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COMCorps celebrates 100 percent retention for the third consecutive year

By Caroline Dreyer

At the close of the 2013 service year, COMCorps will have completed three consecutive years with 100 percent of the member positions filled and 100 percent retention, meaning that each member has completed 1,700 hours of service during the year, the requirement to become an AmeriCorps Alumni.

“I think our retention rate reflects our excellent hiring practices in identifying committed and motivated individuals, our commitment to keeping members engaged in their service, our wonderful supervisors supporting the members and members’ dedication for completing the goals they committed to at the beginning of their service,” said COMCorps Director Lauren Borovicka.

COMCorps, a community based AmeriCorps program housed in the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, exists to get things done, both to strengthen the community and develop member leadership skills. By planning and implementing activities that promote health, prevent disease and improve access to medical care, the 21-member corps partners with local schools, government, non-profit agencies and Ohio University to address unmet health needs in the region.

Interacting as a corps, COMCorps service members have helped link organizations in Athens County and surrounding areas and streamline the delivery of their programs and services. Since its beginning in 2000, COMCorps has partnered with 16 local agencies and five school districts to place members in positions where they are most needed.

A year of service can be quite challenging, and members work full -time to complete 1,700 hours of service while receiving a small living stipend. Yet most members agree that the non-monetary reward is personally fulfilling. In a post-service survey, 100 percent of COMCorps members who served between 2000 and 2010 stated that they felt they made a positive difference in the community. Furthermore, in the same survey, 100 percent of former members said that they would recommend COMCorps, or another AmeriCorps program, to others.

Many former COMCorps members have gone on to further their education, pursue careers in health care, public service or a related field, or stay with the program for a second year. While some members disperse throughout the state or country after their year of service ends, a tight-knit group of COMCorps alumni have decided to stay. Inspired to continue COMCorps’ mission of making Athens a healthier place, this group of community leaders have chosen to pursue careers at some of the leading non-profit agencies in the area and continue to work with COMCorps by hosting members each year.

Former members who continue to work at local Athens agencies include Louise DiLullo, the executive director of Live Healthy Appalachia; Tara Gilts, the executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters; Mary Nally, the executive director of Community Food Initiatives; Tamara Toomey, the program coordinator for Trimble Kids on Campus; Michelle Corrigan, the program coordinator for Food is Elementary at Live Healthy Appalachia; and Heidi Mowrey, a nurse at Athens City Schools.

“COMCorps opened the door for me to have a career in the non-profit field. Through my experience serving at the Athens City-County Health Department, I made so many important professional connections as well as gained on-the-job experience,” said DiLullo. “I am now the executive director of a public health non-profit in Athens, Live Healthy Appalachia, and work closely with AmeriCorps and the partners and organizations I first met while serving. I'm also lucky to work with my friends from COMCorps who are employed in managerial roles similar to our COMCorps positions and are hosting COMCorps members. I one hundred percent believe I would not have had the professional opportunities I've had this early in my career had it not been for COMCorps.”

Since COMCorps began, 191 members have served over 250,000 hours in the community providing 10,787 health education sessions to 149,779 children and adults on topics including nutrition, dental care, poison prevention, alcohol and drug prevention, self-esteem building and more. Additionally, members have conducted 170,533 individual health screenings for lice, vision, hearing, gross motor skills and body mass index.  These screenings help ensure that individuals receive appropriate medical assistance and improve their learning.

COMCorps also works with members of the community by recruiting non-member volunteers to aid in the overall goal to create “a healthy Athens County.” Since 2010, 3,542 volunteers have served 27,577 hours of services. Using the federally recommended Independent Sector volunteer rates, this translates to $522,372 dollars of unpaid service given by community volunteers.

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Last updated: 01/28/2016