Monday, May 10, 2010

Members in Pittsburgh Celebrate AmeriCorps Week

Pittsburgh, PA - AmeriCorps*VISTA members in Pittsburgh, PA who are sponsored by PathWays PA, a non-profit in the greater Philadelphia area, will join the fourth annual nationwide celebration of AmeriCorps Week, May 8-15th 2010. The four VISTA members sponsored by PathWays PA serve at two Pittsburgh non-profit agencies, Family Resources and Just Harvest. The week is an opportunity for members to celebrate their accomplishments and raise awareness around the opportunities for others to serve.

Since its inception in 1994, 637,000 Americans have given more than 770 million hours of service through AmeriCorps. AmeriCorps members help students learn to read, mentor at-risk youth, provide health services, build homes for low-income families, and help nonprofits recruit more volunteers and better achieve their mission.

This year members will be participating in a number of events around the Pittsburgh area, such as “Wilkinsburg Goes Green!,” “AmeriCorps at Bat!” (sponsored by the Pittsburgh Pirates) and “Pop Up Pittsburgh!” These events will allow community residents to learn about, and participate in, AmeriCorps programs.

At Just Harvest, VISTA members Noah Whelan and Maria Muzzie have spent their time working in accordance with the service agency’s mission to end hunger and poverty in Allegheny County. While serving, Noah Whelan organized several outreach events geared around educating community members about the effects of a harsh economic climate, facilitated approximately 50 volunteers at Just Harvest's VITA tax site while serving 1,765 low income clients, and participated in ongoing advocacy efforts to assist clients.

Maria Muzzie, his VISTA colleague at Just Harvest, notes “I've recruited volunteers to participate in various Just Harvest education and fund raising programs. In addition, I've conducted church outreach and outreach to legislators' offices as well as conducting follow up surveys with Just Harvest's food stamp clients.”

At Family Resources, an agency dedicated to preventing child abuse and neglect through strengthening families, VISTA member Dominique Reed served through the implementation of a Green Space Project and Laura Minnichelli joined the Economic Empowerment Initiative.

Dominique Reed shares this about her experience: “For the past 9 months as an AmeriCorps VISTA, I have been leading a youth group in designing a small park and community garden in a vacant lot. Now the implementation of our vision is finally underway as the sun graces us with her radiance! We have built ten raised beds that will soon be filled with soil, compost, and vegetable seeds and we just finished up some indoor planting. It is truly amazing to see those tiny, insignificant-looking specks we call seeds, germinate and grow into something that is so vital to sustaining human life: food.”

While with the Economic Empowerment Initiative at Family Resources, Laura Minnichelli worked to help individuals build assets and become economically self-sufficient. Through her work coordinating volunteers and managing client appointments Laura helped increase utilization of the VITA program by 200%, returning more than $1 million in refunds to the community. She also trained 5 volunteers in a new position for the tax season called Asset Building Coaches, where the focus was linking tax clients to financial resources in the community and encouraging savings.

AmeriCorps works through existing organizations and helps them reach more people and better achieve their mission. In 2009, the nation’s 85,000 AmeriCorps members recruited 2.4 million community volunteers to serve alongside them in some 3,300 nonprofit, faith-based and community organizations across the country.

AmeriCorps members typically remain actively engaged in their communities once their service is complete. They not only can be counted on as volunteers, but they also run nonprofits, marshal resources within their communities to address difficult issues and frequently pursue public service careers. For many VISTA members, one year of volunteering leads to a lifetime of enthusiastic service.

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