This September marks a milestone for Serve Louisiana, Louisiana’s longest running AmeriCorps program. Executive Director Lisa Teer marked her 20th year with the organization, where she’s risen through the ranks from Program Director to Executive Director. Serve Louisiana partners young leaders with nonprofits for a paid year, helping local organizations improve lives and build stronger communities. Lisa’s passion for service and this mission inspires corps members, year over year, to dedicate their time and talent. Since 2000, she’s seen close to 1300 people commit to serving nonprofits, grassroots and governmental organizations. And while the corps builds capacity, they themselves grow.
Lisa shares, “Serve Louisiana is part of a large network of AmeriCorps programs that connects people to grassroots organizations and to each other. The network spans all 50 states and allows for cross sectional training and networking. It taps into people’s need to be part of a community and civically engaged, and often crystallizes a specific career path for members. It’s truly powerful. I love when service leads to transformation.”
Lisa herself has experienced transformation during her time at Serve Louisiana. She came to the organization from Maryland, under the leadership of then-Executive Director, Betsy Irvine, to live closer to family. Four years later, her husband died of a heart attack, leaving Lisa and her two young children in uncharted territory. Betsy and the organization helped them get through. At the time, the organization was known as Louisiana Delta Service Corps, and working provided Lisa the opportunity to be around people helping others during those dark days. “Betsy said to me, ‘You will come into work everyday. You will get up and get dressed and come to work. You can come in each day and just sit here with me but you will come to work”.
Lisa, Betsy, and their team did more than that. They steered the organization through a year of halted funding. They piecemealed work to get them through until AmeriCorps funding was restored a year later. They eventually built the program back up to a robust corps of 35 members. Eight years ago, they navigated a new national strategy: Moving from direct services, like building community gardens and rebuilding houses to capacity building projects that strengthen organizations.
The change from direct services was a big pivot. “We shifted from plug and play projects to long-term sustainable activities. Our corps members are now integral in helping organizations run more efficiently. The members are having a greater impact. Our recruits are coming in with deeper skills and experiences. They are more tech savvy and outreach driven. At the same time, the skills they learn during their year are more transferable to future opportunities. At the end of their service term more doors are open for them.”
In 2016, Lisa took the helm as Executive Director, and with their new Program Director (and corps member alum) Maggie Conarro, launched a massive rebranding. They changed the organization’s name to Serve Louisiana, to be more reflective of the work, commissioned a brand new logo and moved to a newly renovated downtown office that would attract recruits to its mission. With these visible changes, the heart of the organization remains steadfast in its core values: Innovation. Service. Impact. Social Justice. Investment. Collaboration. When all in our community receive equal measures of opportunity and treatment, everyone benefits. Greater organizational capacity encourages a more equitable community and region.
“I believe in National Service. Working with Serve Louisiana has been a privilege. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I get to connect with so many non-profits and see the amazing work that is being done on a local level. But most of all I love working with our members. I love gathering together and sharing meals and stories. I love that they are a part of our family. They are our future leaders and they inspire me everyday” –Lisa Teer