Building homes, life foundations: AmeriCorps volunteers gain lessons for future

AmeriCorps volunteers Ariel Bohls of El Paso, Texas and Ash Egyud of Brooklyn, New York work on the interior of a future Sussex County Habitat for Humanity home near Seaford. Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe

SEAFORD — Coastal Delaware’s beaches offer the bait to lure people from many parts of America to Sussex County.

Commitment to help others is what brought young adults Jared Foster, Ariel Bohls, Adaline Morgan, Ash Egyud and Sam Stewart to Sussex.

They are part of Team Delta 2 with AmeriCorps that is currently in the area assisting home builds for Sussex County Habitat for Humanity.

“I had a degree in literature, so I didn’t exactly want to go into that field. I started in college in computer science and I didn’t find that to my liking,” said Mr. Foster, 20, who grew up near Syracuse, New York. “After I got out of college, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I was thinking about joining the Peace Corps, but I like working with a team a lot better than working alone.

“AmeriCorps is often marketed as a domestic version of the Peace Corps. That’s why I joined. I wanted to serve different communities around the country. AmeriCorps seem like a fantastic opportunity for me. Travel the country for free — sign me up!”

“Around this time last year, I was in my law enforcement class and they gave us a presentation about AmeriCorps,” said Ariel Bohls, 19, of Corpus Christi, Texas. “I already liked volunteering, so I was like, ‘That sounds really cool.’ You get to travel. This is my ‘gap’ year. I was going to start college, but I was going to work for a year. I found AmeriCorps. I am here and I obviously love it.”

AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps is a 10-month volunteer service program for ages 18-24 who wish to serve their country in a peaceful manner.

“AmeriCorps’ role is huge for us. They are doing a year of national service,” said Katie Millard, development advocacy director for Sussex County Habitat for Humanity. “They get a stipend. They pretty much are giving up a year of their life to help people around the country, which is really admirable. It is something that people have in their heart.”

Last week the Team Delta 2 crew performed interior work at a future Habitat home in Concord Village, a growing subdivision of Habitat homes along Concord Pond east of Seaford.

AmeriCorps volunteers Jared Foster, from central New York state, and Ariel Bohls, a west Texas native, work on a future Sussex County Habitat for Humanity home in Concord Village.

Painting, flooring and other skilled work was done under the periodic supervision of Don Martinelli, site director for Sussex County Habitat for Humanity.

“He makes sure they are supported,” Ms. Millard said.

The Team Delta 2 crew has also worked at Habitat builds in Ellendale and Blades. They are the third NCCC to work with Sussex Habitat.
“We can train them and they can be leaders for us. They come; they know what they are doing. After this team, we are getting another team. We are very into the NCCC program,” Ms. Millard said.

Crews typically number seven to eight volunteers. “We want to make sure that everybody who is onsite has a fun and meaningful experience,” said Ms. Millard.

AmeriCorps volunteers are provided lodging. Their current home away from home is a rental near the Delaware Coastal Airport in Georgetown.

The crew undergoes training in Vicksburg, Mississippi and will return there to prepare for their next assignment.

Volunteers can annually renew for an additional year up to age 24. After they can remain with AmeriCorps as team leaders.

The stipend AmeriCorps volunteers receive basically covers personal needs and essentials. There is some savings potential.

Ms. Morgan hails from Pigeon Forge in eastern Tennessee.

“I am 21 and still searching for what I want to do,” she said. “After high school I kind of just became a cashier. That wasn’t cutting it. I moved around a lot. Then I saw this, where you move around a lot. You have something to do. You help out. I thought it would be cool. I’ve learned that I could get along with more people than I thought I could.”

Brooklyn, New York is the home stomping grounds of Mr. Egyud, now 20.

“I was just confused as to what I wanted to do,” Mr. Egyud said. “I can gain some real skills here and I can earn some college money as well.”

“I’ve learned that I could get along with more people than I thought I could,”said Adaline Morgan.

For Mr. Stewart, an 18-year-old from St. Louis, AmeriCorps also offers a break between high school and life’s next chapter.

“I wanted to take a break before I went to college … plus get some new skills like building houses, painting. That way I can be a more functional adult as opposed to some of the people my age will be,” said Mr. Stewart.

His career ambition is in computer science, possibly working someday in Silicon Valley in California.

“The diversity is important I think if you are well versed in multiple trades,” Mr. Stewart said.

Mr. Egyud says AmeriCorps has literally opened his eyes to world reality.

“When I signed up for AmeriCorps, I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to do. It is an eye-opening experience to see how people really struggle in their lives,” he said. “You don’t see that when you are just sitting at home. You’ll hear about a hurricane or about poverty levels of places, but you don’t really experience it until you go there and actually see what those people are actually going through.”

His career goal is be a banker or an electrician.

When not on the job, Ms. Bohls said she likes “to hang out with my team a lot. In my free time I probably will watch You Tube, Netflix … watch movies.”

Since its inception in 1991, Sussex County Habitat for Humanity has built more than 140 homes for those who otherwise might not experience homeownership.

Habitat just completed a home build in Laurel, has ongoing projects in the Ellendale and Seaford areas and plans to commence projects in Milton and Selbyville.

Ms. Millard has been with Sussex Habitat for 1½ years and involved with the Habitat for Humanity program for eight years. She says the value of the AmeriCorps partnership is immense.

“We want to make sure we are good stewards of donations and financial support, and that means putting everything that we can back into the program. And AmeriCorps really helps us do that. It’s national service. They are helping us do what we do without having to use a lot of donations,” Ms. Millard said. “People are so good to us. We get support from the building community. People from across Sussex County and across the country really support the mission.”