The Fall Workshop was held on Tuesday, October 9th at the University of Scranton. This one day workshops provides an opportunity for VISTAs, supervisors, and community partners to collaborate on their VISTA project.
By Alexandra Garney, CCNYPA*VISTA serving at University of Pennsylvania
As we showed-up to the Fall workshop, I couldn’t believe that so much time had already passed since I had begun as a VISTA at the end of July. It felt like just the other day that we had all attended our first retreat. The agenda for the day included a lot of opportunities to connect with other supervisors and VISTAs across programed focuses, geographic areas, and interest areas. We kicked-off the morning learning about our True Colors Leadership style. My supervisor and I both had the same leadership color. It was interesting to think about how that influenced our working styles and approaches. Later, we also reviewed my VAD. It is helpful to consistently find time to revisit this document to ensure we are both on the same page and that the VISTA project is progressing. Finally, we closed out the day with our VISTA team and had the chance to brainstorm in small groups about different areas in which we were interested. I appreciated this activity and talked to some other VISTAs about planning for after our year of service. It was awesome to hear about what others were thinking and start to create my own plan.
"Getting together with the entire cohort of VISTAs and supervisors was beneficial in several ways: 1) seeing the breadth and reach of the work we are doing was energizing and positive, 2) hearing best practices and strategies to engage in this work will inform my logistical practices and programming, 3) thinking about how I personally engage in this work and what my strengths and challenges are was eye opening and timely." ~Supervisor
"My greatest take away from this meeting was that I was able to connect and share ideas with other VISTAs who are involved in similar projects as my own." ~VISTA
"I took away that there is no perfect project and that everyone has some sort struggle with their project. With saying that, though, they/we are not alone in the struggle with the support of many individuals, which is helpful!" ~VISTA
"What an amazing group of VISTA workers!" ~Supervisor
By Troy Okum, VISTA serving at Shippensburg University
Community service can come in a variety of ways. Sometimes it is as simple as helping your neighbor shovel snow off of their sidewalk or it can be more intricate, like organizing a spaghetti dinner fundraiser. Whatever the case may be, service to others, especially to strangers, is the glue that keeps a community together so that all of its members can thrive.
It is human nature to want to help others, but one problem people often face is how they can get involved. Many organizations and people are in need of support, but in a busy world that is flooded with distractions it hard to cut through the clatter and be heard. This is especially true in a college town, where students are unfamiliar with the community and can be easily separated from it.
Rest assured though, when there is a will to help and serve others, there is always a way to do so. Like many schools, Shippensburg University (SU) organizes events through its community engagement office to create a link between the campus and local populations. Perhaps the greatest of these events is the Fall Day of Service, which allows eager volunteers to serve Shippensburg in both big and small ways.
More than 300 SU community members participated in the second annual Fall Day of Service on Sept. 8 to help dozens of organizations throughout the area.
The day of service is a chance for SU students to work alongside faculty, staff, and alumni to serve the greater Shippensburg region. Community service projects included cleaning and maintaining places like the rails to trails and a historic cemetery, while other volunteers traveled to farm fields to glean watermelons, (which yielded about 10,000 pounds of produce!).
And of course, when there is any community service project it is likely a VISTA won’t be too far away.
In this case, the SU Social Work Department and AmeriCorps VISTA Troy Okum teamed up to organized a car wash to raise money for the Hound Packs Program. The Shippensburg Community Resource Coalition’s Hound Packs Program provides weekend meals for public school students suffering from food insecurity. Despite a cool, rainy day, the car wash raised $75, which is enough to feed 12 students for one weekend.
AmeriCorps VISTA Jamie Burnett and VISTA Leader Danelle Wagner helped by assembling flood buckets at one of the community partners, Mission Central.
The Fall Day of service provided hundreds of hours of community service and helped bring awareness to many issues and causes throughout the region. The event also helped spark new relationships between SU and the community as some volunteers are returning to organizations like the Boys and Girls Club and Hound Packs to continue serving them.
For the AmeriCorps VISTAs though, it wasn’t just any other day of volunteering. While VISTAs often work behind the scenes, (organizing and managing projects, and not getting in the trenches) they made a point of rolling up their sleeves during this time of the year to commemorate the volunteers who responded to the September 11 terror attacks.
VISTAs participated in the 9/11 Day of Service in a variety of ways, simple and intricate, big and small, but the size and shape doesn’t matter. Their service is about honoring those who gave the last full measure of devotion to their community and country so that all people can share in a common good. In their memory, VISTAs carry a great legacy wherever they may go.