The American Rescue Plan (ARP) is designed to provide relief for people, rescue the economy and work to beat COVID-19. Tackling issues like these since 1964, AmeriCorp/VISTA has been granted more than $3 million in ARP funding to continue its programs statewide and locally.
AmeriCorp/VISTA volunteers currently serve the Greenbrier Valley in many ways including through High Rocks and Energy Express programs.
High Rocks: Educating Youth, Enriching Communities will receive $190,058. Energy Express was granted $481,904. Funding for Energy Express, a program within the West Virginia University Extension Service, is managed by WVU and its extension service.
“The Energy Express funding received from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) enables us to access more AmeriCorps members in order to mentor West Virginia’s children,” explained Mark Swiger, director of Energy Express for West Virginia University Extension Service. “Energy Express was awarded AmeriCorps funding earlier in the year to host up to 60 sites around the state and supply living allowances and education awards for 360 AmeriCorps members. The additional funding from the ARP allows us to expand that number by 72 additional members for a total of up to 432 members.”
Swiger explained how the WVU program works, “Our formula for children’s participation in Energy Express is that for every member we can utilize, eight children can participate. Under that original formula, Energy Express was going to serve up to 2,880 children around the state with our original funding. With the ARP funding, Energy Express will be able to serve up to a total of 3,456 children; expanding literacy, reducing learning loss, enhancing nutrition and food access, and providing national service for West Virginia’s children through mentoring by AmeriCorps members and highly qualified site supervisors.”
Energy Express “is delivered through the hard work of our county extension offices and their local collaboratives who make the program successful,” said Swiger.
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin announced the ARP funds on Oct. 4, “Across West Virginia, our communities have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. This funding from the American Rescue Plan will help AmeriCorps volunteers provide our communities with support and relief during this ongoing crisis,” said Manchin. “As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I will continue to advocate for funding to help our communities recover from this pandemic.”
Members of AmeriCorp/VISTA, High Rocks and Volunteer West Virginia are not strangers around the local community when a crisis hits. Volunteers with these organizations joined the recovery effort in the aftermath of the 2016 flood that devastated much of the Greenbrier Valley. Volunteer West Virginia was awarded $1,960,588 in ARP funds.
According to the volunteer organization’s website: VISTA serving with NASA in Fairmont sorted clothes and loaded water, shovels, and food into a NASA truck for delivery to Rainelle and Lewisburg; 35 AmeriCorps state members, staff from High Rocks Youth Leadership, Energy Express and AmeriCorps on the Frontline supported cleanup efforts in Greenbrier County; and six AmeriCorps state members with Appalachian Forest Heritage Area and High Rocks members established and managed a Volunteer Reception Center in Lewisburg.
In June 2016, “West Virginia’s thousand-year flood brought a wave of kind-hearted souls from near and far wanting to help,” reports Volunteer West Virginia. “Before the rain stopped, Volunteer West Virginia teamed up with West Virginia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster and the State Emergency Operations Center, to point eager volunteers in the right direction. The small state agency could not have anticipated where the next few months would lead.”
The organization calculated that “more than 5,000 individuals signed up on the Volunteer West Virginia website to volunteer. Phones rang off the hook. Visitors to the website jumped from the monthly average of 4,000 to a whopping 50,000. Staff and volunteers responded to thousands of calls and messages from people who needed help and people offering help. Additionally, 85 Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members served 1,405 hours helping with flood response. These volunteers helped muck out homes, distribute donations, prepare meals, and provided wellness checks and emotional support.”
A total of $3,195,995 from the American Rescue Plan has been granted statewide for AmeriCorps programs. Individual awards include $1,960,588 – Volunteer West Virginia, $481,904 – Energy Express AmeriCorps, $63,080 – Grow Ohio Valley, $160,165 – LifeBridge AmeriCorps Drug Prevention, $340,200 – Enhancing Assets to Benefit Communities and $190,058 – High Rocks: Educating Youth, Enriching Communities.
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