PICKENS COUNTY — Every year, AmeriCorps engages more than 80,000 Americans in intensive service at more than 21,500 sites including nonprofits, schools, public agencies and community and faith-based groups.
Since the program’s founding in 1994, more than 1 million AmeriCorps members have contributed more than 1.4 billion hours in service across America while tackling pressing problems and mobilizing more than 2.3 million volunteers for the organizations they serve.
In Pickens County? There’s six of them — each taking their own path to help not only individuals, but the community at large.
AmeriCorps Team lead Andrew Ertzberger and Assets Attainment Specialist Shelby Dickard are nearing the end of their year of service, and they don’t regret one minute of it.
“I originally was on a different path, I was involved with helping addicts with treatment and recovery,” said Ertzberger. “What I discovered though, was that kind of work takes a … a very special kind of person. I found myself in danger of becoming cynical, jaded. I knew this wasn’t the work for me but at the same time, I still wanted to help people. AmeriCorps gave me that.”
Dickard, who serves at The Dream Center in Easley, said the organization’s financial literacy classes are invaluable to the people she has the opportunity to educate.
“I grew up in poverty, so I know where they’re coming from,” she said. “When you see someone not only start to tackle their debt but start a savings account — you know you’re really helping them to secure their future.”
Jeremy Price, manager of programs at initiatives at the United Way of Pickens County, echoed her statements.
“The financial literacy classes are relatively new, but we’ve been implementing them at a grade school level,” he said. “I had an 11-year-old come up and give me a hug because he was so excited he opened his first savings account. That takes some getting used to.”
AmeriCorps is a full time commitment. Think of it as the Peace Corps — but domestically, said Price.
Team members are issued a stipend of around $12,000 a year for the full time job.
“That’s (the stipend) there for a reason. We want you to apply for government benefits. You need to know what the people you’re helping are going through. You apply for food stamps, you know what it’s like to feel the judgment when you stand in line at the grocery store. You know how to help your clients get through the application process.”
United Way of Pickens County has six 2017 AmeriCorps positions at United Way, The Goodwill Job Connection, the Dream Center, Behavioral Health Services of Pickens County and Pickens County Department of Social Services and is currently accepting applications for the 2017-2018 year.
For more information, visit www.uwpickens.org/americorps.
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.