AmeriCorps on Thursday pulled two of its National Civilian Community Corps teams out of New Orleans following the slaying of one of its volunteers.
Joseph Massenburg, of Matteson, Ill., was found shot to death in a city neighborhood Monday night. One of the teams was working directly with the 18-year-old and both were sent back to their home base in Vicksburg, Miss., said Samantha Warfield, acting press secretary for the group.
Warfield said the teams had been working with Habitat for Humanity and Green Light New Orleans. She said both were brought back for counseling after the shooting.
"We moved them back to the campus just for the time being," she told The Times-Picayune. "These people worked and lived together as a team -- they are sort of like a small family and their physical and mental well-being is our number one priority."
The move affects about 18 people, she said.
"There seems to be the impression that we're pulling everyone from AmeriCorps out of the city and that is absolutely not the case," she said.
She added that the organization has slightly fewer than 900 AmeriCorps members still working in New Orleans and the group plans to continue sending NCCC members to the city in the future.
NCCC members are usually organized in teams of 10 to 12 members and complete six- to eight-week service projects with local organizations that act as their sponsors and have applied for NCCC assistance.
Massenburg, who had just received his training at the Vicksburg base camp, arrived with his team-members in New Orleans on March 12 and had just begun working with Green Light New Orleans, a local nonprofit that works to install energy-efficient lighting.
NCCC members are required to live near the organization with which they are working, Warfield said. The Green Light New Orleans headquarters is about six blocks away from where Massenburg was gunned down.
Massenburg, a recent high school graduate from suburban Illinois, had joined AmeriCorps because he wanted to dedicate his life to public service, said his father Andre Massenburg.
Both of Massenburg's parents are ministers at a church in their hometown of Matteson, Ill., and said their son spent most of his youth in the pews, where he honed what they called a "natural gift" for giving back to people.
Massenburg's parents said they were told by police that their son had been talking on the phone when he was shot, but police have released no additional details on possible suspects or motives in the killing.