BY KATELYN CAMPBELL, ABANDONED PROPERTIES COALITION & COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT POLICY VISTA, THE HUB
As the end of my year of service at The Hub has grown closer, lots of people have asked me about how I became a VISTA in the first place. The answer? I wanted to do the most good I could in 12 months for an organization I care about.
A year ago at this time, I was finishing up an internship at a nonprofit in Washington, DC and wondering what I was going to do next. I was about six months out of college, and for the first time in my life, I didn’t really have a plan for my immediate future.
I knew I wanted to apply to graduate school, and that I needed to work for the year in between when I applied and when I hoped to start. I also knew that I didn’t want to begin work at an organization with a quickly-approaching exit plan in mind, particularly because the cost of going through a hiring process in time and money is so high.
As one does, I posted the question that had been running through my head on Facebook — “If you could do anything, what would you do for ~12 months?”
A friend of mine, Dan Taylor – Coordinator of The Hub’s Energizing Entrepreneurial Communities Program – responded, “VISTA at The Hub!”
Nearly one year after taking Dan up on his suggestion, I am rounding out a very eventful 12 months of service as a VISTA with the Abandoned Properties Coalition. Here’s a snapshot of some of the projects I’ve gotten to work on over the past year:
- Visited 18 different communities around West Virginia to learn about abandoned property and other issues local people are facing
- Collaborated with the Center for Community Progress, the Northern WV Brownfields Assistance Center, and the Huntington Urban Renewal Authority to create a groundbreaking report: What Does the Sale of Property Tax Debt Mean for West Virginia Communities?
- Created a database of ordinances proposed by municipalities participating in West Virginia’s Municipal Home Rule Pilot Program
- Interviewed and documented the stories of nine organizations to create a fundraising resource for civic engagement work in West Virginia
- Applied for and received funding to support a strategic planning process for the Abandoned Properties Coalition to set the course for the next three years
- Created a process for producing The Hub’s annual Legislative Hubbub newsletter, a weekly email that breaks down what’s going on at the WV Legislature related to community development
- Visited multiple vacant and abandoned properties around the state
Along the way, I’ve been able to build relationships with people who are doing great work to build up communities around West Virginia. I’ve also been able to to develop professional skills in meeting facilitation and team building, and have (mostly) gotten over my distaste for talking on the phone.
Once my service officially ends, I’ll be heading down to North Carolina to pursue a PhD in American Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Even though I’m moving five hours away, I’ll always be thankful for the year I got to serve back home in West Virginia.
Want to learn more about serving as a VISTA at The Hub? Reach out to our VISTA Program Coordinator, Kathryn Ryan, at firstname.lastname@example.org.