Late this past summer, Pilar Righetti '18 found herself in Lafayette, Louisiana, helping residents recover from damage brought by Hurricane Laura. “Our jobs varied from tarping roofs, chain-sawing, and removing trees to mucking and gutting out houses,” says Righetti, who was raised on Guam (an unincorporated territory of the United States) and currently serves on a six-member team in the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps.
Righetti, who is nearly half way through a 10-month volunteer assignment with the national service organization, is now in Springfield, Massachusetts, working with Habitat for Humanity finishing up two homes doing landscaping, flooring, insulation, and painting. “We met the homeowner, a single mother of nine children, who worked with us on her home,” Righetti says. “She really made the work come to life for me.”
The community relations representative for her team, Righetti focuses on recruitment, publicity, and media. This includes outreach to local high schools, colleges, universities, and other organizations to generate interest in the AmeriCorps program, as well as spreading the word through social media posts, newspapers, radio stations, and TV channels to inspire the community to rally behind their efforts “to give back and ‘get things done for America.’”
While earning a bachelor’s degree in sociology and anthropology at Redlands, Righetti was a member of the Alpha Xi Omicron sorority and the University’s Outdoor Programs, a series of adventures for students. “My first-year journey was to Zion National Park,” she says, “and it introduced me to my love of hiking and staying active outdoors.”
The same desire for exploration set Righetti on her current journey: “I joined AmeriCorps after two years in the hotel hospitality industry on Guam and decided I needed a change in my environment and career so that I could better understand myself,” she says. “The pandemic has diminished the volunteer populations, so I thought it was a perfect time to take off on this adventure.”
Her AmeriCorps experience is shaped by strict COVID-19 guidelines and precautions that volunteers and their counterparts follow, and the coronavirus has also dictated her team’s projects. Her first assignment was in Selma, Alabama, serving with the Edmundite Mission to distribute food and set up a community center where students, in 1st through 12th grades, can connect to online classes.
Her team will next travel to Litchfield, Connecticut, where they will clear and reconstruct hiking trails, which, Righetti notes, have become more popular during the pandemic. Their work will include repairing kiosks, boardwalks, fencing, picnic tables, and parking areas; stabilizing slopes and remediating storm damage; creating new trails; and uploading descriptive photo and text information onto the AllTrails app.
“Service can be small, like listening to the homeless as they share their struggles,” says Righetti. “Or, it can be larger, like tarping roofs and building homes. Both take fortitude, and both can teach you something about yourself. I believe this is the best time to serve, when our country is in the most need of volunteers.”