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Spotlight on AmeriCorps: Amber Assists Upland through Steven’s Hope for Children

March 15, 2012

AmeriCorps VIP member Amber Lara (in blue) poses with event organizers and volunteers at Steven's Hope for Children's One Tough Run event in 2011.

There is little doubt that accumulating vast knowledge over the course of one’s life is an impressive feat. Putting such knowledge to use for the betterment of others, though, is an even more worthwhile endeavor. For the past two years, this has been the motto of AmeriCorps VIP member Amber Lara, currently serving as the Volunteer Coordinator at Steven’s Hope for Children in Upland, CA. “I consider myself a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ of sorts,” says Lara when asked to describe herself. “I’ve always found many topics and activities very interesting. I enjoy learning about all sorts of new things.”

One topic that Amber has learned quite a bit about over time is health. A 2010 graduate of UC Santa Barbara with a degree emphasis in pre-health, Amber has a wealth of knowledge on the topics of health and wellness—a fact that eventually played a huge role in her decision to join AmeriCorps. “I joined AmeriCorps to apply some of the skills and knowledge that I learned through my schooling, but also to contribute to society in a larger way,” she says.

Whether helping to run daily operations or coordinating volunteers at large-scale events, Amber helps keep things at Steven's hope running smoothly.

Amber’s knowledge of community medical needs and desire to help the community serve her perfectly at Steven’s Hope for Children. Founded in 2000, the family-run non-profit organization offers a number of programs that help alleviate the burdens faced by the families of seriously ill or injured children. Whether these families are facing housing and transportation issues or are simply in need of a set of warm clothes, Steven’s Hope offers programs designed to meet these needs. Most programs rely heavily on volunteers, however, making Amber’s work extremely important. “I handle all incoming calls from groups to individuals who want to volunteer with our organization, whether for large events, projects, daily operations, or for our Children’s Boutique,” says Lara. “I’m also helping shape the overall structure of the volunteer program and assist in managerial duties with our fundraising Boutique volunteers.”

In the future, Amber hopes to go to medical school to become a doctor. For the moment, though, she is relishing her time with AmeriCorps and Steven’s Hope. “My favorite part of being an AmeriCorps member is helping volunteers realize how their time contributes to helping families of seriously ill or injured children,” Amber offers. Yet it’s also very rewarding to watch as her partner organization flourishes. “[Steven’s Hope] is expanding and growing,” she observes, “which could not be accomplished without the great volunteers that have worked with us.”

When asked what she would say to a prospective AmeriCorps member, Amber keeps her message short and sweet. “You’ll definitely work hard, but you’ll also learn a lot,” says Lara. “And in the end, it’ll be worth it.”

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