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Archive for Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Focus of United Way’s AmeriCorps members to go beyond health initiatives

May 21, 2014

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For the past three years, the United Way of Douglas County's AmeriCorps members have been focused solely on health-coaching initiatives. But with a new grant secured, the United Way is preparing to deploy those AmeriCorps workers in other fields.

The United Way recently won another $234,000 Corporation for Community Service grant through the Kansas Volunteer Commission, which will fund its 18 AmeriCorps service members in the coming service year.

The AmeriCorps program pairs workers with host agencies for 12-month periods to provide community needs. Where once all those positions focused on health initiatives, eight of them will now be steered toward assisting people in education and self-sufficiency.

"We are going to be able to do more than we have before," Sophia Archuleta, the United Way's AmeriCorps program manager, said.

Two workers geared toward education will work out of Kennedy Elementary and will partner with the local Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence on a kids reading program, Archuleta said. Six workers will dive into the self-sufficiency field, helping individuals with transportation, finding employment and access to community resources.

Health-centered workers will continue to coach individuals on healthy eating and managing chronic illnesses.

The decision to expand the focus of its AmeriCorps members was driven primarily by the host agencies, who requested them to take on different missions, according to Erika Dvorske, the president and CEO of the United Way of Douglas County. An example, she said, is Kennedy Elementary, who in the past had AmeriCorps workers focus on health initiatives.

All told, the 18 AmeriCorps members will work with 13 agencies. Recruiting for them is now underway, Archuleta said. The service year runs from Aug. 1, 2014 through July 31, 2015. Applications can be downloaded on www.unitedwaydgco.org.

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