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AmeriCorps Turns 20 & What That Means For Museums

September 23, 2013

amcorps anniversary

As anyone who reads this blog with any regularity knows, I am a huge fan of AmeriCorps NCCC who just celebrated their 20th Anniversary.  Click on the above link to watch a video about the significance of that event.

In the past two years, AmeriCorps NCCC Teams have come to play an essential role at the C.H. Nash Museum in helping to carry out our mission.  This October 23rd we will welcome our fourth eight-week AmeriCorps NCCC Team.  The Teams live in the Museum’s repurposed residential complex we have named the Community Service Learning Dormitory.

Over the two-year period,  we have evolved an effective three-prong approach to service in Southwest Memphis with AmeriCorps NCCC Teams.

Service in the Southwest Memphis Community

The teams work with the Westwood Neighborhood Association who identify elderly and U.S. military veterans on fixed incomes in need of residential clean-ups to prevent their property from being in violation of city codes.  The teams also perform minor to moderate repair work on roofs and other exterior structural repairs on houses for the elderly and veterans.  For example, this fall’s team will spend about 10 days working on the house of an 88 year-old WWII military veteran who has lived in his home since 1953 in the Walker Homes neighborhood of Memphis.  Walker Homes was launched in the late 1940s as a neighborhood for returning African-American WW II Veterans.

In the past two years we have focused on expanding the role of other community residents in working with the AmeriCorps Team.  For example, this past spring the River 7 Team met regularly with Boys and Girls Clubs in the area.  The Team’s work was also supported both financially and through employee volunteering from the new Electrolux facility located near the Museum.

Service in the T.O. Fuller State Park

Each AmeriCorps NCCC Team also completes infrastructure improvements at the T.O. Fuller State Park located next to the Museum.  The tasks include trail maintenance, painting, and other special projects.  For example, the River 7 Team planted over 800 trees in a new ecological habitat being created at the Park.  The Teams also help in Park community events such as the Annual Easter Egg Hunt and Halloween activities.

The AmeriCorps service at T.O. Fuller has added significance for two reasons.  First, the Park was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps.  Today, AmeriCorps is a legacy of that organization.  Second, T.O. Fuller State Park plays an important role in the cultural heritage of the Southwest Memphis community as one of only two facilities in the United States built in the 1930s as a State Park for African-Americans in the Jim Crow-era segregated South.

Service in the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa

The AmeriCorps Teams at Chucalissa have carried out innumerable tasks including rehabbing the community service learning dorm, building benches and picnic tables, building a replica prehistoric house, trail maintenance, reconfiguring the repository space, artifact processing and much more.  This fall the team will build a pergola-type outdoor activity space, rain shelters along our trail system, and several components of our new Landscape Literacy project.

Community Service and Relevance

The AmeriCorps Team members exemplify some of the very best commitment to service of the millennial generation.  We are particularly pleased with the increased community engagement in the AmeriCorps NCCC projects.  I enjoy that the Teams bring a willingness for flexibility and expanding the box of normal thinking.  These qualities have been critical as the Community, the Park, and the Museum work together on collaborative projects that align with their individual missions.  For example, this fall the AmeriCorps Team will take part in the community reclamation of an abandoned cemetery that draws on the archaeological and cultural heritage preservation expertise of the Museum.  The AmeriCorps Team was also the link that allowed the Museum and Community to collaborate in creating a banner exhibit on U.S. Military Veterans unveiled at the September 11 Day of Service in 2012.  The AmeriCorps NCCC Team highlights the relevance and partnership that comes to the fore in community service learning projects.

So . . . A hearty congratulations to AmeriCorps NCCC on their 20th Anniversary!  Check out their website to see how your organization can partner with this fantastic organization.

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