Emporia, Kan. -- Don't tell AmeriCorps member Ian Becherer-Gerrie that what he does for a living is a "job." The 23-year-old Missouri man will be quick to correct you by telling you that the work he has been doing for the past five weeks in Kansas and Missouri communities affected by the ice storms that began Jan 29, has not been a job, but a "service."
Becherer-Gerrie is a member of the Corporation for National Community Service program AmeriCorps, which worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in areas devastated by the ice storm. Along with a crew of 44 other AmeriCorps members from across the country, Becherer-Gerrie (AmeriCorps St. Louis) completed more than 1,200 requests for debris removal from residential property in Kansas, including the Kansas City metro area.
In coordination with FEMA, the Salvation Army, The American Red Cross, Christian Disaster Relief and many other volunteer organizations, the AmeriCorps "Ice Storm Task Force" has focused its efforts on debris removal from the properties of elderly, homebound, low-income, and disabled residents.
"I think as Americans, we don't always give back for what we've been given," said Becherer-Gerrie. "I see my service as an opportunity to give back to my community and country."
Becherer-Gerrie pointed out that in light of AmeriCorps' philanthropic philosophy "calling our service a 'job' is demeaning to what we are doing. It's what you give to people that you come away with, not a paycheck."AmeriCorps was set up as a national service organization in 1993 under the Clinton Administration to meet critical unmet needs in communities across America. More than 50,000 members will serve this year in the areas of education, public safety, the environment and provide disaster relief services throughout the United States.
Even though AmeriCorps' work ended March 7, voluntary and faith-based organizations are picking up where the task force left off. "Pulling out of a disaster is always the hardest part," said Becherer-Gerrie. "We always want to make sure that everyone is taken care of, particularly those with special needs."
The AmeriCorps St. Louis' Emergency Response team has supported many disaster response efforts recently, including the western states' wild-fires, Midwest floods and terrorist acts in Oklahoma City, Washington D.C., and New York City.
"Our primary focus on debris removal related to the ice storms continues to be the elderly, homebound and people with special needs," said Don Foote, voluntary agency liaison for FEMA.
Residents who are elderly or disabled and need special assistance in debris removal may call FEMA at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) to register and ask to be referred to a...