AmeriCorps team due at All Saints’ in July

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, AmeriCorps NCCC teams have given more than 700,000 hours in Mississippi on more than 270 humanitarian and community-service projects, and soon it will be Vicksburg’s turn, both to host teams and be helped.

The former All Saints’ Episcopal School on Confederate Avenue is nearly ready to take its place as the newest AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps campus. Directors and some staff members have been at the campus for about five months, making preparations and coordinating renovations before the new center officially opens with members arriving in July.

“There will be 160 young people joining us by the end of July,” Southern Region Director Gary Turner told a civic group last week. “They will be doing service work in and in partnership with communities.

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About 20 team leaders are scheduled to arrive July 6 for several weeks of orientation and leader training, with the remaining 140 AmeriCorps NCCC members due to arrive July 31.

Vicksburg’s campus, representing the Southern region, is the newest among the AmeriCorps NCCC campuses regions around the country. It will serve 11 states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

Other regional centers are located in Denver, Perry Point, Md., Sacramento and Vinton, Iowa.

Friday, Deputy Director Jules Hampton showed off recent renovations in the main building and pointed out areas where administrators, team leaders and training facilities are being housed.

“Vicksburg was selected because it is far enough off the coast so you won’t expect to get as much damage from hurricanes and other storms,” Hampton said. “We could possibly also use this facility as a staging center for other AmeriCorps response projects.”

Former school administration offices now house AmeriCorps NCCC staff along with a future computer center. Upstairs, former classroom and faculty housing is being updated and remodeled into team leader dorm rooms, meeting and leisure rooms and training facilities. Old chalkboards have been replaced with white boards, bathrooms have been updated and fresh paint has brightened hallways and sleeping rooms.

Members, ranging from 18 to 24, will live in former student dorms. They will be grouped into 14 teams of 10 to 12 members and live and work with their teammates. Dorms will be coed, though sleeping rooms and bathrooms will be single sex.

After arrival, members will receive four weeks of intensive training for the various service projects they will perform during their 10-month enrollment in the program. Work will start in September, with most projects shortterm and within an hour’s drive of Vicksburg.

The regional office provides all transportation for the members, and unless a project is farther than an hour or so from the campus, teams will commute each day.

Fifty percent of AmeriCorps NCCC projects are related to disaster relief, Turner said. The rest include environmental, public safety, educational and responses to other critical needs as determined by community applications. Organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and other nonprofits apply to “host” — request the services of — AmeriCorps NCCC work teams.

“The environmental projects go back to the 1930s, and are modeled after the Civilian Conservation Corps,” said program director Rich Smith, himself a former AmeriCorps NCCC member who stayed on and went to work for the program in 1999. Projects include enhancing public access to parks and preserves and restoring ecosystems, Smith said.

There is no charge to sponsoring organizations, Smith said, but they do need to provide tools and materials, training, daily supervision and lodging, if the project is more than an hour away. Two or more smaller organizations can also get together and sponsor a team.

“We think the Corps members will really enjoy being in Vicksburg,” said Erika Roberts, a Clinton resident who serves as community relations specialist for the region. “They will be busy working or training, but they’ll also have some recreation time.”

The All Saints’ campus has been leased to AmeriCorps NCCC by the Episcopal Dioceses of Mississippi, Louisiana, Western Louisiana and Arkansas. The Dioceses have funded the $1 million renovations there, and will remain responsible for building maintenance and landscaping, Hampton said.

All Saints’ operated as a private day- and boarding-school for nearly 100 years before being closed by the Dioceses in 2006. The church has retained use of 25 percent of the grounds, but most of the buildings, including the campus chapel, are included in AmeriCorps’ lease.

AmeriCorps NCCC plans to use the chapel for assemblies and other meetings. It will be deconsecrated at a ceremony after Sept. 1, Hampton said.


Contact Pamela Hitchins at