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Current Events

  • 6th Annual Golf Outing
    Monday, August 21, 2017 - 10:00

Build Days

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    Thursday, July 27, 2017 - 09:00
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    Friday, July 28, 2017 - 09:00
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    Saturday, July 29, 2017 - 09:00

Habitat in Monmouth AmeriCorps VISTA and Homeowner in the national spotlight

Along with serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA, Barbara Durchak and her family have been a fantastic partner family of our affiliate acting as one of our most fervent advocates. To see the complete story click here.

Q: How did you decide to serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA member?

A: It’s been quite a journey for me. It began when Hurricane Sandy devastated my little town. The night the hurricane hit, it flooded 90% of the homes with 2-10 feet of water, and ours was not spared. We also watched our family business burn to the ground.

When the waters receded, we were left with our home badly damaged, including a wall which was ripped away along with all the duct work under the house. We were better off than many. There were houses washed away completely, leaving only concrete stairs and debris in the streets. We had no electricity for about two weeks and relied on the Borough Hall for food and water. Our cars were flooded, and even if we could get one running, there was no gas. We were on military lockdown most of the time due to looters. It was surreal.

After our electricity returned, we started to pick up the pieces. The town was in pain. The residents tried to help each other and pull together, but there was only so much we could do. We tried to repair what we could, and there were so many people homeless. 

After some time, our biggest problem became mold. The mold kept growing, even when the weather turned cold, and our home became even more unsafe. I don’t like asking for help but I reached my breaking point when my 18-year-old daughter woke one morning with her eyes swollen almost shut from the mold. It broke my heart.

I reached out to several organizations but we became a number on a long list of numbers. It was overwhelming to everyone. Then I contacted Habitat for Humanity in Monmouth County (HFHMC). Their motto is, “A Hand Up, not a Hand Out.” They said they would stay by our side and help us, which they did. Eventually our home was rebuilt, and the mold was treated. HFHMC kept their word and their volunteers gave from their hearts, and helped heal ours.

Soon, I started volunteering at HFHMC and speaking for them at different venues. We became part of the family. I’d volunteered in the past (I’ve been a Girl Scout for almost 20 years), but this was different. I met several AmeriCorps members and we became friends, and eventually an AmeriCorps VISTA position opened up with HFHMC.  Being older than most AmeriCorps VISTA members, I wasn’t sure I had the confidence to serve, or what they would expect from me. But I applied and was accepted. 

I found a sense of confidence, a satisfaction of accomplishment, and a feeling of belonging that I hadn’t felt in a very long time. That’s what brought me to AmeriCorps, and the feeling in my heart has kept me here.

Q: What would you say was your biggest accomplishment as VISTA member?

A: If I could pick something personal it would be growing as a person, doing things I never thought I was capable of, and going beyond who I thought I was.

I was able to reach so many people nationwide. I was able to make a difference in my community. I was able to be part of the solution. I can’t really cite my biggest accomplishment because it was bringing together many, seemingly small, accomplishments.

Q: How was your career impacted by your experience as an AmeriCorps VISTA member?

A: My career was impacted because I learned and did so many new things. I was offered several salaried job positions after my first year. I doubt these would have been offered to me had I not been an AmeriCorps alum.

Q: What advice do you have for people considering serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA?

A: Go for it, no matter your age or experience. I guarantee, you will surprise yourself. If you are not sure what you want to do, are in between jobs, or are looking for something fulfilling to do with your knowledge, you can’t help but come out a better person if you choose to serve. I have found it a true honor.

Q: What advice do you have for those who are current VISTA members looking for what’s next?

A: Make use of everything you’ve learned. Be confident in your accomplishments. Service can involve long hours and pushing yourself beyond your perceived limits. Sometimes during service, you come home tired and spent, but you know when you lay your head down you’ve made a difference. Be proud of that. When an employer sees national service on your resume, they know they will be hiring someone responsible and able to commit to getting things done.

Interview by Liz Matthews, AmeriCorps VISTA Alumni Outreach Team Lead