Since Sept. 17 a team of AmeriCorps workers have been staying in the historic Fort Totten Trail Inn and working at the Fort Totten State Historic Site.

Since Sept. 17 a team of AmeriCorps workers have been staying in the historic Fort Totten Trail Inn and working at the Fort Totten State Historic Site.

The team members and their team leader, Zach Marks have accomplished a great deal since they came to North Dakota, the first visit to this state for these young volunteers. The first few weeks were spent clearing out the gymnasium building in Cavalry Square. That was no simple task as over the years it had become the place to store metal, wooden doors and other debris. Then, as the building further deteriorated it became home to countless numbers of birds; pigeons and bats. Everything stored in the vast building was then covered with a couple of inches of bird droppings and bat guano. Marks and his team members had to dress in haz mat suits with special breathing apparatus to accomplish this task.

Last week Brooke DiPaula, 22, and Matthew Realon, 21, were helping in the Pioneer Daughters Museum, which is housed in the fort’s hospital building. They and fellow team members Tess Mulligan, J.B. Shirley, Quinn Valentich and Cameron Crawford were working on cataloging the items from the museum’s collection, another big task that needed to be done, but did not require special breathing apparatus or haz mat suits, just white cotton gloves.

DiPaula and Realon are the members of the team trained to work with local media, so they explained to the Devils Lake Journal who they are and why they are here in the Lake Region. Realon said that most of the team members come from along the east coast; like Charlotte, NC; Memphis, TN and Southern Pennsylvania. They are between the ages of 18 to 24 and have been selected for a 10-month position serving their country in a unique way. There are 21 teams in this region and there are four regions in the nation. As far as he knows, this is the first time AmeriCorps has come to this part of North Dakota. DiPaula says they are paid a stipend for their 10 months commitment and if they complete their 10 months there is an education award of $6,000 at the end. They can use that to further their education or pay off student loans, whatever they need to do.

In addition to the hours spent working on the project at hand, they are expected to accomplish a certain number of independent hours of community service. Realon explained that they have worked with Habitat for Humanity, Relay For Life and a number of other projects to fulfill that requirement, as well.

Normally, they sleep on gymnasium floors, or in tents, or similar places “roughing” it while they are working. But according to DiPaula the nicest place they’ve stayed has been the Fort Totten Inn where they not only each have their own bed, but most have their own bathroom, as well. “This is the best we’ve had, by far,” she said.

Their last week at Fort Totten they will spend repairing and replacing windows in another of the buildings of the square. They expect to be finished and leaving around Oct. 10.

AmeriCorps                                                                                                                                   AmeriCorps is a network of national service programs, made up of three primary programs that each take a different approach to improving lives and fostering civic engagement. Members commit their time to address critical community needs like increasing academic achievement, mentoring youth, fighting poverty, sustaining national parks, preparing for disasters, and more.

To learn more about AmeriCorps go to www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps.

At this site you can learn how to become a part of AmeriCorps if you are a young person between the ages of 18 and 24. If you represent a non-profit or government entity you could also learn how to apply for an AmeriCorps team to come to help your organization for a few weeks or longer, if the need is there.