The calm, blue walls and live plants decorating the Marion Institute underlie a web of tightly controlled chaos this autumn. A quiet, ongoing murmur of printers, telephones and clacking keyboards fills the air. Workers step spryly around two girls who sit on the floor, alphabetizing stacks of paper. The bustle holds a tinge of anticipation, and contains more than a touch of excitement. The reason, of course, is the upcoming Bioneers by the Bay: Connecting for Change Conference.
The conference, now in its fifth year, will take place Oct. 22-25 in historic downtown New Bedford, MA. This annual gathering covers several blocks and features a range of activities, including live keynote speakers, workshops, the Youth Initiative program, films, live music, art installations, a farmers market and more.
The conference is organized by a team of highly dedicated individuals and staffed by hordes of socially minded volunteers. The Marion Institute, however, has a secret weapon. For the second year, it is being assisted by a team of eight motivated young adults from the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), working full time to help pull off this October’s event.
Affectionately known as “Kill Squad,” this year’s NCCC team is thrilled to be working for the Marion Institute. “Don’t let the name fool you, though,” cautions team leader Peter Czarkowski, 24, of Milwaukee. “The only thing we kill is apathy!”
AmeriCorps NCCC is a leadership program for 18- to 24-year-olds from all over the country. Team members commit to 10 months of service in areas such as education, environment, disaster relief and construction. In return for their work, they receive room and board, a modest living stipend and an education grant of nearly $5,000.
As their much-abused gray T-shirts and khaki pants testify, the members of this team are certainly no strangers to community service. Already in the midst of their ninth month, Bioneers by the Bay marks the fourth and final project of their service year. Kill Squad has already worked at several nonprofits, completing a variety of jobs that include mentoring at-risk youths in Georgia, helping rebuild homes damaged in Hurricane Katrina and demolishing vacant houses in Baltimore.
These workers hail from all over the country, and have many reasons for joining NCCC. “I plan on devoting myself to a life of service, and I wanted to see nonprofit work from all sides,” explains Katherine Hypolite, 23, of Bloomfield, Conn. “If I will be organizing volunteers one day, then first I need to be a volunteer.”
Hypolite’s words come very close to describing her current job at the Marion Institute; she is one of two volunteer coordinators for Bioneers by the Bay. Her many jobs include organizing the small army of volunteer workers (NCCC team included) who will be dispatched to make sure the Connecting for Change conference runs smoothly.
She’s not the only one with a heavy workload. The team has been easily incorporated into all aspects of the conference, helping with tasks such as registration, exhibitors, the Youth Initiative, ITT Tech and even compost.
If Kill Squad is eager to be stationed in Marion, that is nothing in comparison to how the Marion Institute feels about them. “We are thrilled at the Marion Institute to be continuing our relationship with the AmeriCorps NCCC program,” exclaims Glenn Oliveira, events and membership coordinator at the Marion Institute. “Throughout our two-year relationship, the Americorps NCCC teams that we have worked with have been invaluable assets to our work. We really couldn’t imagine putting on the conference without them.”
As the conference looms ever closer, it is evident that the team is more than pleased to be spending their last round here in New England. They take their lunches daily outside to the Marion Institute’s edible garden, augmenting their meals with handfuls of fresh cherry tomatoes and playing catch with a Frisbee. For a final project, this team feels that things couldn’t really get much better.
Visit the NCCC site.
Join Bioneers by the Bay for three days of live keynote presentations, afternoon workshops, an exhibition hall featuring sustainable businesses and organizations, a community action center, films, music, art installations, a farmers’ market and local & organic food and MORE!