The Northwest Florida Environmental Stewards have been selected and awarded best program of the year out of 38 Florida AmeriCorps teams. This is the second time the program has been recognized. An organization under the Northwest Florida State College Foundation, the AmeriCorps team works with the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance to build living shorelines and educate students in elementary, middle, and high school, as well as participate in restoration work for local Florida State Parks. Since 2014, AmeriCorps NWF Environmental Stewards have built or restored over 100 acres of coastal habitat.
In addition to their restoration and education goals, AmeriCorps inspires volunteers from around Okaloosa and Walton Counties, as well as alternative spring breakers, to make a difference. In 2017-2018 alone, they worked with over 550 volunteers who served 1420 hours on reef building, coastal clean-ups, and outreach events.
“This is such an honor to be awarded Program of the Year out of 38 Florida programs,” says Laurie Von Kaenel, Director of the AmeriCorps team, “I am so proud of the 2017/18 AmeriCorps members for their hard work and dedication to making a positive impact in our communities.” She continues, “Great appreciation and thanks to Volunteer Florida, NWFSC, CBA and Okaloosa and Walton County school districts and Florida State Parks at Grayton for their support and dedication to making the NWF Environmental Stewards program a success, I appreciate all of you!”
The AmeriCorps NWF Environmental Stewards are funded through the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and overseen by Volunteer Florida, the lead agency for volunteerism and national service in Florida. Volunteer Florida’s mission is to strengthen Florida’s communities through national service, fostering volunteerism and leveraging resources which is supported by the Florida Governor’s Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service. Though most AmeriCorps programs across the United States have one central focus, this chapter is unique because each year members strive to both educate young students about their local ecosystems as well as improve that habitat through living shorelines and invasive species removal. For more information, contact AmeriCorps Northwest Florida Environmental Stewards Director Laurie Von Kaenel at firstname.lastname@example.org.