Michigan twins serve in AmeriCorps NCCC

Robbie and Cody Alexander

Twins Cody and Robbie Alexander lived together for 23 years and had never been apart for more than a few days. They grew up playing sports together, worked at the local golf course together and lived as roommates at Adrian College together.

The Michigan brothers also recently served in AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) together – but this time the twins were 1,000 miles apart.

Cody served in the Pacific Region in Northern Sacramento, on McClellan Park Air Force Base, while Robbie served in Aurora, Colorado, in the Southwest Region, just miles from the Rocky Mountains.

Robbie didn’t expect the separation to affect him as much as it did, but admits he broke down in tears at the airport – it was also both of their first times on a plane - when Cody left a week before he did for 10 months of AmeriCorps service.

“Emotionally, I felt like I had just gone through a really bad breakup,” Robbie said. “That first week was by far the roughest.”

Eventually, however, both became so involved with their AmeriCorps experiences, they were able to adjust being apart. The twins were able to rely on each other during their service, discussing issues together, when perhaps it would be difficult for those outside of the program to understand.

“To have someone who understood is probably the biggest blessing that I could have had throughout my time in NCCC,” Cody said. “There were definitely a few times where I was really exhausted and my mental state wasn’t the best, I just needed to vent to somebody, and he was there to listen to me and could provide advice and support that was based in his experiences.”

During their service, the twins, although fraternal and not identical, put friends and family through a test. Both sporting an AmeriCorps NCCC headband with a smile and a wink, they challenged their Facebook followers to identify who was who. The brothers banned their mother from answering, but encouraged others to take a guess. Many were right, but many longtime friends guessed wrong as well.

They said they don’t try to fool people too often,  but  did pull the old switcheroo a few times in class.

Reunited

The brothers didn’t stay apart long.

The Alexander’s service year started in October and during the winter break in December, they were destined to reunite. Cody visited with a fellow AmeriCorps NCCC team member, John, and his family during a service project near Denver. John’s family heard the twins’ story and invited them both to spend the holidays with them.

“They are one of the nicest families we’ve ever encountered, they helped Cody find the flight with John and they bought us Christmas presents and included us in all of their holiday functions and it ended up being just such an incredible week,” Robbie said.

AmeriCorps NCCC Service

Cody started his service in Utah with the Green River Positive action community team, working in a community garden, helping with after school programs and helping out in a thrift store. For his second project, he headed to northern California to help a town rebuild from wildfires. His final project took place in Oregon where Cody and his team helped maintain affordable housing. He also volunteered at the National Veteran Golden Age Games in Alaska.

He became a team leader and was responsible for delegating tasks, planning ahead and solving problems. Cody also learned many basic construction skills.

“Being a team leader was an unexpected journey, but it was probably one of the greatest experiences that I could have had,” Cody said. “It was really a family that we created.”

Robbie first served in New Mexico helping remodel a shelter for at risk youth. He moved on to Texas for the next project, helping to rebuild homes from Hurricane Harvey. His final major project took place in Arkansas, at a historic orphanage that now is utilizing their urban farmland to revitalize the property. He served at numerous independent service projects along the way.

Robbie said serving with AmeriCorps NCCC help him grow his confidence. He admits he was terrified when began, but quickly became immersed with building friendships and serving others.

“You see how people live in those communities, learn their stories and see their struggles, and not only connect with them but then do your best to put a little light and a little hope back into their hearts,” he said.

Moving ahead

The twins plan to use their experience to move forward with career plans and will continue to serve others.

“This was that starting point for a lifetime of volunteerism,” Robbie said. “That’s the NCCC pledge, that you’re not just committing 10 months to this, your signing up for a lifetime of service. It reshapes your entire point of view and everything into perspective. You truly go into the program as one person and leave completely different in some key aspects.”

Both Cody and Robbie encourage others to serve a year with AmeriCorps.

“All the of the people that I met, the sponsors and community members, the stories that I heard, the way that they touched my heart in different ways,” Cody said. “The sense of service that I got out of it and the people that I was able to help; there’s nothing that’s comparable to it. It is truly is a once in a lifetime experience.”