My experience as an AmeriCorps VISTA has been a huge learning experience, and one I am grateful for. In the past, I've done a lot of work with the youth and had volunteered at places here and there, but for the most part, that was the extent of my involvement working with the community. At United Way, I’ve done a variety of community work focused on our health, opportunity, prosperity, and education initiatives. I've coordinated the Kids in Coats program, helped people do their taxes, served on Day of Caring, and spoke on the radio. Before I began my year of service, I knew that I’d want to push myself as much as possible. For the most part, I am more of a thinker than a talker. Luckily, United Way is a great place to work on communication skills because the team is constantly talking and checking in with each other. Plus, it’s not every job where you get to speak on the radio! I’ve met some new people and made new connections, and looking back, I feel more mature now than I did at this time last year. Even on days where I 'm feeling more reserved than usual, being here helps to push me out of that comfort zone.
So what drew me to United Way of Windham County then? Well, aside from the many different outdoor recreational activities that are around here outside of work, I strongly believe in United Way’s mission to alleviate poverty. The Kids in Coats program was fun to coordinate, and it was a good feeling knowing that so many families in Windham County in need of winter clothing were able to recieve that assistance. On Day of Caring, I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Groundworks Shelter painting the trim on doors and windows. I was able to meet some of the people that this work was helping, and it was one of my first times directly seeing the effects of homelessness in this community. I’m from mid-coast Maine, and while my home town of Rockland isn’t much different from Brattleboro in terms of size, population and distribution of wealth, the severity of homelessness differs, as it is an apparent, continuosly growing issue in this community. The work I’ve been doing here has taught me even more about the impact of homelessness, and how devastating it can be on not just the individual experiencing homelessness, but how it can affect their family, friends, and the community as well. Back in January, we helped with a Homelessness Awareness Vigil, and hearing stories of death and struggle amongst the homeless community really resonated with me and naturally made me think... what more can I do?
To keep this short, I’d say that it is always important to wonder, “what more can I do?”. Even if you don't have the time or ability to volunteer at a local organization, simply changing the way you talk with people, by being mindful and showing them the same level of respect you’d expect can make a positive difference; it starts with the little things. Serving at United Way has taught me that there is always more work to be done whether we deem it big or small, and there’s always room to grow and change. A year ago, I never would’ve imagined myself helping people with taxes, or speaking on the radio, but I did and have learned a lot from it. Overall, it has been a great experience and I'm looking forward to more work, and enjoying my first summer in Vermont.
- Cody Chase