I am an advocate. I am a capacity builder. I am a VISTA.

When people ask me what I do I say, “I am an AmeriCorps member serving a year of National Service.” Then, it is always the same response, “Oh, what is AmeriCorps?” My elevator speech mode officially kicks in. I tell them about the service I am doing, explain exactly what AmeriCorps is, and then the kicker, “well, if it is National Service, are you paid?” they ask. “Yes” I say. “About 105% of the poverty rate of Chicago.” Then come the gasps and oohs and aahs. I just sit back, smile, and think, I don’t care, I love my job!

Living out a mission can be tough. It takes courage and strength to push though and educate others on something you find compelling and worth knowing. It is not a job for everyone. It is, however, the job of AmeriCorps members all across the country.

My name is Regan Bertke, I am an AmeriCorps VISTA completing a year of service with an organization that lives out a mission to help communities and people in need; Chicago Cares. I started my year of service in September of last year; my goal, to build capacity in the organization through volunteer development. Now half of my year of service is over and what do I have to show for it? A lot!

A role that I fulfill with the organization is to recruit leaders and provide them with training, skills, and resources to lead a program with Chicago Cares. Since September I have recruited and trained over sixty new leaders that are now helping Chicago Cares live out its mission in Chicago communities. These volunteers and leaders give up Saturdays and nights at home with their families to serve in the issue area they feel so passionately about.

Everyday I feel inspired by these people who dedicate time and energy towards programs that inspire them. It is their hard work and unwavering persistence to making a better Chicago that make me love commuting the hour and twenty minutes each day into the office. The motivation that they receive from their programs only further motivates me to live a life of service. National service is about being an advocate, about being a steward and voice for those that are under resourced and impoverished. But more importantly, it is about educating others on the issues that affect far too many of our neighbors.

Chicago Cares is an organization that has dedicated its mission to addressing critical human needs in the city of Chicago. In the past six months I have had the privilege to work with not only a dedicated staff, but dedicated volunteers as well. I am doing what I love.