Raphael Blanco was 15 in late August 2005, when Hurricane Katrina devastated his hometown of New Orleans, La. It was tough, Blanco said: “Losing everything; all my childhood stuff, gone.”

Blanco’s family still lives in New Orleans, in a different part of town. He remembers the people who came to help out after Katrina.

Last year, he joined AmeriCorps to be of help himself.

“I was so excited to get the opportunity to return the favor,” Blanco said. It was the reason he joined AmeriCorps.

In fact, he and his team were sent to Long Island, N.Y., in January 2013 to aid with the recovery effort after Hurricane Sandy.

Blanco’s team was among the later teams of AmeriCorps members to reach New York and the other locations hard-hit by the hurricane, which slammed onto the New Jersey shore Oct. 29, 2012. Before it was done, the storm caused about $50 billion in damage along the eastern seaboard, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

AmeriCorps teams worked with the National Guard and FEMA to ensure that victims of the storm — many of them left homeless — had shelter and other necessities for the winter.

Blanco is part of the team currently in Corvallis that is scheduled to return to their campus July 12. But Blanco isn’t finished. He next plans to join AmeriCorps’ State and National program, where he’ll spend another year helping where help is most needed.

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