Posts Tagged ‘ AmeriCorps VISTA ’

Senate Recognizes VISTA’s 45th Anniversary

Last week, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution honoring the work of Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), for its 45 years of work towards alleviating poverty, and other accomplishments.

Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-VA) and Thad Cochran (R-MS) introduced the resolution (S.Res.449), and were joined by several co-sponsors. Rockefeller first lived in West Virginia as a VISTA, when he was 27 years old.

The resolution recognizes the more than 175,000 VISTAs who have served since 1965, and their creation of “many successful and sustainable community initiatives, including Head Start centers, credit unions, and neighborhood watch groups.” The resolution honors VISTAs’s work on diverse poverty-related issues such as health care, technology, crime/recidivism, housing, and literacy. The resolution also highlights these numbers:

  • 7,000 VISTAs serve each year
  • Annually, VISTAs bring in $100 million in cash and in-kind donations to their organizations
  • Also each year, VISTAs recruit 1 million volunteers who engage in 10 million hours of volunteer service.

Read the entire Senate resolution here. Oddly, the House introduced a similar bill (H.RES.1152) last week, but it wasn’t passed; instead it’s been referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor.

According to a statement today from the Corporation for National and Community Service, which operates VISTA, the resolution marks the official kick off of VISTA’s 45th anniversary celebration — a series of events and celebrations that will take place this year.

Celebrations will include a photography exhibit of VISTA photography from 1968, an effort to collect and share stories of VISTAs, and I’ll be launching a podcast episode featuring three VISTAs who’ve served across the decades during AmeriCorps Week in May.

Are you a VISTA or former VISTA? How will you commemorate the 45th anniversary of the organization?

A Year of Celebrations: the 45th Anniversary of VISTA

Voices of VISTA was a series of radio ads featuring celebrities, and interviews with VISTAs. Listen to the radio spots on the VISTA Campus (free login required).

Happy New Year!

2010 is the 45th anniversary that Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) first fanned out across the country, spending a year organizing communities in poverty, developing local infrastructures, and connecting people with the rights and the social service resources in their regions.

In honor of the 45th anniversary, the Corporation for National and Community Service — the agency that runs VISTA today, as AmeriCorps VISTA — is planning several celebrations throughout 2010, across the country and online.

For example, special events like an exhibit of VISTA photos from the late 60s by then-VISTA Frederico Santi may appear in a few places around the United States, presented during AmeriCorps Week (May 8-15)  and during other times.

Also a focus on poverty issues and a celebration of VISTA’s contributions are in the works for this summer’s National Conference on Volunteering and Service in New York City, among the oldest host cities for VISTAs.

I hope to focus more attention on VISTAs past and present on this blog during the coming year, including writings of VISTAs who have served in the Pacific Northwest and contributed writings to the Northwest National Service Symposium.

To all VISTAs — thanks for your service, and I am excited to help kick off this exciting year! Continue reading

The First Gathering of VISTAs at the White House – 45 Years Ago Today

This past week my friend Rich lent me a copy of a book called Warriors for the Poor by William Crook and Ross Thomas, published in 1968, which tells the story of one of our first national service corps, VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America).

Inspired by the Peace Corps as a way to improve the lives of people in poverty here at home, and initiated several decades after the Civilian Conservation Corps (a public works corps during the Depression years), the VISTA experiment had its share of champions and doubters.

Some doubters didn’t believe U.S. citizens would sign up — but as the numbers of applicants rose throughout the 60s, those doubts were forgotten. Other doubters worried that the corps would be marketed as a glossy panacea to all a community’s woes, and that it would duplicate volunteer efforts on the ground, and that it would unnecessarily bypass a state’s government for approval.

In 1963, still under the Kennedy administration, the first legislation that would have created a National Service Corps or a Domestic Peace Corps barely passed in the Senate, and died in the House Rules Committee.

But in 1964 it finally passed as part of the Johnson administration’s War on Poverty, as a volunteer corps that would help to tackle poverty at the grassroots level, and at the invitation of local communities with the approval of state governors. Last night I read that the first group of VISTAs was received at the White House on Dec. 12, 1964 — exactly 45 years ago today.

Today VISTA is one branch of the AmeriCorps network of service corps overseen by the Corporation for National and Continue reading

For Corps Members: Free or Low-Cost Gift Ideas for People You Love

homemade soap, wrapped in cloth

Giving gifts when you are a corps member.

Last year I wrote about how people can show love to the corps member in their life through their holiday gift-giving. This year I wanted to offer some ideas about how corps members themselves can give gifts when their incomes are often incredibly limited.

I asked The New Service contributors and currently serving corps participants Marissa Pherson of AmeriCorps VISTA and Leslie Dolland of Health Corps to share their thoughts, too. Here are the ideas we’ve collectively come up with.

Setting the Stage for Frugal Gift Exchange

If you are gathering many other corps members, extended family, or among a group of old friends, consider throwing a White Elephant party swapping gifts doesn’t have to be expensive when you’re swapping things you already own.

If you are exchanging gifts individually with others — your partner, close friends, family members, and/or fellow corps members — consider setting some ground rules such as: Continue reading

Really? Another year?: Committing to Another Term of Service

This post was contributed by Kate Borman who is currently serving her second AmeriCorps VISTA term with ThreeSixty Journalism, a youth journalism program based at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN.

Most people are shocked to hear that I chose to serve a second term as an AmeriCorps VISTA member. While the decision to serve an additional year may not have been the easiest choice (thoughts of actually receiving an income prodded my mind constantly) it was equally responsible and wise. Sure the dwindling job market and suffering economy played a tremendous role in my decision – especially after several job interviews resulting in a job offered to someone who had three times my experience. But I made my decision based on richer reasons that have little to do with money.

  1. Long-term investment. Serving a second year means an additional education award, which means I can either use it for future school or to pay off loans. A year or two of service partially funds at least four years of school. Not to even mention the loan forbearance and paid interest. Talk about a steady ROI for such a short period of time.
  2. Professional development opportunities. What other job do you know that allots each of its employees at least $150 in training opportunities before they have even established a year at the organization? Very few to none. AmeriCorps VISTA encourages all of its members to seek out professional development opportunities and even pays for us to do so.
  3. Passion for the work. I consider myself lucky to serve with AmeriCorps simply because I love working with social service organizations and intend to stay in this field of work in the future. By committing to a second term with a different nonprofit, I am widening my perspectives about the operational and organizational structure of nonprofits.
  4. Career building and networking. Since I intend to continue working in nonprofits after my term of service, I am seeking out every opportunity to network and build my career. I was just getting my feet wet and establishing my position in my first term. Now I consciously network and build relationships with other professionals as an effort to best position and market myself for the future. Also, if anything, serving two terms with AmeriCorps only increases my chances as being taken seriously as a devoted nonprofit employee.
  5. Proving myself wrong. My first year of service is what many call a character-building year. For the most part, I did not enjoy my year much, and often felt the VISTAs in my office were being used as cheap labor. I figured this could not possibly be the case for all organizations, and was determined to prove myself wrong by making my second term much better than the first.

I understand that most do not choose to serve a second term for many reasons. However, even on my worst days, I am glad I took the plunge again. On those days, I remind myself that a year is a short commitment and, if anything, this is a huge learning experience from which I will walk away as a stronger, more educated and informed citizen.

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For more related articles, see also:

Service At Home and Abroad: A Joint Peace Corps and AmeriCorps Web Chat

A live, online chat to help you sort out the differences among several service corps.

You knew that Peace Corps Volunteers serve abroad and AmeriCorps members serve in the States. But…

Did you know that Peace Corps Volunteers receive a readjustment allowance at the end of their term totalling around $6,000 — but that AmeriCorps members earn an Education Award (around $5,000) that can be used for tuition and student loans?

Did you know that some AmeriCorps VISTA terms are as brief as 8 weeks, while Peace Corps lasts around 27 months?

Did you know that AmeriCorps members can take on part-time jobs during their term, but Peace Corps Volunteers and VISTAs can’t?

Prospective participants in these programs can get the inside scoop on the differences and similarities among these service corps tomorrow. In honor of the September 11th Day of Service and Remembrance, Peace Corps and AmeriCorps are coming Continue reading

Mistakes I’ve Made, Lessons I’ve Learned…Wisdom from a Second-Year VISTA

Marissa Pherson, AmeriCorps VISTA

Marissa Pherson, AmeriCorps VISTA

A second-year VISTA and new blogger shares her thoughts with new members of her team.

Over-communicate with everyone! In the beginning, I didn’t communicate enough with off-site program staff. They’re super busy and may not be easy to get in touch with, but be persistent and do your part.

Keep track of names, contact info and the type of contact. Another way to think of this is: Imagine on your way home from work one night you get hit by a bus and are in a coma (god forbid). The world continues to go on without you – whoever has to take over for you needs to have something to go on. Can they figure out your mess of notes?

On this note, start with the end in sight. What about the VISTA that replaces you eventually?  Do you want to have to write a procedures handbook to pass on to them during your last week as a VISTA Continue reading

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