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VISTA Member Handbook


VH img 1Authorized originally in 1964 by the Economic Opportunity Act, the Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) program provides full-time volunteers to support the efforts of nonprofit organizations and public agencies working to fight poverty in low-income communities. Through the years, more than 180,000 individuals have served in VISTA on thousands of local projects, committing at least one year of full-time service to poor communities in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

In July 1971, the VISTA program was transferred from the Office of Economic Opportunity to ACTION, a newly created federal volunteer agency. Other volunteer programs administered by ACTION included the Foster Grandparent Program, RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program), and the Senior Companion Program. With the enactment of the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993, the Corporation for National and Community Service was established, and all ACTION programs were transferred to the Corporation for National and Community Service. The Corporation oversees a wide range of national service initiatives, including Senior Corps, Learn and Serve, and AmeriCorps. AmeriCorps is a network of national service programs that annually engages more than 70,000 Americans in intensive service to meet critical needs in education, public safety, health, and the environment. In 1994, VISTA joined this network and became AmeriCorps VISTA.The purpose of VISTA, as authorized in the Domestic Volunteer Service Act (DVSA) of 1973, as amended, is:

To strengthen and supplement efforts to eliminate and alleviate poverty ... in the United States by encouraging and enabling persons from all walks of life, all geographic areas, and all age groups, including low-income individuals ... to perform meaningful and constructive volunteer service in agencies, institutions, and situations where the application of human talent and dedication may assist in the solution of poverty and poverty related problems.

The Domestic Volunteer Service Act describes three specific objectives of the program to achieve this purpose:
  1. To strengthen local agencies and organizations
    to carry out the purpose of the program
  2. To encourage volunteer service at the local level
  3. To generate the commitment of private sector resources

The AmeriCorps VISTA program endorses three basic assumptions:

  • Private citizens can contribute on a voluntary basis to meet the challenges confronting low-income communities.
  • The skills and energies of AmeriCorps VISTA members are used most effectively when the members live and work in the low-income communities they serve.
  • The full-time personal involvement of AmeriCorps VISTA members brings an added dimension to local public and private nonprofit organizations that work to develop lasting solutions to the problems of low-income communities.

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