AmeriCorps members volunteer more than $15,000 in labor at Cass County Parks

Published 1:57 pm Thursday, October 5, 2023

CASS COUNTY — Growing up in Las Vegas, Ciara Jones equated nighttime with bright lights in the big city. For the last three weeks, however, the young woman has been awestruck by the pure view of the night sky she has seen at Dr. TK Lawless Park in Vandalia.  

Jones and six other volunteers arrived in Cass County on Sept. 14 for the latest leg in their AmeriCorps tour. Since then, the group of volunteers — all under age 26 — have helped to clear seven miles of trail on the north side of Lawless Park and an additional 10 miles of mountain bike trails. The group also helped to set up for the Cass County Historical Commission’s annual Fall Festival at the Newton House on Marcellus Highway. 

“AmeriCorps, specifically the National Civilian Community Corps, is a federal organization focused on national community service,” Jones said. “They put us on teams of around 8 to 12 individuals, and we travel around the country doing a variety of service projects with different community organizations, nonprofits and government agencies, doing work like we have on the trails, building houses with Habitat for Humanity, working at summer camps, and practicing environmental stewardship.” 

After working with AmeriCorps last year on a similar service project, Camp Tannadoonah leadership reached out to Parks Director Scott Wyman to see if the parks would like to team up to host AmeriCorps this year. Wyman said he is thankful she suggested it. 

“I’m working with the future leaders of our country,” he said during a break from clearing trail with the AmeriCorps team. “We’ve had nothing but positive comments. Their attitudes are outstanding. They’ve been at this all summer; you’d think they may be wearing down a bit, but again, their enthusiasm is outstanding.” 

Wyman said the County would have paid at least $15,000 for the same amount of work the AmeriCorps members have put in during their time at the parks. Jones said the hard work is worthwhile because of the valuable experiences she has received throughout her service.  

“[AmeriCorps] is a 10-month program, a residential one, so they provide your food, your housing. You get a small stipend, you get an education award at the end of it,” she said. “It’s a really great program if you’re a young adult and you want to put your life on pause for a moment and do some work to help the community.” 

AmeriCorps members have been lodged at Camp Tannadoonah, just down the road from Lawless Park. Jones said she has enjoyed looking up at the stars after a long day’s work — a treat she rarely gets at home in Las Vegas. Dr. TK Lawless Park is an internationally designated Dark Sky Park, meaning it is one of the nation’s premier spots to view the night sky.  

Wyman has enjoyed working with the team and said he would be interested in doing so again in the future. 

“It’s a wonderful program, and they represent all walks of life and all portions of the country,” he said.
I’m excited to see their future. If it’s any indication of who they are now, it’s going to be exceptional.”