Through AmeriCorps VISTA, more than 8,000 Americans commit to volunteer full-time at nonprofit organizations every year.
Right here in the Treasure Valley, VISTA members volunteer at the Idaho Foodbank, working up close with Idahoans in need.
“The people that choose to do this and make the commitment are kind, caring people who just really want to make a difference, and this is an avenue for them to do that and make impact,” Idaho Foodbank VISTA program director Jackie Yarbrough said.
Although VISTA workers at the Foodbank typically work 40 hours a week, they are on call 24 hours a day.
"It’s basically a 365, 24/7 commitment and they pay you a living stipend but you are a volunteer," VISTA member Colleen Schowalter said.
VISTAs receive a living stipend that is five percent above the regional poverty level. In Idaho, that’s only $806 a month.
“That's been the hardest struggle that I've had to deal with,” VISTA member Makenzie Ellsworth said. “There have been challenges for sure, living on a small living allowance and kind of having to set a more strict budget; however the rewards are far beyond those challenges.”
"You have to change what you do in the evenings, you have to change what you eat, you have to change where you live, change what you drive, change where you shop,” Schowalter said. “It's a big change."
Vista workers help with program development, assisting organizations in the community learn how to sustain themselves like the well-known “Habitat for Humanity” and “Picnic in the Park”.
"Not only do you get that good feeling with volunteering, but then you get to leave your stamp, you get to leave your mark on something that you've built and you've created that gets to go on," Schowalter said.
“Being given the opportunity to help others has been my favorite part, and also just making me realize how much I do have, and that there are people in Idaho in need,” Ellsworth said.
To learn more about the AmeriCorps VISTA program, Click Here.