The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Full-time volunteers on their way to Curry, Roosevelt

 

November 4, 2018



Seven full-time volunteers will soon be coming to Curry and Roosevelt counties as the United Way of Eastern New Mexico was recently approved to bring in individuals as part of a national service program offered by AmeriCorps.

VISTA, or Volunteers in Service to America, is a poverty-fighting initiative that since 1965 has put volunteers in organizations around the country.

“They’re very special people because this is a volunteer position and yet it’s full-time work,” said UWENM Executive Director Erinn Burch.

Burch said that to her knowledge, this will be the first time a VISTA project has been sponsored by a local organization.

The United Way will be looking to fill seven positions across three different areas, with applications being accepted as soon as December.

One will be a SNAP, short for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, outreach coordinator stationed at The Food Bank of Eastern New Mexico. That person will be tasked with finding ways to get the word out about the food assistance available for people in the community in need.

“In Curry and Roosevelt counties we have 2,000 families eligible for SNAP but not enrolled,” Burch said.

Dianna Sprague, executive director of The Food Bank, said the organization for some time has wanted staff to be able to assist in enrolling eligible residents, but “it’s difficult to find the funding to keep the operations let alone add staff.”

“So with the VISTA grant we can finally have that person on board who will be able to help people here (not just) in Clovis but all the different rural sites that we distribute to, so that’s what we are excited to do with this grant,” Sprague said.

Three of the VISTAs will be volunteer coalition coordinators who will each be working at the United Way on different tasks including addressing adult financial literacy and youth isolation in the community.

“They will help recruit, and train and retain volunteers more effectively, then work to build up volunteer opportunities, especially those that can contribute to a young person’s workability skills,” Burch said.

The final three positions will be resource development coordinators who will look to build up the financial capacities of four local organizations.

One will focus on Meals on Wheels in Clovis and Portales, another will be at the Community Service Center in Portales and the Curry Resident Senior Meals Association in Clovis, which provide meals for the elderly, and the third will assist the Freedom Foundation of Eastern New Mexico, an organization that benefits homeless and needy veterans.

“Their job is to come in, assess what’s already going on and then work with that organization to put some plans in place that build up their fundraising skills,” Burch said.

The full-time volunteer positions do offer some benefits. VISTAs will receive a biweekly $472.22 stipend to assist with food and housing and following the completion of the one-year term, volunteers can choose either a $1,800 stipend or a $5,920 education award to put toward their own or somebody else’s school costs.

The positions also include supplemental health care benefits, child care assistance, training, relocation assistance and liability insurance, according to a United Way press release.

Burch said the majority of VISTA volunteers nationwide are young people in there early to mid-20s, though some are retirees or people transitioning between careers.

She said the volunteers will be tasked with significant work — not some entry-level, pencil pushing position — and that is great for building a resume and work skills, while of course also helping those in need.

“What (VISTA volunteers) really all have in common is that desire to give back to their community and make America stronger,” Burch said.

“We’re going to bring smart, dedicated, passionate individuals who want to help us alleviate poverty and we’re going to put them to work and they’re going to help develop and create internal structures at these organizations that make more work possible down the road.”

Burch said application for the volunteer coordinator positions will soon be available with the goal of approving three individuals by Dec. 30 in order to get them on board by February, and the remaining positions will be staggered.

 
 

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