AmeriCorps partners with The Salvation Army to benefit Southern California communities

AmeriCorps partners with The Salvation Army to benefit Southern California communities

AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) partnered with The Salvation Army across Los Angeles County from Nov. 1 to Dec. 19, focusing their efforts on supporting the community during the holiday season.

As an independent agency of the U.S. government, AmeriCorps deployed six members, or volunteers, with the goal to create a positive impact within low-income communities, among homeless individuals and with families in need.

For its eighth year collaborating with The Salvation Army in Los Angeles County, volunteers from AmeriCorps assisted at The Salvation Army Bell and Lafayette shelters, The Salvation Army Siemon Family, Youth and Community Center, on Skid Row and with Toys for Tots.

According to AmeriCorps Volunteer Group Team Leader Claudia Farrelly, the team helped wherever they were needed and remained flexible to tackle a diverse range of tasks.

“The community defines most of the needs, and we simply aim to meet these pre-defined needs,” said Farrelly.

The group divided into sub groups to work at different locations each day during their stint in Los Angeles County. Individual tasks included distributing blankets and hygiene kits on Skid Row, helping pack and distribute food boxes for Thanksgiving meals and working at the Bell Shelter Grow Good Garden, which provides produce to The Salvation Army shelters and local businesses.

AmeriCorps partners with The Salvation Army to benefit Southern California communities
Photo courtesy Claudia Farrelly.

The team’s schedule also included supporting The Salvation Army Siemon Family, Youth and Community Center’s after-school program, which involved assisting children with homework and organizing recreational activities, like games and basketball.

“We had a lot of fun at the sites and felt very welcomed by all of the supervisors and staff,” Farrelly said.

AmeriCorps Community Relations Specialist Michael Smith said the team underwent selection after applying for the 10-month commitment.

“We have an application process that all our sponsoring organizations complete to make sure we are a good fit for collaboration,” Smith said.

Alongside room and board, members receive a small allowance. The six members traveled from different parts of the country and stayed together in a central location.

Farrelly, originally from Pennsylvania, said serving in Southern California provided an eye-opening experience for the team.

Farrelly holds a degree in humanities, society and culture with a concentration in sociology. Their desire to help and understand varying communities led to working with AmeriCorps.

Part of AmeriCorps’ mission is to cultivate future leaders of America through personal growth—achieved by meeting and engaging with individuals from diverse backgrounds.

“When we stepped in and witnessed the substantial need for assistance, it made us feel like we were truly making a difference by lightening the workload of the already busy staff members,” Farrelly said.

According to Farrelly, operating as a tight-knit team and building personal connections with each other enhanced understanding and resulted in increased productivity and efficiency.

“It’s great getting to work with people you’re friends with,” Farrelly said. “Our team has really bonded and made lasting impacts on one another.”

Farelly said the team spends time researching the community so they can be “as knowledgeable as possible and empathetic towards those we’re helping.”

According to Farrelly, assisting with Skid Row outreach impacted each volunteer and sparked a deeper understanding of community needs.

“Many of us knew about Skid Row from what you see online,” said Farrelly. “But actually getting out there—seeing and helping was life-changing for me.”

Skid Row Outreach Coordinator Danielle Gaskins said having an extra set of hands is always helpful when serving a large population of those in need.

“I just want to make the world a little bit better, even if it’s just impacting one person and making their day a little bit brighter.”—Claudia Farrelly

“Some living on Skid Row are familiar and curious about AmeriCorps,” Gaskins said. “We saw a good amount of individuals engage with the team, and they then would ask about the volunteers by name on the days they weren’t with us.”

Gaskins said the volunteers brought a strong sense of adaptability and a keen understanding of how to interact with vulnerable populations.

“We commonly get additional volunteers during the holiday season,” Gaskins said. “Their efforts are always appreciated and welcomed.”

According to Pamela Dong, Southern California Divisional Family Services Director, the team’s assistance went a long way.

“They are a wonderful group of six young adults who dedicated their time and efforts to making a difference in the community,” said Dong, who served as a supervisor for the collaboration.

Now that their efforts have concluded in Los Angeles County, the team will go to Seattle to begin assisting the community during tax season and to help in local food banks.

According to Farrelly, witnessing the impact made in each community is a strong motivator, driving them to persist in their efforts to create noticeable change.

“I just want to make the world a little bit better, even if it’s just impacting one person and making their day a little bit brighter,” they said.


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