VISTA Success Stories
The Families in Transition VISTA Program is one of the largest networks of AmeriCorps VISTAs (Volunteers in Service to America) living and serving throughout the State of New Hampshire. Families in Transition’s Coordinator of Volunteers and VISTA Program recruits dedicated volunteers and host sites to join the VISTA team, with the goal of improving the quality of life for the most disadvantaged members of our community.
Families in Transition VISTAs and host sites work together to create sustainable programs that better the New Hampshire community. In turn, both VISTAs and their host sites receive the invaluable benefit of personal and organizational growth.
Emily Gordon is serving as the Special Events & Fundraising VISTA at Families in Transition in Manchester, NH.
Why did you choose to become a VISTA? Why did you choose to serve in New Hampshire?
I’m passionate about helping and serving others, and the role I’m in at Families in Transition was the most interesting option for me. Plus, relocating to New Hampshire and exploring many of the beautiful places here fit well with my love of everything outdoors.
What is your role at your host site? What does a typical day or week look like for you?
I’m serving as the Special Events & Fundraising Coordinator VISTA at Families in Transition. In the two months I’ve been here, each day looks a little bit different depending on what season we’re in. Right now, I’m working on three different events happening in February, May and October, each of which is at a different stage in planning.
How do you feel that the work you are doing has impacted the community you are serving in?
Since I’m rarely in contact with the participants in the program, it’s harder for me to see the direct impact on our target community – but I love hearing the stories about how lives are changed by Families in Transition! I also see an impact among the donors and community that are involved through donations or various events. I’m grateful to be a part of an organization that connects with people who want to give or do something worthwhile and utilizes those resources to help a population so in need.
What has been your favorite part about being a VISTA?
I love seeing people enjoy an event and connect with the purpose/vision of the event. I also love connecting with our participants. Every couple months I coordinate a birthday party for the children in our program and I love seeing their faces as they experience a party that is meant for them and receive gifts that are their very own.
What advice would you give to someone considering becoming a VISTA?
I would ask, “What are you interested in/passionate about?” and “What skills do you want to develop as a VISTA that will help you wherever you go next?” I’m constantly asking myself these two questions. Keep in mind where you want to be going or how you want to be growing. Be honest with what you want to get out of this year (or two) and don’t be afraid to share your interests with your supervisor and ask for projects that will help you build those skills.
Lucy Hewitt is serving as the Program Coordinator VISTA at the NH Coalition to End Homelessness in Manchester, NH.
Where did you go to college/what did you major in?
I went to the University of Notre Dame and majored in Political Science.
What drew you to your particular position and host site?
I was drawn to the Coalition’s mission of research, education, and advocacy. I’m completely behind the idea that in order to solve a problem, to reduce homelessness and poverty, we first have to fully understand what the problem is. Our upcoming Homelessness Research Program will expand how much we know about homelessness in New Hampshire, and I’m really excited to work on that.
Has serving as a VISTA changed how you view poverty? What experiences have contributed to this outlook?
I’ve learned so much about the programs and resources surrounding poverty: how many different ways service providers try to make help available for people in poverty and people without homes, but also how difficult it still is for people in need to access these programs. Volunteering for the Point in Time Count and spending a night outside in Manchester was an eye opening experience, as was attending some of the trainings I’m helping to run and realizing how difficult it is to provide high quality services to people in poverty.
Is there anything that you have experienced as a VISTA that you weren’t expecting?
I’ve been really lucky to be involved in a lot of different projects, from helping to publish our 2017 State of Homelessness Report, to setting up community trainings, to volunteering at OutFITters Thrift Store. It’s been great to have a hand in all these different programs.
Do you have any fun hobbies or hidden talents?
I’m secretly Agnes from Despicable Me.