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Monday, April 11, 2011

[Earth Day Edition] Johnny Apple Seed and Earth Day Should Take a Bow from AmeriCorps NCCC

When one thinks Earth Day what is the first nonprofit organization that comes to mind? For my family, it is AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC). Recently my husband and I had the opportunity to work with AmeriCorps NCCC on a University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) 7 Days of Service and Habitat for Humanity cleanup effort but we’ll talk a about both of those other organizations in a later post. Our focus for this post is AmeriCorps and what NCCC evolved from – the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCCs).

My grandfather had a sorted story to tell. I grew up hearing stories of the dreaded U.S. dust bowl of the 1930s, where he endured living on the Nebraska and Kansas plains. A massive dust storm, which without a moment’s notice, would blanket the landscape and cover all in its path including humans and livestock. However, he was proud not to brag how he and others helped to prevent dust bowls from occurring today. Generations later should take note of his and other’s valiant efforts. Grandpa was part of the CCCs. For a very low wage at the time - they traveled the country clearing brush and planting trees in sandy terrain. An indentured servant at the time, joining the CCCs was a way out for my grandpa. It gave him a fresh start and helped him gain confidence and give him money in his pocket to eventually move to the big city -- Omaha.

Sign posted at Omaha work site
“The government took over the CCCs and that is what we are today NCCC,” said Calin Stearling, AmeriCorps NCCC member. “AmeriCorps NCCC have been around since 1993.”

Omaha meet the 2011 AmeriCorps NCCC. They make up young adults ages 18-25, much older than my grandpa’s crew. They arrive and line up like a well-oiled machine in their gear. Today’s NCCC offers a much nicer wage and way to earn college tuition unlike grandpa’s time. To voluneer you need to give 10 month commitment and be ages 18-25, the youngest among this crew is 20. Omaha is this AmeriCorps team first project site.

“Our team started February 15 and we’re stationed in Vinton, Iowa. Over the course of 10 months we will be going to four to six different work sites,” said Dana Fytelson, AmeriCorps NCCC member. “Our team will be doing anything from working at a camp, doing Habitat for Humanity work and trail building. So there is a variety of different projects we can get.”

All AmeriCorps NCCC team’s serve in five areas: (1) energy conservation, (2) environmental conservation, (3) infrastructure improvement, (4) natural disaster, and (5) urban and rural development.

“Anything that falls within these categories AmeriCorps can do,” Fytelson said. “Our main focus is disaster assistance -- so if a disaster were to happened we’d be called off whatever we were working on to go to the disaster site.”

This project wasn’t a disaster site. The day consisted of clearing brush and chopping down trees and limbs at a future site for a Habitat for Humanity house in North Omaha.

“We’re looking to do any extra hours outside Habitat for Humanity that we can -- we’re off on Sundays and Mondays. We have to get 80 service hours outside the assigned project,” Fytelson said. “We’d love to help with anything with Earth Day/month in April. We’re here through May 13 so we’re open to anything.”

If you’re in the Omaha area and need the assistance of the Americops NCCC team you have until May 13 to put in your request. If interested, contact Dana Fytelson at

Grandpa Rickels would have been proud to know that his legacy lives on as CCC alumni celebrate their 75th anniversary this year.

Editor’s note: Everyone volunteering got a first-hand glimpse into AmeriCorps NCCC mission -- service through teamwork. Special thanks to the UNO team of volunteers, Patty from Habitat for Humanity for her leadership and John for his team’s arborist efforts that day too.

In celebration of the 41st anniversary of Earth Day population-we™ staffers will celebrate our love for planet earth with green posts the entire month of April! Thanks for reading our second Earth Day post. 
- population-we blog post by Becky Bohan Brown
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