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N-Sid-Sen grounds are cleaned up by youth team

A nine-member AmeriCorps Civilian Community Corps team of high school graduates has worked on fire mitigation, grounds maintenance and other tasks from early November through Dec. 18 at N-Sid-Sen, the PNC-UCC camp and retreat center on Lake Coeur d’Alene in Idaho.

Eight of the nine AmeriCorps team helping with fire mitigation, trail clearing and beautification at N-Sid-Sen enjoy a campfire.                       Photo courtesy of N-Sid-Sen

Team members from ages 18 to 24 met at Sacramento, Calif., for orientation for 10 months of hands-on service opportunities to help communities.

Meghan Rhodes, who graduated from high school in Madison, Wis., joined the team without knowing where she would be assigned or what she would do.

“At N-Sid-Sen, fire mitigation has involved clearing brush, clearing new trails, making old trails less steep with S-curves, painting cabins, washing windows and beautification of the camp,” she said. “We have hauled the brush to a burn pile in the middle of the meadow.”

The camp managing director Pam Peterson and the East Side Lake Coeur d’Alene Fire Department will supervise the burning to keep it safe.

Meghan said the nine team members were given saws, loppers, weed whackers, shovels and rakes and taught how to use them safely.

Team members clear a trail on the hillside at N-Sid-Sen.

“We sawed down brush and trees to make space for new and healthier growth,” she said. “The fire department came to discuss mitigation, also teaching us how to identify what plants to remove and what ones to keep.”

Jane Baker, a volunteer trail blazer from Westminster UCC in Spokane, came out to teach the team how to build and maintain the trails, said Pam Peterson, managing director at N-Sid-Sen.

A lumberjack and his family came to cut down the big trees and the team will work with Dean Johnson, the maintenance manager at N-Sid-Sen, to finish the cleanup and split the wood for the camp’s firewood cache.

While they worked, they stayed in Syringa Lodge.

They were also able to meet other groups that came to use the camp, such as a quilting camp, and they helped plan an open house for the local community. They also assisted in hosting the annual East Side Fire Department Christmas Banquet.

Meghan listed other members of the team, who shared comments about their experiences with AmeriCorps.

Keathea Hess of Seneca Falls, NY, said that “AmeriCorps has been a great experience to meet new people and gain new skills.”

Elisha Howard of Houston, Texas, said, “AmeriCorps has introduced me to plenty of new and useful skills that can be useful in the future. Traveling and doing projects with new people has been an enlightening and insightful experience.”

Ethan Klemm of St. Petersburg, Fla., appreciates that “AmeriCorps has given me the opportunity to travel across the country while making lifelong friends and giving back to the community. It’s the perfect thing to do if you’re looking to take a gap year in between college.

Noah Stoltzfus of Ephrata, Pa., commented: “I joined AmeriCorps at the advice of my mother who had previously been in the program. I didn’t know what I wanted to do as a career, so I joined with AmeriCorps to get work experience and possibly find what I want to do.”

Joshua McRae of Gastonia, N.C., joined AmeriCorps to have new experiences, to travel, to make new friends and to find the right college.

Jack Knizhnik of Vernon Hills, Ill., not only joined AmeriCorps to travel, but also to “gain leadership experience, and better prepare myself to enter the workforce.”

Molly Hunt of Erlanger, Ky., said also joined AmeriCorps to travel, to “serve others and gain valuable life experience before going into college.”

Along with travel, Daniel Studzinski of Burlington, N.J., joined Americorps to “figure out what I want to do with my life.”

In December they returned to Sacramento for two days before going to Eugene, Ore., where they will clear brush, make trails, and do beautification projects in parks for seven weeks, before going to Santa Cruz, Calif, where they will do similar work.

Meghan said other teams build houses with Habitat for Humanity and work with food banks.

During their 10-month commitment, participants receive a stipend and have housing, food and cleaning supplies covered.

“We earn a $7,000 credit for college tuition,” she said, explaining that AmeriCorps volunteers can work for four years.

“We have worked all day with new people who have become our friends and we have gained skills we did not have,” she said. “We have also been doing things we have not done before. It has been great to work at N-Sid-Sen beside the lake.

“We went swimming one day when it was 40 degrees, had campfires and karaoke nights, talked late and went on hikes—including hiking to the new Inspiration Point,” she said.

Pam said this was N-Sid-Sen’s first endeavor at hosting an AmeriCorps CCC team.

“It was a great experience and we all learned so much from each other,” she said. “We previously benefited from a CCC team’s volunteer efforts last summer and we felt that being a host sight would take us to the next step of developing a long-standing relationship with the AmeriCorps organization. We look forward to continuing that relationship.”

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Pacific Northwest United Church News © Winter 2023-24


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