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?
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
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