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First FEMA Corps Volunteers Now In Mississippi

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 13 Aug 2012 04:23pm | comments

More than 200 young adults are now training in Vicksburg to help respond to disasters. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports the volunteers are part of a new program known as FEMA Corps.

The volunteers, all 18-to-24 years old, arrive at the airport in Jackson Monday to begin their 10-month tour with FEMA Corps.

FEMA Corp is a new division of the Corporation for National And Community Service.

The volunteers are specifically intended to aid in disaster response nationwide, says FEMA Corps' Jennifer Prall.

"Each of the members will be trained in a specialist trainee position. And so, for example, one team will have members that will be trained to work in disaster recovery centers. So they will interact directly with disaster clients helping them fill out their various FEMA paper work and helping them connect to whatever organization they need to be connected to," Prall said.

The young adults from around the country throw their luggage into vans to be driven to the FEMA Corps training sit in Vicksburg.

240 volunteers, including 2 Mississippians, are part of the first FEMA Corps group in the nation.

Among them is 22-year old Kentucky native Dan Garret who joined after he was not able to find work following college.

"The job market wasn't really going to be best for me. So, I thought I would do this first and get it on my resume and get some community service done because I haven't done any and I feel like I owe that to the world. I am hoping I am gioing to have enough diverse experiences while I am here that I am going to find what I want to do. Then I am going to use the money to go to grad school and do that," Garrett said.

19-year old Justin Parks decided to volunteer after his job at a Chicago-based sugar plant left him feeling unsatisfied.

"That's really what I wanted to see. With the sugar factory job it was just me at a machine and I didn't get to interact and relate to the others at the job," Parks said.

While this is the first group of FEMA Corps volunteers, there will eventually be 16-hundred at 5 training sites around the country.

FEMA Corps leaders hope the program will help in the short term with the immediate response to disasters, but also have a long term benefit of increasing the number of people with disaster response knowledge in the general public.



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