AmeriCorps team departing after successful time in Hutch

Dec 18, 2015

Despite weathering a fire at the home they shared, a dozen AmeriCorps workers in Hutchinson accomplished more than they planned during their month and a half in Hutchinson.

The National Civilian Community Corps team is scheduled to return today to AmeriCorps in Denver, Colorado, before the group splits up and goes to new projects in warmer climates. Jay Holzapfel said the team members got their next assignments Thursday night, and all are going to either New Mexico or Texas. Only a few team members will continue to work together.

The group primarily worked with Interfaith Housing Services Inc. on home rehabilitation during its time in Hutchinson. One of its first projects was demolishing the interior of a house damaged by fire so it can later be restored.

Those large projects didn’t take as long as scheduled, though, so the team was able to provide help on unscheduled jobs, including shoring up a Buhler resident’s porch, team member Corinne Hite said.

Hite said the projects at homes with current residents were more enjoyable, because she could see the immediate effect rather than having to imagine how it would eventually look.

“Everyone we interacted with was very welcoming,” Jacob Smith said, amid packing and cleaning on Friday.

Holzapfel said he expected the group’s relationships with the community and Interfaith Housing to be much more businesslike. Instead the ties were pretty genial, and Interfaith Housing was happy to provide some teaching to the group.

Holzapfel said he also liked Hutchinson’s downtown area and walkability. He said the grid street pattern made it easier to go places on foot.

Iced down

Jeff Thomson, projects director at Interfaith Housing, said the AmeriCorps team exceeded his expectations in every way. They were upbeat and positive about the work and they accomplished more than they planned.

The ice storm that struck on Thanksgiving weekend created unexpected projects for the team, clearing tree limbs from Interfaith Housing’s low-income rental properties. Thomson estimated they took between 30 and 40 trailer loads to the dump.

“They did some work, those kids,” he said.

He plans to bring a second AmeriCorps team to Hutchinson in the spring. His plan is to arrange for them to work more with other nonprofit organizations in the community if AmeriCorps approves.

The fire

During its time in Hutchinson, the whole team lived under one roof at Interfaith Housing’s volunteer house on East Avenue B. With 12 people all together, said Hite, that was the most common source of irritation.

But even at home the team started to click. Around the time that happened, an electrical fire at their home displaced the team members while the house was repaired.

“It was definitely chaotic to relocate 12 different people,” Hite said.

No one was injured in the fire, which was caught early, but the team temporarily moved to the Kansas State Fairgrounds.

The fairgrounds had its advantages − such as plentiful bathroom space for everyone − and disadvantages: There was no available kitchen, so the team cooked meals at Interfaith Housing’s headquarters.