AmeriCorps volunteers in Bluff for six weeks
A group of ten AmeriCorps volunteers arrived in San Juan County on November 1 to begin six weeks of work in the community.
The AmeriCorps NCCC team was brought to the area through a joint venture of the town of Bluff and Utah State University Extension Office with additional support from St. Christopher’s Mission.
Reagan Wytsalucy is a USU Extension Assistant Professor in Agriculture & Natural Resources. Wytsalucy has organized agricultural projects in the county including the community gardens in Blanding and Bluff. She is also supervising the volunteer team during their stay.
Local volunteers have spent hours over the summer preparing 30 raised wooden boxes in the community garden space at St. Christopher’s Mission in Bluff. Wytsalucy explained in an interview with Redrock 92.7 FM that the AmeriCorps volunteers are filling in where local volunteers cannot.
“They’re going to be constructing sheds and filling up the garden boxes which is kind of where our manpower stopped over the summer. With our volunteers being predominantly elderly and school being back in session, a lot of our youth were unable to come out and volunteer in the garden anymore, so we kind of had a stop in the garden development project.”
Wytsalucy says that AmeriCorps volunteers’ help will enable the garden and its drip irrigation system to be fully up and running in the spring.
“The garden space will be manageable and cleaned up for anybody coming in to help planting, harvesting, attending educational workshops on gardening, traditional food crops, and learning about appropriate ceremonialism that goes with planting crops.”
USU Extensions views the gardens as tools to provide education, Wytsalucy adds they also create a way to bring local sustainability to the area.
While USU Extensions does not financially support the gardens, they do help communities get started that have sustainable volunteer forces. Wytsalucy says they’re looking into expanding to the Mexican Water Chapter and possibly Monticello.
While the bulk of their work will be at the Bluff community garden, the AmeriCorps volunteers are also taking on other projects on, such as preserving historic sites in Bluff including projects at St. Christopher’s Mission as well as public land projects such as noxious weed control and cleanup of branches.
“It’s a lot of labor for the town of Bluff which is predominantly elderly. So this young labor force volunteering in our area is helping to clean up the community and do the projects that are hard for the local members to be able to do in a timely manner.”
While the group’s work is primarily focused on the lined-out projects in Bluff there may be some time for the group to aid with cleanup or basic house repair projects for Bluff residents. If the crews work through their projects quickly the group may have some capacity to help other San Juan County communities as well.
“There’s never going to be an opportunity or time to get everything done but as we know our county has a lot of needs to be met.
“So...I’m also happy to work and collaborate with local governments and other entities that are interested in bringing a team in and helping discuss that process and what that was like to be able to get an AmeriCorps team in.”
Wytsalucy and the AmeriCorps team is also willing to share information with local groups and schools about opportunities to join an AmeriCorps team.
Benefits for youth volunteers include a living allowance, money for college or trade schools, loan deferment, and interest forbearance as well as professional learning opportunities.
The USU Extension Office phone number is 435-587-3239.