URBANA — If your doorbell rings and it's AmeriCorps, these folks are bringing information to the county about home weatherization and energy assistance programs.
"Most of the time, people don't know who we are, and people think we're trying to sell them something," said Gabriel Huang, an AmeriCorps worker who has been serving in Champaign County since March 12.
He and eight other AmeriCorps workers will be in the community through April 27, working through the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission, delivering weatherization and home energy and heating assistance program information door-to-door and doing some other service work, he said.
A 22-year-old Lost Angeles native, Huang is an information technology major at Cambridge College in Massachusetts. He decided to take a break from school to work with the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps, a 10-month service program for men and women ages 18 to 24, he said.
He and his fellow workers were brought to Urbana through a request by the Regional Planning Commission, according to Darlene Kloeppel, the RPC's social services director.
RPC operates a weatherization and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, but wanted to do more outreach to serve the entire county, Kloeppel said.
"We didn't get very far, particularly because of our staffing," she said.
With the AmeriCorps workers carrying information throughout the county, RPC now hopes to provide that outreach to all rural areas of the county, Kloeppel said.
"They're covering one or two communities every day," she added.
People who are home when the AmeriCorps workers come calling are getting a bagful of information, and those who are not are being left a door hanger, she said.
The AmeriCorps crew helped at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore shop Saturday morning and will be assisting other non-profits and helping with the Boneyard Creek cleanup, Kloeppel said.
Huang said he enjoys travel, and this experience is a good chance for him to see neighborhoods across America.
But like his fellow workers, he said, he got involved to help people.
AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps requires an intense 10-month commitment. It trains workers in CPR, first aid, public safety and other skills before they begin their service projects, They are assigned to teams of eight to 12 people and serve communities in every state, according to AmeriCorps. They are paid $4,000 for the 10 months and receive housing and meals.
Sponsoring organizations request their assistance by submitting a project application to a regional campus that serves their state, the program says.