In honor of National Service Recognition Day on April 3, AmeriCorps Members in Paonia teamed up with a local non-profit called A Little Help to serve their community.
AmeriCorps VISTAs (Volunteers In Service To America) from Solar Energy International and Elsewhere Studios who are working on economic and community revitalization in Delta County got together to do direct service in their community.
A Little Help is a non-profit based out of Denver that also has a presence in Delta County. The organization is made up of locals who are volunteers, members in need of aid, or both. Members are usually seniors or disabled neighbors who want to stay independent in their homes, and can use help with household tasks. Volunteers help members with a variety of projects from driving to the grocery store to house maintenance. This program helps residents age in their own homes safely, while remaining active members of their communities and encourages cross-generational engagement.
Deirdre Morrison an AmeriCorps member says, "I learned about 'Village to Village' while living in Oregon, and A Little Help is a part of that network. Especially considering that one in every three people over age 65 live alone, and in particular when we know that loneliness can be harmful to health, to all ages; I have great compassion for folks that want to be independent, but are also looking for some support in getting things done around the house. Sometimes it can mean a lot to seniors to strike up a conversation with someone new, to have someone listen and share with them. I know I often learn something interesting in the exchange, and hope someone will be around to help me, if I am in a similar position someday."
One of the members, Judy Lafferty, has been involved with A Little Help from its start in Paonia and says the organization is important to her because "It is very rewarding to meet new people and learn about different places." She discussed how easy it is to help someone with a task that for them may have been difficult, and that the interaction with a neighbor is rewarding. Judy is both a member and a volunteer, and once a month she helps a fellow community member get to the laundromat and then back home.
The AmeriCorps VISTAs spent the day helping five members clean out their gutters, rake their lawns, and tend their gardens. These activities can involve climbing ladders, kneeling, or bending down often, which may be difficult for some of the community members. One of the members mentioned that the work the AmeriCorps volunteers did in one hour would have taken them three days. Beata Ramza reflects on her day of service:
"As VISTAs our goal when serving communities is to create sustainable programs that can help the community even after we leave. This means we don't always work directly with every part of the community but spend lots of time in our office planning the programs, securing partners, implementing outreach, and fundraising. It was inspiring and educational to be able to spend a day doing direct service and meeting various neighbors we might not have met otherwise.
Over 220,000 AmeriCorps VISTAs have served since the program's inception in 1965, and Paonia has been host to several such volunteers over the years. For more information and opportunities to serve, visit https://www.nationalservice.gov. Whether VISTAs are creating partnerships regionally or working with our neighbors, they're a strong force in communities. For VISTAs, every day is National Service Day.