What do Cross Plains Community Partner, Habitat for Humanity, Friendship House, and Dalton State have in common?
Along with Readers2Leaders, Dalton Downtown Farmers Market, and our own North Georgia Healthcare Partnership home office, these organizations have been the recipients of the efforts of dedicated VISTA volunteers coordinating with the NGHP over the past year.
And if all goes as planned, we should be adding six more volunteer positions to our current eight positions during the coming year.
We have been truly blessed by the efforts of our VISTA partners. As many of you know, VISTA is in many ways like a localized version of the Peace Corps. It’s a one-year commitment to volunteer service aimed at supporting efforts to fight poverty throughout our country. VISTA volunteers receive a small stipend in exchange for a commitment to volunteer for a year to help individuals and communities find long-term solutions for problems that come with impoverished conditions.
VISTA has as its goal to eradicate poverty. But unlike the Peace Cops, most VISTA volunteers are “local.” More than 70% of VISTA volunteers, called VISTAs, actually serve in their own hometowns. Talk about going local. What a great opportunity for socially-conscious individuals to have a lasting impact near their own backyards.
It’s an impressive organization. AmeriCorps VISTA generated around $178 million by VISTA members, nearly doubling every federal dollar invested, last year alone.
In 2016, more than 900,000 community volunteers were mobilized to serve more than 11 million hours of service; three million disadvantaged youth were served; and 188,000 veterans, active duty military, and their families were served.
In the United States last year, more than 8,000 VISTA members served at more than 3,000 sites. And since 1965, more than 220,000 individuals have served as VISTA volunteers.
Interestingly enough, VISTA’s goal is not to keep doing the same thing year after year. In fact, as directed by Congress, VISTAs are short-term resources designed to build the long-term sustainability of anti-poverty programs. VISTA projects are actually developed with the idea that the need for VISTA volunteers will be phased out as the projects become self-sustaining and/or as the need for these projects goes away.
In accordance with its mission, projects sponsored by VISTA must engage low-income community residents in planning, developing, implementing, and evaluating the various projects. Its goal is not to provide direct services to low-income individuals and communities but to strengthen and support organizations by building infrastructure, expanding community partnerships, securing long-term resources, and coordinating training for participants.
And VISTAs are not allowed to participate in activities that take the place of work provided by paid staff or other volunteers. They are, in effect, not replacing anyone or anything, but rather complementing existing programs or helping create new ones, all with the goal of reducing poverty.
We at NGHP are in our first year of coordinating VISTA volunteers, and we look forward to increasing the numbers of projects and volunteers over the coming years. Having VISTAs is a great opportunity for our community to benefit from the talents of these dedicated individuals who make certain sacrifices to serve our great nation.
We hope that in 2018 we will have placements for 14 VISTAs. This should provide an opportunity for interested folks in the community to apply to become a VISTA and to commit to a one-year term of service. And it certainly opens up some additional VISTA sites in Northwest Georgia.
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, or if your organization could benefit from having a VISTA-sponsored program on site, please contact us at 706-272-6662.