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News :: Members of the second AmeriCorps Class 19 arrive at Vinton NCCC campus
· 12:09pm February 6th, 2013
The second NCCC "Class 19" members arrived Tuesday in the gym at the IBSSS/NCCC campus, where a decades-old set of wall paintings represents the states their organization has served for the past five years.
There is both irony and history in the fact that at one time that institutions from North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio were one-time opponents of the Iowa Rams.
The Rams were the students of the Iowa Braille and Sight-Saving School, who competed with athletes from more than a dozen other states, including the eight mentioned above, in basketball and other sports.
Long before the 18-24-year-olds who arrived on Tuesday were born, students from IBSSS were competing against other visually-impaired students from those states.
While those glory days of IBSSS are gone, the paintings on the gym wall serve as reminders of the facility's history -- while also now representing states to which NCCC members will travel from Vinton to serve others in a variety of projects.
Another irony: While the new National Civilian Community Corps members gathered in the IBSSS auditorium on Wednesday morning for their first "community" meeting and to receive a welcome from Vinton Mayor John Watson, many from the IBSSS staff were in Des Moines, where the Iowa Board of Regents was debating the future of the IBSSS campus as a regional service center for visually-impaired Iowans.
The first Class 19 at the NCCC campus was the FEMA Corps Class 19. Those members are now all serving in New Jersey or New York, helping residents there to continue to recover from Hurricane Sandy.
Campus Director Dan Milnes said the quick formation of the FEMA Corps unit -- it took the federal government less than a year to create the program -- as well as the expanded size of the AmeriCorps NCCC Class 19 -- presented some logistical challenges for his staff.
Nearly 500 members and team leaders are based at the Vinton campus, which only has approximately 260 beds.
Milnes, a 27-year Air Force veteran, said the military term for alternating sleeping quarters is "hot-bunking."
With the FEMA Corps members on the East Coast, the NCCC staff has been busy preparing for the second Class 19.
"Until about three months ago, we expected this class to be around 160 members," said Milnes. "Then we learned it was going to be 240."
That increase required NCCC leaders to hire more staff and create more space.
Just under 240 members arrived on Tuesday, carrying their belongings drab olive canvas bags that NCCC had mailed them.
Like the previous NCCC members, these young adults will spend the next nine months based in Vinton while participating in several projects in several other states.
A few familiar faces
And like previous members, these people arrived in Vinton -- many of them seeing Iowa or even snow for the very first time -- and finding some unique surprises.
Jess Tyler, who came from Montana several weeks ago for Team Leader training, looked at one of the new arrivals and said to her: "You look familiar; did you attend Montana State last year?"
Rachel Ruggles looked at Tyler and said "Yes."
While the two had never spoken, Tyler remembered seeing her at the MSU campus in Bozeman, Mont., and recognized her face in the IBSSS gym.
In another "It's a small world" coincidence, Tyler said on Tuesday that two new members were surprised to learn that their roommate was a former high school classmate whom they had not seen for a few years.
After settling in and receiving their equipment, the members of NCCC Class 19 will begin training sessions. After their formal induction next month, they will begin traveling to those eight states mentioned above to begin a variety of service projects.
Another irony: While the minority members among the 240 who arrived in Vinton on Tuesday probably outnumber non-whites who currently live in Vinton, one of the federally-required class sessions each member is required to take is Diversity Training.
Current FEMA Corps projects
Milnes said that while the quick establishment of the FEMA Corps organization presented some challenges, the timing was very good for people in those areas on the East Coast needing assistance. The very First FEMA Corps teams are already helping in many areas affected by Hurricane Sandy. Already, said Milnes, many people have received assistance, while at the same time officials have learned alot about the needs and how to meet them.
Three teams were deployed from Vinton to New York to work in a Joint Field Office assisting FEMA with logistics and helping citizens displaced by the storm find permanent housing.
The remaining teams were deployed to New Jersey where they are also serving in a Joint Field Office. These teams are helping to find permanent housing for people receiving Transitional Support Assistance, coordinating meetings and writing communications materials, gathering and reporting information, doing field inspections for infrastructure assessments, logistics work, building resource directories for long-term recovery, and doing hazard mitigation for high risk areas.
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