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February 2018
Martin Luther King Day of Service  |  Service Site Spotlight  |  Know Your VISTAs
Martin Luther King Day of Service
Families in Transition VISTA members relaxing after working hard to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy of community service and social justice.

This Martin Luther King Day of service the Families in Transition Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) along with the rest of New Hampshire's National Service members participated in the MLK Day Celebration hosted by CityYear. At the event, participants; helped with a food drive to benefit the New Hampshire Food Bank, raising a total of 644 lbs.; listened to speeches on the importance of service and teamwork by Mayor Joyce Craig and the President of the Manchester chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Rev. Eric Jackson from Brookside Congregational Church; attended workshops and a volunteer fair; as well as participated in service activities to benefit local organizations. Following the event, our dedicated FIT VISTAs went on to provide further service to the community by helping with organizational projects at UpReach Therapeutic Equestrian Center, Child Health Services at Manchester Community Health Center, and Families in Transition's Family Place Resource Center and Shelter. 
Site Spotlight: Child Health Services

Katherine Benoit
Family Enrichment and Volunteer Program Coordinator VISTA
Child Health Services
Pictured: Katherine Benoit

Manchester Community Health Center (MCHC) is a nonprofit federally qualified health center offering high-quality, comprehensive, and family-oriented primary health care and support services since 1993. Founded in 1980, Child Health Services at MCHC is the pediatric practice of Manchester Community Health Center, dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of at-risk children. Through all its programs, Manchester Community Health Center serves over 16,000 active patients at four locations in Manchester, including the West Side Neighborhood Health Center. 

Katherine Benoit, our Volunteer and Family Enrichment Coordinator VISTA with Child Health Services at MCHC, coordinates enrichment programs and runs events that benefit families in need. The programs include Family Literacy Night, which is a class to help adults and children work on literacy in a supportive environment. Each class is run by volunteers on Tuesday evenings and is tailored to individual needs.  Their Tutoring Program connects children that need extra help with volunteer tutors. Katherine also manages their food pantry, which is stocked through orders from the NH Food Bank, and coordinates events such as, backpack and school supply drives, diaper drives and their annual Turkey Toss event that provides Thanksgiving meal boxes to families in need.


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Know Your VISTAs!
Neil Allen
Communications and
Outreach Assistant
TLC Family Resource Center
Pictured: Neil Allen

Where did you go to college/what did you major in?
I attend Franklin Pierce University and I am earning a dual degree in Human Services/Criminal Justice. I should be finished this summer.

Why did you choose to become a VISTA? Why did you choose to serve in New Hampshire?
I fell in love with the idea of the program when my daughter was 10 years old and I met my first VISTA at the after-school program she attended. That’s when I started to recommend it to volunteers at the program who I thought would do well working with the students and learn the most from the opportunity. I chose to become a VISTA now to get experience to go along with the schooling for my resume. New Hampshire is where I live so it was the easiest way to serve.

What is your role at your host site? What does a typical day or week look like for you?
My role at the host site is varied. I am responsible for communications and marketing, which also includes managing the website and social media, as well as creating a volunteer program and fundraising. There's not typical day. Every day brings something new and interesting to do, which is exactly how I like it.

What drew you to your particular position and host site?
I’ve been in newspapers and doing communications work for years and years so it was a “lightweight” job for me. I love family resource centers and what they’re capable of doing for a community. Plus I want to start a resource center for the LGBTQ+ community. This will provide great hands-on learning.

What advice would you give to someone considering becoming a VISTA?
Don’t go into it with any preconceived notions on what you’ll be doing, even after you get your VISTA Assignment Description (VAD). Don’t let it overwhelm you or expect to finish everything on the list, if you stress over it you won’t enjoy the work you are doing.

Do you have any fun hobbies or hidden talents? 
I collect Father Christmas’ and love taking nature pictures and writing.

Ian Russell
Marketing and Fundraising VISTA
Granite State Independent Living

Pictured: Ian Russell

Why did you choose to become a VISTA? Why did you choose to serve in New Hampshire?
I chose to become a VISTA because I am still looking to start my career in marketing and communications. The opportunity presented by the VISTA program has let me expand my communication technology skill set and put me in contact with several people in the nonprofit world I can use my skills to help. I chose to serve in New Hampshire because it is my home and I am very familiar and comfortable here. It allows me to make the most of my time as a VISTA by connecting with the people I'm helping on a local relatable level.

What advice would you give to someone considering becoming a VISTA?
Do it! The benefits that come from being a VISTA will follow you for the rest of your life. It's a great way for someone who has just finished college to learn more about nonprofits and their roles in their communities. The one year term is plenty long enough to build professional relationships while giving back to people in need.

Do you have any post-VISTA plans or goals? How do you think your time as a VISTA will help you achieve these goals?
I plan on seeking full time marketing employment after I complete my year of service as a VISTA. If the opportunity became available, I would like to join my current host site as a full time employee. Either way, I think I have learned many new skills and expanded my worldly knowledge to fit in well with a number of organizations looking for marketing help.

What has been your favorite part about being a VISTA?
My favorite part about being a VISTA is the vast networking opportunities that have been opened up to me. I think that being part of the VISTA program will put me in contact with the right people to keep my career moving forward as well as make some lasting friendships.

How do you feel the work you are doing has impacted the community you are serving in?
I feel that the work I put in to promote and organize fundraising events helps get Granite State Independent Living's (GSIL) mission across to people who otherwise wouldn't think about it. New Hampshire's population is aging, and letting people know that GSIL can help them live independently in their homes as they age is good for them. It shows that they can stay in familiar surroundings around their loved ones, it significantly cuts down on Medicare expenses funded by taxpayers.

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The Families in Transition VISTA Program is part of the AmeriCorps VISTA National Service Program and is sponsored by Families in Transition. VISTAs (Volunteers in Service to America) are charged with fighting poverty through capacity-building projects in government and non-profit organizations.

Families in Transition-New Horizons provides hunger relief, emergency shelter, safe affordable housing, and supportive services to individuals and families who are homeless or in need, enabling them to gain self-sufficiency and respect. 

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Families in Transition
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