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Seniors in Service Is Bringing AmeriCorps Members of All Ages Together To Tackle Food Insecurity in Tampa Bay
Community Engagement Manager Chris Noble says a cogenerational approach works to reduce ageism and loneliness while improving community outcomes
What is your program called, and how does it work?
Seniors in Service is bringing members of AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps Seniors together to fight food insecurity. They serve together at local pantries that depend on volunteers to provide food for hundreds of families every week. They pack food boxes, serve hot meals and stock shelves, all while sharing life experiences and perspectives. It’s exciting to see these intergenerational bonds being formed while they support neighbors in need.
Why did you want to be part of Generations Serving Together, bringing cogeneration into national service?
Being a part of Generations Serving Together allows us to harness each generation’s unique talents to provide for the needs of others.
National service has traditionally been age segregated. But we see a natural opportunity for multiple generations to work together. For over 38 years, Seniors in Service has had older volunteers helping in all kinds of community projects. During the pandemic, we noticed more people from younger generations wanting to help and realized the success of mixing multiple generations together for service.
When you bring people of multiple generations together to serve their community, you unleash a multigenerational force for good.
What problem is your program trying to solve?
Food insecurity is the primary problem we are working to solve, but by bringing volunteers of all ages together we are also reducing ageism, social isolation and depression, and improving mental and physical health. That makes for a stronger team of volunteers providing service, and our community reaps the benefits.
What’s the value of a cogenerational approach?
At Seniors in Service, we’ve always had intergenerational programs where older volunteers tutor young students, and volunteers support their elders as Senior Companions. Cogeneration is different. Instead of one generation serving another generation, people of all ages serve together to co-create a better future for us all.
What’s your big audacious vision? If you succeed, what change will we see?
I want to give people a shared experience and mutual love for serving that is inclusive of different perspectives. I want our shared love for serving others to be the driving force behind our collective efforts to provide basic necessities, such as companionship, love, food, and shelter to those in need. These universal things supersede all the generational differences that can sometimes hold us back. My vision is that we no longer focus on barriers like age. Instead we come together to solve community challenges while utilizing the strengths of every generation.
How can people get involved with your work?
What’s one of your superpowers as a leader/innovator?
My superpower as a leader is being able to instantly connect with other people. I truly am a people person and I can walk up to anyone, connect with them, and walk away with a new friend.