Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Working Together Americorps to Spruce Up Urban and Rural Areas

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Working Together Americorps to Spruce Up Urban and Rural Areas

Article excerpt

Krista White, 22, a college student from East St. Louis, and Audrey Morgan, 36, a homemaker and mother of two from Granite City, have found they share a lot in common: a concern for the environment, a willingness to serve their community and participation in the newest government service corps in America.

The new friends are two of 30 AmeriCorps workers taking part in a project sponsored in the Metro East by the United States Department of Agriculture.

This week, White, Morgan and the others in the USDA project are training at State Community College in East St. Louis.

Soon, they'll be out cleaning up inner city parks and shoring up rural creeks. The project is intended to "improve, reclaim, restore and beautify land in urban as well as rural areas," according to a project description.

About 20 of the participants will work in neighborhoods and parks in East St. Louis and Lovejoy. They'll clean vacant residential lots and replant them, fix greenhouses at East St. Louis Senior High School and Jones Park, and restore athletic fields, several flower gardens and a lagoon and stream channel in the park.

The other 10 will trudge through streams and rebuild banks to clean up after last year's flood and prevent future flooding at sites around St. Clair and Madison counties. The floods wreaked much damage to Metro East streams, and many emergency repairs - such as clearing out Harding Ditch - are needed.

AmeriCorps - President Bill Clinton's new national service program - helps people earn college or vocational scholarships or repay educational loans while they rebuild communities.

White, a junior at Southern Illinois University of Edwardsville, got involved in AmeriCorps when a friend told her about the opportunity.

White has a 3-year-old son at home. This gives her some money to build for their future.

"I'm concerned about the environment, and I thought it would be a good thing to learn to garden and to help the community," White said. And she had one more reason for signing up: "I care about East St. Louis. I've lived here all my life."

Morgan has volunteered as a gardening expert for the University of Illinois extension service and worked in the demonstration garden for the Collinsville Park District. She thinks a career in landscape architecture might be just what she wants - and AmeriCorps will give her the opportunity to pursue her dream.

Morgan got interested when she heard AmeriCorps would "pay my child care, give me education benefits and I get to do service for the community. That hooked me in!"

She's excited about creating a new, clean habitat for fish by working in the streams.

And what she likes best is that "this is something good, something positive" for the community. …

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