They come in slowly at first, only a few at a time, but it's not long until entire groups of kids spill into the Logan Hills community center and cries of "Miss Liz!" ring out.
Elizabeth Glunt, a student at Penn State Altoona, greets the kids as they drop off their backpacks and jackets, race to the sink to wash their hands and grab a snack of oranges and sandwich crackers before finally settling down.
In a few minutes, those same energetic kids, 18 in total this particular Thursday, gather quietly in a circle for "announcements."
AmeriCorps volunteer Sheena Tippett shows Appalachia Intermediate Unit 8 Director of Human Resources Brian Myers projects created by 4-H groups for Pennsylvania 4-H Week.
The students, all of various ages and spread across grades kindergarten through sixth, share a joke or something they accomplished at school that day with the group before starting their daily activity - this time learning about recycling and composting.
For Glunt, it is another typical afternoon as an AmeriCorps volunteer working for the Gloria Gates Foundation in Logan Hills.
"Our mission is to break the cycle of poverty," Glunt said.
Many of the students under her care are underprivileged kids from the surrounding housing project.
Children enrolled in the program typically arrive at the community center at about 4 p.m. - currently three centers are open in various neighborhoods in Altoona - and stay until 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
During that time they receive help with their homework, learn about respect and integrity, but above all have a place to spend their afternoon in neighborhoods will very little activities for children, Glunt said.
As a part-time AmeriCorps volunteer, Glunt dedicates 20 hours a week to the kids, making sure they are completing their school assignments but also introducing them to activities such as arts, crafts and even yoga.
Toni Bilik, site coordinator at the Gloria Gates Foundation's Logan Hills location, said the work AmeriCorps volunteers like Glunt provide is "invaluable."
"We get a much more experienced, educated pool of candidates," that apply for the positions, Bilik said.
Volunteers are active across Blair County as part of the the local AmeriCorps initiative, the Pennsylvania Mountain Service Corps, Eastern Region Coordinator Raymond A. Vandzura said. Pennsylvania Mountain Service Corps volunteers are active in 16 counties including Bedford, Blair and Cambria, Vandzura said.
While many work at schools teaching children that need additional assistance outside of their regular classes, AmeriCorps volunteers are active in a wide variety of service projects.
United Way of Blair County is involved in a variety of community efforts, all through the help of their AmeriCorps volunteers Dana Dodson.
The United Way has both its hands full with the services it provides in the area, Susanna Tomlinson, Director of the United Way Family Resource Center, said.
And AmeriCorps members are that extra helping hand, Vandzura added.
Tomlinson said she "can't imagine" operating the center's family visitation programs, community garden projects and clothing drives without the assistance of an AmeriCorps.
The same is true for Sharon McDonald at the Blair County Penn State Extension.
As the extension's Nutrition, Health and Food Safety Educator, McDonald said AmeriCorps volunteer Sheena Tippett's work with children in Blair County has ensured an interest in 4-H programs across the county.
"We really couldn't run our 4-H program without an AmeriCorps person," McDonald said. "The AmeriCorps person becomes the go-to person to stabilize and build relationships with the county 4-H clubs."
Tippett, who travels across the area meeting with the various 4-H clubs, said learning and working with the kids involved in the various programs "has been a great opportunity."
The variety of experiences available for volunteers ensures AmeriCorps members will be assisting in the community in different capacities, Vandzura said.
But for volunteers like Glunt, who worked at the Gloria Gates Foundation for a full year before joining AmeriCorps, the program ensures the children and their community receive the proper care and services they need.
"I love it here," Glunt said, watching the children as they ran around the room, video games and books in hand. "I love AmeriCorps."
Mirror Staff Writer Zach Geiger is at 946-7535.