MTPR

More AmeriCorps Volunteers Come From Montana Than Any Other State

Apr 15, 2015

Montana produces more AmeriCorps volunteers than any other state. What's more, the federal agency that administers the service organization says more members come from Billings than other cities of its size.

Paige Ely is an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer with the Missoula Food Bank. The VISTA program is designed to help fight poverty. Ely says she meets lots of people who are down on their luck.

"So it's hard in that sense, but I feel passionate that I want to keep doing this and that there are hard parts to the day, but it's work that I do enjoy overall."

Ely suspects many AmeriCorps volunteers want to help Montana cope with its high rate of childhood poverty.

She also thinks our natural beauty is a big draw.

"We have a lot of Conservation Corps volunteers in Montana. I think that Montana's beautiful and (it's  good to conserve) our natural resources and so I know that a great portion of volunteers are in Montana Conservation Corps."

Over 470 AmeriCorps members are serving throughout Montana.

Missoula's Samantha Moore thinks she may know why Montana produces so many AmeriCorps volunteers.

"What appealed to me about Montana, being from Southern California, was this whole aspect of community, community involvement."

Moore is an AmeriCorps member serving at YWCA of Missoula. The recent University of Montana grad characterizes her time in the program as a transformative experience.

"Nowadays we have Facebook, we have all these things. It's all about us all the time. I think it's really great to realize that it's not always about us. Your perspective deepens a little bit and you understand a little bit more about what's going on."

Agency officials say it tough to pin one specific reason for the program's popularity here. They say one possible theory is that the "neighbor helping neighbor" mentality has long been a matter of survival in Montana.