AmeriCorps VISTA

What is VISTA?
United Way of Central Kentucky is proud to be the managing partner of our region's AmeriCorps VISTA program through The Corporation for National and Community Service.  AmeriCorps VISTA is dedicated to creating long-term, sustainable solutions to poverty. VISTA provides full-time members to nonprofit, faith based, and other community organziations to create and expand programs that bring low-income individuals and communities out of poverty. VISTA members leverage human, financial, and material resources to increase the capacity of thousands of organizations across the country. VISTAs leave behind lasting solutions to some of our country’s toughest problems.
 
What do VISTA Members do?
VISTAs make a year-long, full-time commitment to serve on a specific project at a nonprofit organization or public agency. VISTAs generally do not provide direct services, such as tutoring children or building homes.  Instead, they focus their efforts on building the organizational, administrative, and financial capacity of organizations that fight illiteracy, improve health services, foster economic development, and otherwise assist low-income communities. VISTAs develop programs to meet a need, write grants, and recruit and train volunteers.
 
As a VISTA, you can:
• Create a child abuse prevention campaign and recruit volunteers.
• Set up a financial literacy program to help families reach self-sufficiency.
• Expand programs to help low-income families obtain affordable health insurance.
• Recruit mentors for at-risk children.
• Organize shelter and job opportunities for victims of disasters.
 
In each case, you’ll be strengthening an organization so it can continue to serve the needs of the community once AmeriCorps VISTA’s support has ended.
 
How do I become a VISTA?
There are currently 11 VISTAs placed at 6 nonprofits in our community.  Learn more about openings and our VISTA projects here. 
 
How can my agency host a VISTA?
VISTAs are tremendous resources to the community, specifically in projects where they focus on Anti-Poverty Initiatives, Community Empowerment, Sustainability, and Capacity-Building.  VISTAs perform indirect service, such as recruiting volunteers, writing grants, expanding current services, or starting new programs.  According to Independent Sector, the value of a VISTA is approximately $58,600 per year.  We have seen even greater results on a local level, such as one VISTA who secured $1,000,000 in funding for her organization.   Learn about how to bring a VISTA to your organization here. 
 
What do VISTAs mean to Central Kentucky?
UWCK’s AmeriCorps VISTAs raised $389,532  in donations, recruited 1,175 volunteers, and generated over 32,966  hours of service at a value of $692,286. Last year alone, the VISTA program had a $1,081,000 impact on our community. VISTAs have brought $5 million in value to our region since 2010.
 

VISTA Impact Stories

United Way of Central Kentucky Community Engagement VISTA, Ashley Tiemann, coordinated a week long Day of Action event that occurred June 19th-25th.  Day of Action is a United Way initiative that engages community volunteers in meaningful ways that tie back to national and local goals to advance the common good in education, income, and health.  United Way of Central Kentucky’s week long Day of Action’s goal was to recruit hundreds of volunteers for a region-wide week of service benefitting all types of nonprofit agencies, schools, and churches. This year Ashley partnered with 11 agencies throughout Hardin, Grayson, LaRue, and Meade Counties. She utilized new and established networks to recruit 85 volunteers.  Volunteers completed various tasks such as painting curbs in a town square, packing and distributing food to needy families, or sprucing up landscaping.  Volunteers served over 253 hours making a financial impact estimated at $4,117 and benefitting over 300 families and individuals.

United Way of Central Kentucky Housing & Homelessness VISTA, Tim Garren coordinated Hardin County’s first ever H-Count.  Although the primary focus of the H-Count was to gather data from the county’s impoverished citizens, Tim collaborated with Feeding America, Kentucky’s Heartland to provide 30 pounds of fresh produce, milk and eggs to 115 families – a value of $6440.00.  He also partnered with 23 health and human services agencies to set up informational booths for community members to visit.  His efforts netted the completion of 114 surveys that will be analyzed to determine paths forward in the fight against poverty in the communities United Way of Central Kentucky serves.

USA Cares, Grant Manager/VISTA Leader, Darla Brown, received a $125,000 grant from Delta Dental.  The grant award will be split with $50,000 of the funding used as sponsorship for the organization’s annual gala.  The remaining $75,000 will be utilized to support programming.  Darla also generated 9,889.36 in in-kind advertising through her Google AdWords account in June.  Finally, since the beginning of this project year in September 2015, she has increased USA Cares’ Twitter followers by 2,392.

Breckinridge County Schools Preschool Program VISTA, Nancy Lucas, recently organized a science festival appropriately named “The Touch Feely, Messy Mucky Science Festival.  She collaborated with the Kentucky Science Center in Louisville to bring the event to the Hardinsburg Elementary School gymnasium where 125 preschool students were bussed in to attend.  The festival is designed to engage and educate students on messy science through chemical reactions, sensory play and experimentation.  Students learned about making observations, asking and answering questions and working collaboratively.  Students traveled through 5 experimentation stations where they made Oobleck, a mixture that reaches a state that is liquid and yet is solid too!  They made sand dough, sugar slush and slime.  They experimented with excellent explosions, using Alka-Seltzer, baking soda and vinegar and also explored chromatography, separating individual colors from black markers.  The event was very successful thanks to Nancy’s coordination efforts.  She was even able to secure the Oobleck recipe for some of the teachers in attendance! http://www.exploratorium.edu/science_explorer/black_magic.html

Community Health Clinic’s Expansion VISTA, Martha Farmer, has a unique story.  Before becoming an AmeriCorps VISTA she was a patient at the free clinic she now serves.  As an ambassador for the clinic and United Way of Central Kentucky (UWCK) she has shared her story, in her voice, to countless community members.  She’s lent her voice to radio spots and commercials, galas, board meetings, committee meetings, campaign meetings, and is featured on UWCK’s website and Annual Report.  Martha’s servant spirit has inspired so many because she describes, with great courage and humility, how the Community Health Clinic saved her life!  During her speaking engagements she often says, “Sometimes you just need to be humble and ask for help.”  Her commitment exceeds expectations on so many levels and our community benefits every day that she serves as an AmeriCorps VISTA!