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December 2018
Help Fight Poverty with Passion |  Service Site Spotlight  |  Know Your VISTAs
Happy Holidays From the FIT VISTA Family!
Happy holidays 2018
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Site Spotlight: Copper Cannon Camp

Mackenzie Ellis
Health Informatics Specialist
Copper Cannon Camp
Mackenzie Ellis
Pictured: Mackenzie Ellis
Copper Cannon Camp is a tuition-free summer camp for children in low-income families. The traditional summer camp experience is available for ages 9-15 and includes camp games, camp songs, campfires, hiking, arts and crafts, archery, outdoor living skills, and team-building activities.Teenagers that are 16 years-old can participate in the Counselor In Training (CIT) program for a portion of the summer. Copper Cannon Camp also hosts Teen Leadership Retreats in the Fall, Spring and Winter so that teenage campers can return to camp for a weekend and hone their leadership skills.

Mackenzie Ellis began in August as the Development AmeriCorps VISTA. She is creating and implementing a social media plan, improving donor relations and conducting a rental market study so that Copper Cannon Camp can increase their budget by renting out their facilities. She is enjoying her work and the professional development that accompanies the AmeriCorps VISTA program. 

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Know Your VISTAs!

Mary Kelliher
Volunteer Coordinator VISTA

Portsmouth Housing Authority
Mary Kelliher
Pictured: Mary Kelliher

Where did you go to college/what did you major in?

I went to college at the University of New Hampshire, majoring in Recreation and Event Management, with an emphasis in Community Wellness.

How do you feel that the work you are doing has impacted the community you are serving in?

The work I’m doing is helping to alleviate any issues that residents may have, such as lack of transportation or help to move to a new residence. Small things can make a big difference in building a stronger sense of community.

What is your role at your host site? What does a typical day or week look like for you?

At the Portsmouth Housing Authority, I am the Volunteer Coordinator in the Resident Services department. Each day, doing various things such as finding volunteer fairs, preparing advertising material to get potential volunteers interested, reaching out to a previously compiled list of volunteers, creating updated materials and applications, reaching out and planning events with community partners, and whatever else the wind blows my way!

What advice would you give to someone considering becoming a VISTA?

Do it! It is an extremely put-together organization to be involved with. Being a VISTA provides you with a great amount of support from your VISTA Leaders and the online community of VISTAs that is available to you, as well as learning opportunities, such as free online courses during your year of service. You’ll feel good serving a community in need, will be proud of the work you have accomplished, and will have great professional and personal connections to walk away with.

What has been your favorite part about being a VISTA?

I love the feeling of success in matching a volunteer who has a skill they’d like to utilize with an outlet for them to showcase it and work with others.

Do you have any fun hobbies or hidden talents?
I can say the alphabet backwards in les than ten seconds, taught myself to juggle in a day, and have a "closet" app on my phone that I use to plan my outfits!



Kelly Burton
Community Outreach and Development VISTA

Claremont Soup Kitchen
Kelly Burton
Pictured: Kelly Burton
Why did you choose to become a VISTA? Why did you choose to serve in New Hampshire?
The road to becoming a VISTA is unique. In 2016, I began as an activities specialist part time for All-4-One in Springfield, Vermont. It was only a few hours a week. There was a training that was posted for the staff there that was special. I went to my supervisor and casually said, "Wouldn’t it be great if your next year’s VISTA could attend this.” And, so the process began.  How I chose New Hampshire was simple. I wanted more experience fighting poverty and wanted to learn what I could do to help in a neighboring community. Claremont, New Hampshire is simply 30 minutes from Springfield, Vermont, where I grew up and did my first year of service in. I have deep roots in this area. It was a natural progression and the change I’ve witnessed through both service sites at the time of this writing. Simple things like unloading a truck with food to go to the food pantry to running a 5k for the first time because of a grant I wrote to get kids moving. I’m glad I have pictures to look back on. It is a journey like none other I have taken.

How has serving as a VISTA changed how you view poverty?  What things have contributed to this outlook?
Being a VISTA has totally changed how I view poverty.  I often say to those who ask why I decided another year was for meis because being a VISTA has "rolled back the carpet" and has allowed me to see two communities on a different level.  Both Springfield and Claremont were very familiar to me and being a resident prior to service I didn't see the things until now.  Everyday putting one foot in front of the other has given me insight and experiences that will last a lifetime.  I don't think that I can narrow it down to any set of experiences.  Though I live my life (outside of service) in a completely different manner than I have in the years gone by.

What is you role at your service site? What does a typical day or week look like for you?
My role here at the Claremont Soup Kitchen and Shelter is working on keeping social media up to date, grant writing, and outreach.  There is never a typical week here at the soup kitchen.  Every day is unique.

Is there anything that you experienced as a VISTA that you weren't expecting?
Honestly, serving in two different sites and their supporting organiztions.  They are very different from each other.  One site has endless structure and didn't allow me to really enhance the community in the way I envisioned, However, here at the Claremont Soup Kitchen and Shelter, I feel I can continue to fight poverty on a broader spectrum.

What has been your favorite part about being a VISTA?
My favorite part of being a VISTA is looking poverty straight in the eye and knowing that as I sit here wearing the Americorps logo that I am able to do something about it!

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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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