Skip to main content

Pathways Newsletter

[Image Description: Two MCC members are walking away on a rocky trail, carrying their packs, surrounded by burnt orange bushes. Through the haze in the background, there are a multitude of mountains, overlapping one another.]

Meet an Alum (and Board Member): Garrick Harmel

A group of crew members and leaders from 2001

Garrick (back row, 3rd from left), an alum from 2001-2002, is excited to continue serving the organization that gave him so much. He is passionate about creating affordable housing and works as the Housing Specialist for Missoula County. Read on for more about his MCC experience.

MCC: When and where did you serve with MCC? What was it like for you?
GH: From 2001-2002 I was a crew leader and then a Senior Crew Leader in Helena. As an aside, I was on the hiring committee that helped hire Jono as the Executive Director of MCC! MCC was one of the most amazing and life-altering experiences of my life. It showed me that it didn't matter what your background was, that your contributions and what you brought to the “table” mattered most. It also showed me the amazing power of having trust in people to meet what may seem like unrealistic expectations, until those expectations are shattered. My MCC experience also allowed me to give back to the communities of Montana and Idaho and allowed me to experience once-in-a-lifetime experiences with amazing, creative, diverse, intelligent, and passionate friends who helped change my perceptions of life. And all of this was occurring in the most rugged, beautiful, and sometimes non-forgiving landscape.

MCC: Were there any particularly memorable or challenging experiences while you served with MCC?
GH: As many MCC’ers can relate to this sentiment, the most memorable parts were usually the most challenging. From crew dynamics not being awesome to crew members leaving mid-season, every challenge created a new opportunity to do something different each day. Every new challenge that was helped with cowboy coffee and the ability to sleep under the stars, to me, created endless possibilities of new unknown paths.

MCC: What was the most personally meaningful part of your experience with MCC?
GH: Seeing others who may not have confidence in their abilities thrive, grow, and break expectations of what is possible, and loving every moment of this transformation. It was also humbling to see what the collective actions of teamwork and hard work created. More than anything, the people that I met have stayed with me and have helped define aspects of who I am and who I still aspire to be.

MCC: What did you learn during your service with MCC that you leveraged for your career?
GH: The most salient skillset that I retained from my MCC experience was the ability to differentiate between a pick mattock and a miner's pick, or the ability to repair a chainsaw in the field with very few tools and a Q-TIP.

Actually, trusting in people, believing in their abilities, and giving encouragement and support produces results that no one else thought possible. Also, I learned that improving communities entails a lot of hard work, endurance, and collaboration with people who at times may not agree on the best path forward.

And, it was because of MCC that I was able to leverage my AmeriCorps education awards and go to graduate school while continuing my journey in community development. Put another way, my graduate degree may have helped open doors in my field, but I strongly feel that MCC more than anything else got me to where I am today.

MCC: What drove you to become a Board Member of MCC?
GH: MCC is the reason that I am where I am in my current field. MCC allowed me to go back to school, focus on community development, and understand that I loved the things that hard work created. Those factors led me to a career where I help provide a mix of housing options to those who need it the most. I joined the Board because I want to help solve housing options for MCC participants and staff. To me, this is coming full circle with an organization and an experience that I want to contribute to, in any way that I can.