Farewell AmeriCorps VISTA

This past year came and went quickly. The blur/haze of everything stands testament to the fact that we were busy, very very busy. I love the work that I did for the Red Cross, and I love the friends that I made in the VISTA program. Our site had unusually high numbers for VISTA this year and I feel lucky that there was such a large support network of my peers.

We commiserated about the woes of living in Seattle on $950 a month (VISTA stipulates that you cannot take outside work) over clearance lunches from QFC, found the city's cheapest happy hours for Friday evening fun (NocNoc, a goth bar that had dollar PBRs and tater tots until they doubled their prices, which means it's still cheap), bounced project ideas off of one another, and held each other up during those last few months of service that are always the hardest. We took turns emailing job prospects to those interested, challenged one-to-one in sudoku during our morning coffee/tea breaks, and sometimes just walked outside to soak up a little sun when its rays peeked out from the clouds. We gorged ourselves on free food in the kitchen, rallied over video game nights and smutty vampire novels, and mostly had a lot of fun together. The laughter, the tears, the sleepless nights-- it was all worth it.

As typical with AmeriCorps service, I am still reflecting on what this past year looked like in a big picture and am learning every day about the challenges I faced and the personal growth I experienced.

Our department with three VISTAs watched over all the volunteer intake, a huge project in itself. We implemented a new disaster volunteer training program, creating the standard operating procedures that would go on to be delivered statewide. We assisted with events for the Board of Directors, did grunt work in prep for our annual fundraiser known as Heroes Breakfast, and even supported the Seattle Helping Haiti concert. Almost everything we did was in collaboration with other departments and we always had the support of other VISTAs, staff members and volunteers. For my memory, here are some of our accomplishments from the past year:
  • Processed over 1,500 applications
    • This included downloading/printing volunteer applications, contacting their references by email, probably contacting their references again by email if they didn't respond, and possibly calling their references if we didn't hear from them the first two times. Then we emailed the applicant inviting them for a volunteer interview, and possibly emailed them a 2nd time if they failed to schedule their interview or didn't show up.
  • Conducted over 20 volunteer orientations (a two hour class introducing volunteers to Red Cross functions)
  • Interviewed hundreds of applicants
  • Processed over a thousand background checks.
  • Added 1,000+ new volunteers to our chapter's rosters
  • Scheduled, planned, & carried out 12 full-day disaster volunteer trainings, a streamlined & condensed training where we squashed about 25 hours worth of training, and gobs of paperwork into roughly an 8-9 hour day. These trainings were held at our offices, a local community center, various churches in our area (three different religious groups), a University, and three major corporations that have a commitment to supporting the Red Cross
    • Our smallest training held about 15 people, and our largest training included 130 volunteers!
  •  Worked a few shelter shifts after apartment fires left residents displaced
  • Helped out at First Aid Station Team events, providing first aid services at venues such as Seafair, Seattle Pride Parade, and the Fremont Fair & Solstice Parade.
  • Performed flashy CPR demos throughout the city, and even had Blue Thunder (the Seahawks drumline) provide us with percussion at 100 beats per minute.
  • Assisted with the volunteer training, staffing and scheduling for a 6 week photo exhibit at the Seattle Center, filling over 200 4-hour shifts.
  • Helped train University students in CPR & other life saving skills
  • Implemented a new Volunteer Management System that handles our electronic volunteer files, and began the arduous process of auditing all of our paper files and transferring information from the old system to the new.
  • The Diversity Committee (of which I am the chair) has successfully created a diversity training for new volunteers and staff that goes to the Important People this week for approval. Our first training has been scheduled and we are very excited that it finally came to fruition.
  • Built good relationships with volunteers (one of my favorite parts)

I'm sure that some of our accomplishments have been left out of the list but it looks pretty good as is. And our group looks pretty good too. Thank you AmeriCorps VISTA for a great first year in Seattle. And now onto the two weeks of vacation I will be taking before starting my new (permanent!) position with the American Red Cross Serving King & Kitsap Counties (that's a mouthful, eh?) aka Seattle Red Cross.

PS. I'm famous!


  1. Wow. You have helped SO MANY people in the past 2 or so years with 2 AmeriCorps programs.

    You are inspiring.


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