Michelle’s connection to the community is what ultimately led her to the VISTA opportunity. Michelle has deep roots and strong relationships in her hometown community, Petersburg.
“I worked for the Grant County Convention & Visitors Bureau for around a year and a half before my manager told me about the opportunity to volunteer for a year,” Michelle explains about her path to her year in service. “I’ve wanted to be more involved in community development and I felt this was the perfect way to start. I’ve been partnering with a few organizations around Grant County to create events at South Side Depot, which Is part of the CVB.”
Michelle wants to make her town as beautiful as it could be. For her, Petersburg’s community is invested in making a positive change and the town is already starting to benefit from the collaboration. Over the past year, nine new businesses have opened in Petersburg and there is construction happening in several places around town.
“I started planning a Days of Service cleanup project earlier in the year and people are really starting to come together for that,” Michelle says. “We’ve gotten several donations for supplies and other things needed. We have several small groups and clubs that are volunteering with us during those 3 days. We’re all working together to make our city beautiful again.”
Residents of communities are the experts on what is most needed in their towns. Growing up in Petersburg has been an advantage for Michelle as she selects projects to focus her attention on for beautification and revitalization. Currently, Michelle has her eyes on cleaning up the creek that runs down the middle of downtown. The trash-littered banks bother her because she knows how beautiful the town could be if people didn’t litter.“I’m really happy to have grown up here and be able to make changes like this for the better,” Michelle proudly states. “I love being involved in the positivity going on around the community. It makes me very proud.”
Her hope is for more young people to choose to invest in making their hometowns into a place that fills them with pride. As she sees her friends returning to their hometowns after years away for school, Michelle is resolute in her mission to help Petersburg. This is something she thinks all young people should know about their own hometowns.
“There are always ways to better your community,” Michelle tells young West Virginians. “I believe that cleanup projects are a great beginning to revitalizing a city. The more you can get involved, the better.”
Michelle takes the idea of experiencing your hometown like a tourist to heart and lets it lead her work in Petersburg. Thinking about what she loves about her town allows her to think about what she would like people to experience when visiting. This knowledge is what directs her projects and her beautification efforts.
The West Virginia Development Hub hosts AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) members in communities participating in our coaching programs as well as in partnership with organizations around the state. The Hub currently has VISTA sub-sites in Fairmont, Morgantown, Rainelle, Clarksburg, Elkins, and other communities. The VISTA program was founded in 1965 and is an anti-poverty program providing needed resources to nonprofit organizations and public agencies to help lift communities out of poverty. The VISTA program places volunteers 18 years or older into communities where they perform a year of full-time volunteer service.
In the VISTAs of West Virginia series, you’ll learn more about the VISTAs working in Hub communities uplifting economic and community development teams around the state.
Interested in becoming a VISTA? Check out current opportunities through The Hub »