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AmeriCorps members volunteer at SEEC

(By Dorian Mitchell of The Kent County News – July 24, 2017)

TURNERS CREEK — Volunteers from AmeriCorps are spending their summer in Kent County, working to improve the Sassafras Environmental Education Center and to help youngsters learn about the world of nature.

Speaking Monday, member Steven Zimmer of Iowa said AmeriCorps is a government-sponsored organization that sends volunteers ages 18 to 24 to various communities throughout the U.S. to “perform needed services.”

AmeriCorps SEEC 2017

photo: Dorian Mitchell

“We hail from all corners of the country,” Zimmer, 22, said. “So far I’ve been to Pennsylvania, Mississippi and upstate New York.”

He said his group, consisting of six other volunteers and a team leader, were sent to the SEEC by the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy in June.

They work eight hours a day, five to six days a week, around the center and the Knocks Folly Visitors Center in Kennedyville.

Their tasks include working with children in the center’s summer camps, maintaining the surrounding nature trails, removing invasive plant species, performing water quality tests and more.

“It’s been hot work,” said Jacob Northcutt-Walker, 19, of Flint, Mich. “But it’s been a good lifestyle experience to be working with plants and water.

He said AmeriCorps volunteers serve for 10 months. They average about $13 every day and also have a living stipend.

A graduation ceremony is held at the end of their service and each volunteer receives an educational grant of about $5,000.

“You also must be able to learn how to conduct yourself as a person,” Northcutt-Walker said. “No one is going to hand you something you didn’t work for.”

SEEC Director and former Congressman Wayne Gilchrest said this is the fourth year AmeriCorps volunteers have worked at the center. He called this year’s volunteers a “great group of young people.”

“They’re hardworking, enthusiastic and great with the kids,” Gilchrest said.

The AmeriCorps volunteers currently are staying in a house in Chestertown owned by Gilchrest’s son. When they’re not working, they like to explore the town and other parts of Kent County like Betterton Beach.

“I particularly enjoy walking around the Chestertown Farmer’s Market. This is a very pleasant area,” Zimmer said. “People have been pretty nice for the most part and see the value of our work.”

Northcutt-Walker said the group also volunteers with nonprofit organizations like the Garfield Center for the Arts and the various American Legions in the county.

“They’re part of side projects we’re tasked with,” he said. “It’s been great meeting new faces and working on myself as well.”

Both said working with Gilchrest has been a great experience. Northcutt-Walker called him “awesome.”

“He is a wonderful person and treats us very well,” Zimmer said. “We look forward to giving him our best.”

The AmeriCorps volunteers will be working through the summer and into the fall, before leaving Kent County in November.

“This has been my favorite project and favorite location so far. I enjoy working with nature and Kent County can give you that experience,” Zimmer said.

He recommended joining AmeriCorps to any young person who is looking to travel, earn money for education and “grow as a person.”

“I’ve learned a lot going through this as a person and about other people,” Zimmer said. “You meet a lot of diverse people and you do work that isn’t just a job. It’s something you enjoy doing.”

For more information about AmeriCorps, visit www.national service.gov/programs/americorps.

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