AUGUST 18TH, 2008 | TomHarkin
Senator Harkin gave the keynote address at the induction ceremony for Iowa’s new National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) facility last week and welcomed the first class of volunteers to the campus. As Chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that funds the Americorps program, Harkin worked to designate Vinton as the site for the Americorps NCCC facility, and secured $2.5 million to transform portions of the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School into the residential campus.
AmeriCorps NCCC members will be based at the Vinton campus, and will work in teams to undertake a variety of community projects, including building and rehabilitating low-income housing, responding to natural disasters, tutoring students, cleaning up waterways, and helping communities develop emergency plans. Participants will be trained in CPR, first aid, public safety, and other skills before beginning their first service project. Starting in June, the new facility in Vinton will be one of only five centers in the nation, the new home base for the North Central region of the United States.
Harkin partnered with Governor Chet Culver and was successful in ensuring that the Vinton facility would dedicate half of the first year of teams and resources to helping Iowa and the Midwest recover and rebuild after the historic flooding. Harkin and Culver explained in a letter that the AmeriCorps members assisted Iowa communities from the beginning and the teams’ skills and resources will be important to Iowa’s long recovery process.
David Eisner, Chief Executive Officer of the Corporation for National and Community Service and Merlene Mazyck, Executive Director of the Vinton facility also participated in the event.
“I look out at all these energetic, idealistic, talented young people, and I just want to say this. You couldn’t have come to Iowa at a more urgent time,” said Harkin. “We’ve had tornadoes, relentless downpours, floods of biblical proportions. About the only thing we haven’t had is a plague of locusts. The good news is that Iowans are a resilient people. We have seen nature at its worst, but we have also seen people at their very best – pitching in to help neighbors and strangers alike.
“As I learned in the Navy, there are two responses to a disaster. It’s either ‘every man for himself, abandon ship,’ or it’s ‘all hands on deck, save the ship.’ Well, Iowans are an ‘all hands on deck’ kind of people and we are very grateful to have all these new NCCC members on deck with us to help out.” NCCC members serve in 10 – 12 person teams for ten months. They are trained in CPR, first aid, public safety, and other skills before beginning their first service project. The volunteer teams undertake a variety of community projects, including building and rehabilitating low-income housing, responding to natural disasters, tutoring students, cleaning up waterways, and helping communities develop emergency plans. Service projects typically last from six to eight weeks.
After their service, NCCC members receive an education award worth $4,725, which can be used as a scholarship or loan repayment. Harkin included a provision in an appropriations bill making it possible for AmeriCorps service members to serve an additional six months if they are assisting a community after a disaster.
Harkin added, “I can’t imagine a better way to build a life that you can be proud of. When I heard about your very modest living allowance – roughly $13 a day – I was reminded of the job my father got at the height of the Great Depression with the Works Progress Administration, the WPA – which, you might say, was a spiritual forerunner of the NCCC. My father’s pay from the WPA was $4.40 a month.
“The WPA was a New Deal program created by President Franklin Roosevelt. It gave jobs to the unemployed, including my father. WPA workers built roads and public buildings. They fed children and distributed food and clothing. Typically, the workers lived and ate together in teams at the worksites. But the WPA did more than build things and distribute food and clothing. That program gave people hope when they desperately needed it. It gave hope to people who had been unemployed, in many cases for years.
“And it gave hope to people in communities here in Iowa and all across America, who saw WPA workers building useful and beautiful things, bringing new life into communities that had been left out or left behind.
“So I have a simple message to our new NCCC members: Over the coming 10 months, never underestimate the importance of the work you are doing.”