National, State, County Dignitaries to Gather in Lawrenceville to Launch Hundreds into Regional AmeriCorps Service

PITTSBURGH – County Executive Rich Fitzgerald announced today that Allegheny County will be hosting the Western Pennsylvania Regional AmeriCorps Launch on Friday, September 27, 2013 beginning at 9:00 a.m. at the Teamsters Temple, 4701 Butler Street, in Lawrenceville.  Western Pennsylvania AmeriCorps members will be sworn in at the launch before fanning out to serve in northern counties from Greene to Erie and as far east as Franklin.

“Allegheny County has long benefitted from the efforts of the AmeriCorps Program through the projects it has taken on and because of the dedicated youth that it has brought into our region,” said County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “We are honored to host the launch of a new group of members as they begin a year of enrichment that enhances the lives of all of us who live in western Pennsylvania.”

The Western PA Regional AmeriCorps Launch is sponsored by PennSERVE: the Governor’s Office of Citizen Service, which administers AmeriCorps in Pennsylvania. Allegheny County was selected as one of three regional launch sites in the state. Allegheny County’s AmeriCorps Knowledge to Empower Youths to Success (KEYS) Service Corps, which is supported by the Department of Human Services, will assist in the Western PA launch.

Western Pennsylvania AmeriCorps members will be sworn in at the event. The corps members recently finished training for their year of service, which runs through August 2014.

Allegheny County’s selection for a launch allows it to showcase its involvement in the nearly 20-year-old AmeriCorps program. The new members will complete projects throughout Lawrenceville after the launch ceremony. AmeriCorps members work in the spheres of economic opportunity, education, environmental stewardship, health, veteran- and military-family supports, and disaster services.

“AmeriCorps changes lives,” Helen Wachter, KEYS Program Director, said of the launch event’s importance. “It changes the lives of the members it serves, it has a positive impact on the clients we serve, and it changes communities. We are coming together to recognize that, celebrate that and to encourage service.”

Mary Strasser, national Director of AmeriCorps VISTA, will be keynote speaker at the launch. Also present will be Janet Anderson, Deputy Secretary for Administration at the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry; Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald; and Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) Director Marc Cherna.

Two AmeriCorps alumni, Beci Russell, who served with Literacy*AmeriCorps and Compass AmeriCorps, and Melanie Pfeiffenberger, an AmeriCorps VISTA member who served in the Pittsburgh Mayor's Office of Service and Civic Engagement, will tell the crowd about the impact the service program has had on their lives as well as on the communities they assisted.

Service projects planned in Lawrenceville on launch day include painting benches with Friends of Arsenal Park; lot cleanup with Lawrenceville United; painting roofs with CitiParks as part of the Pittsburgh’s Cool Roofs energy-saving initiative; trail maintenance with Friends of the Riverfront; weeding and general maintenance at Allegheny Cemetery; and with Operation Gratitude, making care items and cards for soldiers.

Besides the KEYS Service Corps, local AmeriCorps participation includes partnerships with the Allegheny County Health Department’s Pittsburgh Health Corps; Change A Heart Franciscan Volunteer Program; Compass AmeriCorps; Family Service Corps of Butler County; Jumpstart; Keystone  SMILES AmeriCorps; Pennsylvania Mountain Service Corps; Pittsburgh Cares; Public Allies Pittsburgh; PULSE; and servePGH.

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