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Thursday, 21 April 2022

AmeriCorps VISTAs: Sustainable Change Makers

Written by Heather Mayes
AmeriCorps VISTAs Ronda Cross, Kelvin Behlow and Rachel Masch. AmeriCorps VISTAs Ronda Cross, Kelvin Behlow and Rachel Masch.

Catholic Charities serves the community’s most vulnerable through many types of support, resources and partnerships. AmeriCorps is one of the most substantial and impactful.

The mission of AmeriCorps is to improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering. One way that is accomplished is through VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) placements around the country.

What is VISTA?

Founded in 1965, VISTA is an anti-poverty program designed to provide needed resources to nonprofit organizations to increase their capacity. The program provides opportunities for Americans 18 years or older to dedicate a year of full-time service to create or expand programs designed to empower individuals and communities in overcoming poverty.

VISTAs currently come to Catholic Charities through Catholic Charities USA as part of the Family Strengthening Program. Participation in capacity building activities such as fundraising, grant writing, research, and volunteer recruitment allow VISTAs to gain experience and leadership skills using their unique passions and talents while advancing our mission.

Ongoing Impact of VISTA

According to Catholic Charities USA, “In recent years, VISTAs across the U.S. have generated more than $178 million in cash and in-kind resources annually for their sponsoring organizations. That breaks down to more than $140,000 per VISTA project.” 

Catholic Charities is grateful to host three VISTA placements. They have served over 3,000 hours valued at $85,905. VISTAs also recruited over 100 volunteers, who in turn, served over 500 hours. They have helped establish and strengthen partnerships, secure cash and in-kind donated goods and presented our agency to numerous stakeholders.

Ronda Cross, a VISTA serving as Community Engagement and Volunteer Services Coordinator at Catholic Charities stated,

“This opportunity has given me a way to express my faith and love of community service. In this position I’ve received exceptional mentorship, professional growth, and a profound understanding of the importance of volunteering and the impact it can make.”

VISTA Benefits

In addition to fostering ongoing volunteer placements, VISTAs identify and create sustainable strategies, leverage financial resources, and forge lasting community partnerships. Those are a few examples of their invaluable contribution to Catholic Charities. VISTAs themselves also enjoy some benefits:

  • Living allowance at the economic level of the low-economic residents of the community where they serve
  • End-of-Service education award or cash stipend
  • Loan forbearance or deferment
  • Health coverage
  • May be eligible for childcare, relocation, settling-in, and close of service travel assistance
  • One year of non-competitive eligibility for employment in the federal government

VISTA placements offer personal and professional growth opportunities as well as a lifetime of memories. Kelvin Behlow, Care Campus Volunteer and Emergency Santa Coordinator VISTA, noted,

“I will always remember the winter I helped over 400 kids get Christmas presents and the smiles it brought to the parents that could bring a gift home.”

Become a VISTA

Several opportunities for VISTA placements are coming up at Catholic Charities. If you are interested in ending poverty, empowering communities, building capacity, creating sustainable solutions and developing professionally, there could be a rewarding placement for you!

To inquire about becoming a VISTA, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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