Texas Conservation Corps Transitions

I’ve been a crew leader with TxCC for almost two years now and today is my last day. It’s also my first attempt at a blog post and I’m having a hard time trying to find a way to condense my whole TxCC experience down to just a few paragraphs. I’ve logged over 4,300 hours with this program, responded to four disasters in four different states, spiked in New Mexico and all over Texas, cut tread, built rock walls, cut down hundreds of hazard trees, killed countless invasive plants, managed volunteers, listened to homeowners stories….the list goes on and on. Some of the work I loved, and some not so much. At times my crews made me so proud I couldn’t stop bragging about them, and at other times I’ve wanted to strangle the whole lot. At the end of the day, they’ve been my weird little family and I’ll never lose that bond.

But here is the real take-away message and, to me, it’s the biggest surprise of them all.  From that jumbled assortment of people thrown together in a cargo van, being sent all over the country with little to no idea of what exactly to expect… this ‘jobs training’ program… it really works. Somewhere along the meandering path I’ve had with TxCC, I’m not sure when or where, I became someone you’d want to hire. A competent, capable leader, with a variety of technical, logistical, and communication skills… someone who can both hold her own at a meeting with an important community leader, or geek out about chainsaws with a park employee.

So now I’m off to a new job with the Forest Service. I feel ready and trained, but I also know that I’ll miss the hell out of this program. Thanks, TxCC.

Lisa Potter, Crew Leader, Emergency Response Team

Texas Conservation Corps Goes Arctic

In early August, five fellow crew members and I began our twelve hour journey from Austin, TX to Fairbanks, AK. The day was a whirlwind of airports and airplanes with layovers in Dallas, TX and Minneapolis, MN. Arriving in Fairbanks, AK we got right down to business. Help for the families affected by the flooding of the Yukon River on May 16th is essential before the Alaskan winter gets going. We started by getting briefed on the disaster details, safety concerns, and cultural acclimation of the community we would be going to. Then we stocked up on supplies; everything from tools and personal protective equipment to food and coolers. Finally, after a lot of conversations about logistics, we were ready to make our way 155 miles northeast to the small village of Circle, Alaska. A community of a hundred or so people, 85% of the population are native Athabaskan tribe.

Since arriving in Circle City we have had many tasks.

We have been carefully gutting log cabins, as materials are hard to come by this far away from town and any reclaimed supplies will certainly be re-used. Our work is all prep work for a group of Mennonite Disaster Service workers who are joining us in Circle. They will rebuild homes on the lots where our crew has torn down and removed saturated boards and insulation, still wet from the flood 3 months ago. All the houses we have worked on have been displaced in one way or another, whether it was picked up and moved 20 feet off its foundation or shifted just enough so that the pylons are forced through the floor in some rooms.

The Alaskan sun circles around us daily, dipping below the horizon for “night time” for only a few hours of darkness. We are so happy to be in Alaska and to have this opportunity to help out the small communities affected by the flood. As the days get shorter and night begins to actually be night, our crew will continue to enjoy our work and hopefully stay warm, until our deployment ends in mid-September.

Katie Vennie, ERT Crew Member

This slideshow requires JavaScript.