Tag Archives: americorps

It’s Going to Be a Good Year

By Jason Bertrand, AmeriCorps Year 19

On the surface, the morning of October 3rd looked like any other Tuesday morning in New England. The sun shone strong in the sky, melting the frost on a chilly 40-degree morning. However, for Twenty-six general corps members this morning was anything but ordinary. For the past month, the members have been working hard. From shellfishing to brush cutting, from toilet costumes to disaster shelters, we have been training to acquire all the skills necessary to complete a year of dedicated service to the Cape Cod community. Today marks the first day of our individual placements. Every member will get the opportunity to serve one on one with an organization, for two or three days a week, for the next ten months. As I walked out the door this morning there was a sense of excitement in the air, but also a noticeable air of nervousness. So, as I rode in the car with the a few other people with placements close to mine, I decided to reflect on the past month to distract myself from the day ahead. 

The Year 19 AmeriCorps Members arrived on Labor Day and, after spending the month of September training, they are fired up and ready to serve!

Almost a month ago to the day, thirteen strangers and I stepped foot in a house with only the mindset of making a difference in the world to connect us. We came from different backgrounds, different states, different schools; we were thirteen unique individuals. I was nervous. It felt eerily like moving in to dorms my freshman year of college, except my mom wasn’t there. It was embarrassing then and it would have been twice as embarrassing now.  It took all of an hour after we had all arrived to laugh and joke like we were long lost friends. I felt at home among a group of people I had only just met. Not soon after, we met the other general corps house and the fire corps, the results were not much different. It didn’t take long before these strangers became my friends and then my friends became like family. Learning about the horrors of ticks and poison ivy, pulling out endless vines of bittersweet, and hearing about Cape Cod’s single source aquifer for the hundredth time really helped bring us all close together. It didn’t take long after moving in for my apprehensions to disappear and be replaced by excitement. As I sat in the car this morning, reflecting on the past month, my apprehensions were once again replaced by excitement.

“As I walked out the door this morning, there was a sense of excitement in the air…”


This is just the first day of the beginning of the rest of the year, but I could not be more thrilled with my decision to serve on Cape Cod. Over the coming months I hope to utilize this blog to allow my fellow members to share their stories and experiences with the program. There are sure to be tough times ahead; long and physically exhausting days, but just remember “faced with adversity, I will persevere.”

Edited by AmeriCorps Cape Cod Program Staff

Keeping Your Blowhole Above Water

Written by Britta Dornfeld, AmeriCorps Member placed at the Massachusetts Alternative Septic Systems Testing Center.

December 17, 2015, had been rainy and cool. I’d been outside taking water measurements all day with my Individual Placement, and the damp chill seeped into my bones. So when the call came late in the afternoon to go back outside to release dolphins five minutes after I’d finally gotten comfortable and dry, I was less than enthused.

Still, the dolphins needed help, so I headed to Scusset Beach in Sandwich to help with the evening release. Despite the unpleasant weather, the rescue organization, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), was well prepared to keep all the AmeriCorps members helping with the release cozy, dry, and safe. As soon as we were all assembled, Jori, the AmeriCorps member placed at IFAW, got us suited up in dry suits, which reminded me of the suits that the Ghostbusters wore. Nothing, no water, no ghosts, and no sand, was going to get at me!

All the AmeriCorps rescuers in our super fancy dry suits!
All the AmeriCorps rescuers in our super fancy dry suits!

Once I got the dry suit on, my mood picked up. I was going to help release three dolphins — how many people could say they’ve done that? We prepared the beach, putting down large mats to set the dolphins on before we brought them into the sea. I couldn’t help to think how awesome this experience was as I tromped through the rain to place the mats on the dark beach.

Finally, the time came to release the dolphins. There was a single female, and what appeared to be a mother-calf pair. We placed the dolphins into special dolphin stretchers and loaded them onto custom-made dolphin carts to transport them safely and comfortably to the beach. Once the dolphins were assembled, teams were assigned to each of them and the release began. My team of eight worked with the mother dolphin. We picked up her stretcher and walked out into the ocean until we were waist deep in water. We waited, allowing her and the calf to acclimate to the water, before removing the stretcher and letting her swim away.

This is what dolphins look like pre-release. Since this rescue occurred at night, a good photo was not taken. Photo provided by IFAW, from their archives.

The most stressful part of the rescue was making sure the dolphin’s blowhole stayed above water the entire time we had her in the stretcher. Every time a wave came in, we had to lift her up to ensure her top stayed nice and dry until she acclimated and could lift her head on her own. In a way, it reminded me of my day. I’d been struggling to keep my own mood up throughout the day, but all I’d needed was help from a few friends (human and otherwise) to get my attitude back in the right place. Sometimes keeping a positive attitude about service in AmeriCorps can be difficult. When you’re struggling, you need to remember that this team of members is here with you to support you and help you keep your spirits high and dry.

            Please note all activities described in this article were conducted under a federal stranding agreement between IFAW and the National Marine Fisheries Service under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Ceeeelebrate Earth Day, Come On! Help Clean the Canal on April 23rd, 2016

Written by Rosie Manzo, Bourne House Member Leader

How will you celebrate Earth Day this year?

Why not come on down to the Cape Cod Canal and celebrate with Barnstable County AmeriCorps Cape Cod and the US Army Corps of Engineers? On April 23rd from 10am to 2pm, our organization is teaming up with the US Army Corps of Engineers for our 16th Annual Canal Clean Up event.

Canal Cleanup Collage

We Need YOUR Help! Yes, YOU!

Volunteers are needed for various projects, the majority of which will be picking up trash along the canal to keep it beautiful for the many people who walk, bike, and fish there! Volunteer groups who contact us prior to the event will be assigned to other projects along the canal, including building pollinator boxes, expanding a butterfly garden, and maintaining the brush around a herring run.

Volunteer registration will begin at 9:30am at the Buzzards Bay Recreation Area (parking behind Krua Thai, 100 Main Street Buzzards Bay). Volunteers are provided with a light breakfast, pizza for lunch, and all the supplies needed for each project, including gloves and bags for trash. The event will kick off at 10am and end at 2pm, with entertainment like educational booths and activities for all ages!

If you’re interested in volunteering as a group or have any questions, contact americorpsmembers17@gmail.com or 508-375-6906– we hope to see you there!

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National Volunteer Week: “Protect, Preserve, and Prepare Our Park”

Written by Rosie Manzo, Bourne House Member Leader

Barnstable County AmeriCorps Cape Cod teams up with Cape Cod National Seashore for 100th Anniversary!

National Volunteer Week 2016 is approaching fast!

That means we’re looking to encourage anyone and everyone to seek out ways to become engaged in their communities. Living on the Cape – you’re in luck! AmeriCorps Cape Cod is collaborating with the Cape Cod National Seashore for the National Park Service’s Centennial and to help get the seashore up and running for this coming summer season.

Tshirt front-04_560px

The week kicks off on Monday, April 11th, 2016 in Wellfleet at various sites including Coast Guard Beach, Nauset Light Beach, and Marconi Beach. Tuesday and Wednesday the service will head to Provincetown at the Province Lands Visitor Center and then to Head of the Meadow, Race Point, and Herring Cove Beach. Towards the end of the week, volunteers will serve in Truro at the Highlands Center and in Eastham at the Salt Pond Visitors Center. These projects will include a variety of work, such as painting, weeding parking lots, planting beach grass, installing fencing, and trail maintenance.

At the conclusion of the week, on Friday, April 15th, the National Seashore and Barnstable County AmeriCorps Cape Cod will host a Volunteer Recognition Event at the Salt Pond Visitor Center with food and games as a thank you to all those who volunteered their time throughout the week!

This National Volunteer Week project is made possible through a grant written by the Barnstable County Resource Development Office and funded by the Massachusetts Service Alliance and Barnstable County. 

NVW Blog Logo

Sign up for volunteer shifts on Eventbrite.

There are lots to choose from! 

If you have any questions, contact courtney_butler@nps.gov or brittany.quaglieri@barnstablecounty.org.

We hope to see you there!

Weighing in at Over 500 Pounds

Written by Rosie Manzo, Bourne House Member Leader

Thank you to all those who donated their lights and held a collection site!

After a little over of a month, the Holiday Light Recycling Drive was able to save 573 pounds of holiday string lights from heading to the landfill. These lights were brought to a local metal recycling shop in Hyannis, where the copper and other metals inside the strings are scrapped and recycled. Ideally, the entire strand can be separated and recycled (i.e. glass, plastic, metal) and there are organizations who will do this! Here are some resources for your future holiday recycling needs.

Cape Light Compact, a local Cape Cod energy services organization, generously donated new LED string lights to the raffle winners of the Holiday Lights Drive. CLC serves over 200,000 customers through various energy efficiency programs and initiatives, including helping their customers save with these LED holiday lights! For more information on their services visit their website at http://www.capelightcompact.org/

Recycling lights at Ferreira’s Metal Recycling in Hyannis.
Recycling lights at Ferreira’s Metal Recycling in Hyannis.

So is this really worth our time, going through the effort of recycling our lights? Well, after lighting up the holidays, Christmas and holiday lights are taken down and either stored away for next year or thrown in the trash to be replaced. To start with, landfill contribution from trashed holiday lights can pose a threat to wildlife as they can choke or get strangled, just as easily as animals are harmed by plastic can rings. Additionally, it can take anywhere from one hundred to over a thousand years for holiday lights to decompose, due to their plastic, metal, and glass composition.

With the arrival of newer and more efficient options for lighting, it makes sense to promote these products for the holiday season. Switching to LED lighting is beneficial for anyone hanging lights during the holidays, whether just on a Christmas tree, throughout the house or on a large intricate display outside. LED’s use about 75% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs, pose less of a fire threat, are sturdier without using glass bulbs, and can shine for 10 years longer on average than incandescent bulbs.

Just a portion of the donated lights to be recycled.
Just a portion of the donated lights to be recycled.

To put it in perspective, a 6-foot Christmas tree will use about six 100-bulb strands. Lighting a railing and a few bushes and trees outside could run a homeowner another six (or more) 100-bulb strands. Based on these assumptions, throughout the holiday season, your home would use twelve 100-bulb strands and given an average daily use of 8 hours, your monthly lighting costs for these lights alone would be about an extra $44. Using LED holiday lights in the same scenario would cost about $7 for the month, an 84% savings! I used this Holiday Lighting Calculator to find these estimates.

Magnify these savings over the course of multiple holiday seasons and homeowners could end up saving hundreds of dollars! So why not save some money your next holiday season and spend it on something or someone you care about instead!

H2Know: Water you doing about it?

Written by Breanne Penkala, AmeriCorps member placed at the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension

“Can I flush you?”

This is one question I frequently get asked by students at the start of each WetFest event.

As the WetFest Coordinator, I get to wear this lovely costume.
As the WetFest Coordinator, I get to wear this lovely costume.

WetFest is a daylong education festival to teach 4-6th graders about water and how to protect the Cape’s aquifer. Twenty-five AmeriCorps members facilitate activities about the physical properties of water, show how humans interact with water and suggest ways we can reduce our use of water. These activities range in difficulty and thrill, but the favorites always remain the same:

  • Sea Turtle Rescue – A race to the finish to see which team can rescue sea creatures from oil spills the fastest and learn how to rehabilitate animals after an environmental disaster occurs
  • Flush the Kids – A glance at the inside a “septic system” to understand the nitrogen levels in groundwater
  • Edible Aquifer – A tasty treat comprised of ice, ice cream, soda, and sprinkles to demonstrate the different levels in our aquifer and what happens when it is polluted
  • Bubble Booth – A look from inside a life-size bubble to learn about adhesion, cohesion, and surface tension of water

WeFest Collage

The day starts and ends with a skit that involves a large toilet, a rude dude that tries to dump oil on the ground, and a wizard who comes to the rescue to make sure we all learn how to protect our precious water supply. As the WetFest coordinator, I make sure the day goes smoothly by guiding students to open activities, making sure members have the materials they need to teach each activity, and answering any questions the teachers may have. I wear a toilet costume for good measure, hence, all of the weird questions I get from students about “flushing” me. I am by no means required to wear a huge toilet, but it definitely entertains the kids and the members get a kick out of it as well.

Members dress up to welcome the students to WetFest and perform the opening skit.
Members dress up to welcome the students to WetFest and perform the opening skit.

As the coordinator of this event, I do not get to facilitate an activity, but I thoroughly enjoy watching the other 25 members interact with the children and experience the enthusiasm and laughter from the students at each activity. At the end of each event, we know that our hard work pays off when the students commit to being “Groundwater Guardians” by promising to protect our water in any way they can. It is also encouraging to hear students say “my brother always leaves the faucet on when he brushes his teeth, but now I will make sure he shuts it off so he wastes less water”. Since September of 2015, we have already reached over 700 students through these interactive activities at WetFest, and we are excited to teach even more in the second half of our service year!

Scouting It Out: Success at the Red Cross Scout Fair

Witten by Amber Carter, AmeriCorps Member placed at Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve

Members of AmeriCorps Cape Cod were excited and full of energy on the morning of January 9th, 2016, as we prepared for the 9th annual American Red Cross Scout Fair, which took place at The Parish of Christ the King Church in Mashpee. Scout Fair is an event at which troops of boy and girl scouts ages 6 to 12 learn skills such as basic first aid, how to call 911, and how to be prepared in the event of a natural disaster. Pairs of ACC members were assigned different topics to present to the scouts at stations around the room; the kids spent about 10 minutes at each station before rotating to the next activity.

Once the scouts arrived and the fair began, ACC members dove right into presenting their topics. Member Jake Garringer (Safety Jake) and I presented on the three C’s method to dealing with an emergency. These include Checking to make sure the scene is safe, Calling 911, and Caring for any victims by using first aid. Additionally, Jake and I instructed the scouts on how to put together a disaster preparedness kit, which can be taken with you if you must leave your home in the event of an emergency. The kits typically include items such as a flashlight, a handheld radio, water, a whistle, and a blanket. We also brought additional items that aren’t needed in a preparedness kit, including a spatula and a stapler, and tested the scouts by asking them which items don’t belong. The scouts were excited and eager to learn and Jake and I had fun working with them!

Overall, Scout Fair was a huge success! Jeff Rossi, the ACC member placed at the Red Cross, organized the event and kept it running smoothly throughout the morning. Although we were acting as teachers for the day, ACC members learned a lot about disasters, emergencies, how to be prepared, and how to react in those situations; it was a great learning experience for everyone involved. We had fun in our role as educators and we were proud to be a part of such an important event. AmeriCorps Cape Cod Year 17 has six months left to serve on Cape Cod and we can’t wait to see what’s next!

Top 10 Most Memorable Service Projects

Written by Ben Howard, AmeriCorps Member placed at the Cape Cod Commission

Here are Ben’s top 10 most memorable service projects so far this year. As you’ll see, he’s enjoyed a wide array of projects that touch upon our four focus areas. There are a variety of ways to plan, facilitate, and participate in these types of projects and more as an AmeriCorps Cape Cod member.

  1. Mashpee Shellfish Propagation — collecting, measuring and broadcasting.
  2. Wellfleet Herring Run Invasive species removal. That Asian knotweed was tough, but no match!
  3. Santuit Pond Bench Installation. The nicest benches I have ever seen!Bench Building AmeriCorps Service
  4. Camp Edwards Invasive Removal — Honey Suckle and Autumn Olive removal in the cold – 4 acres – but cold!
  5. Red Lily Pond Phragmites Removal. Oh, the phragmites!Red Lily Pond AmeriCorps Service.JPG
  6. WETFest. Will the wizard ever be free of the Rude Dude’s pollution?
  7. Barnstable Clam Crawl. Running in the sand a la Chariots of Fire.
  8. Sandwich Dolphin Release. Saving Dolphins, no big deal.Dolphin Release Team AmeriCorps Service
  9. Barnstable Sea Level Rise App Testing. Crowd-sourced science research on sea level rise!
  10. Barnstable Holiday Stroll. The Green Ribbon Puppet Show is good for any season!