Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland thanked Volunteers in Service to America for their contributions to the welfare of the city on April 7, as part of "Mayors Day of Recognition for National Service." He also commended the United Way of Bradley County for its role as the community-wide sponsor.
The United Way of Bradley County is the local VISTA coordinating agency that recruits and assigns volunteers to various organizations throughout its service area. Director of Volunteer Services Jaynese Waddell said the impact of seven VISTA Americorps volunteers on the City of Cleveland in 2014 included management and recruitment of 654 community volunteers who served more than 4,783 hours; more than $25,500 in cash value of resources, and more than $95,000 in non-cash value of resources. From February 2014 through this past February, volunteers made those contributions through service at Family Promise, The Refuge, Tri-State Therapeutic Riding Center, Impact Cleveland, Hope Child Advocacy Center, Community Action Network and Signal Center.
In 2015, the number of volunteers allotted Cleveland increased to 15. Among the cohort of seven that started in February is Americorps VISTA Leader Cindy Lawson, who manages volunteers at Impact Cleveland, Family Promise, Tri-State Therapeutic Riding Center, CASA of Bradley County, Boys and Girls Club and KARIS Dental Clinic. Eight more volunteers begin in May at Impact Cleveland, Community Action Network, Boys and Girls Club of Benton, Volunteer Center, Housing Coalition, YCAP, Andor and Signal Center.
“We are currently recruiting for those members,” Ms. Waddell said. “Impact Cleveland will have two members.” She said members are recruited nationally via job postings on the Americorps website. “In this current cohort, we have a girl from Florida and a guy who is serving with KARIS who is from New Hampshire. The rest are local. We have one or two who graduated from Lee and we have older people who are financially stable enough to give a year of their lives to service, which is awesome.”
Some of the highlights from 2014 are:
• Tri-State's Taking the Lead program — The VISTA member worked diligently to increase the organizations effectiveness and capacity to serve more troubled and low-income youth through their educational programs. An additional 55 youth joined the program through efforts of the VISTA member.
• Family Promise — The volunteer developed management processes to support the mission of Family Promise and increased the number of economically disadvantaged individuals or families to transition into safe, healthy, affordable housing. An additional 21 individuals or families secured housing as a result of those processes.
• Refuge Community Center — The VISTA member developed an educational calendar of all job training and other skill development services provided throughout the year and distributed to community members and as a result, 59 individuals secured employment.
• Signal Center — The volunteer member increased the organization’s sustainability by developing partnerships with local daycares, early education facilities, and child healthcare facilities. These partnerships are crucial to the continuing development of the Signal Center organization and its vision in Bradley County to continue the low-income community’s access to developmental screenings.
Through the capacity building of the 2015/2016 AmeriCorps VISTA Service Term:
• Andor — Through the Passage to Manhood Program and CASA Bradley County, 80 disadvantaged youth will pair with mentors to ensure youth participants make a successful transition to adulthood and community-minded citizenship. The Andor Program is a partnership between the Boy Scouts of America and the Boys & Girls Club of Cleveland, Tn. The purpose of the program is to provide positive male role models and mentors to under privileged boys while developing life skills that contribute to the successful transition to adulthood.
• The Family Promise and Housing Coalition programs will connect 30 homeless individuals and families with services and transition 20 individuals and families into stable housing.
• Impact Cleveland will implement a home repair program to assist 40 low-income people who are currently living in unhealthy housing units.
• The capacity of Karis Dental Clinic will be developed, and as a result, 200 uninsured disadvantaged individuals will receive services to improve their health.
• Through the Boys and Girls Club and the Youth Community Action Project, 80 low-income youth will engage in K-12 academic programs.
Officials said, "United Way of Bradley County’s AmeriCorps VISTA Service is beneficial because it provides: invaluable professional development training; internal nonprofit management experience including capacity building, fundraising, and marketing; project management skills; and a personally fulfilling opportunity to make a difference."