More Montanans enroll in AmeriCorps per capita than residents of any other state, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service.
One in every 1,088 Montanans, or 930 total, enrolled in AmeriCorps in 2013 to take the top spot on the list.
Washington, D.C., Minnesota, Vermont and West Virginia round out the top five producers of AmeriCorps members.
According to the numbers, Billings produces the most AmeriCorps members of any U.S. city with 100,000 to 250,000 residents, followed by Providence, Rhode Island; Fort Collins, Colorado; Provo, Utah; and Madison, Wisconsin. One hundred and sixty-six Billings residents enrolled in AmeriCorps to push the city to No. 1.
The rankings are based on the number of AmeriCorps members who served in 2013 and where they list their permanent addresses. CNCS released the data as part of National Volunteer Week.
Montana Campus Compact AmeriCorps VISTA leader Maura Jones said she was not particularly surprised by Montana’s ranking.
Jones, who is from Bigfork, said she served as a literacy coach near Spokane for a year, then served as a VISTA at YWCA Missoula last year before taking her current position.
The program allows her to gain job experience and earn a living, she said, adding “It’s a really great way to fulfill your own personal passions.”
Montanans’ penchant for helping others mirrors the AmeriCorps mission of identifying and addressing community needs, said Jones.
AmeriCorps VISTA members help organizations build sustainable programs and capacity and there are other service opportunities available through AmeriCorps state programs, she said.
One such effort is HawkCorps, which is through the Flagship Program at Hawthorne Elementary School and that Jones helped form this year.
In the fall, a group of second- and third-graders worked on several projects, including helping collect food for the food bank and sharing produce from the school’s garden with others in the neighborhood.
This spring, fourth- and fifth-graders are working on several of their own projects.
On Wednesday, they helped pick up trash and pull weeds at Silver Park.
Fifth-graders Ann Ochsner and Rachel Stiner said they enjoyed the work as they dug weeds out of mulch beds.
“It makes me feel happy because I like helping the environment,” Ochsner said.
“I think it’s really nice,” Stiner said.
Both said they joined the HawkCorps because it offered them a chance to get involved.
“It sounded cool,” Ochsner said. “I was thinking about field trips and helping.”
Nonie Cobb, with the outdoor recreation department of Missoula Parks and Recreation, helped organize Wednesday’s project.
“It’s a great way to get especially kids interested in their parks,” Cobb said.
Parks and Recreation employees are busy and appreciate volunteer efforts, she said.
“Every little bit helps,” she added.
More than 470 AmeriCorps members are helping throughout the state, serving through 16 AmeriCorps programs and projects, including Energy Corps, FoodCorps Montana, the Montana Conservation Corps and the Justice for Montanans Project.
Nationwide, more than 75,000 people serve entities, such as schools and nonprofit organizations, through AmeriCorps each year.
More than 9,000 Montanans have given more than 8.5 million hours and received scholarships totaling more than $20 million since AmeriCorps began 20 years ago. Montana also is an Employer of National Service.
For more information about AmeriCorps in Montana, visit serve.mt.gov/americorps-in-montana. To see how other states rank, go to nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps/ameristates-ranking-national-service-nationwide.