AmeriCorps team volunteering around county

  • The AmeriCorps team purchased gifts for the Secret Santa program.

A group of 10 AmeriCorps (National Civilian Community Corps) volunteers is hard at work across Barnwell County.

They are in the community Nov. 27 through Dec. 15 to perform a variety of community service projects. They’ve already toured several industries and county facilities, visited with seniors at the Gail Reyes Senior Center, helped the City of Barnwell prepare for the Christmas tree lighting, met with the Rotary Club of Barnwell County, worked on the roof of Barnwell First Baptist, volunteered on the opening day of the new community soup kitchen, filled in low spots in the driveway at Ashleigh Place, and shopped for Secret Santa, just to name a few projects.

“A lot of us graduated from college and wanted a year to figure out if we are going in the right direction. We like to travel and help people. We can see the need,” said Jackie Mills, one of the AmeriCorps team members. She is from Iowa, but the rest of the team is from other states while one member is originally from Germany.

The team has already gotten the chance to meet many Barnwell County residents, including during a Dec. 1 meet and greet ice cream social at Berley’s Pharmacy in downtown Barnwell. Rev. Fred Buchanan discussed what it’s like to serve the community as pastor of Barnwell United Methodist Church while Rhonda McElveen talked about her job as Clerk of Court. Clint and Beth Harbuck shared how they both moved away from Barnwell, but moved back to be closer to family and be part of a close-knit community.

“I like how little of a community it is,” said Mills, who cited various features of the city, including the pharmacy and its “cute” nostalgic feel. She also said she was impressed with how friendly and welcoming local residents have been.

The team enjoyed participating in the city’s Christmas tree lighting on Nov. 30, particularly turning on the snow machine. “Hearing the kids freak out was cute,” she said.

AmeriCorps teams usually stay in communities longer, but are having to cut trips shorter right now due to helping with cleanup of recent storms across the country.

Before coming to Barnwell County, the team began training on July 25 before heading to Norton, Va. for a month to build mountain bike trails. They then spent a month in Fort Myers, Fla. helping with disaster relief after devastating hurricanes. In Tampa, Fla., they worked with Metropolitan Ministries to sort and hand out food.

After they depart Barnwell on Dec. 15, team members will have a break before starting back, although they are not sure where their next assignment is yet. They will end their 10-month journey of service on May 3.