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June 2018
A Great Time to be in National Service  |  Service Site Spotlight  |   Serve with the FIT VISTA Program 
Know Your VISTAs
A Great Time to be in National Service
Group photo from Chester Spellman's, the Director of AmeriCorps, visit to Families in Transition-New Horizons. 

The past few weeks have been a flurry of National Service events, kicking off with a visit from Chester Spellman, the Director of AmeriCorps. During his trip to New Hampshire for the New England National Service Regional Conference, the Director made it a point to stop by Families in Transition-New Horizons to discuss the opioid epidemic in New Hampshire with Families in Transition-New Horizons' Vice President of Clinical and Supportive Services, Meghan Shea, and Vice President of Marketing and Economic Development, Michele Talwani, along with our VISTA members and their supervisors from CASA of New Hampshire, the New Hampshire Juvenile Diversion Network, and Child Health Services at the Manchester Community Health Center. 

Following the Director's visit was the first ever Service Rocks event. A star-studded celebration of national service, held at the McAuliff-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord, NH, presented by Volunteer NH and Old Sol Alliance. It was a chance for champions of service, including our VISTA members, to get together and enjoy a night of music, a planetarium show and learn more about ConcertCorps.
 And, finally we had the Annual Governor's Conference on Volunteerism where our VISTA members along with other professionals in the corporate and nonprofit sectors, attended sessions on current information on best practices in volunteer and nonprofit management.
Serve with the FIT VISTA Program
FIT_VISTA_2017-2018_MembersAre you or someone you know interested in spending a year strengthening poverty-fighting programs in the beautiful State of New Hampshire?

The Families in Transition (FIT) VISTA Program is one of the largest AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) networks in New Hampshire. VISTA members serve for one year at a nonprofit or government organization to build programs that fight poverty and improve the quality of life for the most disadvantaged members of our communities.

We're recruiting passionate, service-minded individuals for our 2018-2019 program year! Check out our list of available positions at:
Site Spotlight: TLC Family Resource Center

Neil Allen
Communications and Outreach
Assistant VISTA
TLC Family Resource Center
Pictured: Neil Allen

TLC Family Resource Center is a nonprofit agency in Claremont that supports and strengthens families, children, and youth throughout Sullivan and Lower Grafton counties with a wide range of free programs, support groups, education, and events. TLC has a small closely-knit staff of 14 that consists of parent educators, a clinical supervisor, community nurse, sexual health educator, recovery worker, and office support. They work with families with children up to age 18, pregnant women, parents of all sorts (single, traditional, foster, adopted, etc.), grandparents raising their grandchildren, individuals struggling with substance abuse, those in recovery, incarcerated parents, and so on. Many of their referrals are from the Department of Children, Youth and Families with parents who have temporarily lost custody  of their children, with the goal of reunification, or are in danger of losing their child(ren). They offer sexual health and relationship building programming for teens through the Sexual Health Information Network and Education (SHINE) and support for the LGBTQ+ community through Rural Outright. They are also now offering free recovery support for people struggling with addiction with the recently acquired The Center for Recovery Resources.


There is one VISTA working at this location, Neil Allen. Neil began serving since August 2017 as the Communications and Outreach Assistant. She is responsible for sending communications to the news and within the community as well as social media, updating and maintaining the website, fundraising, and is in charge of the volunteer program. There are two AmeriCorps members at this location. Laura Lindsay works with the parent educators and community nurse, and Jeremy Hartsell works with The Center for Recovery Resources.


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Know Your VISTAs!
Caitlin Cilley Turko
Community Garden & Volunteer Coordinator VISTA
Families in Transition-New Horizons
Pictured: Caitlin Cilley Turko

Where did you go to college? What did you major in?
I went to the New Hampshire Technical Institute and gained my Associate's degree in Visual Arts. I then took a year off when my son was born. I went on to complete my Bachelor's degree in Communications at Southern New Hampshire University.

Why did you choose to become a VISTA? Why did you choose to serve in New Hampshire?
It was easy to see the good that VISTAs do and I was drawn to putting my skills to good use. I was tired of thankless jobs, odd hours, and often long days. Knowing I could spend a year and make a drastic difference in a local community seemed like a great use of my time.

Due to having a family and home here in New Hampshire, I wasn't able to travel too far for my service site. Besides, there are plenty of VISTA opportunities right here in New Hampshire!

What has been your favorite part of being a VISTA?
Being able to volunteer in a way that's more engaging and meaningful. I feel that the work I have done thus far has touched many lives and made a difference to the children I have served. I am so proud to call myself a VISTA, and I love explaining what I do!

What advice would you give to someone considering becoming a VISTA?
Be flexible, open to new ideas, and ready to give more than your all. You'll work with a diverse group of people, take on new challenges, and need to be able to think on your feet at all times. If you get the opportunity to serve do it!

Do you have any fun hobbies or hidden talents? 
I love to attend all sorts of festivals with my boyfriend and two sons! We spend our weekends at renaissance fairs, steampunk festivals, and comicbook festivals. I am also learning how to exercise on aerial silks, which I haven't done in about four years. I look forward to having the upper body strength to climb the ropes and fly through the air!

Leo'el Jackson
Housing Opportunity Development VISTA
Cross Roads House

Pictured: Leo'el Jackson

Why did you choose to become a VISTA? Why did you choose to serve in New Hampshire?
This is my second year as a VISTA. I did my first year in Maine and I wanted to to explore a new area in New England for my second year of service. I decided to become a VISTA when I started searching for federal jobs and learned that it would help me become a stronger candidate.

What is your role at your service site? What does a typical day or week look like for you?
My role is primarily focused on finding housing opportunities for our residents. A typical day consists of me doing research on available affordable housing in our area and passing that information on to our case managers.

What drew you to your particular position and service site?
I did similar work in the past, but seeing homelessness from inside of a shelter is different. I wanted to see how different the experience would be in order to better understand homelessness.

Has serving as a VISTA changed how you view poverty? What experiences have contributed to this outlook?
Serving in a community that is so different from my own has helped me to understand how much the appearance of poverty varies across America. Especially in a place like the Seacoast area of New Hampshire, where you have to pay at least $1,000 for a 1-bedroom apartment. That means someone would need to make about $19.23/hr. to afford it, while the minimum wage still is only $7.25/hr.

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 using my non-competitive eligibility status to pursue a career with the federal government. So far, I have been able to secure many federal job interviews.

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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-New Horizons. 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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