- September 03, 2011
- Posted by
I’m a member of a trail crew in the Northern Rockies region of the Montana Conservation Corps. My crew has seven members. We spend several days at a time in the back country woods of the Kootenai National Forest, working trails, having little contact with the outside world during that time.
It’s an isolating job at times and we begin to lose connection with the outside world. For example, when I most recently came back into town, Hurricane Irene was poised to smash the East Coast and the city of New York was on hurricane watch for the first time in decades. We do our best to keep up with current events, given the nature of our work. If by chance, we can get into a nearby town while on hitch, we grab copies of the local papers to bring back to camp and pass around. News articles are up there with ice cream and corn dogs on hitch, to be relished and devoured quickly.
As part of a small crew which works in some level of isolation, I personally find that I also begin to lose contact with the larger organization for which I am serving. I wake up every morning and put on the Montana Conservation Corps uniform - a green shirt emblazoned with the MCC logo and brown work pants. We’re issued two shirts. One green, wicking MCC shirt and one gray, cotton AmeriCorps shirt. Go figure, trail work involves a lot of sweating, so the wicking shirt comes out in the field and the cotton shirt gets buried in my shirt pile back at home.
Laundry Day rolls around and the gray AmeriCorps shirt surfaces from the pile. I put it on the other day before heading to my favorite local coffee shop. As I sat down with my mug, I was approached by a woman about my age. She introduced herself as Katie, an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) who had just arrived in Kalispell a few hours earlier to start her service term with the Farm to School program.
Twenty minutes later, I was approached again, by an AmeriCorps alum. He told me how he had recently served two years as a VISTA in Missoula and it was one of the most valuable experiences of his life so far. When he turned to go, another guy sitting nearby jumped in and asked me if I was currently with MCC, how I liked it, and how to get more information about it.
This theme has continued whenever I wear the gray AmeriCorps shirt. I have been approached by alums, peers, parents, tourists, and community members alike. They share stories, ask questions, thank you for the work you are doing, and express their approval of the use of their tax dollars in funding the program (which is especially refreshing in time where you hear so many complaints about use of tax dollars). Wearing that shirt is a reminder that, yes, I am a member of a small trail crew, but that crew is a part of the Northern Rockies region, which is part of the Montana Conservation Corps, which in turn, is an AmeriCorps program, connected to the VISTAs and the NCCCers (National Civilian Community Corps), all working in service to the American public.
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