I saw in the Polk County edition of the Statesman Journal this week that an AmeriCorps*NCCC group has been helping clean up Kilowan after the winter storms. Funny, it mentions a few times that they’ll be opening Camp on time thanks to the help, but opening to who may be the more important question.
Crew helps Camp Kilowan recover from storms
Americorps team includes members from rest of U.S.
February 25, 2007
Sean Allen of Bloomington, Ill., discovered spectacular waterfalls while hiking in the Coast Range earlier this month.
But the 22-year-old Midwesterner was not vacationing, sightseeing or on some unusual retreat: He was putting in hard hours on a project with eight comrades, restoring Camp Fire USA’s Camp Kilowan from extensive damages sustained during December’s windstorms.
The team is part of Americorps’ National Civilian Community Corps, a full-time, team-based residential program for people age 18 to 24. The team arrived at the camp, nestled in the foothills just outside of Falls City, during the first week of February and will stay through March 8.
Duties included clearing trails, mending bridges, clearing debris strewn on cabin roofs and building an amphitheater on the bank of the camp’s Kiloqua Pond. In addition, the team tends to daily-living chores, including laundry detail, exercise leadership duty, cooking and cleaning. Cooking can be especially tricky because half of the crew members are vegetarians.
Although the work often is arduous and the pay is modest, the rewards can be tremendous.
“I’ve always wanted to travel and see different parts of the country,” said Allen, a recent graduate of Greenville College near St. Louis, Mo., who majored in history and religion. “This is perfect for that.
“I really enjoy hiking, and there are tons of waterfalls up here. There was one of about 60 feet, and we spent a day clearing a whole trail near that falls.”
Allen reflects the sentiment of the rest of the team while describing the appeal of the unique assignment — or “spike” as it’s referred to by the corps — that took them deep into the Polk County forest.
All eight hail from east of the Rocky Mountains: team leader Alison Hoey, 24, Syracuse, N.Y.; Elizabeth Hartsell, 23, Gainesville, Fla.; Edmund Petersen, 18, Falls Church, Va.; Stephanie Baumli, 19, Greenville, S.C.; Andrea Rubin, 23, Fishkill, N.Y.; Kryss Fisher, 19, State College, Pa.; and Aubrey Frey, 19, Pacific, Mo.
Hoey, who is in her second 10-month spike, explained that participants normally are sent to initial training at the Americorps campus farthest from their hometowns. It’s part of the appeal — part of the adventure.
This team’s campus is in Sacramento.
Others are in Denver, Charleston, S.C., and Perry Point, Md. Sacramento serves Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and the territories of Guam and American Samoa.
Realizing that storm damage was more than his simple resources could repair, Kilowan administrator Harry Garabedian summoned help from Americorp*NCCC and sponsored the team.
Although 75 percent of the network’s crews have been earmarked for Katrina relief (upon finishing at Kilowan, this crew will travel to the Gulf Coast for an eight-week assignment) the need for help at Kilowan was recognizable.
“We looked it up on the map and looked at pictures of the damage by the windstorms,” Hoey said of the moment her crew received its Oregon assignment. “We were really excited to get up here and clean it up.”
Although excited, the crew also realized that it would be no picnic.
“We’ve removed probably about 25 trees,” Hoey said. “And there have been so many limbs. A lot of the trails had trees down across them. … It’s very physically demanding work.”
For their efforts, which amount to 1,700 hours during 10 months, each member gets a stipend earmarked for either college or college loans. They also get a plug for their résumé. But much of the reward is personal.
“I love it,” Hoey said. “It changed my life, and it gave me a lot of direction. It’s unique because you get to go out and help people, but you help yourself as well.”
In her first 10-month tour, Hoey helped build a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk to a South Dakota national monument, tutored inner-city children in Denver, helped at a nonprofit horse ranch in Colorado, cleaned up parks in Minnesota and met former President Jimmy Carter while working in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity building houses in Benton Harbor, Mich.
Hoey attended Onondaga College in Syracuse for a year, then returned to the corps as a team leader. After initial training, she received custody of her team and marching orders for Oregon.
Meanwhile, 78-year-old Camp Kilowan, which has served thousands of Camp Fire girls, Blue Birds and campers from a variety of groups during decades, stands to open on schedule and with a new amphitheater.
“We like leaving an impression on this camp because it’s definitely leaving an impression on us,” Hartsell said.
“Camp Kilowan needs a lot of help to get ready this year, and I am just glad my team gets to be a part of it,” said Baumli. “I come from the city, but I like getting out to nature and seeing different things. … This camp provides a wonderful experience with nature that many people no longer experience.”
jmuch@StatesmanJournal.com or (503) 399-6736