I suppose I have a different perspective about VISTA than most others. VISTA, Volunteers in Service to America. The organization is coming up on its 50th anniversary, begun in 1965. I was a teenager then. So I remember when President Kennedy established the Peace Corps, in 1961. He asked how many people would be willing to serve our country overseas, in the cause of peace. VISTA followed. How many would be willing to serve our own country, in trying to defeat poverty? The highest rate of poverty in the US was in 1959, at 22.4%, just prior to the establishment of VISTA. At this point, AmeriCorps VISTA engages more than 75,000 Americans each year in community service.
So, why do I like being a VISTA? I served in my local community years ago in youth organizations, and later in community organizing. It felt gratifying to know that I was helping out. But now I am involved in a larger perspective. I’m a VISTA assigned to SALT, Schoharie Area Long Term Recovery. I do this full time, and it gives me great satisfaction. I get paid a small stipend, and it is sufficient for me. To quote a national service site, “AmeriCorps does more than more communities forward…”, although that should should be pretty good right there. It also provides the VISTA member with plenty of service options and the opportunity to gain skills.
In my year of service, which started in March this year, I have been working in business and community development in Middleburgh. This is a small community that has made significant strides since the flood. I know we are all tired of hearing about the flood at this point, but the fact remains that there is still plenty to do to get us back to being a thriving community. That is SALT’s intention. And I’m grateful to be a part of that vision. I’m not working on my own, but in collaboration with many others, and I’m helping my hometown. That gives me a great deal of personal satisfaction. VISTA? Yes, I’m proud to be a part of that. SALT has the privilege of having VISTAs working on a variety of projects that will do that thing — move communities forward.