For some, entering the Energy Corps program means a change in scenery – a new hometown. For me it meant moving home. The house I lived in during high school is two miles away from my new office in Hiawatha, Iowa at HACAP (Hawkeye Area Community Action Program) where I began serving June 10th. For the past seven years, I lived not-so-far-away in the big city of Des Moines, Iowa. While in Des Moines, I settled (literally) into a corporate job that left me feeling like I could do more for my community. The financial security of my corporate job kept me held in its grasps, but the more involved I became in my community the more passionate I became about having a career that more tangibly made a difference in people’s lives. This wasn’t an easy decision to make and it took a lot for me to click the submit button on my Energy Corps application.
I couldn’t have been more surprised when I got a call from Energy Corps the following day for an interview. Things progressed and I landed this awesome Energy Corps gig in my hometown. HACAP serves six counties in Iowa and my primary role is to provide energy education to clients who include: families with children enrolled in the Head Start program, families that are in need of energy crisis funds to help pay for their utilities, and families living in transitional housing that are working towards having their own home. I’m excited for the opportunity to engage with people about actions we can take in our homes to reduce energy consumption which in turn results in money saved.
I’ve got some time before my energy ed classes start, so I’ve been getting up to speed on the class materials, learning about HACAP and the communities we serve and doing a bunch of other new and exciting things. In my first few days at HACAP, I attended a few events with youth who are living in one of HACAP’s transitional housing facilities. My favorite was the trip to Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center where the youth learned about their connection to the earth. From their website, Prairiewoods “is a retreat and conference center focused on ecology and spirituality (or, as we call it, ecospirituality) and holistic health.” This is a cool place for youth to explore and they had a great time. We went on a nature hike using our five senses to observe our surroundings – including tasting some mint, spotting a deer and touching spikes on a Honey Locust tree! There was a scavenger hunt that asked them, among other things, to find the solar panel, a spider web, and to count the rings on a fallen tree. The day ended with some time in silence under a large oak tree listening to a singing bowl.
I’ve also had the opportunity to assist at the HACAP office where clients turn in their completed application for energy crisis funds. Meeting with the clients and hearing from them about their situation has driven me to learn more about my home community and what services are available for those seeking help with housing, child care, food, etc. I want to be a resource for our clients and am lucky to be working with an organization like HACAP that offers a wide spectrum of services and partnerships with other service oriented organizations around the community.
Over the 4th of July holiday, I kept busy working with the Green Iowa AmeriCorps team that is serving in Cedar Rapids. We helped with recycling/composting efforts at large events around the city. I loved engaging the public about what items can be recycled or composted. Kids would ask why I moved an item from one bin to another and it was a great opportunity to educate them on what is or is not recyclable/compostable. While the amount of items we were able to divert from the landfill was great, I was still saddened to see how much waste was going to the landfill. I am looking forward to collaborating with the Green Iowa AmeriCorps team again.
HACAP is also greatly involved in food pantries in the area and I was able to help out at the Cedar Rapids Farmer’s Market collecting produce at the end of the market that vendors wanted to donate to the food pantries. Food pantries often lack fresh produce so a partnership between local food producers and food pantries is a great way to provide nutritious, delicious food to food insecure members of our community. I had a lot of fun at the market and event picked up some delicious beets from an organic farmer that I later turned into beet juice popsicles! I’m headed back to the market this Saturday for more beets!
I’m grateful for this opportunity to serve my hometown and to be working with Energy Corps. The experiences I am having are exactly what I needed after a long seven years in the corporate world. I look forward to more blogs of my adventures in Iowa.
And before you go, here are a few fun “facts” about some of the differences between my corporate life and my new non-profit life.
Corporate: measure things in money saved (hmmm…).
Non-profit: measure things in lives changed (whoo hoo).
Corporate: Discussions about requirements for an internal application (ZzzzZzzz).
Non-profit: Discussions about energy conservation, feminism, poverty, immigration, race in the justice system, empowerment (Right on!).
Corporate: Lights on all of the time (so wasteful!).
Non-profit: I get to turn the lights on and off in rooms we aren’t using (more happiness than you can even know)
Amy Luebbert has a B.A. in Geography with a minor in Anthropology. She volunteered in Des Moines, IA as a community organizer with Oxfam America from 2011-2013. This experience offered her the opportunity to lobby on behalf of small scale farmers around the world, engage and inform the public on issues of hunger and poverty, organize events, manage volunteers and develop a social media presence for their local group. Amy has seven years of experience in the corporate world and is excited to have the opportunity to pursue a career more in line with her passions. Amy is working with HACAP to promote energy efficiency and conservation through public trainings. She is assisting in energy-related certification presentations and educate residents about heating system maintenance and general energy conservation education.