VISTAs share their AmeriCorps stories
This past year nearly 80,000 Americans volunteered a year of their life to community service through AmeriCorps. These volunteers, known as AmeriCorps members, work with local schools, governments, non-profits and faith based groups to meet community needs.
As of March 2011, there were 1,076 AmeriCorps members serving in West Virginia. We are fortunate to have 18 AmeriCorps members currently serving in Pocahontas County. In addition, there are a handful of folks who just completed AmeriCorps service here and more fresh faces are on the way.
This year the fifth annual AmeriCorps Week will be celebrated May 14-21.
Pocahontas County is joining this national celebration in the following ways:
Community members are encouraged to be an "AmeriCorps member for a day." Follow the lead of those who dedicate a year in service to our community by pitching in for a day to help build the Durbin Library on Saturday, May 21. In addition, everyone is invited to celebrate our local AmeriCorps members and alums at a community picnic in Marlinton Municipal Park at Stillwell Sunday, May 22, from 2-5 p.m. If you'd like, bring a snack or sweet treat to share. Or, just bring your family and friends. There will be live music, games and great company.
Finally, to honor this year's AmeriCorps Week theme, My AmeriCorps Story, we look to what AmeriCorps has helped to accomplish locally through area AmeriCorps VISTA members. Here are their AmeriCorps stories.
Clay Condon was born and raised in Pocahontas County. He began his AmeriCorps VISTA year in February with the Pocahontas County Water Resources Task Force. In his short time as a VISTA, Clay has already contributed by compiling and digitizing well data, engaging agency stakeholders and partnering with the Use Your Noodle after-school program to provide watershed education to local students. Although there may be travel in store for Clay once his AmeriCorps service is up, Pocahontas County will always be home. You can learn more about the WRTF at www.pocahontaswater.org. To inquire about the task force, volunteer stream monitoring or watershed education, email Clay at email@example.com
Michelle Evans, from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Pocahontas County Convention and Visitor's Bureau where she runs the "[Wo]Man on the Street Marketing Research" project. Michelle's research for the CVB's Marketing Department has resulted in a new direction for their marketing plan. The CVB is hopeful this revamped plan will attract more visitors to the county and in turn help create and sustain jobs. Michelle has committed to re-enrolling for a second VISTA year with the CVB which will begin in August. You can visit the CVB on the web at www.pocahontascountywv.com and also check out Michelle's blog "News and Views from Marlinton" at www.pocahontastimes.com
Ashley Fleming just completed her VISTA service with the Pocahontas County Family Resource Network. She is proud to have spent her year helping FRN continue its programming in Pocahontas County. You can learn more about the FRN at www.gomarlinton.com/frn/. Ashley is from Houston, Texas, but plans to remain in Pocahontas County post-VISTA. She looks forward to remaining involved in the community while she contemplates what's in store for her. Ashley's successor, Marian Bender, begins her service year in early June.
Ryan Henderson is wrapping up his VISTA year with Allegheny Mountain Radio. During his time at AMR, Ryan developed a radio show with four students from Pocahontas County High School and got high school sports programming on the radio in Highland, Bath and Pocahontas counties. Ryan also did all the prep work for future Pocahontas County High School football and basketball radio coverage. Next school year will mark the first ever live coverage of PCHS sporting events, www.alleghenymountainradio.org. Ryan plans to pursue graduate school in his life after VISTA.
Emily Lassiter, from Burlington, North Carolina, just finished her first year as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace. Emily's contributions to the PSBB include digitizing photo archives and documents, securing grant funding and creating a database for collections records. She also counted and numbered 7,000 autographed Pearl S. Buck books, wrote the organization's newsletter and coordinated the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival. Emily is staying in Pocahontas County to serve a second year as a VISTA with the Pocahontas County Chamber of Commerce. After that, she plans to attend grad school to study public history.
Kate Miley, from Siren, Wisconsin, just finished her term as a VISTA with the Midwives Alliance of West Virginia. Kate was instrumental in strengthening the MAWV's financial, human and administrative capacities. She did this through grant writing and public education and outreach. Kate partnered with the West Virginia Friends of Midwives to organize and facilitate more than 20 educational events about midwifery and the Midwives Model of Care. Kate also secured a March of Dimes grant which will fund the next MAWV VISTA project. MAWV will be launching a new website in the near future. Until then, you can learn more about midwifery at www.friendsofmidwives.com
Thomas Peterson, originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, moved to Pocahontas County with his wife about a year and a half ago. Thomas began serving as a VISTA with the Pocahontas County Prevention Coalition last August. His accomplishments with the PCPC include hosting prescription drug abuse forums and a culminating summit, holding healthy workplace trainings for a local business, organizing a prescription drug take back day and coordinating a health fair at Pocahontas County High School. Thomas plans to remain in Pocahontas County and continue to help youth make good decisions once his VISTA service is complete.
Jamie Poster is wrapping up her year of service as a VISTA with the Pocahontas Opera House Foundation (www.pocahontasoperahouse.org). Jamie was raised in Los Angeles, California, but has lived in many places and came to Pocahontas County via Portland, Oregon. Of all Jamie's contributions to the Opera House this year, she is most excited about continuing the world music education program which was started by former VISTA Jennie Terman. After her VISTA service, Jamie plans to return to California where she will continue leading laughter yoga and teaching piano while she applies to grad school programs in public policy.
Hazel Scott, from Bainbridge Island, Washington, serves as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the High Rocks Educational Corporation. Hazel has been an incredible asset to High Rocks during her service year. She contributed to the development of the High Rocks College Program by helping forge a partnership with New River Community and Technical College and by recruiting students. Hazel also helps out by tutoring High Rocks girls - most often in math - and is currently working to update the High Rocks database. Once her VISTA service is complete, Hazel plans to return home to the Pacific Northwest.
Katherine (Kat) Thompson split her time during her first year as a VISTA between the Pocahontas County Chamber of Commerce (www.pccocwv.com) and the Child and Youth Advocacy Center (www.childandyouthadvocacy.org). Her work for the Chamber included fund raising, event planning, organizing the 2011-2012 Business Directory (the Chamber's first in more than a decade) and developing the Young Professionals Career Networking Program. This program, known as YPP, connects high school students with Chamber business owners for mentorship opportunities. Kat's accomplishments with the CYAC include fundraising, opening the Marlinton CYAC satellite office and strengthening relationships with CPS, law enforcement and other child-focused local organizations. Since Kat helped launch the Marlinton CYAC office, the number of child victims assisted by the CYAC in Pocahontas County has doubled. Kat is from Savannah, Georgia, but plans to stick around Pocahontas County for another year of VISTA. This time around, she'll be working full-time with the CYAC.
Roxy Todd is an AmeriCorps VISTA working on a project titled "Traveling 219 through History." This project will gather new information, photos, writing and oral histories to update materials written in the 1930s as part of the Federal Writers' Project. Roxy has recorded more than 25 hours of interviews with community members in Tucker, Randolph, Pocahontas and Greenbrier counties. She has begun to survey the area and talk with folks in at least 24 small towns, parks and historical sites along US 219. If you're interested in learning more about the rebirth of the Federal Writers' Project including how you can participate, visit http://senecatrailwritersproject.wikispaces.com/Seneca+Trail+Writers%27+Project or call Roxy at 304-636-8889.
Kelly Williams just finished her VISTA year with Pocahontas Woods (www.PocahontasWoods.com). During her time as a VISTA, Kelly helped increase enrollment in Pocahontas Woods' apprentice program and supervised the development of a new website. Kelly has returned home to the D.C. area where she'll still be close enough to make occasional visits to Pocahontas County.
In addition to all the VISTAs, there are several AmeriCorps State members living and working in Pocahontas County these days.
AmeriCorps VISTAs work strictly in a capacity building role whereas AmeriCorps State programs utilize members through a combination of direct service and capacity building. Thus, while a VISTA might create a tutoring curriculum, raise funds for a tutoring program and recruit community volunteers to work with students, an AmeriCorps State member would develop the program then work directly to tutor students, as well.
The High Rocks Educational Corporation sponsors six AmeriCorps State members in Pocahontas County.
Corey Bonasso and Adrienne Juergens are working with Grow Appalachia to support families who want to grow, preserve and sell food locally. Jessica (JP) Perry and Annie Mountcastle developed and now run the Use Your Noodle after-school enrichment program for elementary students. Vanessa Clay and Lisa-Sun Gresham work with Pocahontas County High School students in college readiness and creative arts projects. For more information, visit www.highrocks.org.
The Appalachian Forest Heritage Area (http://www.appalachianforest.us/) also sponsors two local AmeriCorps State members.
Vince Weeks and Sarah Colletti are serving their AmeriCorps year with the Forest Service through AFHA.
To learn more about AmeriCorps State and VISTA, visit www.americorps.gov. Also, next time you're looking for a service opportunity, please remember our AmeriCorps members and contact a project in an area that interests you.