2014 marks the twentieth anniversary of AmeriCorps. Comprised of three main branches, including AmeriCorps State & National, AmeriCorps National Civilian Conservation Corps (NCCC), and AmeriCorps Volunteer In Service To America (VISTA), AmeriCorps service members work on varied tasks throughout the US to “get things done for America.”
From planting trees and restoring trails in national parks to tutoring children in schools across the country, more than 820,000 AmeriCorps service members have served for over a billion service hours, since the first AmeriCorps cohort entered the field in 1994. Since 2009, more than two-dozen VISTAs have served with Philabundance. Each full-time VISTA service member devotes a full year to community service, earning a modest living stipend close to the area poverty line. At the end of their years of service, VISTAs earn either a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award or a monetary award of $1,000. Philabundance relies on its VISTA members to strengthen our initiatives through vital capacity-building work. Here is just a sampling of projects that showcase the importance of VISTA service members’ work:
- VISTAs worked to establish Philabundance’s Grocers Against Hunger (GAH) program. This food donation program engage local grocers throughout the Delaware Valley in the fight against hunger. Today, this program is one of Philabundance’s most successful food donation programs, acquiring more than 6 million pounds of food in 2013.
- Philabundance’s GIS and Data Analysis VISTAs have made hundreds of maps depicting hunger & poverty throughout the Delaware Valley and the state of Pennsylvania. These VISTAs’ maps have been integral to visualizing the impact of Philabundance programs, and were key to launching the Fare & Square grocery store in Chester, PA.
- Philabundance’s Agricultural Initiatives VISTAs successfully piloted Philabundance’s gleaning program. By working with local farms to harvest produce that would otherwise be plowed under after the harvest ends, these VISTAs led Philabundance in retrieving over 270,000 pounds of produce in 2013 alone.
- By both researching and assisting in the launch of advanced volunteer tracking technology, and by playing an instrumental role in developing Philabundance’s Skills-Based Volunteer program, VISTAs in the Volunteer Department have greatly expanded Philabundance’s capacity to effectively work with our volunteer base.
- VISTAs working in External Affairs have played vital roles in launching Philabundance partnerships with numerous efforts to fight hunger in collaboration with other organizations. These organizations include Feeding Pennsylvania, the National CSFP Association, the Mayor’s Task Force on Senior Hunger, and the Philadelphia Food Access Collaborative.
Philabundance is extremely grateful for the hard work and determination that our VISTAs have put forth over the past five years, and looks forward to continuing to work with AmeriCorps VISTA members in future years. If you’re interested in learning more about VISTA or embarking upon a year of service with Philabundance, contact Jennifer Wright, Philabundance’s Public Policy Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or check out AmeriCorps VISTA’s website.