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Every day, Ohioans are making extraordinary contributions to the communities where they live, work, and play. Learn more about the impact AmeriCorps members and volunteers have on the communities they serve, stay current on service and volunteerism trends, and be the first to know about upcoming funding opportunities, events, and special initiatives.


Rebeccah Verhoff-Kiss, Outreach & Education Officer, ServeOhio

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Filling Big Shoes: Stepping Into A Leadership Role

As much as I am trying to pretend it's not happening, things shift when you take leadership over something long-standing and important. Successes mean more, mistakes make bigger waves, and you learn the meaning of the phrase, "the buck stops here". Rural Action's Ohio Stream Restore Corps (OSRC) AmeriCorps program has been making an impact in Appalachian Ohio (and making an impact on its AmeriCorps members) since long before I knew it existed, and I am carrying that history on my shoulders and in my heart. Moving from Program Manager to Director in this program term has been overwhelming and gratifying, and I remember some of my first thoughts as I walked into 2018-19 Starting Strong AmeriCorps Program Orientation in my new role:

"Thank goodness Meredith (our new program manager) bought me coffee; I have to pay attention to ALL of this now!"

"Oh, and I have to read ALL the terms and conditions, not just skim them and rely on Candi (the previous Director) to be my encyclopedia."

"Wait, I have to be the one with the answers! Candi, come back!"

My internal dialogue isn't actually that coherent, but that was the gist of it. Introducing myself as Program Director felt a little frightening, but also exciting, like stepping out of an airborne plane with a great parachute and literally years of training.

I say years because, even though I am new to this role, I am not new to National Service or OSRC. Or not that new. I actually learned about OSRC around the same time that I was finishing up a VISTA term a half a decade ago. After reading about the direct service that OSRC members did in creeks, classrooms, and communities, I knew I wanted to be an AmeriCorps member at an OSRC site, Rural Action's Sunday Creek Watershed Group. Beginning with Day 1, I jumped headlong into learning about water quality, community development, national service, and professionalism. One training I found very helpful was the Ohio Conference on Service and Volunteerism, hosted by ServeOhio. As a young professional, I took advantage of sessions like "team building 101" and "beginners grant writing". When our program expanded from 16 to 26 members the next term and I was selected as Program Manager, I was excited to go back to ServeOhio's conference to take on some sessions that built on that foundation. It's been exciting to bring AmeriCorps members to that conference each year and listen to their epiphanies and ideas, sparkling eyes and messy notes so much like my own when I was a member.

But it hasn't just been conferences and trainings that have helped me grow into this position. Honestly, every day with an AmeriCorps program is training, in one way or another. As a member, I learned about my organization, about the peculiarities and treasures of this region of Ohio, and about serving on a team of diverse, rabble-rousing activists. As a Program Manager, I learned my leadership style, the pros and cons of how I prefer to communicate, and about working fresh ideas into very established systems. And now I am learning how to keep things just organized enough in my head that I can share plans and priorities with Meredith and with Theo, our Capacity Builder AmeriCorps Member. I truly do learn something new every day. More than anything, I have learned that the energy and enthusiasm of AmeriCorps members and National Service and nonprofit staff is unmatched in this world. Across these 5 program terms, I have served and worked with the most dedicated, excited, curious, and good-hearted people. I think that's at the core of National Service: good hearts, who care about a healthy world for everyone and a solid development experience for members. When reporting, grant writing, and political awareness bog me down, those good hearts carry me through!

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