Blogging in Service to America: Brit Hotaling
It’s November, and the leaves have changed. Summer has long been over, and soon fall will be too. This odd metaphorical occurrence happens every single year, at the end of every single season, and we have come to accept this as a signal of the passing of time. Correlating with this yearly end of things is the end of my service as an AmeriCorps VISTA at Schoharie Area Long Term.
The thing about metaphorical ends and actual, literal endings however is that the literal ones you never seem to see coming.
A frequent question that I have received since beginning my service is actually a simple one.
“Why?” people would ask, looking completely bewildered as to why I had agreed to receive a living stipend as an Events Coordinator.
“You could make so much more doing it somewhere else!” they would say, as I stood silently asking myself the very same question.
The things that led me to serve as a VISTA were based out of personal endeavors and goals. I wanted to be an events coordinator because I wanted more experience in that field, sure. So when a good friend of mine told me about the AmeriCorps program, I instantly jumped into the researching phase- trying to figure out if this was something I should pursue to further my career goals while in pursuit of channeling my creativity into something.
It’s at this point I should mention that from the age of about 18 to 21, I had been living a hidden homeless off and on and was suffering from routine and severe medical ailments that regularly kept me from living my life, both personally and professionally, to its fullest- without having great access to healthcare, like many people dealing with extreme poverty. Add that to the fact that I had been told by numerous people that I would not end up successful and that I would never be much better than mediocre at most things, and you have a recipe for extreme apathy and complacency.
So, after learning that the AmeriCorps VISTA program was focused on fighting poverty in rural areas, I jumped at the chance to help impoverished communities. I knew all too well the feeling of not knowing where your next meal was coming from, not knowing where you would sleep the next night, and having to spend winter nights in your car.
All of this, combined with the preference for a more set schedule of hours and a salary as well as desire for employment with an organization that seemed, on the outset hopeful and driven, led me to AmeriCorps VISTA. After seeing a job posting for an Events Coordinator on the Schoharie Area Long Term Recovery site, I applied.
That November, I was hired, and so began my service at SALT. Throughout the past year, I have gotten to meet so many people, with so many stories and different views of the world that I never imagined I would. Growing up in a specific area can sometimes jade you to meeting new people from the area, and I was no different.
I tend to see the end of fall and beginning of winter as a time of hope and renewal, instead of the typical metaphorical interpretation of endings that have long been purveyed by various literary sources and educators, so I was excited for this new opportunity to continue growing and changing- on both personal and professional levels.
As could be expected, doing events for a college radio station with a much broader staff allowed me to focus more on the creative side of things, so I was extremely grateful to SALT for allowing me to build experience in more technical, logistical planning as well as having the experience of working on a very small staff that wore many hats.
Throughout the past year, I predominantly gained experience in that technical side of things, and I learned that while working in a non-profit for the long term is not something I’m particularly interested in, I am passionate about events and other community building activities. It is my whole hearted belief that bringing people together to celebrate common interests and passions is the best way to build partnerships and trust. And, having the background I do, I have found from my own personal experience that bringing people together to have fun brings me a great sense of joy and satisfaction.
In addition, I have found that my interest in planning events and being able to utilize my creativity in a setting where it is a necessary part of my job as a catalyst to bring people together and make them happy is an incredibly valuable aspect to me. As such, my plans for life after Schoharie Area Long Term involve immersing myself in planning music events and showcases under my business Grassroots Artist Management, which I founded officially in May of this past year. To date, I have planned, executed, and promoted one showcase in Vermont this past fall, and am hoping to focus more on that as my VISTA service comes to an end. I also plan on continuing my radio show on WIOX 91.3 FM and pursuing a freelance writing career. Fortunately, I have met many similarly minded people throughout my experience here, and I look forward to working with them in the future in order to continue building that sense of community togetherness that is too often missing from many areas in this day and age.
So, coming back to that question of “Why?” throughout the past year, and preparing myself for another exciting time of renewal and rejuvenation I have decided upon this simple answer:
“Why not? Why, after viewing and experiencing poverty firsthand and feeling that pain and dealing with it on my own, why would I not want to help another feel a sense of belonging, and of resiliency? Why not, after being told by countless people that I would never succeed, make it known that they too can make something out of themselves?”
Thank you for the experience folks, I’ll be seeing you.