AmeriCorps St. Louis (ACSTL) is a nonprofit based in St. Louis, Missouri, that runs a 42-Member AmeriCorps National Service program. Our Emergency Response Team (ERT) was one of the first AmeriCorps programs to exist, since the inception of AmeriCorps National Service, and has been operational every year since 1994. Our ERT program has three areas of focus: Disaster Response, Environmental Stewardship, and Wildland Fire. Responding to communities affected by natural disasters when we are called is our first priority, while conservation and natural resource management projects are a constant part of the year. Our motto is “See The Need, Meet The Need,” which we take to heart in everything we do, as we always strive to reach those who are least served, last served, or never served.
Ready for a change?
Join AmeriCorps St. Louis as a full-time National Service Volunteer for a unique and life-changing experience. As part of our 42-Member Emergency Response Team (ERT), you’ll serve for 11 months (mid-September to mid-August) alongside other passionate, hard-working people committed to making a real difference by preserving and restoring our environment as well as responding to natural disasters.
The future of the planet concerns all of us, and all of us should do what we can to protect it. – Wangari Maathai
The ERT is a multi-functional rapid deployment group based out of St. Louis, Missouri, that has been called out to respond across the country to floods, tornadoes, wildfires, hurricanes, ice storms, and the COVID-19 pandemic. The team is thoroughly trained and equipped to support emergency managers and relief agencies in addressing critical unmet needs, particularly in the immediate aftermath of a disaster.
When not responding to natural disasters, the ERT functions as a conservation corps that assists partner organizations with vital natural resource management and restoration projects, including trail building and maintenance, habitat restoration, invasive species removal, and prescribed burning.
Our AmeriCorps program provides a challenging and fun opportunity to meet people from different backgrounds, enjoy an outdoor office, learn new skills, earn money for school, and be a part of a supportive, welcoming community.
Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
ACSTL is committed to building a culturally diverse team and fostering an environment of respect and inclusiveness amongst all regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital/civil union status, ancestry, place of birth, age, citizenship status, veteran status, political affiliation, genetic information or disability, as defined and required by state and federal laws. Additionally, we prohibit retaliation against those who oppose discrimination and harassment or who participate in an equal opportunity investigation.
The trees don’t know what color I am. The birds don’t know what gender is. The flowers don’t know how much money I have in my bank account – Rue Mapp
Equipment/Uniforms: ACSTL provides most of the personal protective equipment (PPE) needed to serve safely, including a duffel bag, work pack, helmet, fire protective clothing (Nomex), and AmeriCorps uniforms. If needed, we also have tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, hiking backpacks, etc. You may borrow most of this equipment for your term of service but must return everything in good condition. The only major expense we ask of Members to cover is part of the cost of new fire boots (payment plans are available). You will need to provide your own work pants and hiking boots. We recommend waiting to buy anything until after arriving in St. Louis since we have extra equipment, clothing, and items at our headquarters that are donated by alumni.
Food: We provide a modest food budget for Members out on conservation projects and disaster deployments. Most teams will pool the weekly food money together, buy groceries as a team and cook group meals. Members should only need to use their own money to buy extra personal snacks or specific foods if they have a dietary restriction. Depending on your overall personal financial situation, you may qualify for SNAP benefits (Food Stamps) during your term of service.
Housing: All ERT Members must find their own permanent housing in St. Louis. There are multi-bedroom apartments and houses that current Members share, and those rooms usually become available once their term of service ends. Members have the opportunity to connect with each other on Facebook after they are hired and before they arrive in St. Louis to figure out where everyone is living and if new housing options are needed. ACSTL is happy to help facilitate the housing search, but it is ultimately each Member’s responsibility to find a permanent situation for at least 12 months (September to August). The cost of living in St. Louis is still very affordable, especially if Members live together and split rent and utility costs.
Housing is provided while Members are in service on conservation projects outside of St. Louis or on disaster deployments. Housing will range from camping outside to shop floors to seasonal houses to AirBnBs, depending on availability, weather, funding, etc. Most housing is on the rustic side.
At this time, we are not able to offer financial relocation assistance to Members moving to St. Louis.
Personal Vehicle: A personal vehicle is not required for the program. ACSTL owns a fleet of work trucks and vans that teams travel in to and from projects and deployments. Usually about half the Corps have personal vehicles. It makes it easier for errands and personal travel if you have a car, but it’s very much a personal choice. Many housing options are located within walking or biking distance to our headquarters.
Getting really down into the weeds here (pun intended)
Environmental Stewardship: The normal day-to-day side of our program is the environmental stewardship focus area. There will always be Members serving on environmental stewardship projects, even if other Members are deployed on disasters. These projects consist of a wide variety of activities depending on what our conservation partner organizations would like us to do on a weekly basis. These activities vary depending on the time of year and may include invasive species removal (including herbicide application), glade and habitat restoration, hazard tree removal, trail maintenance and building, and fireline construction for future prescribed burns.
We partner mainly with the Missouri Departments of Conservation and Natural Resources, the U.S. Forest Service, and Missouri conservation organizations and nonprofits, including the Ozark Trail Association, Great Rivers Greenway and Forest Park Forever.
Most of our conservation projects last 5 days, Monday through Friday, with the weekend off. Some projects require a 10-day, Monday through Wednesday of the following week, with the subsequent Thursday through Sunday off.
Conservation teams are usually 4-6 Members, including one Team Lead. We try to rotate team members every few weeks, so ideally every Member serves with everyone else in the Corps during their term. Sometimes team members change on a weekly basis.
In a typical week, Members arrive at the St. Louis office early Monday morning, have a briefing with the whole Corps, meet with their project team, pack out the tools and food needed for the week, travel to project sites in program vehicles throughout Missouri (and sometimes Illinois), and then return to St. Louis on Friday or the following Wednesday. This is the ideal schedule. All areas of our program are incredibly weather dependent since we mostly serve in the outdoors. If teams do not go out for days at a time due to extended bad weather, normal project timelines may be switched around. We do this to be as flexible as possible with our conservation partners because they are flexible with us when we have to pull whole teams away from the field to respond to disasters.
Wildland Fire: During Fire Season (which usually falls between February and April in Missouri), there are opportunities for Members to be on Fire Rotation with the U.S. Forest Service, meaning they are constantly on fire standby and will be pulled for prescribed burns or wildfires as needed. There are opportunities to gain fire experience with other partner organizations as well through prescribed burns and wildfire suppression on state land. Fire experience is not guaranteed for all Members, but most people do get some experience and everyone gets fire training. We do our best to place Members who want experience on projects where the likelihood of burning is higher.
Disaster Response: As an Emergency Response Team, our priority as a program is to respond to natural disasters across the country; however, we only respond to disaster events when our assistance is officially requested by the local emergency management entity. This means that even if there is a very large disaster somewhere in the country during your term of service, we may not respond based on needs and requests. You could potentially spend your entire service year on conservation projects without deploying to a disaster. Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee certain experiences in each area, especially disaster and fire, as every year is different due to weather and other environmental factors.
There are different types of projects you could be involved in while on a disaster deployment, always following our program motto, “See The Need, Meet The Need.” Over the past three decades, ERT Members have been involved in every part of a response effort, including volunteer and donations management, warehousing, database management, call centers, and the more direct service side with debris cleanup, sandbagging, and hazard tree removal. Due to the training they receive and our experience as a program, our Members often find themselves serving behind-the-scenes in an office environment helping to organize and manage the response effort as part of an Incident Command Structure. Sometimes we serve in a coordinated effort with other AmeriCorps Disaster Response programs; sometimes it’s only a small team serving with voluntary agencies. During a deployment, you could be serving up to 80 hours a week with very few days off. We try to rotate Members on deployment every 30-45 days, but sometimes this is not possible. It is important to note that we may deploy anywhere in the country, so you could be away from St. Louis for a long period of time. ERT Members may also be asked to assist with services for the unhoused population and emergency sheltering, particularly concerning operations for My Mother’s House, the emergency winter warming shelter run by AmeriCorps St. Louis.
While natural disasters capture headlines and national attention short-term, the work of recovery and rebuilding is long-term – Sylvia Mathews Burwell
Training and Certifications: All Members receive extensive trainings and certifications throughout their term in the areas of emergency response, environmental stewardship, and wildland firefighting. Some of these trainings include team building and leadership skills, chainsaw and other power equipment operations, wildfire and prescribed burn operations, hand tool use and maintenance, risk management approaches, introduction to disaster services, Incident Command System (IS 100, 200, 700, 800), supporting people in crisis, emergency communications, and basic First Aid/CPR.
As long as training opportunities and partner availability permits, Members will have the opportunity to achieve their S-212 Wildland Fire Chainsaw certification and become Red Card certified as a Type II Wildland Firefighter through the U.S. Forest Service.
As the term of service progresses, there will be further opportunities for development. One of these avenues is the chance to learn how to lead teams on stewardship projects through the Assistant-Team-Lead-in-Training process: dedicated weeks of shadowing, coaching, and mentorship with second-year Team Leads at your own pace to give you support and get you comfortable with leading a team of your peers. It is a collaborative experience with Team Leads to support the background, scheduling, communicating, management and facilitation of success for all things project related.
Fitness Requirement: Members must maintain a high level of physical fitness during their 11-month term of service. The baseline level includes being able to pass the wildland firefighter Pack Test: a 3-mile walk carrying a 45-lbs pack completed in under 45 minutes. A position with ERT requires extensive walking, bending, kneeling, lifting, pushing, stooping, standing, carrying loads of up to 50 lbs, handling hand and power tools, and other physical labor for extended periods of time. Members will serve primarily outdoors, in all kinds of weather (heat, cold, rain, snow, etc). Should accommodations be needed, you will be asked to submit a letter showing you are medically cleared to serve safely with ACSTL. This letter should state recommended accommodations.
COVID-19 Vaccine Requirement: In compliance with federal guidelines, ACSTL has a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy. All Members are required to submit proof of vaccination prior to enrollment and will be required to keep up with boosters. Applicants may request exceptions and reasonable accommodations for medical or religious reasons. In a corps environment like ours, Members are always around each other and might be in close proximity to vulnerable populations. In addition to adhering to safety measures enacted programmatically, Members are expected to recognize and respect the bubble-like nature of ERT and how one individual’s actions, risk analysis, and health considerations can impact the rest of the Corps.
Open to Learning: Applicants do not need any prior experience. Successful ERT Members are willing to learn new skills and have the ability to function as supportive and dependable teammates, even in times of extreme stress and adversity.
Flexible: Members should be flexible, open-minded, and prepared for a variety of unexpected experiences throughout their term of service. An interest in the outdoors, traveling and adventure is desired as Members spend most of their time out of town, living communally in rustic conditions. We are technically always on call for a disaster, and Members must be ready to change plans at the very last minute in order to respond. You will spend much of your service term with plans changing from week to week or even day to day.
Diverse: Studies have shown that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), women, and other marginalized groups are less likely to apply for jobs unless they believe they meet every one of the qualifications as described in a job description. We are most interested in finding a diverse corps of people from different backgrounds. People with less traditional experiences are highly encouraged to apply.
Committed: It is important to note the commitment that is required to be a Member here. Our 42 AmeriCorps Members are relied upon for the successful operation of our service projects and deployments. This program would not exist without the dedication of our Members, which is why we look for people who are willing to go the extra mile and are able to commit for the full 11-month term. We invest heavily in the development and training of our Members and aim to foster a mutual respect with the program, encouraging Members to help us improve as an organization and to consider serving for more than one term.
There is no reward equal to that of doing the most good to the most people in need. - Evangeline Booth
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