Wednesday, April 1, 2020
Dear Friends and Supporters,
Greetings from Montana Conservation Corps. We hope you and your family are in good health and staying connected with friends and colleagues during these times of social distancing.
As with every corner of our country – of the world – the new coronavirus is upending life as usual here in Montana. Following our governor’s directives and guidance from the CDC, we are sheltering at home, washing our hands with gusto, doing our best to keep our homes COVID 19-free. We are also deeply thankful for the connectivity afforded by the internet and cell phones, and for the accessibility of trails and parks to lift our spirits under the Big Sky.
The impacts of the pandemic have been profound for MCC, necessitating many very difficult decisions and unimaginable cuts to programs and staffing in the last two weeks. Our goal is to sustain our core operations such that we may resume our adult field crew programs in summer.
Our current response:
We’ve suspended our beloved AmeriCorps Leader Development Program until we can safely resume training and conservation activities. Ten leaders in our Central Divide (Helena) region are temporarily manning phones from home for the State 211 call center set up to help residents and businesses cope with the “Shelter at Home” order. We’re so thankful for their commitment to service and social distancing in these difficult times. We remain concerned for the other 49 crew leaders currently suspended in Bozeman, Kalispell and Missoula, and hopeful to bring them back into service ASAP.
Upon sober consideration of the risks posed by COVID -19 for our school year and summer youth programs, MCC made the heretofore unimaginable decision to suspend all high school and middle school crews for 2020.
On a brighter note, the Big Sky Watershed Corps continues, with 35 AmeriCorps members “tele-serving” from their homes and able to continue with some field monitoring activities, watershed education, and capacity building for their host sites.
MCC also hopes to launch the individual placement Conservation Interns program in May as scheduled, or soon thereafter.
Regional offices are temporarily closed with our staff furloughed until we are able to resume field crew activities.
The state office also is closed with several state staff furloughed and a small core team to maintain MCC’s essential business operations, support ongoing AmeriCorps member enrollment for summer crew and intern positions, and prepare MCC to restart when conditions allow.
These steps have necessitated cuts in our staffing with the loss of talent and dedication. We are grieving and concerned for our former colleagues.
We remain determined to rise and recover. Every day, we are working toward the resumption of our activities by staying in touch with our partners to assess conditions and opportunities, considering protocols to enable our crews and interns to operate this season, assessing opportunities and relief made available through the CARES Act, and maintaining the positivity, grit, crew orientation, and commitment to hard work for quality results that is so characteristic of our corps members.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Online donations are super helpful now and help us build a trail to program resumption. We lost $200,000 in project revenue this spring. Every donation helps us bring back staff, get our corps members back in service, and buy the food and gas needed to launch a crew on their first project this summer.
Support an AmeriCorps member. If you have contact with one of our suspended AmeriCorps members, send care packages, food, money, messages to encourage them about the magic of the season ahead. MCC does not have the capacity to forward messages or packages as our offices are closed. Our crew leaders are inspired by the training they’ve received since mid-February, and excited to serve and learn this season, but they are suspended without pay right now, and that’s rough. By helping them, you help MCC.
Lastly, help in your community. Donate to your local food bank. Volunteer to deliver meals or groceries to a senior. Find a pattern online and sew masks for your local hospital. This is America. We are MCC, we get things done.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR CONTINUED SUPPORT AND COMMITMENT TO MONTANA CONSERVATION CORPS.