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AmeriCorps members Jeffrey Lewis, left, Ashley Spoto, Ally LeClaire and Laura Parrott have joined the American Red Cross, Santa Barbara County Chapter. (American Red Cross, Santa Barbara County Chapter photo)

AmeriCorps is a network of local, state and national service programs that connects more than 70,000 Americans each year for 10 months of intensive service to meet our country’s critical needs in education, public safety, health and the environment. 

The AmeriCorps members serving with the American Red Cross, Santa Barbara County Chapter are part of the National Preparedness and Response Corps. Funded by special grants, the mission of this particular AmeriCorps program is to provide vital emergency assistance to communities affected by disasters and to increase preparedness in the areas of greatest need before disasters strike.

AmeriCorps member duties include educating the community by teaching classes in disaster preparedness, disaster mitigation, and health and safety. They also respond to national and local disaster assignments, engage in disaster preparedness activities, recruit and retain volunteers and help coordinate youth activities.

Before her work as an AmeriCorps member with the ARC, Santa Barbara County Chapter, Laura Parrott recently finished a year in Fresno as an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service To America), where she worked in the Community Development Department at the Economic Development Corporation serving Fresno County. 

She graduated from Miami Universityin 2007 with a bachelor of arts degree in media communications and a minor in anthropology. While in high school, Parrott volunteered for her local American Red Cross.

AmeriCorps member Jeffrey Lewis worked as a lead ramp serviceman with United Airlines Inc. for 13 years at Los Angeles International Airport

He attended Regis College, the University of Arizona and California State University Long Beach. Lewis volunteers with the Gryphon Society to help clients find work, meet goals and better their lives as they go through a 12-step program.

Before joining the ARC, Santa Barbara County Chapter team, AmeriCorps member Ashley Spoto worked for the Florida Department of Children and Families as a child protective investigator. She graduated from the University of Central Florida with a bachelor of arts in anthropology.

Spoto is pursuing a master of arts in international relations and conflict resolution at American Military University.

AmeriCorps member Ally LeClair previously worked as a resident adviser at George Mason University. She graduated in 2008 with a bachelor of arts in government and international politics and is enrolled at American Public University, pursuing a master’s degree in emergency and disaster management.

LeClair has worked in a Mother Theresa Home in India, helped expand a school’s physical facilities in the Philippines, assisted with building a house in Mexico, worked on a plumbing system in Australia and helped rebuild houses in New Orleans. 

Lewis and Spoto will work out of the New Preparedness & Response Center in Santa Maria. LeClaire and Parrott will be headquartered in Santa Barbara. 

The ARC helps people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. Last year, nearly a million volunteers and 35,000 employees helped victims of almost 75,000 disasters; and taught lifesaving skills to millions.

Locally, the ARC, Santa Barbara County Chapter has provided services to more than 30,000 people in Santa Barbara County during the past year and has distributed disaster preparedness and health and safety materials to more than 13,900 schoolchildren, seniors and community members.

The Red Cross is not a government agency. It relies on donations of time, money and blood to do its work. For more information, call the American Red Cross, Santa Barbara County Chapter at 805.687.1331 in Santa Barbara, 805.928.0778 in Santa Maria or 805.736.5110 in Lompoc.

Marjorie Wass of SurfMedia Communications represents the American Red Cross, Santa Barbara County Chapter.