Learning to Live With a Community in Massachusetts


By Katie McGee, SCA Massachusetts AmeriCorps Member

Service, environment, and community. When I decided to join SCA’s Massachusetts AmeriCorps program, I knew it would be 10 months of service to the environment and communities. I did not realize that I would be immersing myself in a group of the most dedicated and genuine people I have ever meet.

As a team, we serve the communities of western Massachusetts, but we’re also building a family of corps members here in Hawley. During the first three weeks of training, we spent a great deal of time learning how to live and serve together.

Community meetings, bunk house meetings, chores lists, and group chats keep us organized. They also keep us accountable for doing our fair share in this new community. When you live, eat, sleep and work with the same people every day, it’s important that everyone is on the same page. Communicating openly is key. 

Communal living and switching to a (mostly) vegetarian diet are big lifestyle changes. Especially with limited access to talk with friends and family back home.

While at Hawley, we spend most of our time between the bunk house and the kitchen. The bunk house is a large open building with a dozen bunk beds. There is an eclectic assortment of closets and drawers that we all share. Each person has decorated their bunk space with posters and small tokens of home. Tapestries and sheets hang over bottom bunks to create small havens of privacy in an otherwise open space.

There are several quirky couches and chairs with mismatched cushions for lounging. The tables have uneven legs. These are our common spaces to gather together. Over the years, the bunk has accumulated small treasures left by past corps members. There’s a hefty collection of books and board games. Most of these still have all their pieces and pages. Cards, music, board games, and spontaneous yoga sessions bring us together in this space to relax at the end of the day and on weekends.

The kitchen is the central space for meals, training, and meetings with staff. Boasting crafts, a beautiful mural, and an old piano, the kitchen is always buzzing with people. Our snacks, left overs, and ingredients for future vegetarian dinners all live in the walk-in cooler or cupboards. On weeknights, corps members and any lingering staff come together to eat delicious dinners.

All communal meals are vegetarian at Hawley. Corps members range from vegans to self-proclaimed carnivores, and everything in between. As a result, everyone adjusts to this diet differently. Some people buy and cook their own meat, while others embrace the switch to a veggie-based diet. No matter what we are eating, we enjoy this common space together. We get closer to each other every day that we live together. We’ll keep learning how to support one another through this amazing service experience.

Want to serve public lands in Massachusetts? Learn more about SCA’s Massachusetts AmeriCorps program.