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As an AmeriCorps National Preparedness & Response Corps (NPRC) member for the American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania, we live in two different worlds—one of AmeriCorps and one of Red Cross. In addition to our daily duties here at the Red Cross (for whatever rotation we may be in), we are expected to fulfill the goals of an AmeriCorps member. These responsibilities emphasize two specific values that are at the heart of the AmeriCorps program: membership and service.

To ensure our involvement in these principles, we spend a day devoted to these core values, as we alternate between a Membership and a Service Day every month. While Membership Day is devoted to spending time with our fellow AmeriCorps NPRC members, Service Day is dedicated to give back to our community. These days allow us to step out of our current rotation and spend time together, strengthening our membership by participating in an activity we enjoy or by giving back to the community through service.

For our August Membership Day, we decided to explore Philadelphia, visiting Franklin Square and Chinatown. Franklin Square, one of Philadelphia’s five original squares designed by William Penn in the 17th century, consists of a gorgeous fountain, carousal, and a mini-golf course. As a group we decided to enjoy a game of mini-golf, a historic Philadelphia themed 18-hole course. We then walked over to Chinatown, indulging in the culture and food. Membership Day was a perfect opportunity for us to spend time together, for we are often busy with our own rotations and aren’t able to interact with each other.

In September, we decided to dedicate a day to service. We spent this day at Bartram’s Gardens located right along the Schuylkill River. Originally the home of botanist John Bartram in the 18th century, this beautiful land consists of gardens, a farm, and an orchard right outside of the city. During this service day, we participated in a monthly volunteer event dedicated to maintain and beautify the orchard. Spending a gorgeous day along the river getting our hands dirty in the soil, we were excited to give back to these historic gardens.

Stepping out of our role at the Red Cross, my fellow AmeriCorps members and I were able to not only spend time together, but also give back to our community through service. These experiences are an amazing opportunity for us to get in touch with core AmeriCorps values and we are excited to plan future Membership and Service Days!

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As AmeriCorps National Preparedness & Response Corps (NPRC) members, before we started working at our chapter here in Philadelphia, we were invited to a summit in Washington, DC gathering with fellow members from different Red Cross chapters across the nation. This summit wasn’t simply an initiation, but also an opportunity to get to know our fellow AmeriCorps members and to truly get an idea of what this program was about. This conference consisted of three days of events, activities, presentations, and free food (yes, free!) at the American Red Cross National Headquarters in beautiful Washington, DC.

When I first began to research tnationalhe AmeriCorps NPRC, I thought it was just like many volunteer programs out there—simply working behind the scenes. However, I soon realized that there was a lot more to it. We were, in fact, going to be the ones working on the front lines. At the conference, we learned that in addition to the mission of AmeriCorps of providing direct service, this program focuses greatly on the mission of the Red Cross—that is, “to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies.” This provides the perfect combination of values and goals that will allow us to make a difference, both in our local communities and nationally at times of deployment.

At the conference, we were also given the opportunity to meet with AmeriCorps NPRC alumni. Meeting with alumni provided us with an insight as to how demanding and rewarding this job was. It was amazing to be able to get a first-hand account on the journey that we, as new AmeriCorps NPRC, were about to embark on. When all the alumni stated that one year of service within this program was in itself a life changing experience, I realized that we were certainly in for a ride.

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In addition to the immense amount of information we obtained from the different presentations at the conference, we were also given the opportunity to bond with our fellow members. It was wonderful to be able to interact with individuals from all types of backgrounds, fields, and areas of the nation. With different activities, such as bowling night, we were able to really get to know our chapter members (those who we will be spending the next year with) and members from different nationwide chapters (who we may encounter on future deployments).

The summit in Washington, DC definitely allowed us to perceive the immense possibilities of this program. Returning to our Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter, I am really excited to start taking advantage of these opportunities. As my fellow five NPRC members and I are assigned to different rotations—Communications, Community Resiliency, Volunteer Administration, the Regional Disaster Coordination Center, Logistics, and the Red Cross House—we are all working in hopes of contributing to and fulfilling both the missions of AmeriCorps and Red Cross. On behalf of the AmeriCorps NPRC members of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Red Cross Chapter, I would like to say that we are truly honored to be here and excited for a rewarding year to come!