WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency for service, awarded the annual Excellence in AmeriCorps awards to five alumni, grantees, and advocates for their outstanding service. From California to Puerto Rico, COVID-19 response to mental health awareness, this year’s award recipients go above and beyond every day to make our country safer, smarter, and healthier. 

Hailing from diverse fields and communities across the nation, 2020’s winners are united by their passion as they answer the call to service with enthusiasm and dedication. They are conducting disaster preparedness trainings, engaging those with intellectual disabilities, raising mental health awareness, and galvanizing their communities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Now in its sixth year, the Excellence in AmeriCorps Awards were created to recognize the outstanding and innovative AmeriCorps programs, members, and alumni tackling our nation’s most-pressing challenges.  The 2020 Excellence in AmeriCorps award winners represent the best of national service, responding to adversity with resourcefulness, creativity, and community-mindedness. 

“AmeriCorps members are responding to our country’s needs with leadership and courage,” said Chester Spellman, director of AmeriCorps. “This year’s Excellence in AmeriCorps awardees are an example of the tenacity and compassion of the American people. Their stories are unique, but they all confirm the same message of hope: the spirit of service in America is alive and well.”

The 2020 Excellence in AmeriCorps award winners are: 

  • Equal Heart – Texas Service Corps – Dallas, Texas  
    Most Impactful Service
    In response to the increase in community hunger caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Equal Heart’s Texas Service Corps created the state’s first COVID Disaster Response Team. This new team deployed 270 AmeriCorps members to 28 sites working to alleviate hunger, providing 20 million pounds of food to over 900,000 Texans. Over half of the 28 organizations recruited through the new virtual model had never hosted an AmeriCorps member before. 
  • Let’s Move! –  Instituto Psicopedagógico de PR San Juan, Puerto Rico 
    Most Inclusive Service
    Let’s Move! Health Promotion Program for Adults with Intellectual Disabilities leverages their national service resources to promote physical activity, social integration, exercise, and nutrition in adults with intellectual disabilities. AmeriCorps members serving with Let’s Move! build personal relationships with program participants; guiding exercise routines, educating families about nutrition, and fostering healthy habits through one-on-one mentorship. In 2019, a Let’s Move! participant competed in the Special Olympics World Games in Dubai, returning to Puerto Rico with two silver medals.  
  • Ocean Mansour Sakr – Los Angeles, California 
    AmeriCorps Alumnus, California Safe Corps
    Most Influential Service
    As an AmeriCorps member with the California Safe Corps, a program sponsored by the American Red Cross, Ocean focused on preparing communities for disasters by providing free disaster preparedness education, delivering CPR and First Aid certification training to vulnerable communities, responding to local and national disasters, and recruiting and engaging volunteers. Ocean went above and beyond direct service as he trained new volunteers, guided new AmeriCorps members in disaster preparedness education, and developed training resources to ensure program sustainability. 
  • Angela Zaur – Sidney, Montana 
    AmeriCorps Alumna, Sidney Health Center 
    Most Innovative Service
    Angela acted as a leading force in creating an innovative behavioral health program for the Sidney Health Center, a not-for-profit community based medical center in Sidney, Montana. Access to health resources in rural areas is limited, and Angela found a way to develop an upstream approach to mental health program challenges and substance use issues in the community. The effort Angela led for the creation of this program has simultaneously improved access to behavioral health services and increased mental health awareness while reducing the stigma against mental health issues in Montana.  
  • Rowena Madden – New Jersey
    Executive Director, New Jersey Commission on National and Community Service
    Lifetime of Service Award
    A lifelong volunteer, Rowena Madden has served the State of New Jersey since the 1970s, fostering the growth of national service programs in the state. As the Executive Director of the New Jersey Commission on National and Community Service, Rowena has led diverse service initiatives responding to everything from the opioid crisis to Hurricane Sandy. Her career is a testament to her passion for service and her affinity for turning compassion into action. 

As large swaths of the nation face unprecedented natural disasters alongside a public health crisis, AmeriCorps is poised to respond. While teams of AmeriCorps members deploy to Hurricane Laura relief efforts, more are joining the fight against the devasting wildfires on the West Coast, just as teams remain on the ground responding to the effects of the Derecho in Iowa. Even as they address these arising challenges, AmeriCorps maintains a sustained effort to fight hunger, keep communities safe, and facilitate youth education in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Since the program’s inception in 1994, more than 1.1 million AmeriCorps members have served the nation, giving more than 1.6 billion hours of service and earning nearly $4 billion in education awards. Every year, the 75,000 AmeriCorps members prepare students for success, rebuild communities and revitalize cities, support veterans, fight the opioid epidemic, respond to disasters, preserve public lands, strengthen education, foster economic opportunity, and more.