For current AmeriCorps VISTA, Bree, she knows firsthand the beneifts of serving your community through AmeriCorps. She spent 10 months as a Corps Member with AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps) in Sacramento, California back in 2008.
Between graduating from NCCC and applying for VISTA, Bree found herself with lots of questions and few answers. She returned back to her memories of national service and decided to give back while she worked out answers.
“I chose to apply to the VISTA program for many reasons. I felt very unfulfilled with my working life; I had tried a variety of jobs hoping one would click for me but it wasn’t happening. I was also trying to make a decision on whether to go back to school or not; I have attended two different colleges and have yet to obtain a degree in a field I truly wish to study. I chose VISTA because I needed a pause- I wanted to do something meaningful with my forty hours a week and AmeriCorps is a program that returns as much as you invest in it.”
And it seems, six months in, Bree is reaping the personal benefits of the program “Halfway through my VISTA term I am fulfilled with my work at Habitat, I am re-enrolled in school (third time’s the charm!) and will begin classes after my VISTA term is complete in the Fall. The VISTA program allowed me to take a step back from my life and focus on the things that really matter. I am excited to see what the second half of my VISTA term will bring to my life and I am anxiously awaiting my life after VISTA.”
While helping Bree to give back to her community, the VISTA opportunity with Fox Cities Habitat is helping her to learn about her community.
“The most memorable moment so far during my VISTA service would have to be the Fox Cities Housing Coalition’s Annual Report to the Community. During this event the results from the research project, RUSH- Research to Understand and Solve Homelessness, were presented to the community. The project involved surveying over 600 individuals who are either currently homeless or are at great risk of becoming homeless. The survey explored the root causes of homelessness such as childhood trauma, substance abuse, and mental illness. The results of project RUSH shed light on the monster that is poverty and homelessness- the system is broken at all levels, which can be overwhelming to think about, believe me, but it wasn’t long before my hopes were back up after realizing I was surrounded by hundreds of people who understood that a report like that is just one step closer to a solution. It was a day of mixed emotions; I was saddened by all of the hurt and hardship many people have to endure, hopeful that one day there will be a solution, and reassured that I am spending my time wisely by serving as a VISTA.”
Bree spends her day serving two departments here at Habitat: Volunteer Services and Human Resources.
“Each VISTA has set objectives or projects to complete during their term, VISTA’s work behind the scenes at non-profits to create sustainability and increase capacity. One of my set objectives during my term for example is to transition from our current manual volunteer scheduling processes to an automated online process. This will free up a lot of time for the volunteer coordinator so she can spend her time on other things. I also help out with many of the affiliates annual events like the Holiday Gift Wrap for Habitat event at the local mall, and the upcoming Celebration of Partnership event. Mostly I leverage volunteers and work out the logistics involved with many of the event activities.”
A new program that Fox Cities Habitat for Humanity has offered this year has been VISTApaloosa; once a month, all AmeriCorps VISTA members meet on a Friday to work on a wide range of tasks. The morning focuses on goal setting, personal development and life after AmeriCorps. Over lunch, the members meet with a member of the community to learn their experience with Habitat for Humanity and the afternoons are spent touring another housing non-profits to learn about Habitat’s role in the community.
“VISTApalooza, in my opinion, is invaluable. It is easy to get stuck in a routine and to forget about the real reason you are working as a VISTA. VISTApalooza reminds us of our need in the community. We have the opportunity to speak with and learn from members of our community who all play a different role in the fight against poverty. It is very enlightening to hear about the different paths that have lead each person to join in the fight; it makes me feel better about my own personal path and reminds me to have patience.
In addition to learning more about our community and it’s many organizations, VISTApalooza provides us an opportunity to set personal and professional goals. Once our goals are set we are held accountable to take the necessary steps toward achieving them- Habitat assists us any way it can. For instance, one of my personal goals was to decide what I wanted to go to school for, my supervisors allowed me to attend a career development course during normal work hours at one of the local colleges to help me with this goal. VISTApalooza has created an environment of support- my supervisors genuinely want me to succeed both during my VISTA term and afterwards. It is a great feeling!”
While we’re pretty sure we can guess how Bree feels about the program, we had to ask, What would you tell others about the AmeriCorps program?
“I have nothing but good things to say about AmeriCorps! For me, working as a VISTA in the Habitat office is unlike any job I’ve ever had. I have always had more “hands-on” jobs so the office is a different world to me. I am learning new things every day- valuable skills which I will use for the rest of my life. VISTA is challenging but it is a welcome challenge; I forgot what I was capable of and it is preparing me to take on even bigger things in my life after AmeriCorps which I will forever be grateful for.”