“My biggest motivator is to pass that gift of hope and possibility on to others,” says one Minnesota Recovery Corps volunteer.

Minnesota is piloting a new program that’s harnessing the “people power” of AmeriCorps to support local addiction-recovery efforts.

Minnesota Recovery Corps (MRC), an offshoot of AmeriCorps, was launched in 2018. MRC volunteers (or “recovery navigators”) are deployed throughout the Twin Cities to help people who are new to addiction-recovery.

Some of the MRC volunteers are in recovery themselves. “My biggest motivator is to pass that gift of hope and possibility on to others,” Valerie Gustafson, who is nine years sober, told MinnPost. “I wanted to be more open in my recovery and I want to help others in their recovery.”

“I’m an AA guy, but I don’t force that on anyone,” said Peter Solberg, another volunteer. “I try to find what works for them and help them to be successful with that pathway.”

The program started with 15 “navigators” and is still growing, says Audrey Suker, CEO of ServeMinnesota, the organization tasked with administering and funding AmeriCorps programs in Minnesota.

A survey of AmeriCorps members revealed the meaningful impact that the service work had on volunteers in recovery themselves. “We heard powerful stories from individual AmeriCorps volunteers,” said Suker. “They told us that their work with our organization gave them a sense of purpose and helps them get back on a career trajectory.”

The pilot program’s potential for growth is limitless. “The deeper we get into it the more I can see the potential that exists of aligning the program with people who want to give a year of their life to serving others in need,” Suker told MinnPost.

One example of harnessing AmeriCorps’s “people power in action” is recruiting the 1,000-plus volunteers already working in schools to teach a curriculum of addiction-awareness to K-12 students in Minnesota.

Volunteer Peter Solberg started volunteering with MRC two-and-a-half years into his recovery. He has since been assigned to the Minnesota Department of Corrections, working with men who are “ready to re-enter society but still have chemical dependency issues.”

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This is one example of a population in need of MRC’s services. As Solberg explains, “About 94% of the people who are re-entering have chemical dependency issues. The guys I work with are all high-risk recidivists.”

It’s all about helping the men find hope within themselves. “What these guys are missing in their lives and the reason they keep coming back to the system is that they don’t have hope, period,” said Solberg. “I go back to their childhood and we talk about their dreams and the things that got them excited. Suddenly you have an individual who has cracked open the door and can see the light on the other side.”

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