VOLUNTEER OF THE WEEK: Laurie Perez wants to make life easier for others

Published 8:00 am Sunday, May 8, 2022

This week’s Vicksburg Post Volunteer of the Week is Laurie Perez, who volunteers at the AmeriCorps NCCC Southern Region.

AmeriCorps is a national service program that focuses on key areas to make a larger impact. Perez has traveled to many parts of the world and from those travels, she has learned how to combat a bad day with good home-cooking and being outside while watching the clouds.

While helping in the community, she said, “I find comfort in knowing the work I am doing is making someone else’s life easier.”

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How did you learn about the volunteer program with AmeriCorps NCCC Southern Region?

Just as any young adult, I found myself on the path of self-discovery. I wanted to do more in my day-to-day activities, but Peace Corps was too far from home. When I looked more into volunteer programs in America, I found the AmeriCorps NCCC service program. It seemed like a great way to travel and do daily tasks that I would never get to experience as a regular volunteer or with the degree path I was on. The program covers work with conservation, education, construction, and much more.

What is your favorite memory while volunteering with AmeriCorps NCCC Southern Region?

Volunteering, for me, is not always the glamorous work most people think of when they go out and do a service day. The most memorable volunteer event I did was a food festival back home. It was a cold and rainy day, but the event powered through and was kept alive by the celebrational activities. Various volunteers decided to leave early throughout the day and left very few volunteers to clean up. I was tasked with disposing of the trash and carrying the bags down the street to the dump. The bags were fragile, and the seafood easily tore a hole in the bag which soaked the cardboard trash cans until they collapsed. It was a tougher volunteer day than anticipated, but I tried my best to find a way around the continual rising issues. While coming back to the site to clear more with soup all down my leg, a group of volunteers came up to me and asked what they could do to assist. I was reminded that I do not volunteer for my well-being, but for the people around me. My work had a more significant impact than the task itself. Instead of the sponsor being burnt out and leaving hours later, the group cleaned up the entire fest in little time or effort. Afterward, the sponsor thanked us for the assistance, and we all left with a deeper perspective of what it meant to volunteer.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about volunteering?

Any advice I would give to a volunteer is to keep in mind the more significant impact of the tasks. Some volunteering can seem tedious, and individuals struggle with understanding why they are doing it. Still, when everything comes together, and you hear or see the organization’s impact and event, you find a deeper connection, and it will stick with you for years.

What are your tasks while volunteering with AmeriCorps NCCC Southern Region? My volunteer work with AmeriCorps NCCC Southern Region is different from most. I am the Program Support Team Leader, and I act as a Volunteer and Community Engagement Coordinator. In addition, I work with teams across the twenty states and two territories (including Puerto Rico) to find new and exciting volunteer opportunities.

I value the time I spend tracking down the community leaders and talking to each community leader to discuss how they found their job and how their organization directly impacts the local area. After each meeting, I was able to build more of a community for my teams, and I became a resource to the organization itself.

Our volunteering consists of trail clearing, after-school tutoring, planting trees, coral reef cleaning, gardening, disaster and storm clean up, helping refugees and new Americans settle into their new homes and much more. There is a type of volunteer opportunity for everyone.

What have you learned from volunteering with AmeriCorps NCCC Southern Region?

There was a moment when I was sitting in an after-school program with a sponsor when she talked about how difficult it is to take the children out of the classroom to expand their opportunities for different experiences. At that moment, I realized I had an entire community of resources I could introduce her to. This gave me a new perspective of what it means to be a community engagement coordinator, and I want to bring this unique perspective with me in life and share it with each community we come into contact with.

Any additional comments?

Connecting people to the resources around them and helping them build their community of support is something that I know firsthand and can make a real difference in people’s lives, no matter what stage of life they are in. Ensuring community members have a more accessible moment in life is the motivation behind my volunteering. I am very passionate about what I do, and I will bring this excitement to help grow the community.

If there is a volunteer who should be featured, please submit their name and contact information to volunteer@vicksburgpost.com.