AmeriCorps pitches in on Martha’s Vineyard

AmeriCorps pitches in on Martha’s Vineyard

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On April 30, nine young, idealistic citizens from across the country came to Martha’s Vineyard for a two-month stay at the invitation of the Stone Soup Leadership Institute (SSLI). As members of AmeriCorps’ National Community Civilian Corps (NCCC), they came here to boost the efforts of nonprofit groups ranging from schools to teaching farms to conservation organizations.

The joint effort was a natural melding of two organizations that have much in common, including a direct link. Launched in 1994 as an outgrowth of the National and Community Service Trust Act, AmeriCorps has attracted more than 500,000 volunteers since then. Some give a few hours a week, while NCCC members commit to 10 months of full-time work, usually on the road. They receive a small stipend, room and board, and $5,550 to help pay for college or repay student loans.

Each year NCCC recruits, trains, and dispatches 1,100 volunteers to partner with state and local agencies and nonprofit organizations “to improve lives, strengthen communities and foster civic engagement,” according to the mission of its parent organization, the Corporation for National and Community Service. In the process, the idea is to develop leaders who, by example, will encourage their peers to become involved and start working for the greater good.

When AmeriCorps works in schools, it often uses a curriculum developed originally on Martha’s Vineyard by SSLI, a nonprofit “educational organization that develops tools, programs and community initiatives that honor everyday heroes and trains future and emerging leaders to work together to build a better world,” according to its mission statement. The genesis for the institute was the book “Stone Soup for the World: Life-Changing Stories of Everyday Heroes,” written and published in 1998 by Marianne Larned of Vineyard Haven.

“The book came out in 1998, and we then worked primarily with educators on the Vineyard to develop a curriculum,” Ms. Larned said late last week. “And when we opened it up nationally, we had a training at the West Tisbury School. We brought in some of the people from the book, including AmeriCorps, and then they went off and followed the curriculum themselves.”

Closer to home, SSLI started the Martha’s Vineyard Youth Leadership Initiative, through which young Island residents are trained to work toward a more sustainable world. With the NCCC team, the young Islanders will host a beach cleanup project this Sunday, May 15, from 1 to 5 pm at the Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge on Chappaquiddick. Islanders interested in helping out should meet at 1 pm at the Chappy Ferry, where they will receive a free ticket, or at Mytoi Garden on Chappaquiddick.

On Saturday, May 14, from 3 to 4 pm, Islanders of all ages can learn more about AmeriCorps at the Vineyard Haven Library. Coincidentally, next week, May 14 to 21, is AmeriCorps week.

While they are on the Island, the NCCC team is helping Stone Soup on a number of fronts — by developing a pilot program called the Global Technology Initiative, by editing training videos, and by filming projects with MVTV. They’ll build blisters and bruises doing repair work on a building in Vineyard Haven that will house Stone Soup’s offices. They will also help out at the 7th annual Youth Leadership Summit for Sustainable Development to be held on the Island from June 18 to 24.

The first week they were here, the NCCC team worked with Jim Norton helping plant at Norton Farm on the Vineyard Haven-Edgartown Road. “I asked Jim if he would like some help, and he said that his knees would because you have to get on your knees to plant tomato seedlings,” Ms. Larned said. “They learned about how Jim plants his seedlings, and then he talked to them for an hour about sustainable agriculture on the Island.”

The NCCC team will also join forces with several local nonprofits to push important projects forward — building a new greenhouse at The FARM Institute, for example; helping prepare Vineyard Voyagers for the year’s sailing programs; creating an outdoor classroom with Island Grown Schools at the West Tisbury School; moving a greenhouse at Whippoorwill Farm; planting corn, beans, and squash at Native Earth Teaching Farm; and building a chicken coop for Oscar’s Eggs.

For more information on the NCCC team while it is on the Island, call Tristan Fowler at 315-247-9172 or refer to www.ravenoneclassXVII.wordpress.com. The website address for Americorps is www.americorps.gov.

More information on SSLI is available at www.soup4world.com, or by calling Marianne Larned at 617-304-7821.