“A Godsend”: AmeriCorps Team Mucks Out Flood-Ravaged Basements

Members of the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps have been working in Barre, Vermont, helping muck out properties that were damaged by flash flooding two weeks ago.

"It makes it a lot easier on us," said homeowner Don McCormick, whose Barre basement filled with mud after the flash flood.

On July 19, heavy rain and runoff overwhelmed a brook, sparking flash floods that drowned several blocks in Barre. McCormick said he has to replace his furnace, but first, the filth had to be cleared from his basement.

"It is a Godsend for them to be able to do this for us," McCormick said of the AmeriCorps NCCC team.

According to AmeriCorps NCCC's website, the group works with project sponsors including schools, municipalities, federal agencies, parks, and non-profit organizations to do infrastructure improvements, environmental stewardship and conservation projects, and urban and rural development projects. Teams also respond to disaster zones to assist victims or communities in their disaster recoveries.

"Who else is going to do the work right now?" asked Conner Nowicki, a mud-covered worker on the NCCC team working in Barre this week. "Nobody. That's why our team is here. It's rewarding, but it's definitely tough."

"Everybody's exhausted and sore, and really the only thing that gets us up in the morning is knowing we're helping people," added Merissa Daugherty, the NCCC team leader.

AmeriCorps has enjoyed the support of U.S. Presidents from both parties, but in today's climate of budget cutting and belt-tightening, some in Congress have proposed slashing funding to the team-based national and community service groups at NCCC.

A bill before the U.S. House of Representatives would fund $153-billion for Labor, Health and Human Services, according to the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations. That level is a reduction of $3.7-billion below the fiscal year 2015 enacted level and $14.6-billion below President Obama's budget request, the committee said.

That funding decrease would likely mean the loss of many AmeriCorps positions that have worked hard in Vermont communities, advocates for non-profits told necn.

"Couldn't be a bigger mistake," said Mayor Thom Lauzon, R-Barre, of the notion of cutting federal support of the AmeriCorps NCCC. "When you look at the commitment these young people make and what they receive in return in terms of a stipend, it really is simply a strong desire to serve their community that drives them."

Lauzon said he has seen the response team in his city after a few floods now, and has greatly appreciated their hard work.

"They've earned my respect," Lauzon said of the workers, who are 18-24-year-old students or recent graduates. "And my support."

There is likely to be more debate still to come in Washington on the future funding of AmeriCorps. In the meantime, the NCCC workers are scheduled to continue their Barre flood response assistance through August 13.

According to the Vermont Division of Emergency Management & Homeland Security, private homeowners should report any damage to their city or town. Emergency management officials said private homeowners should call 2-1-1 to request help in their recovery. 

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