JOPLIN, Mo. —
Joplin will receive nearly $2.8 million worth of AmeriCorps assistance in the next three years for building houses, it was announced Wednesday.
The commitment to put 150 AmeriCorps volunteers here to supervise home building sites over a three-year span brought the chief executive officer of AmeriCorps’ parent organization, Wendy Spencer of the Corporation for National and Community Service, to Joplin along with U.S. Rep. Billy Long for the announcement.
Spencer said she leads a chant in which AmeriCorps workers respond that they feel “fired up” about a project.
“This community is fired up for the recovery,” she said, “and the (AmeriCorps) volunteers coming here will speed up this recovery,” with the help of civilian volunteers, and church and faith-based organizations.
The grant will pay for $650,000 in expenses annually for three years of work by the AmeriCorps personnel. They will serve as site supervisors for the volunteers who come to build houses, said Jerrod Hogan, co-founder of Rebuild Joplin. The grant also will pay $800,000 for education awards made to AmeriCorps workers to pay student loans or for advanced degrees since they are not paid wages for their work.
The grant is contingent on federal appropriations and will be used to secure an additional $1 million in cash and in-kind contributions from businesses and foundations to help.
Spencer said Long’s support is important to the national corporation and AmeriCorps.
During budget discussions in Congress last fall, a bill was drafted to eliminate several federal programs including AmeriCorps as part of an effort cut $4 billion in overall spending. The bill would have reduced funding for the community service corporation from $1 billion to $280 million. Asked at the time by the Globe for his opinion of the proposal, Long said in an email, “The bill is still a draft and in committee, so it is too early to speculate.” He said it was important to look at all programs to make sure taxpayer dollars were spent wisely in deciding what to cut.
Asked on Wednesday what he would advise in the House in regard to AmeriCorps funding, Long said, “The federal government does few things right, but one of the things it does do right is disaster recovery.”
AmeriCorps will be working through Rebuild Joplin. Hogan said the grant is part of a larger one made to the St. Bernard Project of the New Orleans area, which is helping Rebuild Joplin use a program created there in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. That organization has led the reconstruction and repair of 425 houses.
“Joplin would not be where we are without AmeriCorps,” Hogan said. “Joplin loves AmeriCorps.”
Zack Rosenburg, founder and CEO of the St. Bernard Project, said the grant funds will enable Rebuild Joplin to arrange the construction of 250 houses in those three years with the help of 18,000 volunteers. He said 3,000 volunteers are to be here this month alone for the work. The value of the volunteer labor is about $6 million, he said.
The announcement was made in conjunction with an open house at the home of Dan Farren, 2206 S. Kentucky Ave., which was destroyed in the May 2011 tornado and rebuilt with the help of AmeriCorps.
“I’m a person of very few words, but AmeriCorps has been here from Day 1, all the way from debris removal,” Farren said of his reconstruction. “It is unbelievable what they have done. Rebuild Joplin and AmeriCorps is a great team. I’ve called and asked for their help on several things, and they’ve never dropped the ball on me.”
Mayor Pro Tem Bill Scearce said the volunteerism effort exemplifies the American way.
“It’s obvious to anybody that without the thousands of volunteers that gave up the time to come, we would not be anywhere close to where we are in this recovery,” he said. “On behalf of a grateful city, we say, ‘Thank you.’”
MILITARY VETERANS AND LOCAL RESIDENTS will have the opportunity to apply for the positions to be funded. Veterans are sought because their military training will be helpful. If accepted, they will receive a living allowance, training and a $5,550 college scholarship as do other AmeriCorps workers.