- Ryan Bowersox
AmeriCorps Week! March 13-19th
In honor of AmeriCorps week, we wanted to recognize the commitment of those who have chosen to serve their country and community through AmeriCorps. Our AmeriCorps, Karen and Charles, have been integral in Just Food’s operations over the past two years. These amazing community members have helped move our operations into a new building, helped folks gain access to foods by operating our mobile food pantry, the Cruising Cupboard, and making deliveries to our most vulnerable populations. They also created a brand new satellite pantry at Heartland Community Health Center called the Care Cupboard so the health and hunger gap can be addressed in the same building. With all of these incredible accomplishments, we asked Karen and Charles about their experiences so far and where they see themselves in the future.
Why did you decide to serve with AmeriCorps?
Karen: I was already familiar with the AmeriCorps program through some previous terms of service and found it to be a great way to give my community support, while exploring my next paths.
Charles: I wanted to help my community during the pandemic and did some research on ways to do so and found AmeriCorps. I thought it would be a good opportunity for my own personal growth and a good way to involve myself in the community.
What have you learned in your time with Just Food? This can be anything about the organization, food insecurity, Douglas County community, etc.
Karen: I’ve learned that it is not enough for us to “give out food” but to also provide a service that is welcoming and judgment free. The reality is that anyone can find themselves in need of help at any time, life is just that unpredictable. However as a community it is vital that we address these needs equitably and without stigma, so people feel secure enough to ask for assistance when they need it.
Charles: Over my time at Just Food, I've seen the rising food insecurity in Douglas County. That the need is much more than I expected, and it continues to rise. I've learned the importance of these organizations and our own ability and willingness to do a small part to help
How will that help you in your future?
Karen: The time I’ve spent with Just Food and Heartland has helped me clarify just how much I enjoy giving service for others. It makes me feel useful when I help an individual find the opportunities they need to get through the next day. I feel even more useful when I can help them on their way to leading a successful life. As my AmeriCorps term comes to an end, I will be looking for positions with local organizations that will let me focus on building a sustainable and resilient community, where individuals feel empowered to work together toward a common goal.
Charles: Being an AmeriCorps member has helped me decide that I want to stay working for non-profits in the future. If I'm unable to, I'll still do what I can to give back what I can.
What have you learned about service and leadership?
Karen: I’ve learned that just about anyone can take on a leadership role through providing service to others. This can take the form of direct leadership in grand fashion, or in the seemingly small act of helping another person learn new skills or feel appreciated.
Charles: Serving at Just Food, I've learned about the relationship between organizations and their communities. In Lawrence, the impact of our service is large and still growing. It's helped me realize how important our service is and that there is always a need for people to give back. It's been important to be able to grow and lead while the need rises. Over time, it's become easier to lead with experience and knowledge to help in the daily operations flow.
“My mother always said to do my best in everything I do, and I’m happy I’ve been able to put that effort into our community through my service at Just Food and Heartland. I’ve enjoyed being part of this team that cares so much for our community on so many levels, and look forward to “getting things done" for many more years to come.” -Karen