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Eagle Corps Service Helps Community, Expands Horizons

Verden Douglas

Story By: Renee Elder 

Eagle Corps member Verden Douglas says serving as an AmeriCorps volunteer has been among the highlights of his career so far.

A plant scientist, Douglas worked in the biology field from 1995 to 2016, when he lost his job in a corporate downsizing. As he pondered his next step, a friend suggested that he consider the AmeriCorps program at North Carolina Central University, known as Eagle Corps.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” he recalled. “I fell into Eagle Corps by accident, but it was a good accident. It was probably the best service experience I’ve had in my life.”

The Eagle Corps program hosted by the Office of Community Engagement and Service at North Carolina Central University sponsors 12 AmeriCorps service members each year as a means of increasing the university’s direct-service impact and providing opportunities for veterans and disadvantaged youth. Eagle Corps members serve in both Durham and Orange counties.

Douglas, 44, was in the U.S. Army from 1992 to 1995 when he moved to Durham. In 2016, he applied for a spot as an Eagle Corps volunteer, where he could serve in exchange for a living stipend and educational benefits that would help him return to college. During his AmeriCorps year, Douglas assisted homeless veterans at Healing with CAARE, a nonprofit in Durham that helps secure health care access for low-income individuals and families.

“Mr. Douglas was instrumental in identifying eligible veterans for the program, reviewing benefits, and even assisting veterans with transportation to make medical appointments,” said Healing With CAARE Executive Director Carolyn Hinton. “We are extremely thankful for Mr. Douglas’s contribution and the Eagle Corps.”

He was responsible for overseeing three houses that the agency uses to provide transitional shelter for up to nine homeless veterans at a time.

“I would assist in their screening, applications, military record verification, addressing their ailments or other issues they might require, including education. Homelessness is a big issue in Durham. I didn’t know how bad the situation was until I was hands-on dealing with it.”

While engaged in Eagle Corps, Douglas enrolled in the University of Mount Olive and is poised to receive his Master of Business Administration degree this month. Although his AmeriCorps duties fell outside the path of his career trajectory, Douglas believes it enhanced his ability to excel as he enters a new phase of life.

“I enjoyed it so much,” Douglas said. “I view it as a development project for myself, advancing my people skills and emotional intelligence. The benefits I gained also included a better understanding of the professional side of social work.”

And it’s also a win for the Durham community. Douglas plans to stay active in the nonprofit world as a volunteer leader.

“I am very open to supporting good causes after my experiences with AmeriCorps.”

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