Help on the way for local nonprofits

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United Way of Central Kentucky secures 15 VISTA positions

By Carly Besser

The United Way of Central Kentucky received a federal grant that will bring 15 full-time Americorps Volunteers in Service to America members to serve community needs throughout the region.

“Becoming a VISTA is a wonderful opportunity for people just starting in the workforce or who want to build experience in nonprofit work,” said Megan Stith, director of community impact for UWCK. “You build a portfolio and network of strong connections. You’re getting to know presidents, community leaders and elected officials.”

VISTAs will build the capacity of the following organizations and projects.

  • Breckinridge-Grayson Programs — develop Nature Learning Center
  • CASA of the Heart­land — recruit Court Appointed Special Advocates for abused and neglected children
  • Central Kentucky Community Foundation — raise money and expand early childhood education programming
  • Hardin County Schools Preschool Depart­ment — improve health outcomes for preschoolers
  • Hardin County Habi­tat for Humanity- recruit volunteers who can build and repair homes for low-income families
  • Helping Hand of Hope — connect clients with career and educational opportunities
  • USA Cares — develop communications and raise money to support post-9/11 Veterans and Military families
  • United Way of Central Kentucky — manage marketing and communications; develop and expand financial literacy programming; raise money; recruit volunteers; develop pilot program that provides wraparound services and peer relationships to families in poverty

The position is a yearlong opportunity, similar to an internship. VISTAs are given a stipend to cover living expenses and can choose between receiving an end-of-service cash reward or an education scholarship at the end of the year. VISTAs vary in age and experience.

Because they are dispersed across Central Kentucky, VISTAs share different responsibilities depending on the organization they serve, but Stith said there are common qualities they are looking for in applicants.

“In general qualities, we are looking for motivation, people who can work independently and persistence because it is challenging to work in new programs and to challenge and build existing ones,” she said.

Five VISTAs will be placed at United Way.

VISTAs are more than an experience opportunity or resume builder. They have the ability to largely impact the results of the nonprofit organizations they serve. Stith said since 2011, VISTAs serving in Central Kentucky made a $3.6 million impact.

“We’re so proud of our VISTAs,” Stith said. “The return they have toward our community is incredible. One VISTA alone has written $1 million in grants to benefit military families. We’re humbled to work with people so dedicated to achieve these outcomes.”

All 15 positions are available and can be applied for online at www.unitedwayck.org.

“VISTAs are one of the many resources United Way of Central Kentucky provides to achieve measurable and lasting change in our community,” Executive Director Chris­topher Wilborn said. “The VISTA network and our partnerships with host agencies allow us to address poverty from a variety of angles, including Education, Financial Stability, and Health — the building blocks of a good quality of life for all. VISTAs enable their nonprofits to implement programs they could not develop without this extra support.”

Carly Besser can be reached at 270-505-1740 or cbesser@thenewsenterprise.com.