Feb. 12, 2006 – Bright and early Monday morning 10 young people hailing from states ranging from Massachusetts to Colorado will begin beautifying the Oswald Harris Court housing community.
The AmeriCorps volunteers arrived Friday from St. Croix where they had spent a month rehabilitating vacant units at the Whim Gardens housing community for the elderly.
AmeriCorps is an all-volunteer organization whose mission is "to strengthen communities and develop leaders through team-based national and community service."
On St. Croix, the seven women and three men reconstructed walls, painted and even did some plumbing and electrical work, Ruth Steiner, team leader, said Friday at an orientation meeting at the Ruth Dazzle community center at Oswald Harris Court.
The group, which calls itself "Team Rastafari Baby," is part of AmeriCorps' Southeast region.
On St. Thomas they will start with grass cutting and hopefully move into planting at both Harris Court and the Tutu Hi-Rise housing community.
Jerome Sewer, foreman of the zone crew for the V.I. Housing Authority, told the volunteers what to expect on their first day of work: "It is our goal to cut the lawn, do the hedging and if there's some time Monday, do some planting."
Sewer said Oswald Harris property spans about four acres and that all the equipment needed to do the work will be provided by the authority.
Once the work is done at Oswald Harris, he said, "the rest of the time will be spent at Tutu."
None of the volunteers — whose assortment of duffel bags and back packs was piled haphazardly at the entrance to the Dazzle Center — seemed even slightly daunted by the work ahead.
"I really love the program and enjoy the work," Steiner said. At 26, she has mostly done service work since graduating from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a bachelor's degree in molecular biology.
AmeriCorps provides Steiner and the others with a small housing allowance.
Travel, room and board are also provided. And AmeriCorps volunteers receive a $4,700 education allowance, Steiner said.
The ratio of women to men represented by Team Rastafari Baby is standard, according to the young people.
Daniel Adler-Golden, 20, got into service work right out of high school. Adler-Golden, who is from Newton, Mass., was part of what is called CitiCorps. He taught environmental studies to second- and third-grade students in the urban areas of Boston. "The kids didn't know anything about the natural world," Adler-Golden added.
He said he got into the Corps because when he graduated from high school, "I wasn't sure if I wanted to go to college."
The group will be staying in a private home in Bonne Esperance, rented for them by the Housing Authority, according to Irma Hodge, director of public
relations for resident services.
But Hodge said she is hoping that people in the community will reach out to provide some fun activities for the volunteers. She said it would be nice if the volunteers had the chance to go sailing or experience some of the other activities unique to the Virgin Islands.
Anyone who wishes to volunteer their time or services to show the young people a good time can call Hodge at 513-2371.
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