Michael Verla wins Rebuilding Together’s AmeriCorps Member of the Year Award
Michael Verla, 23, recently won Rebuilding Together’s AmeriCorps Member of the Year Award.
Originally from a small town in Massachusetts, Michael studied community development at the University of Vermont. Michael’s passion for helping others led him to look for service opportunities through the AmeriCorps Program. “I found Rebuilding Together Philadelphia through an AmeriCorps position. It seemed like it would be a good fit,” Michael said. “I could serve in communities and with a nonprofit that’s having an impact and doing its own brand of community development.”
Michael’s service included about a dozen major projects while being an AmeriCorps member at Rebuilding Together Philadelphia. His first project was a Maxwell House Drops of Good community center renovation. Another one of his service projects was Building a Healthy Neighborhood, one of Rebuilding Together’s largest annual events.
Michael was in charge of coordinating the energy efficient repairs and modifications. He often found himself doing volunteer management and community outreach. “It was formative in a lot of ways,” Michael said looking back at his experience. He managed a wide variety of volunteers from local neighborhoods, corporations and universities. Michael’s favorite part of his service was helping the homeowners though. “I’d engage with homeowners and go to community meetings. I loved being the liason between the residents and organization.” He’d be the homeowners’ point person when it came to questions concerning their new energy efficient upgrades or home repair.
His favorite project was a block build that took place over two weekends. A team of Rebuilding Together Philadelphia volunteers renovated an entire block in West Philadelphia. Michael quickly developed a rapport with the homeowners. He began meeting with them several months before the renovations took place. “I had a really strong connection with the homeowners. There was a lot of good energy.”
A woman from that West Philadelphia project named Alice especially stood out to Michael. He considered her a Block Captain of sorts. Alice was more than happy to get the word out about the block build, work alongside the volunteers, and even recruit her son to volunteer for the project as well.
As an AmeriCorps member, Michael’s favorite experiences came from being surrounded by his fellow AmeriCorps members. Rebuilding Together AmeriCorps members are placed all over the country, but they come together for their orientation, Rebuilding Together’s National Conference, and the AmeriCorps’ Martin Luther King Jr. service week. “It got everybody together. We picked each other’s brains, which we couldn’t do in our day to day tasks. We shared stories. It was a powerful experience.”
And for how he feels about being the Rebuilding Together’s AmeriCorps member of the year? “It was exciting, and I definitely feel honored. It’s humbling because there are so many others doing such great work.”
To find out more about Rebuilding Together’s AmeriCorps program, visit this link: rebuildingtogether.org/capacitycorps