As part of AmeriCorps Week I’m interviewing some of the Idealist.org-involved people who have served or are currently serving in AmeriCorps. This interview is with former Idealist.org intern Genesis McKiernan-Allen, who served last year with Northwest Service Academy (NWSA) and is currently serving as a team leader with Impact Northwest.
Where have you served?
I served my first AmeriCorps year as the Outreach and Education Assistant at a nonprofit building material reuse center called The ReBuilding Center (TRC) in Portland, OR. I was placed there through the NWSA. Now I’m serving a different nonprofit agency — Impact Northwest — in a much different capacity. This year I am the Team Leader for a brand new branch of the Impact NW AmeriCorps program. I’m supporting 10 brand new members in 10 brand new positions.
What were you doing before you joined AmeriCorps?
Before AmeriCorps, I was waiting tables and interning for Idealist.org.
Why did you join AmeriCorps? What did you hope to accomplish?
I joined AmeriCorps to get some solid professional experience within a really supportive environment. I wanted to explore the Outreach career path in a little more depth without totally committing to it, and I hoped to open up some more entry-level nonprofit professional doors.
What have you done during your two terms of service?
The first year I served with The ReBuilding Center was focused on performing outreach and education around the many different functions of the organization. I tabled at community events, staffed a booth at remodeling and home shows, created and gave presentations to business alliances, disseminated information to city and county government offices. I also participated some in the planning process for a strategic outreach strategy for the organization, and maintained a physical Community Resource Area in the warehouse facility.
How many other NWSA members served with you (at TRC, if any)?
One other NWSA member, the volunteer coordinator, was placed at TRC.
The ReBuilding Center diverts eight tons of reusable building materials from landfills each day. What impact did your service at the Rebuild Center have on the community?
My outreach work helped connect many resources, directly and immediately diverting building and remodeling waste from the landfill. I was able to educate folks about resources for both donating used and unwanted materials as well as shopping for used materials at highly discounted rates. I hope that by learning about TRC through my outreach efforts people were encouraged to think about other ways they could reduce the amount of stuff sent to the landfill. Additionally, I think my work helped encourage folks to seek out other local resources for other kinds of things.
What was the greatest challenge?
One of the greatest challenges was figuring out how to do my job the best that I could without all of the resources I needed at my disposal — money is not just tight on your personal budget as an AmeriCorps member — lots of sponsoring organizations have very limited budgets. I had to learn to be very creative in finding ways to get supplies, gain free registration to tabling events, and be invited to speak at industry events.
How else has your NWSA service helped you?
My NWSA service really helped me feel comfortable in the nonprofit world, and understand what kinds of things within that world I do and don’t want to do. It was a great introduction to a sometimes murky field, and it really empowered me to seek out other professional opportunities. I feel like I was gently introduced to a lot of skills and abilities that are important to nonprofit work at a pretty general level.