As Spruce 6 ventures on the familiar trek back to Iowa for 2 weeks of closure, I’ll update you all on the life we lived in the lush, warm, hip city of Atlanta.

Upon arrival, we were temporarily lodged in a hotel located in downtown Atlanta on one of the numerous “Peachtree” Streets/Roads/Ways/Avenues. Apparently, Atlanta really really likes peach trees.

We were within close walking distance to Centennial Park, Georgia State University, Underground Atlanta, the Coca Cola Factory, the Atlanta Aquarium, and the Ferris Wheel (a defining feature of Atlanta’s skyline).

About halfway through the Round, our lodging was moved to a church in East Atlanta, where we would be residing with 3 other FEMA Corps teams for the reminder of our time in Atlanta. This was an interesting challenge (4 teams in one kitchen, common area & dormitory); but not unusual for AmeriLife. I loved it- we had the opportunity to meet Corps Members from other campuses, all at different stages of their service year and with unique perspectives on the program.

Our weekdays consisted of working in a FEMA Distribution Center, maximizing the logistical capacity of FEMA by essentially offering an extra set of hands to manage, handle, ship and receive FEMA’s disaster response materials. We were immediately certified in Forklift Operations (Yes, I know it is difficult to imagine a klutz like myself operating a forklift… No, I did not destroy everything in my path). I met some hilarious and wise characters, learned a whole lot about efficiency, and realized that I thoroughly enjoy doing hands-on labor.

Outside of the typical 40 hour work week, we spent the majority of our time exploring yet another new city. Below are some of our adventures:

- Wind-Down Wednesday: a free weekly springtime music event that takes place in Centennial Park

- Dogwood Festival: Piedmont Park is transformed into an enormous 3-day festival filled with hundreds of vendors, artisans, puppeteers, live music, rides, and a dog show

- Elevator Rides: we may have taken advantage of our free pool access at the nearby Marriot by sneaking in a ride on the insanely tall elevator

- Scolding by Park Security: we were innocently playing harmonica and washboard on some (forbidden) rocks at Centennial Park and were forced to recite the sign displaying park rules…4 times…each

- She Came From Above: my first Hard Core concert experience

- Mid-Day Naps: daily naps during lunch in the Atlanta sun

- Waffle House Wednesdays: persistent members of Spruce 6 graced the local Waffle House with our presence every Wednesday for lunch

- Morning “Mustards”: Spruce 6 musters every morning to talk about feelings and do a laugh-inducing silly activity

- Grant Park Imaginary Swamp: Spruce 6 had to evaluate the foreseeable environmental impacts of an impending hurricane at an imaginary swamp in Grant Park

- Family Easter: Spruce 6 spent the most delicious Easter lunch together at Daniel’s house- om nom nom Vegan cupcakes and creek-side mediations

- Amicalola Falls: an eclectic group from the 4 different teams adventured to Amicalola State Park (located near the base of Springer Mountain, the base of the AT)

- Froccer: an innovative cross between Soccer, Frisbee, and Truth or Dare

- Friendship Bracelets: for my Spruce 6 homies

- Venture Capitalist Project: convincing two venture capitalists to donate $10 million to a cause of our choice

- Little Five Points: a hip neighborhood in Atlanta filled with thrift & antique shops, used bookstores, bars, and aspiring artists

- Zeus: a fascinating character that owns a shop in Little Five, a jewelry maker that crafts with bronze and copper

- Letter Challenge: communicated with a special someone via letters (only) for 30 days ~ check!

- Columbia, SC: a much-needed visit to reunite with my long-lost friends at USC, accompanied by the one and only Daniel McCracken (expressing his unique hipsterdom in a confused southern city)

- MBTI: lots and lots of psychoanalyzing personalities

- Hodge Podge Open Mic: always impressive poetry performance by Annie Paradis and impromptu spoken word by yours truly

- Red Top Mountain State Park: a weekend camping trip filled with rain dances, hiking, bluegrass, skinny dipping, bacon S’mores, and loon calls

- Bruins: watching the playoffs with fellow sports fans…. And having my soul crushed

- MLK Jr. National Historic Site: an always needed reminder to appreciate our humble and historical leaders

- Himalayan Spice: Spruce 6 celebrated the round by eating delectable Indian and Nepalese food 

- Feelings: we had lots of these… And learned to embrace them

That about sums up Round 3, folks! It’s hard to believe that we have two weeks left in this whole crazy AmeriCorps adventure. The end is near, and we are filled with bittersweet thoughts of nostalgia and excitement for what comes next.

Stay tuned,

the peace of Philadelphia mornings

It’s Always Sprucey in Philadelphia

It’s been too long, friends.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: AmeriCorps NCCC is a perfect excuse to take a step away from technology and immerse yourself in the simplicity of little joys. Perhaps it is a weak excuse for my lack of communication with the world outside of my AmeriLife, but I’m shamelessly taking full advantage of not having to exist in the realities of social media. Instead, I fill the time I would be spending on social media with reading, playing harmonica, journaling, learning spanish, writing, or adventuring. In fact, I have come to enjoy this lifestyle so immensely that I may continue to pursue it after the program. We’ll see if the rapidly advancing technological world allows me to do that. 

However, I do sincerely apologize for not keeping this little documentation of my year up-to-date. Here we are, done with our second round and back home in Vinton, and I have yet to give my friends and family  an update on Spruce 6’s adventures in Philadelphia.

So here goes nada.

Upon our arrival to Philadelphia in early January, we began working at the FEMA Region III Office in the Individual Assistance branch, completing a variety of preparedness projects to strengthen their disaster response capabilities. We were exposed to numerous departments within the regional office, and each of us delved more deeply into understanding the functionality of FEMA. We were fortunate enough to be working in center city Philadelphia, only a mere two blocks from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall (although our housing was about a 20 minute commute from the office).

Aside from the standard work week, we tried to take full advantage of all that Philly had to offer. We spent some time in neighborhoods all across the city; including Fish Town, Northern Liberties, West Philly, South Philly, Old City, and surrounding suburbs. 

Some of the adventures (in no particular order):

  • Valley Green Trails: expansive running and hiking trails that follow a river on the outskirts of Philadelphia; we ran in the snow, crossed some creeks, did some tree poses and witnessed a gargantuan tree crash loudly to the ground
  • South Street: a street filled with unique shops, little buddhas, tasty restaurants, murals and a magic garden
  • Society Hill: named after the 18th century Free Society of Traders, a charming neighborhood in Center City lined with cobblestone streets
  • MLK Service Day: we worked alongside CityYear Greater Philadelphia, painting murals to beautify Overbrook High School and foster a better learning environment 
  • First Friday (twice): numerous art galleries in Center City are open to the public for free 
  • Philadelphia Art Museum (twice): one of the largest art museums in the US, and holds collections of more than 227,000 objects that include  European and American paintings, prints, drawings, and decorative arts
  • Learned to Pack (even better): we had to abruptly pack up and move all of our belongings … across the street; due to a series of mishaps and silly Extended Stay America nonsense
  • Reading Terminal Market: enclosed public market with neat local vendors; I bought a tea steeper and an apple
  • Concert at the First Unitarian Church (twice): a gorgeous church that transforms into a unique music venue at nights and on weekends; we saw Julianna Barwick and A Winged Victory for the Sullen 
  • Urban Orienteering: probably a sorry excuse for Physical Training, but we trekked around various neighborhoods to explore what Philly had to offer
  • Flobby Ball…in a blizzard: an absurd game created by the one and only Daniel McCracken - Ultimate Frisbee with a soccer ball …and some rules made up along the way
  • Yoga: in the hotel hallways, in my cubicle, in the streets of Philly…
  • Memes & Fliers: creative projects led by the wonderful Melanie Bunac and Cory Jackson to keep us entertained throughout the round
  • Her: … this movie.
  • Work Location: one block from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall
  • The Twisted Tail: historic restaurant with free live music (jazz, baby)
  • Best pizza shop in Glenside: according to the Spruce 6 Rob Miller
  • Antique Market: a giant indoor warehouse filled with antiques and knick knacks 
  • Chinese New Year Parade: dragons, firecrackers, bubble tea, happiness
  • Morning Rituals: without missing a day, Kamila and I spent our mornings before work on the balcony of the Region III office, facing the sunrise and overlooking Independence Hall 
  • Fish Town: Diners & Thrifting
  • Northern Liberties: free concerts, hockey in bowling alleys, and super hip coffee shops
  • Footie Pajamas: we like to wear these… especially Melanie and Rob competing for “Who Wore it Best”
  • All Hands Volunteers: Spruce 6 roadtripped to Long Island bright and early on a Saturday morning to paint the interior of a home damaged by Hurricane Sandy 
  • Free Concert at the Piazza: Winter Jam 2014 with Twenty One Pilots, Switchfoot, New Politics, and MS MR
  • All-Nighter in New York City: 4 members of Spruce 6 met the one and only Jay Gulitti in NYC for a night of wandering, unreal musical experiences with Caspian, getting lost, and drinking coffee in a Brooklyn diner until dawn 
  • Nifty Fifties: the most delicious selection of milkshakes
  • Numerous hip coffee shops: Obviously, it’s Philly
  • Brooklyn Night Bazaar: a warehouse transformed into an indoor flea market with paper lanterns, neon lights, posters of Burt Reynolds, tasty expensive food, people who don’t show excitement, live music, CASPIAN
  • Philabundance Hunger Relief Center: We helped “Squash” Hunger on an Independent Service Project by packaging food to relieve food insecurity in  Delaware Valley 
  • Bruno Reginald Arthur Bartholomew McCrackberg: the newest member of Spruce 6 , a handsome blue monkey that travels with us on all of our adventures 
  • Hip Mexican Restaurants with sombreros: our “going away” party, being the only customers in the whole restaurant with the silliest server I ever did meet
  • Brooklyn Bridge: for Tash
  • Riverbend Environmental Education Center: we cleared fallen debris while learning about this wonderful organization dedicated to fostering “Greener Children”
  • St. Patricks Day Parade: casually ran into drunken lads, blaring faux-Irish music, a wave of green, and Irish Step Dancers
  • Franklin Square Park: an adorable park near Old City with a playground and a carousel 

Hopefully those adventures gave you a hint as to what our round looked like in Philadelphia. Alas, we are back in Vinton, awaiting the chance to find out where we will be sent next. 

Stay tuned,


vintagecatwigs said: Hello! My name is Emma and I'm joining NCCC this February at the Vinton campus. Is there anything you think I should bring specifically for that location? Also how warm is the coat they provide for you? I'm coming from Michigan so I think I'm prepared for the snow but I just want to be sure, I haven't even gotten my welcome packet yet.


Good question! I’m originally from NH (a little warmer than Michigan) and it has been fine. The campus is set up so that you never actually have to go outside if you don’t want to; there are tunnels connecting each building. Once you are there, you learn to not care too much about appearances because you wear the uniform so frequently. The parka they give you is extremely warm, and you are also provided with a sweatshirt and fleece. Bundling up is the way to go. One of my team members is from Michigan and he said that it is pretty comparable to Vinton. I would suggest bringing your own winter jacket because you will probably want to wear that when you go out in public (the parka is more geared towards wearing during work). 

Glad you reached out! Let me know if you have any more questions.

A New Adventure

Although I’ve been out of touch with the technological world, I’d like to make an attempt to bring this blog up to date on this crazy social experiment we like to call AmeriCorps.

We finished up our first project in Hyattsville, MD at the beginning of December. We took advantage of being in the DC and Baltimore area, exploring the cultural and historical communities of both cities. We were able to travel into either city nearly every weekend. In DC - visiting the National Mall, Arlington Cemetery, and the Headquarters of FEMA, the Peace Corps, the Corporation for National and Community Service, and the American Red Cross. We sought different kinds of experiences in Baltimore, visiting Fell’s Point twice and participating in two Independent Service Projects with non-profit organizations (an urban farm and an anti-human trafficking organization). Our typical weekday consisted of working alongside FEMA to provide assistance to disaster survivors ranging from Hurricane Katrina to the most recent tornadoes in Illinois. A very unique and fulfilling learning experience, to say the least.

In early December, we headed back home to beautiful Vinton, IA for a week of transition. We had a variety of trainings and debriefs, and learned what our next project would entail - Philadelphia, and we would be working in the FEMA Regional Headquarters.

After our brief winter break, we returned to Iowa for another week awaiting our deployment. As you can imagine, Vinton is filled with exciting things to do in the winter. Not; but we managed to entertain ourselves with $4 3D movies, hours of reading, playing cards, yoga, taking walks in the -1 degree weather, New Years at the Voo, and renting Cross Country skis ($5 for the whole week = ENDLESS ADVENTURES).

Evidently Spruce 6 was stoked to get on the road again. We were thrilled to be placed in another city - particularly with the exciting fact that we have our own team member as a tour guide (born and raised in Philly). We’ve already got a list of non-traditional places to explore - I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

I’m currently basking in the glory of our new van; Betty White. We are about 1/4 of the way through our 2-day road trip to Philly. We miss Bruce dearly, but it’s bittersweet. Betty is a special van - stay tuned for some pictures.

Well folks; that’s about all for now. As such, I don’t know when I will post next because life gets pretty busy again from here. However, I do know that if my experience thus far tells anything about what the new year holds, it will be yet another adventure.


Who said there’s nothing to do in Iowa during the winter?
#americorps #nccc  (at Old Creamery Trail)

Who said there’s nothing to do in Iowa during the winter?
#americorps #nccc (at Old Creamery Trail)

LOL #vinton #iowa #americorps #nccc  (at AmeriCorps NCCC North Central Region Campus)

LOL #vinton #iowa #americorps #nccc (at AmeriCorps NCCC North Central Region Campus)

Spruce 6 family Christmas picture 2013 HAPPY HOLIDAYS WORLD #spruce6 #americorps #nccc  (at Extended Stay Deluxe)

Spruce 6 family Christmas picture 2013 HAPPY HOLIDAYS WORLD #spruce6 #americorps #nccc (at Extended Stay Deluxe)

Had the honor of touring the American Red Cross today and meeting President and CEO Gail McGovern!

#redcross #americorps #NCCC (at American Red Cross National Headquarters)

Had the honor of touring the American Red Cross today and meeting President and CEO Gail McGovern!

#redcross #americorps #NCCC (at American Red Cross National Headquarters)

This is what the end of an #AmeriCorps #NCCC round looks like. Gadgets & gizmos galore.
  (at Columbia, MD)

This is what the end of an #AmeriCorps #NCCC round looks like. Gadgets & gizmos galore.
(at Columbia, MD)

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment."

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