How awesome would it be to have 24 of the brightest minds from throughout the United States converge on a particular location to address the root causes of poverty in your community? 

Thanks to the AmeriCorps VISTA members across our country, we in Weld County are fortunate to have that benefit every year. Whether they’re moving in from the East Coast or West Coast, Midwest or South, or from right here in northern Colorado, the VISTAs settle in quickly and are focused on helping our community.

United Way of Weld County (UWWC) has managed the AmeriCorps VISTA program for 12 years. Since 2007, 184 VISTA members from 37 states have been provided to 50 organizations in Weld County. Over the past three summers, there have been 45 summer associate VISTAs provided to nine organizations. To date, VISTAs have raised nearly $5 million for local nonprofits and managed over 57,696 community volunteers who have served 158,267 hours. The AmeriCorps VISTA program is primarily funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service. UWWC provides coordination and a funding match to the grant.

The impact of UWWC managing this program is a clear example of your United Way maximizing donations.

Other AmeriCorps and Senior Corps programs in Weld County include the Weld County Conservation Corps, Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), HIPPY Corps, and Habitat for Humanity home building programs.

VISTA members are placed at nonprofits, schools, and local government entities, engaging in capacity building activities such as volunteer mobilization, fundraising, and program development. Organizations including the City of Greeley, Greeley-Weld Habitat for Humanity, Life Stories, Poudre Learning Center, Sunrise Community Health, Greeley-Evans School District 6, Boys & Girls Club, Boy Scouts, Brigit’s Bounty & Brigit’s Village in Frederick, Partners Mentoring Youth, Arc of Weld County and numerous others host VISTA members to help accomplish their missions. VISTAs have made such an impression in their service year that organizations such as the Poudre Learning Center, District 6 or United Way of Weld County have hired them full time to their staff.

Ray Tschillard, executive director at the Poudre Learning Center, knows a great VISTA when he sees one. Two VISTA members – Grace Fullmer (2016) and Roxanne Bumgardner (2018) – who did their service at the Poudre Learning Center in the last three years were named the Outstanding VISTA at the Governor’s Service Awards in Denver. 

“We can’t say enough great things about the VISTA program and its impact on not only the Poudre Learning Center and our growth, but also the community,” Tschillard said. “We’ve had outstanding individuals that have come and just dedicated their whole year to us and without question are true leaders in our community. They get involved very quickly in the community as well as getting involved with our staff. The commitment and passion of these VISTAs says a lot about our new leaders that are coming through the United Way VISTA program.”

You can have the opportunity to talk to our VISTAs from 5-8 p.m. June 14 when the VISTA Program hosts an open house at UWWC, 814 9th St., Greeley, in the Pinyon Room. We’d love for you to stop by and learn about what our VISTAs do for our communities.

Come join us on June 14 and find out why the work these VISTAs do is so important to Weld County. If you want to find out more about the AmeriCorps VISTA program, contact VISTA project coordinator Hannah Hostak at (970) 304-6168 or hannah@unitedway-weld.org.

Ninety-two percent of the AmeriCorps alumni feel they made a difference in the life of at least one person. That one person could have been you or your neighbor.

Tom Fasano is the director of marketing and communications for United Way of Weld County.