Interested in applying to Ohio Stream Restore Corps? Click here!
Rural Action’s journey with National Service began with a 25-year AmeriCorps”VISTA program launched in 1994 through the Corporation for National and Community Service. In 2009, Rural Action transitioned to an AmeriCorps State/National program under the guidance of ServeOhio with its inaugural Rural Action Watersheds AmeriCorps program, focusing on watershed restoration in Appalachia Ohio. In these early years, Rural Action watershed groups partnered with three other existing watershed groups to form a regional program designed to increase the impact of watershed restoration efforts in the Appalachian counties of Ohio. Since then, the program (now Ohio Stream Restore Corps) has grown from 8 AmeriCorps members to 26, and will be expanding again to include 35 members from host sites in 20 Appalachian Ohio counties. The interventions OSRC employs to work toward regional community development have also grown to include watershed restoration and conservation, environmental education, waste reduction and recycling, sustainable forestry and agriculture, access to public lands and recreation opportunities, and economic development through local heritage and resource-based tourism.
OSRC AmeriCorps members, staff, partners, and supporters share 4 common goals for regional community development:
- Healthy watersheds for people, agriculture, and recreation.
- Instill community members and legislators with a sense of place and a common land ethic who understand and protect their natural resources
- Promote a robust local economy supported by authentic tourism opportunities, a sustainable food and forest system, and a ladder of internship and economic opportunities for residents
- Advocate that key regional leadership positions be filled with OSRC alums and graduates of Rural Action’s ladder of learning through Rural Action influence, encouraging employment for members as the next career steps
OSRC members serve in many communities in Appalachian Ohio and in all aspects of regional community development. Members sample and monitor streams impacted by acid mine drainage, pollution, and nutrient loading. They lead lessons in schools, host summer camps, and organize community events to share environmental knowledge and eco-stories. Members provide education to property owners and the public about sustainable and profitable land use, and improve public lands so more people can access and appreciate their local natural resources. Members also identify local assets and implement plans for community growth based on those assets, as exemplified through heritage tourism efforts in communities like Shawnee, McConnelsville, and Somerset.
Appalachian Ohio has a rich history of grassroots organizing and small nonprofits developed to address community needs unique to our region. AmeriCorps is helping Rural Action to leverage solid, intentional partnerships to build lasting collective impact in the region. With OSRC host sites and supporters, Appalachian Ohio communities benefit from having better schools, access to healthy food, a cleaner environment and increased citizen engagement.
Over the course of the program, OSRC has engaged 9,957 volunteers serving 34,846 hours in communities of need. Since just 2010, 66,791 youth and adults have participated in OSRC environmental education programming. And since 2009, OSRC members have spent more than 13,524 hours sampling and monitoring once-devastated streams; streams that these days are home to bugs, fish, and unique native plants. Through their direct service and the volunteers they mobilize, AmeriCorps members help build the capacity of local communities to help themselves. Along with serving the community, members gain leadership and career skills, earn money for higher education, and learn how to be active citizens.