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Ecology sends 48 WCC members to help communities affected by Hurricane Sandy

In response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) is sending 48 Washington Conservation Corps AmeriCorps members and staff to New York City to assist with community recovery efforts.

Hurricane Sandy has caused at least $10 billion in damages, killed 45 people and left millions without power in more than a dozen eastern states and Washington, D.C.

On Tuesday, the federal Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) requested WCC help from Ecology. They will join several hundred other AmeriCorps members in the relief effort.

The eight six-member WCC teams – one each from Ellensburg, Port Hadlock, Seattle, Wenatchee and Yakima and three from Mount Vernon-Sedro Woolley – will depart for New York for a 30-day deployment later today.

Gov. Chris Gregoire said: “Washingtonians stand with our friends and family on the East Coast as they begin to clean up and rebuild from the devastation left by Hurricane Sandy. The young women and men in our WCC AmeriCorps program have been deployed to disaster responses across the country and always put service above self. They will arrive in New York on Saturday and with their training and skills will hit the ground running. I thank them for stepping up to the relief effort.

The WCC teams will start their journey in Ellensburg. The eight WCC supervisors will drive their crews in trucks loaded with chainsaws, water pumps, generators, pole saws and other equipment.

Once they arrive in New York, crews will work to clear storm debris, place sandbags and install tarps on houses. They will also help set up and operate community shelters, distribute food, clothes and other supplies and assess damages to homes and other structures. Their work will be funded by Federal Emergency Management Agency funds.

Debbie Schuffenhauer, executive director of the Washington Commission for National and Community Service, said: “Americans have always pulled together after disasters to help our neighbors and rebuild communities. My heartfelt thanks go out to the Washington Conservation Corps for representing our state and helping to ease the burden of those wrought by Hurricane Sandy.”

In past years, WCC members have been deployed to Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas to help residents affected by floods, tornadoes and hurricanes. Most recently, Ecology sent 60 AmeriCorps members to assist with wild land firefighting efforts throughout Eastern Washington during the summer of 2012.

Established in 1983, the WCC is made up of young adults between 18 and 25. The program enrolls more than 300 AmeriCorps members annually. There are WCC crews and individual placements in more than 40 locations across the state.

Members receive job training, help restore and protect Washington’s environment, offer environmental education and volunteer opportunities for thousands of residents of all ages, and provide emergency assistance to citizens in Washington and across the nation.

Typical work includes building trails, planting trees and other natural vegetation and biological monitoring projects. In addition, WCC members attend a series of paid trainings throughout the year such as advanced wilderness first aid, wild land firefighting including using chainsaws and water pumps, and flood and hazardous material response.

WCC greatly expanded its environmental and community service to Washington residents in 1994 when it became a federally supported AmeriCorps Program. Being part of AmeriCorps enables the WCC to work outside Washington during national emergencies.

In exchange for their year of service, members earn minimum wage and an AmeriCorps education award of $5,550 that they can use to repay student loans or toward future tuition expenses.

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