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MCDONALD Local grad serves in AmeriCorps



Published: Tue, February 19, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The national service program is for 18- to 24-year-olds and targets communities in need.

By DENISE DICK

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

McDONALD -- A village native is spending the first several months after graduating from college helping others.

April Friend, 22, a December graduate of Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., started training with AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps last month.

NCCC is one of 900 AmeriCorps programs throughout the country.

A daughter of David and Audrey Friend, she graduated in 1997 from McDonald High School. Her bachelor's degree is in marketing.

"I'd been looking at the Peace Corps and decided to stay with something more domestic for a while and that pointed me in the direction of AmeriCorps," Friend said.

AmeriCorps is a 10-month national service program for 18-to-24-year-olds aimed at communities in need.

Along with 260 other corps members, Friend took the AmeriCorps Pledge on Feb. 1.

Volunteers work on service projects aimed at education, public safety, human needs, disaster relief and the environment.

Her assignment: Friend has been in Tulsa, Okla., since Feb. 6, working with an organization called Community Action Project.

"We're preparing income tax returns for low-income families," she said.

With a lot of community service projects, volunteers don't get to see the people who benefit from their efforts. Friend says this one's different.

"We're right there with the people and they're so grateful because they still get their refunds, but they don't have to pay someone $50 or $100 to do it," she said.

Low-income residents come from Tulsa and surrounding communities to use the service.

"I had one client the other day and she got a rather large refund," Friend said.

"She just broke down in tears. She looked at me and said, 'I can take my child to the doctor now.'"

The McDonald native learned shortly before graduating that she'd been accepted into the program.

She spent a few weeks training before reporting to her first assignment in Tulsa.

Training: The organization strives for diversity among its volunteers. Training included disaster relief instruction from the American Red Cross and CPR and first aid procedures.

The 21 AmeriCorps volunteers are staying in a converted house on the University of Tulsa campus.

They'll remain in Oklahoma through April 5, after which they'll be sent to another assignment within the organization's central region, which includes Colorado, Missouri, Michigan and Indiana.

In exchange for the service, Corps volunteers receive room and board, a living allowance, health benefits and a $4,725 education award to help finance their education or repay loans.

Friend hopes to work in development for a nonprofit organization when she graduates from the volunteer program in November.

She recommends the AmeriCorps experience to other young people interested in service.

"It's been amazing," she said. "I've met so many different people from so many different places."

For more information about the program, call (800) 565-7052 or visit the AmeriCorps Web site at www.americorps.org.

dick@vindy.com




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