In the immortal words of E. Guss, “I’m so mad I could spit.”

AmeriCorps As you probably know about me (because I CANNOT keep from dropping the ‘I was a firefighter’ thing) I was in AmeriCorps*NCCC. The NCCC stands for National Civilian Community Corps, and it’s been a modern-day version of FDR’s CCC program (back during the Depression) – you know the guys, they built many of the buildings and trails in the national parks in our country.

I was in Year 8 of the NCCC. It was October of 2001-August of 2002. I spent 10 months in the program, and I can say without a doubt that thus far in my life, it has been the most impacting, interesting, eye-opening, exciting, thought-provoking, bonding, tough, neato adventure I’ve had. Ever ever.

That’s why I’m so disappointed and discouraged that the 2007 national budget doesn’t have room for it. There has been a budget cut within AmeriCorps. Half of the total budget cut is the elimination of the NCCC program. They cite high costs of the program and being “rated poorly in a recent Federal management assessment”.

I’m not surprised at either of these reasons. We were fed and housed, had a 15-passenger van (with a gas card), uniforms, backpacks, tents, sleeping bags, and an administration team back at the campus to keep things running. That’s pretty costly, compared to the other volunteer programs AmeriCorps runs.

And as for management, it’s a government program, for Cripe’s sake. Of course it was manged in a ridiculous fashion.

But it was also the most amazing thing I’ve ever done, and outside of joining the Peace Corps (which I still may do), it’s one of the most amazing things someone young can do as far as up-to-your-elbows volunteering.

I’m really disappointed. My heart is hanging low in my chest today. I want there to be a solution – I want there to be a small organization that wants carry on the tradition – providing national-level volunteering for all sorts of kids all over the country.

And not to get really bitchy about the whole thing, but the announcement mentioned that they were closing the NCCC despite its popularity – especially the disaster services it provided. My first day of training, in Washington, D.C., was less than a month after the Tragic Events of September 2001. I have a photograph of a still-smoking Pentagon, as we drove by it. After training, half of our campus immediately went to New York City and began helping FEMA and the Red Cross with disaster services. I didn’t go because I continued on to firefighting training – and saved taxpayers $300 a day (my estimate, after talking to the paid crew) by being on a volunteer fire fighting team.

And Hi, New Orleans? God knows how many NCCCers are recovering from the emotional drain disaster relief brings. We are all disaster-relief trained, meaning we are a movable set of squads of people ready to help in the event of a disaster. I don’t think right now is the time to get rid of a program that provides that particular service. I was talking to a State Farm trainer for their claims-adjustment department, and he said they’re not only hiring more national catastrophe adjusters, they’re keeping them in the lower states – because weather predictions are that this isn’t the last of Mutha Na-tcha coming to get us.

I had a life-altering experience, which is pretty standard for everyone who goes through the program. I met friends who I love, even if we’re spread quite evenly across the United States. I mourn all the things this means about our country’s ability to manage a budget, stay out of ill-reasoned wars, provide meaningful opportunity to its young adults, and instill the feel of altruism in its citizens.

And I’m very, very glad that I DID apply, and WAS accepted, and DID go volunteer with the NCCC, because I met one of my best friends there. Too fucking bad he’s dead.

OH, and apparently I’ve ranted about the scrutiny of AmeriCorps*NCCC before.

  1. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and telling people (who are probably not all that interested) about it whenever I can. I think a large part of what frustrates me is that these programs, which are mutually soooooooo beneficial to the team sponsors and the team members themselves on a hundred different levels are simply discarded as bulk we must shed, while the understanding and common ground that the programs create vanish. The fact that AmeriCorps *NCCC actually provides the tools to really make things better and different in this country is not seen or acknowledged or supported in any real way (=funding). This marks one less opportunity for people from different backgrounds to meet together and DO SOMETHING RIGHT AND REAL.

    I miss Clinton. At least he made you feel good about things while he was screwing things up.

  2. That’s a great photo of Kevin — it captures the best of what I remember of him. Unfortunately, I just learned of his death when I was cleaning out an old e-mail account. Sucks. Thanks for posting it.

    Did you ever find Dan or Noah?

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