Today is Mayor’s Day of Recognition for National Service. Every day in communities across America, AmeriCorps members and Senior Corps volunteers address the most pressing challenges facing our cities and nation, from educating students for the jobs of the 21st century and supporting veterans and military families to preserving the environment and helping communities recover from natural disasters. CNCS annually engages five million citizens in service at more than 70,000 sites in 8,500 cities across the country. Just here in Utah County we have 1,050 national service members at 82 locations through AmeriCorps State and National, Senior Corps, Retired Senior Volunteer Program, and AmeriCorps VISTA all focused on specific projects to help alleviate poverty in the United States.
Learn more about what it’s like to be an AmeriCorps VISTA from the following three current national service members:
Gretchen Devine was drawn to serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA after traveling in Nepal and serving an LDS mission in South America. “I was able to see first-hand the impact that individuals could make in their own neighborhoods and communities, and I wanted to find a way to be a part of that here.” That desire led her to join as an AmeriCorps VISTA and work in Utah County as part of the Volunteer Empowerment Project. She has served two years locally at United Way of Utah County, currently as the VISTA leader. She works closely with the 19 VISTA’s on her specific project, doing site visits, helping compile statistics, planning trainings, and ensuring the overall success of the project along with the coordinator.
Lindsey Encinas with Project Read has loved her time serving in Provo. “I’m involved in volunteer recruitment, curriculum development, and training, so oftentimes I’m not able to see the direct impact of the program on its students. One week I had the opportunity to visit our Tutoring Lab…I saw our adult students of different ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds working together to improve their lives through literacy. I came home that day knowing that my VISTA service was worth it, not just to me, but to [our program participants] who are self-motivated to change their situations through reading and education. I was touched, inspired, and invigorated by being able to see how literacy skills can impact a person’s life.”
Kirsten moved from Arizona to Utah County so that she could serve with the South Franklin Community Center. “The SFCC is supported almost entirely by volunteer hours and community partnerships. As a VISTA, it is my job to coordinate new programs and activities at the SFCC, find funding and donations, work directly with volunteers, and to make sure everything is running smoothly. Without the support of VISTAs, local organizations, foundations, and our beloved volunteers, the SFCC would not be in existence today.”
Like Lindsey’s experience, she has found that her time volunteering in the community has made a significant impact. “In the relatively short time I have lived here, I have learned the ins and outs of the Provo and Utah County communities. True to Gandhi’s quote however, I have learned equally as much about myself. I have solidified my values, my work ethic, my perspective, and most importantly, I have built relationships that have impacted my life forever.”
Given the many social needs facing our communities – and the fiscal constraints facing government at all levels – mayors, like me, are increasingly turning to national service as a cost-effective solution to meet city needs.
National service shows the best of the American spirit – people turning toward problems instead of away, working together to find community solutions. Today, as we thank national service members for their commitment, let us all pledge to do our part to strengthen our city through service and volunteering.
To learn more, check out the National Service website: www.nationalservice.gov