BEND, Ore. - Heart of Oregon Corps announced Thursday it has been awarded $394,955 in funding for its 2014-2015 AmeriCorps program, a $74,054 increase from the previous year that will continue its expansion to Prineville.
The program engages local "Opportunity Youth" ages 18-24 in completing environmental stewardship projects on public lands while preparing for their own careers.
The Heart of Oregon Corps AmeriCorps program's primary outcomes include improving 1,000 acres of at-risk ecosystems on public lands, while providing opportunities for 54 primarily economically disadvantaged young people to earn a GED or diploma, complete college courses, and secure future employment.
Due to the increased grant funding from Oregon Volunteers, the new Prineville-based Heart of Oregon AmeriCorps crew will continue accomplishing their important work.
Introduced in early 2014 as a six-month pilot, the Prineville crew has proven its value to the community and its service to public lands. Initially the crew received support from the US Forest Service, BLM, City of Prineville, the Kiwanis Club of Prineville and COIC.
Due to the increased essential AmeriCorps funding and our public lands partnerships, Heart of Oregon is able to establish the Prineville crew as a year-round program serving 16 young people, versus a temporary 6-month pilot program.
"This project is dear to my heart. This crew has accomplished a lot in the three months they have served with Heart of Oregon Corps. They are learning hard skills in land stewardship, completing necessary projects and serving our community well, but more importantly they are developing self-confidence and are better able to imagine themselves on a career path. These eight corpsmembers have held up their end of the bargain when I asked them personally to work hard and help me establish this program. Qualities such as integrity, commitment to their team and willingness to see a job through to finish will serve them in whatever future they aspire to. I am proud to be a part of this program," stated Darcy Bedortha, the Rural Program Coordinator at Heart of Oregon Corps.
Participating in this national movement of community service, the Heart of Oregon AmeriCorps Prineville crew has partnered with local public lands and conservation agencies in projects in Crook County including rebuilding the fence after the removal of the Stearns Dam with the Crooked River Watershed Council, renovation of the Chimney Rock fishing platform with the BLM-Prineville District, and fire fuels reduction at Allen Creek and an upcoming project in the Black Canyon Wilderness with the US Forest Service-Ochoco National Forest.
Volunteer community service projects the crew will be involved in this summer include building fence for the Prineville Kids Club garden and seasonal preparation at the community garden.
In Bend, the Heart of Oregon AmeriCorps crews have completed conservation projects in Deschutes County including improving wildlife habitat at Tumalo State Park, reducing the risk of wildfire near Phil's Trail with the US Forest Service-Deschutes National Forest, cleaning up undeveloped Bend Parks and Recreation District land, and improving recreational trails near Tumalo Canal with the BLM-Prineville District.
"AmeriCorps members are improving the lives of millions of citizens and making a powerful and lasting impact on the toughest challenges facing our nation," said CNCS CEO Wendy Spencer. "They are an indispensable resource for nonprofits, communities, and the individuals they serve. As we mark the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps, we salute all AmeriCorps members for standing up and serving our country."
Heart of Oregon Corps is one of many grantees receiving AmeriCorps funding. In 2014, 288 AmeriCorps grants have been awarded across the country, empowering 43,100 members including those on the Prineville and Bend Heart of Oregon Corps crews. The Heart of Oregon Corps program is aligned with the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) focus areas of Economic Opportunity and Environmental Stewardship, and is one of the largest AmeriCorps programs in the State of Oregon.
Heart of Oregon Corps is a nonprofit organization invested in empowering and inspiring change in the lives of Central Oregon youth through jobs, education, and stewardship. Their programming create pathways out of poverty while stimulation regional economic growth. The "work-learn-earn" model invests in local young people, many of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds, to prepare them for the workforce and to encourage their self-sufficiency. Heart of Oregon Corps believes that young people want to work, want to gain education, and want to serve their community, and as an organization, they strive to provide them with the opportunities to do so. Heart of Oregon Corps is a member of the Deschutes Children's Forest and the 21st Century Service Conservation Corps.
The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) is a federal agency that engages more than five million Americans in service through AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, the Social Innovation Fund, and the Volunteer Generation Fund, and leads President Barack Obama's national call to service initiative, United We Serve. For more information, visit NationalService.gov.