The following was submitted by DaytonMostMetro.com reader Caitlin Closser
With any revelation arises the need to announce it to the world, and I wish to announce that I am in love…with service. This love is not without its challenges. However, now that I’ve experienced the warmth, inspiration, and pure joy that serving creates, I know I’ll never be without it in my life again.
Service and I were mere acquaintances in the past. Sure, we had met a few times, on various projects. The response had been positive, but life, as always, got in the way. With the need to earn a living, there just wasn’t enough time for it. That is, until AmeriCorps came along.
Laid off unceremoniously from my last job, I found myself unemployed and stranded. My previous company unleashed nearly 300 of us into an unforgiving job market. The months following the layoff were bleak. There was a shortage of jobs I was interested in, and I wasn’t qualified for any of them. That was when I discovered AmeriCorps, a program that has existed since the Clinton administration, but was little known to me. I pursued AmeriCorps for practical reasons: to build my resume, to gain the experience I lacked in the community development field.
AmeriCorps, the domestic cousin of the Peace Corps, is a year-long service commitment. AmeriCorps members work in widespread fields, from community development to conservation to education. In exchange for their service, members earn a small living stipend and an education grant upon completion.
This is just the part they tell you about. The part that doesn’t fit so neatly into word packages is the assurance that for maybe the first time ever, you are doing something meaningful with your life. It’s the smiles, the hugs, the thank you notes from the people you are helping. It’s the ability to see the incredible progress volunteers can make towards repairing a home in a single day.
I currently serve with Rebuilding Together Dayton, a non-profit that performs home repairs and modifications at no cost to the low-income, elderly and disabled homeowners who live in them. We are fueled by hard-working volunteers and generous sponsors. Our mission is a safe, warm, and dry home for every Dayton homeowner.
The work can be tedious, tiresome, and downright filthy. Just last week I had to dive into a dumpster from one of our project sites to try and retrieve stray tires before the trash could be picked up. On a regular basis I talk with homeowners whose life stories that are so sad they would melt your heart.
As this is AmeriCorps week, I wish to celebrate by offering this homage to a program that has changed my life. I encourage you to pursue your own love affair with service. Visit AmeriCorps’s website. Seek out serving opportunities near you.
Is it challenging to live near the poverty line? Sure is. Is the work difficult? At times, terribly. Does it feel like I am working towards an unachievable goal? Sometimes it does.
Is it worth it? Absolutely.