AmeriCorps helpers arrive in Langley

The new AmeriCorps helpers on South Whidbey are Molly Zeiger, Glenn Leever, Caitlin Goldbaum and Justin Bailey. - Photo courtesy of Gena Kraha
The new AmeriCorps helpers on South Whidbey are Molly Zeiger, Glenn Leever, Caitlin Goldbaum and Justin Bailey.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Gena Kraha

By Justin Bailey, South Whidbey Commons AmeriCorps Member

Glenn Leever arrived in Langley on Feb. 16 ready to jump behind the counter at Island Coffeehouse and Books.

He had big plans, and though he’s not much of a coffee drinker, he was prepared to learn the distinction between an Italian cappuccino and a “Starbucks cappuccino,” and to work with the kids in the warmth of a quaint Langley coffeehouse.

Instead, we handed him a shovel. Apparently, no one told him the coffeehouse, located on Second Street in Langley, was currently a mud pit with a roof on top.

It was a fitting introduction for Leever, however, as that is exactly what the AmeriCorps experience is like.

We all try to do the best we can, given the shifting circumstances and needs of the community. It’s not a bad life.

“The atmosphere was impressively upbeat for having the entire center of the coffeehouse ripped to pieces,” Leever said.

To us, it’s true that it is currently a build site rather than a coffeehouse, but this is an incredibly exciting time for Leever to get involved. We all have a chance to begin anew and build upon what we’ve done well, and change what we haven’t.

There will be a new look, a new floor and new programs. What better time to join the Commons?

Leever recently completed a Peace Corps term in Costa Rica, where he gained experience in program development, youth mentorship, and — perhaps most importantly — flexibility.

He joins a team, dubbed “The Three Musketeers” by coffeehouse manager Rosie Woods (we’re probably the only ones with that nickname, right?), that has been in place since September. Three weeks in, it is already clear that the three have become four and are better for it.

In addition to Leever and me, the AmeriCorps team, which is technically comprised of four “individual placements” through the Washington Service Corps, includes Caitlin Goldbaum and Molly Zeiger.

It is a balanced group, and the four of us already have an inside joke brought on by our frugal lifestyle.

AmeriCorps are compensated with two things, a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award of $4,725 and a small living stipend paid by the government. Just so you understand, if I were speaking instead of writing, the emphasis would be on the word “small” and not on “living.”

As a result, the “three-second rule” has been disregarded in favor of an anything-goes approach to food consumption. So if you see Zeiger shrug, look at Leever, and say, “AmeriCorps!” as she eats a half-eaten cookie a passing child dropped on the sidewalk, don’t worry about it. It’s just our inside joke.

It’s just AmeriCorps. And we like it that way.

So what do we do exactly, aside from eating discarded cookies?

Our job is twofold: one, to work at the coffeehouse with South Whidbey Commons; and two, to work with a partner organization in the community.

Zeever will be working with the city of Langley, focusing on the Neighbor to Neighbor program, and is looking into starting a Spanish-language club and potentially an ESL program. Goldbaum, Zeiger and

I work with Whidbey Island Center for the Arts, Good Cheer and an environmental education nonprofit, Service Education and Adventure, respectively.

Next year, Goldbaum will be using her educational award to help pay for library science graduate school.

The rest of us aren’t as certain what we’ll be doing, but one thing is certain: Service is important to all four of us, and we all plan to make it a lifelong pursuit, even if it is not our primary occupation.

I will be attending law school before too long, and hope to work for a nonprofit until then; Zeiger will spend next year doing service work before pondering her next step; and Leever is eyeing a graduate degree in social work.

For now, though, we all have one thing on our minds: serving the South Whidbey community to the best of our abilities.

And food.

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