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Locals lend a hand through Americorps

Leading Philbrook's team of 18 to 24-year-olds is Bryant Gilchrist, who, entirely by coincidence, hails from Watervliet. When he graduated form SUNY Oswego with a degree in education, he decided to enroll in AmeriCorps's Vista program.

"Vista's aimed at fighting poverty, and its all about building sustainable organizations and giving people the resources to help themselves," he said.

Gilchrist spent a year before going to NCCC working with parents in low-income Washington, D.C. school districts advocate for better educational opportunities for their children.

But the program isn't only for the young. Delmar resident Terry Rooney is well into his first year participating in AmeriCorps, and in his ninth year of retirement from the state Department of Transportation. He's an avid volunteer, but AmeriCorps's modest stipend appealed to him.

"You don't make much with AmeriCorps, but it was a tough year last year for retirees," he said. "I thought this was an opportunity to volunteer and continue my work, and also get a small stipend."

He'll also be able to transfer the educational stipend offered to younger volunteers to a family member once he completes his year.

Rooney has spent his AmeriCorps time with the Schenectady Inner City Ministry, which runs a food pantry serving 4,000 city residents. He uses his background to manage the group's books.

Rooney continues his work volunteering elsewhere in the city. He spends time as an English-as-a second-language teacher, primarily tutoring Afghan refugees, and volunteers at the Grand Street Community Arts Center, also in Schenectady,

Having a spirit of volunteerism has helped Rooney make the most out his AmeriCorps experience, he said.

"You have to kind of know what you want and know you passion or interest, then you can use Americorps to kind of spring off of," he said. "It's definitely a great thing for retirees, its wonderful. Retirees know what they're doing."

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