June 10, 2009
CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine:
Slippery Rock University launches RecoveryCorps program
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa.- Slippery Rock University has received a $549,534 grant to expand its AmeriCorps program to the Northside of Pittsburgh and Beaver and Venango counties. More than 100 students and community residents will be placed with 28 service agencies, with work focusing on meeting the needs of families in economic distress.
"We are mobilizing in light of the economic crisis," said Alice-Kaiser Drobney, SRU assistant professor of professional studies and AmeriCorps program director. She named SRU's AmeriCorps expanded program the "RecoveryCorps."
The U.S. Corporation for National and Community Service awarded the grant, which will be administered through PennSERVE, a state office. The federal money was made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which provided $150 billion to spur economic activity benefiting low-income households.
Kaiser-Drobney said the new service work would focus on three issues that need addressing in light of tough economic times: the welfare of children; agency and job referral; and home energy audits for low-income households to cut utility expenses.
Children's activities are often the first to be cut when families encounter unexpected economic hardship such as unemployment, Kaiser-Drobney said.
"We know families that have lost their homes and whose parents are unemployed. Their children's lives are changing radically," she said. "The YMCA, summer camp, music lessons and after school programs - many families don't have the money to do that stuff."
RecoveryCorps will provide members for a children's summer playground collaborative, a Kids Count Family Psychological Program and a program at the Community Library of the Shenango Valley, among other activities.
The second area of need includes providing more resources to increase the effectiveness of career services organizations, food banks and agencies that aid residents in distress. RecoveryCorps members will help out at the Community Foundation of Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio and the Northside Community Development Fund.
The weatherization of homes will involve caulking windows and making other improvements to improve energy efficiency and cut expenses. Homeowners will be recommended by Northside agencies that work in the communities.
Mark Masterson, executive director of the Northside Development Fund, which finances community revitalization in the Northside, said he plans to use one RecoveryCorps member as a program assistant who will work with investment and loan officers. The other volunteer will work as an editorial assistant for The Northside Chronicle newspaper.
"The two SRU volunteers will make a huge difference in our organization," he said. "The program assistant will enable us to dramatically increase our community outreach so that we can reach another 50 or so clients in low-income neighborhoods. The editorial assistant will enable us to provide timely and relevant information on the economic stimulus that our predominately low-income readers of The Northside Chronicle will be able to use."
Ian McGinnity, a May graduate of SRU's graduate program in student affairs in higher education, is the program coordinator for RecoveryCorps.
"I am involved because it is a great opportunity. I served as a graduate assistant for SRU's Institute for Community, Service-Learning and Nonprofit Leadership and supervised a team of AmeriCorps members. Organizing the Empty Bowls Dinner, for example, and seeing its impact on how attendees thought about hunger and going on a Care Break to Phoenix were great experiences. Service learning is one of the most powerful experiences our students and community members can have."
SRU has operated AmeriCorps projects in Butler, Mercer and Lawrence counties since 1997. AmeriCorps programs meet critical needs in communities by providing mentoring, literacy tutoring, health services, after-school care and clean-up projects. Members receive a living allowance and an educational award if they complete their hours.
Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.