Impact of AmeriCorps program in Flint draws national attention

They are a force of 480 workers whose focus is serving the community of Flint—and a unique national model of creating a unified, collective force to respond to a crisis.

Here in Flint, there are 161 AmeriCorps members and 319 Senior Corps volunteers working throughout the community to support blight elimination, community education, K-3 literacy, food security, nutrition, senior care and much more. Their work is so extraordinary that it drew the attention of Chester Spellman, director of AmeriCorps for the Corporation for National and Community Service. He visited Flint to see firsthand how members are impacting the community after crisis and through a persistent hardship. 

“There’s really no other model like this in the nation,” Spellman said while touring Durant-Tuuri-Mott Elementary School in Flint. “Through the Community Foundation and Mott Foundation, (we) provide the funds necessary to grow the year-long service programs that we are seeing in the city of Flint.”

Looking over the nutrition and early education programs housed at Durant-Tuuri-Mott, Spellman pointed to the unique programing in Flint, which is coordinated through the Flint National Service Accelerator. 
“What makes this so innovative is that it helps us to exponentially expand our impact,” Spellman said. “That means in a really basic way adding to the number of service members that can be here working in the community. … We know service members can make tremendous difference, but the more bodies on the ground you have, the greater that impact can be.” 

As a local partner, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation has contributed $3.4 million over the last seven years to maximize the federal dollars. “We invest in AmeriCorps because service is in our DNA at the Mott Foundation,” said Ridgway White, president of the C.S. Mott Foundation. 

White said he has seen firsthand the impact of AmeriCorps service members throughout the water crisis and the ongoing recovery. He noted the partnership with the Flint Police Department, working with service members to board up houses and clean up blighted areas. 

“You can see the work over time paying off,” White said. “You can see the inspiration that you can provide with hope—not only for the kids who receive these services, but also the services members making key differences in this community that has been through so much.” 

Jennifer McArdle serves as the civic engagement manager for those partnerships which allow for AmeriCorps and Senior Corps volunteers to work in many different capacities. Federal investment from the Corporation for National and Community Service is matched with local partners.

The accelerator program started with 25 AmeriCorps in 2014 and is now at almost 200 members, she said.

“The strategy is to scale national service to meet community needs and hire Flint residents into these serve positions which are one-year stipend positions,” McArdle said.

Members receive $5,800 education award at the end of their year of service.
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Read more articles by Jake Carah.