AmeriCorps volunteers lend a hand in Pittsburgh
Sierra Baril was working a dead-end job, answering calls for a credit card company in Erie, before she signed up for AmeriCorps and headed to Pittsburgh.
On Friday, she and about 160 other volunteers pledged to mentor youths, clean neighborhoods and fill community positions. Baril, of Squirrel Hill, said she hopes to find a permanent job in the city when her AmeriCorps tour ends.
“I wanted to live in Pittsburgh, to find a job that I enjoyed doing, and took a chance,” said Baril, 25. “It's hard work, but I enjoy it.”
AmeriCorps enlists more than 80,000 people nationwide each year through more than 15,000 schools, nonprofits, public agencies and community and faith-based organizations. They work for a stipend — about $12,000 annually, plus health care benefits and a $5,550 grant they can apply toward college tuition or college loans.
Salena Smith, 20, of Homewood, who joined AmeriCorps this summer, said it's a hard budget to live on — she works a part-time job on weekends — but the work is rewarding.
“I love giving back; that's my main reason for joining,” she said.
The national volunteer rate dropped from about 26.8 percent of all U.S. residents in 2009 to 26.3 percent in 2010, the most recent year for data, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service in Washington, which oversees federal community services programs, including AmeriCorps. But the number of volunteer hours remained the same.
About 62.8 million Americans in 2010 volunteered 8.1 billion hours worth $176 billion.
Samantha Warfield, spokeswoman for the Corporation for National and Community Service, said people born between 1965 and 1981, known as Generation Xers, donated 2.3 billion hours, an increase of about 110 million hours from 2009.
National response to events such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina and the volunteer efforts they triggered are partially responsible, she said.
“This is also the first generation to have service learning as part of their educational experience,” she said. “They're making decisions based on a short lifetime of exposure to volunteering and service.”
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, who created a community service program called ServePGH in 2010, said it has enlisted 2,800 volunteers serving 29,902 hours worth about $623,755. Foundations donated about $1.2 million in cash and gift cards for ServePGH programs.
“It's very important when you consider what they give without receiving anything in return,” Ravenstahl said.
Christina Burke, volunteer coordinator for the United Way of Allegheny County, said about 1,735 people served the organization's volunteer programs last year. The United Way's free tax preparation campaign resulted in $10.6 million in income tax returns for about 6,393 low- and moderate-income workers.
Burke spent two years with AmeriCorps working with poor people in the city. She said it was a life-changing experience.
“It was the first time I learned that there are systemic issues causing poverty that I as an individual could impact,” she said. “It just gives you a breadth of experience that you wouldn't get if you hadn't served.”
Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins assistant Martin gets new job title
- Polamalu enters training camp as Steelers’ longest tenured player
- Starkey: Pirates, Burnett could work again
- Phone scam from Jamaica reported in Allegheny County
- Selig: Pirates’ rebirth a positive step for baseball
- Police charge women with theft and fraud; one at large
- Fire forces North Side residents from apartments
- Bacteria found in bread factory not a health hazard, company says
- Pirates notebook: Phillies’ Burnett not demanding trade
- Drive-thru window sees major change at Monroeville fast-food restaurant
- Developer pursues application for Strip District apartments