AmeriCorps Members Bring Hope and Inspiration During the COVID-19 Pandemic

By United Way of King County, on May 26, 2020 | In News, Racial Equity, Volunteering

With the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, AmeriCorps have become an essential element of United Way of King County’s efforts to ensure that low-income communities, people of color, refugees and immigrants have access to food and other resources. These communities have been hit especially hard during this crisis because of historical and structural racism and discrimination.

Olivia Porth, an AmeriCorps VISTA who started her work in March, is one of the tireless and dedicated members of that special group that has given hope to many people in our community.

During this week’s COVID-19 livestream update from United Way, Porth talked with Kidist Winters, United Way of King County’s National Service Program Coordinator, about her experience as a Breakfast After the Bell VISTA, and then having to quickly pivot to provide emergency food assistance to families in need when the pandemic hit our area. Breakfast After the Bell focuses on providing nutritious, healthy meals to low-income children in schools.

“Ultimately, the priority has been on getting food to kids and families, but it’s more the means of getting that food to their table,” Porth said.

“United Way has done an incredible job of pivoting our resources to meet the needs of our community,” Winters said. “AmeriCorps members have been resilient and flexible during this time. It’s been inspiring to see.”

Porth shared a touching story about a family that has been receiving food throughout this time.

“One family actually calls me ‘Auntie Olivia,’” said Porth. “I see their three little toddlers waving from the window every time I come. It’s one of the greatest feelings in the world knowing that you can give families those basic tools.”

Challenges of Working During a Pandemic

Porth said working during the coronavirus outbreak has presented challenges because of the risks associated with her work. She said she and her team wear masks and gloves and stick to social distancing guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus.

“Serving during COVID has challenged me as an employee and as a human being,” Porth said. “It’s been an amazing time of growth. It brings a lot of joy, but it can be tough and scary.”

Porth said she was inspired to join AmeriCorps after learning about the food insecurity that exists in schools in low-income areas from her mother, who is a teacher in Michigan.


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