Visiting AmeriCorps group draws praise for hard work

Mike ErwinJournal-Capital
Visiting AmeriCorps group draws praise for hard work

Visiting youth of the federally-supported AmeriCorps program are building a strong relationship with the Pawhuska community — and they’ve been doing it one cleanup at a time.

The crew of workers that is at work around town recently cut a swath of improvements through one of the city’s most historic areas. They cleaned out the clutter from Fire Station No. 1 behind City Hall, helping to get that century-old building ready for its latest transformation as an arts preservation center.

Their landscaping efforts also had a beautifying effect at Snyder Park, the pocket-garden area between City Hall, F.S. No. 1 and the other neighboring structure — Constantine Theater. Inside the Constantine, the dynamic seven-person work force provided some deep-cleaning skills and helped re-distribute theater items formerly stored in the old fire station (and occasional French chateau.)

Gail Boe, director for the Osage Nation Communities of Excellence, said she is excited about having the group in town for the next two months. Speaking at last week’s Pawhuska City Council meeting, Boe said this appears to be another exemplary crew of AmeriCorps volunteers — similar to the others that have been sent here by the program.

AmeriCorps, which has been referred to as a domestic Peace Corps, is a outgrowth of the former VISTA organization.

“They always work hard,” Boe said. “Last year’s group took out over 800 tons of trash while they were here.”

City Council member Cindy Tillman also voiced plaudits for AmeriCorps.

“This is something the entire community should really get behind ,” Tillman said. “Everyone needs to let them know that we appreciate all the things that they do.”

The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency that administers AmeriCorps , and Osage Nation Communities of Excellence (ONCOE), today announced that the Osage Nation will be one of 10 communities nationwide to become a partner of the agency’s new Operation AmeriCorps initiative.

Last August, the ON’s Communities of Excellence received the first-ever Operation AmeriCorps tribal grant, which will support around 75 AmeriCorps members over the next two years as they help develop the Wahzhazhi Eco Park and Bird Creek Farms, which will hold a community and collective garden.

The dozen-plus AmeriCorps workers who arrived here three week’s ago have started a three-month effort at the Eco Park.

Each AmeriCorps worker has made a 10-month commitment to the program. The members of the local group said they had worked at separate job sites in Texas, Missouri, New Mexico and Mississippi before being re-formed as a group to be sent here.

“We’re not really volunteers, because we’ll get money for college for the work we do,”one of the workers said during the Constantine cleanup. “It’s really been interesting so far, and it’s been fun, too.”