Showing Rep. Reichert (R-WA) the Impact of National Service
On August 16th, the United Way of King County organized a site visit for Congressman Dave Reichert who represents Washington’s 8th Congressional District. The visit was held at the Eastside Terrace Bellevue Boys & Girls Club which is located on King County Housing Authority property. With the help of AmeriCorps VISTA members, United Way provides a feeding program at this site, among other locations, and the Housing Authority also utilizes AmeriCorps members at various sites.
The visit was a tremendous success. Representatives from United Way, King County Housing Authority, Bellevue Boys & Girls Club, ServeNext/ServiceNation (that would be me!), and the AmeriCorps VISTA’s who were serving in the Ending Homelessness Program all spoke about the impact national service had on their organizations, the communities they serve, and their own lives.
Congressman Reichert was very engaged and showed a deep interest in hearing from his constituents about the value and impact of national service in Washington. He asked relevant questions, made jokes, and told stories from his own life. He talked about experiencing the shame of poverty as a child, engaging youth and communities when he was a Sheriff, and how participating in community service as a young person can lead to a career in public service.
I was able to give the Congressman information about the national service activities in his District, including reading assistance and mentoring with youth and Senior Corps programs. Currently there are tragic wild fires raging in the newer parts of his District and we notified him about the AmeriCorps members, working through our Conservation Corps, who are assisting fire fighters in setting up base camp. In addition, we talked about how AmeriCorps members have assisted with other fires, a flood, winter storm hazard clean up, and a mountain rescue mission in his District, all within the past year.
Congressman Reichert commended the agencies for their good work and the VISTA members for their commitment to service. He spoke about the difficult economic times we are in and our challenges with the Federal budget process. But before he left, he gave us some great advice. The Congressman admonished us to fight for the programs we care about, because once they are gone, they do not come back.