Last October, Hurricane Matthew caused more than $25 million worth of damage to more than 2,300 homes and businesses in eastern Virginia. Many families and business owners were simply overwhelmed by the extent of the destruction to their properties. Enter AmeriCorps VISTA! Nine VISTA members were deployed at the end of November to help repair and clean homes in Virginia Beach. The team, from multiple states as far away as Washington, sprang into action to help those in need. VISTA members completed repairs on 12 homes, assisted 36 people, and removed 64 cubic feet of debris.
“We are a group of 10 ordinary young adults who realized that the things around us that are broken can be fixed with a simple choice to serve others,” said team member Wade Kelly of Maryland. “Every day we hope to inspire others to make the same choice that we did.“
Wade continues to reflect on his team’s experiences while serving in Virginia Beach. “One day, as we piled into our van after finishing the work of deconstructing a family’s home, we were approached by one of the home’s owners, tears in his eyes. He thanked us sincerely for the help, and shared with us the story of his struggles. Though he thanked us with his words, the look of relief written across his face was the purest expression of his gratitude.”
“Some of the greatest moments we have as a team is experiencing moments like these. We spend a great deal of time away from home, work in all kinds of weather conditions, and often witness first-hand the trail of tragedy that follows a disaster. Given such challenges, it can be hard at times to remember why we have chosen our 10 month commitment to the service of others. But, when we meet people like that home owner and see the realization in others’ eyes that a group of people they’ve never met (from places of the country they’ve never been) have chosen to be there for them in a time of need — the reason for our decision becomes crystallized. As long as we work together, we have power to change our world for the better.”
The AmeriCorps VISTA team: Wade Kelly (age 26, Maryland), Gary Moore (age 24, Colorado), Trever Herczak (age 20), Kyle Mcbath (age 22, Oklahoma), Eleni Vincent (age 20, Georgia), Lorenzo Quevedo (age 20, California), Lian McGuire (age 22, Washington), Antonia Vasquez (age 21, Oregon), and Kaitlyn Wesolowski (age 24, New York).