A grant-funded AmeriCorps program based at Eastern Kentucky University is earning national attention for its efforts to help health and social service agencies throughout the Commonwealth respond to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
Fifteen individuals, including five current EKU students, are serving communities through the KY READY Corps, which is housed in EKU’s College of Justice and Safety and operates under the guidance of the state program office of Serve Kentucky in Frankfort. The other members either attend other institutions across Kentucky or are not currently enrolled.
“Our member service is focused on readiness and resilience and helping vulnerable individuals be more ready in case of an emergency or disaster,” said Program Director Julie Struck.
Members’ projects, she explained, fall into one of three categories: community education and outreach, volunteer coordination and support, and preparedness plans and assessments. For example, member Macey Maze, a homeland security major at Eastern, assessed and created an emergency plan for Girl Scout Camp Judy Layne. Several members are serving at public health departments across the state, and their projects were all focused on community education and outreach about specific health initiatives and issues. “They are all doing COVID-19-related service now.”
The state office promoted a social media post about a KY READY Corps member at the Barren River District Health Department helping to make masks for the COVID-19 crisis, and it was picked up by America’s Service Commissions and used in a webinar for state service agencies nationwide. Serve Kentucky is also promoting the work of another member who, unable to serve at EKU after the University canceled in-person classes for the remainder of the spring semester, volunteered instead at God’s Pantry Food Bank to meet her required service hours. “Food banks are really hurting for volunteers right now,” Struck noted, “because many of them are senior citizens who are at risk for COVID-19, and they are staying home, which is a good thing.”
The members come from several academic areas, including nursing, public health, social work, social justice, and safety and security. They serve up to 25 hours each week, depending on the needs of the site and project. Members can serve one or two semesters or a full academic year and earn a modest living allowance and education award that can be applied toward educational expenses and student loans. If a member is 55 or over, the education award can be transferred to a child or grandchild for their use.
“I have been proud of our members since we first began placing them at sites (in 2018) because they are all committed to service and helping their communities,” Struck said. “I am especially proud of them now because, other than the Girl Scout camp and EKU, our service sites are open and our members are serving, adapting to their new COVID-19 work plans while juggling family, school and other commitments and during such a stressful time.
“Every KY READY Corps member placement is a learning experience, a chance to give back to communities, gain essential professional experience and make professional connections.”
KY READY Corps is currently recruiting Madison and Fayette County members and sites for Summer 2020. The members will serve 300 hours from mid-May to mid-August. Benefits include a $1,500 living allowance, and a $1,289 education award at the completion of service. Possible sites include food banks, college/university public safety departments, faith-based organizations and Kentucky state parks. For more information, contact Struck at firstname.lastname@example.org or 859-622-3525, or visit kyready.eku.edu or www.facebook.com/KYReadyAmeriCorps.