AmeriCrops volunteers - Serving our communities
October 14, 2021
AmeriCorps is a network of local, state and national service programs. Over the last few years, Montana has proven that national service is something that is very important for our residents.
In 2015, Montana ranked in the top three states (along with Vermont and West Virginia) with AmeriCorps members. Since then, our generous state has been able to stay in the top 10, last year taking the sixth spot. In this state, there were 3,549 members and volunteers, 532 service locations and a total of $14M dollars invested into all AmeriCorps programs across the state through federal and state funding. That is amazing and only comes from an environment where giving back is emphasized!
AmeriCorps has a rich history, with the VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) program dating back to 1964 as part of President Lyndon B Johnson's War on Poverty. The VISTA program became a part of AmeriCorps, becoming AmeriCorps*VISTA, in September of 1993 when President Bill Clinton signed the National and Community Service Trust Act. This act created AmeriCorps and various programs, as well as placing VISTA as an AmeriCorps program. VISTAs serve a one-year term, through AmeriCorps, placed at a community organization.
The first community VISTAs in Montana began their work in 1997, with a total of 14 VISTAs being placed in their host sites and laying the foundation to what has become an extremely successful program here in the Big Sky State. In fact, since there has been so much growth of the VISTA program, it was moved into the Human and Community Services Division in Department of Health and Human Services and expanded the program to include a focus area of economic opportunity. The program has also been renamed the Montana Community VISTA Partnership.
The first VISTA to serve in Seeley Lake arrived this past August. The VISTA Della Cole is serving at the Seeley Lake Community Foundation for a year and is working on an array of projects to help our little town. Della is a recent college graduate from the University of Virginia's College at Wise located in Wise, Virginia. She is a southwest Virginia native and is excited to put her skills to use to assist the SLCF in supporting Seeley Lake.
Della's goals are to increase access to community resources and improve resilience, health outcomes and economic opportunities for low-income individuals and families in Seeley Lake. She will help expand the Seeley Lake Sunday Market, grow a community tech hub, increase access to family support resources and help provide back-end support to the Seeley Lake Community Foundation.
Della is assisting in capacity building to provide resources for Seeley Lake. Capacity building is the building of systems, services and/or programs necessary for nonprofit organizations and government agencies to effectively reach a target demographic, which in her case is the Seeley Lake community.
While the SLCF has the only AmeriCorps*VISTA in the area, there are other organizations that have AmeriCorps members in Seeley Lake. Clearwater Resource Council and Montana State Parks both have members who serve a year at their organizations and Montana Conservation Corps have AmeriCorps crews that come during the summer to do trail work and weed management in partnership with the Forest Service.
All AmeriCorps members and volunteers in Seeley Lake do the necessary work to aid our unincorporated town through different avenues. Their selfless efforts are appreciated and admired by all.
Thank you to all our AmeriCorps volunteers and all individuals and organizations that make their presence in Seeley Lake possible for the betterment of our community.