Vinton home to one of only four AmeriCorps headquarters across country

Our Town Vinton is home to one of the four AmeriCorps headquarters across the country.
Published: Aug. 4, 2020 at 7:20 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Our Town Vinton is home to one of the four AmeriCorps headquarters across the country. It’s housed in a building full of history, the former Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School. This year, the newest class of AmeriCorps is adjusting the way they do service projects because of the coronavirus.

Rosie Botka, a Wisconsin native, is preparing for a new class of AmeriCorps volunteers to come to Vinton.

“I did it last year and I fell in love with it,” Botka said.

Botka is a team leader this year. The past year she worked with children, planted 1,500 trees, tended community gardens, and distributed meals at food banks in the Southwest United States.

“I was tired of just hearing about the problems that existed in the world and I wanted to do something to help make it better in any capacity I could,” Botka explained.

At Vinton, she and other AmeriCorps volunteers are living at the former Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School, the same place Mary Ingalls was a student in 1881.

“I grew up loving the ‘Little House on the Prairie’ books,” Botka said. “It’s awesome to be a part of a little piece of history that’s kept so well.”

The AmeriCorps moved in May 2008, a month before the Cedar River flooded Vinton. AmeriCorps Region Director Rob Levis said volunteers started their service work locally right away.

“We’ve been right there with the city, side by side sand bagging and cleaning up,” Levis said.

The 400 members a year have had to make changes to navigate coronavirus risk, like having a much smaller class, and not letting people come back to Vinton in between service projects.

“They perform national service, team-based, and residential service across the country, so the campus serves as a base where they do their training. And from there on, teams they go out all over the north-central region which spans from the Dakotas across to Maine,” Levis explained.

Training in Vinton, before making a difference across the country.

“The communities have inspired me to continue this work for the rest of my life,” Botka said.

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