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July 9, 2013
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Editorial: VISTAs expand horizons in Douglas County

Rebecca de Greyt’s story is just one among legions in the AmeriCorps VISTA archives.

In 2008, de Greyt, her husband and their two children were living with her parents when she applied for rent assistance through United Community Action Network. The financial help enabled the de Greyts to find their own place and start back on the road to self-reliance.

A year later, de Greyt joined AmeriCorps, a federal program that engages adults in community service work. Its VISTA, or Volunteers in Service to America program, was founded in 1965 to fight poverty, resembling a stateside version of the Peace Corps. In July 2010, de Greyt moved to Winston upon being hired as a VISTA team leader.

She’s now UCAN’s VISTA coordinator for Douglas, Coos, Josephine and Jackson counties. She also teachers leadership duties to help VISTA members with their positions.

What a difference five years makes.

The significant part of de Greyt’s story isn’t that she and her family got a boost from the program, though that’s certainly important. What’s great about de Greyt’s experience is its ripple effect.

Through VISTA, de Greyt said she knows she made a difference in the life of one boy through an anti-bullying presentation at Riddle Elementary School. That was one presentation and one boy. Take all of de Greyt’s many other connections over the last few years, multiply them by the ones she’s set in motion through her leadership and coaching, and you can see how AmeriCorps and VISTA spiral into viral patterns.

Since 1994, more than 15,000 Oregon residents served more than 19 million hours in the Beaver State, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service. VISTA members are men and women between the ages of 18 and 24 who agree to undertake 10-month terms of service in a particular posting.

In exchange for their service, VISTA members earn education funds that can be used to pay for college or to pay back qualified student loans.

During their residencies, these young men and women support programs that improve literacy, expand job opportunities, reduce homelessness and improve health services. They also are involved in assisting low-income veterans and military families and helping people living in poverty to get access to technology.

There are nine VISTA members and 11 AmeriCorps volunteers now serving terms in Douglas County. Some of them may decide, as did others before them, to stay in the area at the end of their hitches. They would be valuable additions to the community. They are proven problem solvers already aware of what needs to be done here, who can make it happen, and where to go for additional resources.

However long their tenure, we all would do well to get to know the VISTA members and AmeriCorps volunteers who are working to make life better in county neighborhoods and schools.

To find out more, go to AmeriCorps.org or call UCAN at 541-492-3518.

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The News-Review Updated Jul 9, 2013 12:16PM Published Jul 9, 2013 12:16PM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.