BEAUMONT, Texas — Here in Southeast Texas, we've all heard of AmeriCorps members coming here for rescue missions after hurricanes or flooding. Now, they're looking for more recruits all across Texas.
The program, known for its aid in crisis situations and helping under-served communities, is short on members.
Job shortages are popping up nationwide, but what about service programs that can't offer competitive salaries but are crucial to helping underserved communities? Well, they're not exempt.
"I basically took a leap of faith and I left my job as a CHW. A full-time CHW and came on as an AmeriCorps member," Ashley Harris said.
Harris used to be a program member, now she's the AmeriCorps program director at Legacy Community Health in Houston.
While she said her program doesn't have a shortage of applicants, she did say it was seeing a downward trend in recruitment.
"We are seeing more turnover in AmeriCorps positions than maybe we have in the past and some more challenges with recruitment because of that because it's a lot more uncertainty than we wish we were dealing with,” said Jaclyn Kolar.
Uncertainties and COVID-19 surges have decreased their recruitment numbers, but they also have more positions to fill.
"Because of some additional funding that was passed last year with the American Rescue Plan, that gave more money to AmeriCorps to open up more positions to meet those needs," Kolar said.
Another reason it's hard for some to commit to the program?
"I basically took a huge pay cut,” Harris said. “I'm making half of what I was making before but something I don't know what it was I just had this strong intuition and gut feeling to take a leap of faith.”
Kolar said full-time members make between $16,000 and $30,000 per year, and they also offer an education award, which is $5,000 to $6,000 that can be used to further their education or pay back student loans after they complete the program. They also offer healthcare and childcare.
"I was a single mom at the time and so I needed help paying for daycare so I could fare and they have financial aid assistance for my childcare," Harris said.
Still, Harris said the reward is worth it.
"If they're able to do it, to do it to try it out at least once,” Harris said. “I really think everyone should try to serve at least one AmeriCorps term in their lives…it was worth it."
The One Star Foundation, which is the AmeriCorps program in Texas, is now recruiting for positions starting in the summer and fall. You can apply or just learn more online at OneStarFoundation.org.
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