In February, four generations of Housing Action AmeriCorps Network alumni attended the Illinois Affordable Housing Forum, a statewide affordable housing conference hosted by Illinois Housing Council. The Forum brings together housing industry leaders from across Illinois, including staff from Housing Action Illinois and several AmeriCorps alumni who remained in the field after service. 

This moment reflects the sustainability of our movement. We are shaping the future of housing justice. 

Our AmeriCorps network helps AmeriCorps members grow and change throughout their service term, just like the organizations and communities we serve. After serving in our network, AmeriCorps alumni are prepared to take the next step in their future goals, whether that be further education, employment, or another term of national service. Many of our alumni remain in the housing and community development fields, often finding employment within Housing Action’s coalition, and one-third of our alumni are offered staff positions by their host site.  

Willie Heineke, National Service Director at Housing Action Illinois, was elated to see currently serving AmeriCorps members alongside AmeriCorps alumni from our network represented at the Illinois Affordable Housing Forum. To add to the excitement, he announced to attendees that he was recently promoted to National Service Director

“I almost cried when three AmeriCorps alumni came to my table at the conference,” Willie describes. “They served in our network at different points of my time at Housing Action, and I was overwhelmed to see that they all continued in housing-related fields.” 

Four generations of AmeriCorps alumni at the Illinois Affordable Housing Forum, (from left to right) Marshall Goldsmith (‘22-23), Rachel Gaunce (‘18-19), Willie Heineke (‘15-16, current National Service Director), Cassidy Kraimer (‘17-18)

One such alumni is Cassidy Kraimer, Program Officer at The Preservation Compact, Community Investment Corporation (CIC). She was attending the Forum to build connections and learn new strategies for supporting her work at CIC, where she advocates for policies that preserve unsubsidized affordable multifamily rental housing. Cassidy served in the Housing Action AmeriCorps Network in 2017-2018 and considers AmeriCorps service as an opportunity for both personal and professional development.

“It is totally a cliché to say that my AmeriCorps VISTA experience was invaluable to my personal and professional growth, but it’s true!” Cassidy says. “I particularly appreciated Housing Action’s cohort model. While serving at NW HomeStart, I learned so much about housing counseling, but also about the housing industry in general, local housing strategy and planning, and how to be in a professional work environment. I also grew a lot as an individual–moving to a new place, navigating finances, and finding community.” 

At the end of her AmeriCorps term, Cassidy accepted a job at NW HomeStart, where she supported outreach, workshops, and program implementation for several years. When she was ready to take the next step in her journey, Cassidy reflected on the resources she learned as an AmeriCorps member.

Cassidy while serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA in 2017 at NW HomeStart in Rockford, IL

“From my cohort during my VISTA term, I learned about ISU’s (Illinois State University) Stevenson Center program for VISTA and Peace Corps alumni,” Cassidy remembers. “I was also encouraged by other alumni at Housing Action’s Housing Matters conference to go back to school there.” 

While she was a Stevenson Fellow, Cassidy earned a Master’s in Political Science and Government. After graduation, she started working at her current role with The Preservation Compact, the policy arm at CIC.

Alumni Associate Board Presents New Opportunities

This summer, we are launching an AmeriCorps Alumni Associate Board to provide a platform for alumni to collaborate on resources and events to support past, current, and future AmeriCorps members in Housing Action’s network. The Alumni Associate Board will also coordinate more ways for alumni to connect with each other after their service ends, such as networking and professional development events.

Since 2010, our network has supported more than 350 AmeriCorps members. We are excited to see what new partnerships and ideas arise from the Alumni Associate Board.

Colorful mural of two people loading a couch into a moving truck with Chicago Furniture Bank on the side

AmeriCorps alumni and Willie strike the traditional AmeriCorps pose

“We have so many alumni, and a growing cohort of AmeriCorps members, but most of them do not know each other,” Willie explains. “When I run into alumni, I always learn about the amazing things they are doing. If alumni and AmeriCorps members could start collaborating more directly with one another, the possibilities are endless.” 

Cassidy was one of the first to join the Alumni Associate Board. She wants to help others get involved with AmeriCorps VISTA while building community with alumni and current AmeriCorps members. 

“I am so excited to get involved with the Alumni Associate Board because I feel so lucky to have been a VISTA at HomeStart with the support of Housing Action,” Cassidy says. “I hope to connect others to the program and learn from alumni and current VISTAs about all the work they are doing.” 

The ultimate goal of the AmeriCorps Alumni Associate Board is to continue fueling our movement of housing justice and community service.

“AmeriCorps members can feel isolated at their organizations, and the many issues our communities are facing can be overwhelming,” Willie describes. “The Alumni Associate Board will help make sure that AmeriCorps members know they’re not alone.” 

Are you an AmeriCorps Alumni from our network? Apply to join the Associate Board »

About the Housing Action AmeriCorps Network

AmeriCorps members in Housing Action’s network tackle a wide range of capacity building projects during a full year of service with organizations in our coalition.

We are now accepting early bird applications for AmeriCorps members. Positions will be posted to the AmeriCorps portal and Housing Action’s website starting in April.

Learn more about the Housing Action AmeriCorps Network »