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About Senior Corps 
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Hurricane Volunteer Support Fund
In the wake of the recent hurricanes, the Corporation is coordinating volunteers to assist with repair and relief efforts in areas affected by this devastating storm. Your donation will support volunteers in providing food and shelter, managing donations, helping victims get necessary assistance, and long-term rebuilding efforts.
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USA Freedom Corps Partnering to Answer the President’s Call to Service
 
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, May 23, 2006

CONTACT: Sandy Scott
Phone: 202-606-6724
Email: [email protected]

   

VISTA Marks 40 Years of Fighting Poverty with New Book of Volunteer Stories, Forum

 

More than 177,000 ‘Anti-Poverty Entrepreneurs’ Have Served Since 1965

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) program today released a new book of volunteer stories as part of a two-day series of events to mark more than 40 years of fighting poverty in America.

The book, VISTA… In Service to America, celebrates VISTA’s enduring history of service to those in low-income areas through the personal photographs, reflections, and experiences of 21 VISTA members and alumni. It will be released at an evening reception that will gather together some of the key people who developed VISTA as part of the War on Poverty, including Sargent and Eunice Shriver, former Senator Harris Wofford, and Frank Mankiewicz; VISTA members and alumni; nonprofit and anti-poverty leaders; and current administrators of the program from the Corporation for National and Community Service. To read the book and view VISTA photos, visit www.americorps.gov/vista.

The VISTA celebration will include the awarding of the “Shriver Award for Fighting Poverty” to several lawmakers who have been influential in supporting the program over the years. They include: U.S. Representative Howard Berman of California; U.S. Representative John Lewis of Georgia; U.S Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland; U.S. Representative George Miller of California; U.S. Representative Gwen Moore of Wisconsin; Ralph Munro, long-time Secretary of State in the state of Washington; and U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia. Reps. Berman and Moore and Senator Rockefeller served as VISTA volunteers.

Tomorrow a forum on VISTA’s past, present, and future will be held at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, from 1 – 4 pm.  It will be moderated by Mimi Mager, a member of the Board of Directors of the Corporation and longtime VISTA supporter, and AmeriCorps*VISTA Director Jean Whaley.  In addition to Mr. Mankewicz and Mr. Wofford, other panelists will include Clarence Carter, Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Stamps Program; Jim Richardson, CEO of the National Rural Funders Collaborative; John Taylor, President and CEO of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition; Nan Roman, President and CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness; Jim Scheibel, former Vice President of VISTA; and James Thibeault, a former VISTA volunteer who founded Cabin Creek Quilts Cooperative in West Virginia.

“For more than 40 years, VISTA volunteers have been on the frontlines of the War on Poverty, doing extraordinary work to help people and communities lift themselves out of poverty,” said Corporation CEO David Eisner. “VISTA’s mission is more important today than ever, and VISTA’s legacy lives on through its 6,000 current members, the civic leadership of its alumni, and the ongoing work of thousands of anti-poverty programs started by VISTAs over the years.”

Since its founding in 1965, more than 177,000 Americans have answered VISTA’s call to devote a year of full-time service living and working in low-income communities to help eradicate poverty. Today, VISTA is part of AmeriCorps, and it supports more than 6,000 members each year to develop programs, recruit community volunteers, raise funds, help manage projects, and otherwise build the capacity of nonprofit organizations to help low-income people and communities improve their economic conditions.  VISTA members help to fight illiteracy, expand job opportunities, develop financial assets, reduce homelessness, improve health services, reduce unemployment, increase housing opportunities, and expand access to technology.

Last year AmeriCorps*VISTA members served with more than 1,600 local projects, raised more than $157 million in cash and in-kind resources for their projects, and recruited or managed 509,000 community volunteers – an average of 76 volunteers per AmeriCorps*VISTA member. More AmeriCorps*VISTA facts are available at http://www.nationalservice.gov.

The original idea behind VISTA – that of creating a domestic service program to provide urgently needed services in urban and rural areas of poverty in America — came from President John F. Kennedy in 1963. Less than years later, President Kennedy’s dream was realized when President and Lady Bird Johnson welcomed the first group of 20 VISTA volunteers to the White House, telling them, “Your pay will be low; the conditions of your labor often will be difficult, but you will have the satisfaction of leading a great national effort and you will have the ultimate reward which comes to those who serve their fellow man.”

Throughout the decades, VISTA has evolved to respond to local problems and the changing face of poverty in America. In its first decade, the program helped develop a range of projects around the United States, including Head Start centers, block watch clubs, credit unions, and agricultural cooperatives. As experience with poverty issues grew, VISTA also recruited lawyers, doctors, and architects to work in underserved areas. In the 1980s, the program placed a strong focus on literacy and substance abuse prevention and treatment. In the 1990s, VISTA members created programs to help individuals transition from welfare to work and to provide constructive out-of-school activities for disadvantaged youth. In 2001, VISTA launched an entrepreneur corps to tap volunteers with business and computer skills to run programs providing microenterprise credit, financial literacy, and technology access to poor communities.

“AmeriCorps*VISTA provides a unique approach to fighting poverty through locally developed projects that empower people in the community to work together to solve local problems,” said current AmeriCorps*VISTA Director Jean Whaley. “Our members are anti-poverty entrepreneurs who bring strong energy and deep dedication to making a difference in their communities.”

AmeriCorps*VISTA is part of AmeriCorps, a network of national and community service programs that each year supports the engagement of more than 70,000 Americans in intensive service to meet critical needs in education, the environment, public safety, homeland security, and other areas. AmeriCorps is administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service, which also administers Senior Corps and Learn and Serve America. Together with USA Freedom Corps, the Corporation is working to foster a culture of citizenship, service, and responsibility in America. For more information, visit http://www.nationalservice.gov.

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