AmeriCorps helps make a ‘happy home’

Published 10:18 am Monday, October 3, 2016

Mary Lewis resides in the house where she was raised on Hunt Street, and thanks to the work of nine members of AmeriCorps’ National Civilian Community Corps her house got a new coat of emerald green paint Thursday.

“My momma raised eight kids here, and I’m going to patch it up until I go home like she did when she was 92,” Lewis said of her home and her late mother, Carrie. “This is a straight blessing, nothing but a straight blessing. This is a happy house. It’s (now) a happy color.”

Lewis is the owner of one of the 11 homes that NCCC team Delta 3 has worked on over the past two weeks. In addition to painting her house, the team worked to restore a retaining wall around it and trim bushes on the property.

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After finishing the work on Lewis’ property, they moved to their next assignment on their five-week stay in Vicksburg.

Angela Turner, housing coordinator for the city of Vicksburg, said NCCC’s stint in the Red Carpet City of the South is the result of receiving a special grant that allows them to stay in Vicksburg for an extended amount of time and work additional hours on projects.

“That’s what makes this so special because it’s not what they normally do,” Turner said.

The city, the United Way of West Central Mississippi and several of its partner agencies, including Christian Volunteer Services, Habitat for Humanity and Cary Christian Center, partnered to apply for the grant in order to ensure Delta 3 would have work to do each day, a requirement for the grant to be awarded, Turner said.

“Partnering shows teamwork and collaboration, and because of that, we had a strong application,” she said, noting she prioritized the needs of the elderly when planning Delta 3’s schedule. “We get calls every day about people needing help, and we just had to prioritize our list.”

The nine members of Delta 3 hail from across the country, from Washington to New York to Florida, and serve for 10- and 11-month terms with the NCCC. In exchange for their service, Corps members receive $5,775 to help pay for college or to pay back existing student loans.

“You travel, you get to help people and you get to learn about yourself, too,” said team leader Kymberly Tisder of Illinois, who is taking a gap year with the NCCC before attending law school. “The project kind of dictates the hours we work but here we’ve been working 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. (The projects) an ambitious goal, but we’ve been meeting it.”

In addition to helping fix up 11 houses, Delta 3 volunteered at the True Color Run and toured the Army Corps of Engineer’s Engineer Research and Development Center.

While learning about the communities they serve — they were previously stationed in South Carolina before traveling to Vicksburg — the diversity of the team itself is a valuable learning experience, Tisder said.

“None of us are from the same state, so it’s an interesting mix,” she added. “You really get a good mix of people. Some know more about different things, so some of it is about learning with them.”

Tisder said Delta 3, based in Vicksburg, will receive their next assignment soon.

“We could end up (in an area affected by flooding), but we could end up anywhere in the Southern region,” she said.