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Americorps digs Bemidji: Nine volunteers from across the country stay and serve in town

Nine members of Americorps’ National Civilian Conservation Corps will stay a month in Bemidji this summer as they volunteer at the Headwaters Science Center and the Bemidji Community Food Shelf. Pictured, Maureen Murphy (left), Valerie Munoz and Blake Thomas help construct the food shelf’s community garden. Zach Kayser | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI -- A special group of out-of-towners is in Bemidji for the first part of summer -- but they're toting shovels rather than shopping bags.

From mid May to mid-June, a nine-member team of young adult volunteers from Americorps, a national government-sponsored service organization, will do community service projects in Bemidji. They'll serve as tour guides/exhibit facilitators at Headwaters Science Center downtown, showing the center's visitors a menagerie of live reptiles and birds. They'll also get their hands dirty in the new community garden project at the Bemidji Community Food Shelf, planting a variety of fruits and vegetables to grow into fresh produce for shelf users. Additionally, they work inside the food shelf itself during bad weather days.

"We've been just kind of stocking food, checking expiration dates, just making sure everything's good to be put on the shelf," volunteer Blake Thomas said Friday. "We work kind of more in the background right now, but we're going get to an opportunity to work with the clients (later)."

The volunteers have mostly spent their time indoors so far due to "spring" weather, including some sleet Thursday. None of the team are Gopher State natives, but one member, Maureen Murphy, is from a similar climate in upstate New York.

"I really like it," Murphy said of Bemidji. "I really like working in the garden. I always had one growing up, so it's kind of nice going back."

Food shelf director Mary Mitchell already had positive reviews for the volunteers.

"They're very focused, and they want to get to work," she said. "Great bunch of young folks."

When the team's hitch in Bemidji is done, they'll return to the Americorps North Central Region base in Vinton, Iowa. After a short break, it's off to their next service spot, improving the lives of the residents of a different town somewhere in America.

Zach Kayser
Zach Kayser covers local government and city issues for the Pioneer. He previously worked for the Wadena Pioneer Journal, and is an alumni of the University of Minnesota, Morris. 
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