AmeriCorps Spotlight – Forrest

The AmeriCorps “Together We Prepare” program is looking for new members! The Together We Prepare AmeriCorps program, administered by the American Red Cross, utilizes AmeriCorps members to improve the capacity of communities to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters in locations across Michigan.

Today’s AmeriCorps spotlight is on Forrest who serves in Grand Rapids.

What were you doing before you joined AmeriCorps?

I was living in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and working at a local hospital there. I had been working a variety of jobs in and around the hospital for a few years before joining the AmeriCorps in 2020.

What made you want to join the Together We Prepare program with the Red Cross?

In September 2019, Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas. It was a worst-case scenario for the islands. An extremely strong Category 5 storm landed. The damage was tremendous. I knew I wanted to get involved, and I wanted to assist in the recovery effort. Unfortunately, I did not have the experience or means to.

So, I began looking at new opportunities. I started looking for organizations that I could work or train with to respond to another major natural disaster. The AmeriCorps program was something I had certainly heard of before. However, in years past, for one reason or another, I did not think an AmeriCorps service term was the best option for me. This time around I was coming at it from a new perspective. I was looking specifically for programs with an emphasis on disaster response. And that’s how I found Together We Prepare. Supporting natural disaster operations nationwide?  Sign me up!

What duties/responsibilities do you perform for your chapter?

In both of my service terms with SE Michigan and now West Michigan, a large part of my role is volunteer outreach. This means reaching out to local volunteers and engaging and collaborating with them. The volunteer force is the backbone of the American Red Cross. Working with Red Cross volunteers will often be some of the most rewarding and meaningful experiences we can have as AmeriCorps members.

What is your favorite thing to do as an AmeriCorps member?

With our program, the hardest work is often the most rewarding. I have been fortunate enough to support a few Disaster Response Operations over my service terms. Another area I have spent a lot of time in is our Disaster Action Teams. Honestly, DAT operations may very well be the most challenging work we will ever do as AmeriCorps members; but it can also be the most rewarding.

What advice would you give someone joining the program?

Prepare to be flexible. As AmeriCorps members, we can serve in a wide variety of roles within (and outside of) the Red Cross.  You don’t always know where the job will take you. But that’s part of the excitement. So be ready for anything, and advocate for yourself. Recognize your limits. In this line of work, it can be easy to overextend yourself. You have to take care of yourself first. Recognize your boundaries.

Finally, while we may be working remotely right now, connecting and engaging with your fellow program members is more important than ever. For newer program members coming in this year, I would highly encourage using Zoom calls to stay engaged and connected. Working remotely is an inherently lonely business and something I have struggled with personally. I can only encourage newer members to hang on to some of the core ideas my group strived for. Lean on each other, break down barriers, and strive to collaborate as much as possible.

If you’re interested in joining the AmeriCorps Together We Prepare program contact Program Director: Eilis Gambill Phone: (810) 358-4357 Email: eilis.gambill@redcross.org  

Or apply at the links below.

Ann Arbor: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do;jsessionid=RDLzN-ch0P_Mb3iR1pNPUYqboev4NKpEUliWzOafF2O1fg1PQR04!126839335?id=81725&fromSearch=true

Detroit: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?fromSearch=true&id=91632

Traverse City: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?fromSearch=true&id=81729

Kalamazoo: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?fromSearch=true&id=81727

Grand Rapids: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?fromSearch=true&id=81723

Lansing: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?fromSearch=true&id=6757

Flint: no openings

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