BY KATHRYN RYAN, COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM ASSOCIATE, THE HUB
We asked VISTAs: in your experience, what does VISTA service bring to West Virginia?
Being a VISTA Intermediary, The Hub doesn’t only host VISTAs; we also sponsor VISTAs for other organizations who have programs in need of capacity building. In sponsoring VISTA projects that contribute to community engagement, improvement, and revitalization, we have the opportunity to see a diverse spectrum of what community development looks like across the state.
(Interested in learning more about our VISTA program? Visit our VISTA page).
Here are the responses we received from Hub VISTAs to the question: What does VISTA service bring to West Virginia?
Rachel Pell, Friends of Deckers Creek Environmental Education VISTA
Previous VISTAs before me at Friends of Deckers Creek (FODC) have made a lot of lasting impacts to our organization. This includes entire projects they planned and secured funding for, a beautiful new FODC website, thousands of local students that received hands-on environmental education, tons of trash cleaned up in our watershed, and a lot of other amazing tangible things.
But on top of that, the lasting impact of VISTAs to FODC includes a lot of things that aren’t as easy to see on the surface. This includes kids that, thanks to our educational programming, were given a positive way to look at the environment and ways to protect it – or even sparked an interest in a STEM field for them.
Thanks to the countless public outreach efforts of VISTAs, the FODC community has been able to grow in size, and the public’s perception and recognition of our organization is maintained. These things are important to a nonprofit’s success in countless ways. VISTAs not only allow nonprofits to thrive, but also touch the lives of the volunteers and beneficiaries they work with and bring communities together.
Cynthia McComas, The Hub’s Energizing Entrepreneurial Communities VISTA
While VISTA positions are crucial throughout the country, they are especially relevant to West Virginia, where much of the population lives in poverty, suffers with health problems, and lacks quality education. These are the stories we are so often told, but VISTAs can help change the narrative of West Virginia.
After decades of decline of the economy, population, and general good news, we can now see a resurgence of development in West Virginia, particularly in culture and tourism. There are many VISTA positions in West Virginia because things are happening. Small towns like Thomas, WV are growing and thriving, young people are coming back home, small businesses are opening up, and there are endless opportunities for outdoor recreation. There is much progress to be made, but we are making it right now. Being a VISTA in West Virginia means being a changemaker, an advocate, and a collaborator.
Kristian Stevenson, Regional Family Resource Network VISTA for Kanawha, Boone, and Putnam Counties
As an AmeriCorps VISTA, I see there is a way to provide better opportunities. As a member of the community, I see numerous obstacles that my community faces daily such as poverty, low education levels, and no community involvement.
However, as a VISTA, I can reach out to other organizations and partner with them on ideas to prevent poverty in our area, better the education opportunities, and help families, children, and the community reach their fullest potential on community-based activities.
These opportunities provide a more involved and stable environment and also provides more job opportunities in the community.
Maddie Ferrell, Friends of Deckers Creek Community Engagement VISTA
For me, being a VISTA with Friends of Deckers Creek means that I will be a piece of the puzzle in the efforts to improve the Deckers Creek watershed. There are so many beautiful bodies of water all across the mountain state, and to know I am helping to clean and advocate for one of those beautiful watersheds makes me feel like I’m giving back a valuable resource to our community.
A clean watershed not only displays the health of an ecosystem, but also an active community, as many of our water clean up activities involve community volunteers. The Deckers Creek watershed spans over both Monongalia and Preston County and actively creating a cleaner and healthier watershed gives back recreation opportunities for both communities.
Stephanie VanGilder, On Eagles’ Wings Therapeutic Horsemanship VISTA
Being an Americorps VISTA is rewarding because I am able to show my community how to help others. This means being a leader and a role model to others, which I hope sparks interest in their minds to volunteer and be a positive influence in our communities as well.
It is very important to me that Americorps VISTAs are put in different environments, faculties, or organizations to help our communities in need. I believe the VISTA program’s diversity of service areas creates an inclusive community that serves a wide variety of needs. As a VISTA, I have learned to refine skills related to dedication, persistence, and empathy. It is truly life-changing for both the VISTA and hosting organization to have the opportunity to be sponsored by Americorps. Often times sustainability and capacity building can fall short to day-to-day activities within an organization. I am elated to fill that need as a VISTA. Watching an organization and our community grow and succeed all because of what the Americorps VISTA program is able to provide, is very rewarding and personally gratifying.
Many may not know that VISTAs are on the ground all across West Virginia making impact. They’re laying the groundwork that gives West Virginians the access we need to live the lives we want to live and to create the communities we know possible.
Interested in contributing to this work happening across West Virginia? Donate to The Hub’s VISTA program so we can support West Virginians volunteering every single day to give back to the communities they love »