opportunity for personal growth, for being of service to a bunch of communities, I think that's a huge resource," Schneider said.