The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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June 13, 2012

AmeriCorps crews continue tireless work in Joplin's tornado recovery

JOPLIN, Mo. — A dry-erase calendar on the wall near Andy Pak’s desk speaks to the organizational skills he is using to aid Joplin’s recovery.

Blue ink indicates the number of skilled volunteers he’s coordinating.

Green ink indicates unskilled volunteers.

Black represents the total number of volunteers working each day for Rebuild Joplin. This week alone, that total is 2,298 people.

Pak, 18, belongs to the National Civilian Community Corps, a division of AmeriCorps. The group on Wednesday announced a three-year commitment to fund the ongoing rebuilding in Joplin.

Pak spends his days taking phone calls from groups interested in volunteering in Joplin, organizing orientations for the groups when they arrive, and maintaining a database with contact information, details about particular skills, and a roster of which work site the groups will be assigned to and when.

While the Fairfax, Va., native said he’ll be taking home much more than he came with — independence, responsibility, discipline, maturity, a broader worldview — he downplays his role in Joplin’s recovery.

“There are others on my AmeriCorps team out at home sites doing the real work,” Pak said Wednesday morning after completing an orientation for 50 volunteers from O’Fallon.

Amanda Bilke, volunteer manager for Rebuild Joplin, sees it a different way. She said every AmeriCorps member is vital to recovery.

“We love the teams,” she said. “But we need them longer.”

Pak’s team arrived four weeks ago and will depart in mid-July. It is one of four, six- to eight-week rotations each NCCC team completes across the United States in areas of disaster recovery, nonprofit work or assistance to low-income people.

“Being in a community impacted by disaster, there is just so much optimism, dedication of volunteers, a way to really serve,” Pak said. “It makes you feel better about humanity.”

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