This is my story…
Most people finish college and feel like they are ready for a “big league” job. I’ll readily admit when I finished college, that is what I expected to find. I thought that I would jump immediately into the perfect office career for me that was rewarding, challenging, and maybe a little fun too. The only problem was…I had no idea what I wanted to do. Sure, I’d gotten my Bachelor’s in Psychology, but aside from the fact that I knew I DIDN’T want to be a therapist, I had no idea what the next step for me would be. I returned home, a little discouraged and extremely lost. I worked at Target, which was a nice place to work, but not exactly the dream career for a recent college graduate. I got placed in the cash office. I really enjoyed the cash office, but I knew I needed to find a real career path. I remembered what a friend had told me back in college. “You would be a great candidate for the AmeriCorps program! You love helping others!”
A little skeptical about if I could afford it, I logged on to AmeriCorps.gov. I was entranced by the idea. Thus began a 6-month search mission. I dug and dug, looking for just the right program in just the right place. I mailed a paper application to “NCCC Program” which is probably still somewhere in a desk in Washington DC. I almost dropped everything and moved to Missouri. I spent hours on the phone with potential interviewers. Myself, being an overachiever, applied to pretty much any program I could find.
When I finally got an interview with a program in Sacramento with Habitat for Humanity, I was incredibly, incredibly nervous. It seemed like the perfect position. I would be working with families, helping the community, and maybe even using my degree! That hour-long drive in the pouring rain was nerve-wracking. The interview, however, was not. I adored my interviewer (who went on to be my boss!) and really thought it was the perfect fit from the moment I walked out.
The rest, as they say, is history.
I fell in love with Habitat for Humanity. I’m not sure if it was the amazing team I worked with in Sacramento, the 20 incredible families I got to meet, the amazing experience of building 10 houses in 10 days in New Orleans for Build-A-Thon 2015, or the incredible site specialists and HFHI staff that I connected with at NSLC 2015 (it was probably all of those things). I fell in love with Habitat for Humanity and I fell in love with AmeriCorps and I knew, near the end of my term, that I wanted to serve with Habitat again.
My roommate, who was a ReStore Development VISTA member in Sacramento, was incredibly passionate about the mission of the ReStores. She and I would talk about the store for hours. I began to talk to the staff and volunteers at the ReStore in Sacramento more often. I loved strolling through the store to find treasures. I quietly listened to what they needed, and wished I could help more. Eventually, I too, fell in love with the mission and knew that I wanted to be a ReStore VISTA like my roommate.
Habitat in Sacramento didn’t get a ReStore VISTA for a 2nd year, so I began to search other affiliates for the position. I remember the moment I visited HFH Seattle’s website and saw they had an opening. I crossed my fingers and sent my resume. I wasn’t sure if I had the skills they were looking for, I wasn’t sure if I could afford another year, I wasn’t sure if I could afford to move to Seattle, I didn’t know anyone who lived here. But I took a major leap and boy, did it pay off!
This year has been an absolute whirlwind. From the 14-hour drive from California to this exact moment, I haven’t slowed down at all. When I decide something, I go all in. I fell in love with our Bellevue and Southcenter Store staff. I adopted WALL-E as my personal reminder that the stores help reduce landfill waste. I became an HFH AmeriCorps Ambassador and served with the SAC Board. I presented a workshop at the National Service Leadership Conference 2016 and was asked to be a plenary speaker. In everything I’ve done this year, I tried my best. I tried to give it my all. I didn’t often know what I was doing, and many times I spent hours googling or watching videos trying to figure it out. I’ve learned about social media analytics and search engine optimization and sales drivers. I’ve conducted 3 job interviews. I re-wrote our 50 page operations manual and got over 100 volunteers serving in big groups at the stores and increased our following on Facebook by 3,000 people in the last 10 months. I don’t pretend I was an expert, in fact, the only thing I feel like I became an expert in was knowing that I DIDN’T know how to do something!
The support I received from my family, my host site, my supervisor, HFHI, the store team, and my AmeriCorps team was incredible. Most of them will never admit it, but they are the reason this is possible. Every email of encouragement, every moment spent listening to struggles and joys, every potluck, every uplifting meeting, every smile…I never could have made it through AmeriCorps without the people that supported me every step of the way.
If you know me well, you know I love quotes. In everything I did the past 2 years, I just kept reminding myself of the AmeriCorps pledge. Mostly, “Faced with adversity, I will persevere.” I’m not going to pretend AmeriCorps is easy. It’s not. In fact, it was probably 2 of the most challenging years of my life. Mentally, emotionally, professionally, and even politically!
However, given the choice? I’d choose it again. I’d probably keep choosing it. I’ve often said that “if I could go on being an AmeriCorps member for the rest of my life, I’d probably do it.” I love the program that much. Yet, I know that it’s probably time to become a mentor and a guide, and help new members experience this program. I’m sad to be finishing AmeriCorps, but I’m so grateful for the experience, and I’m very excited for what the future will bring.
I can’t wait to become an advocate of the AmeriCorps program, I can’t wait to tell more of congress they need to support it, I can’t wait to encourage friends and family to join. I’m so proud to be an AmeriCorps Alum, and I am so proud to say that I GOT THINGS DONE!
Danielle Lavy, 2 year AmeriCorps Alum
National Program 2015 (Homeowner Services Coordinator)
VISTA Program 2016-17 (Store Development Coordinator)