On February 25th, the Americorps VISTA program will celebrate its 50th anniversary of serving the poverty areas of rural and urban communities in America. The VISTA program first began with the dream of President John F. Kennedy and was carried out two years later when President Lyndon B. Johnson declared the war on poverty. This dream of having a national service corps became a reality when Johnson welcomed the first VISTA volunteers in 1965. The initiative started with only twenty volunteers and has grown to a network of 7,000 members, serving at 1,100 projects across the nation. Today the VISTA program falls underneath the Americorps umbrella which was developed in 1993, and the Commission on National and Community Service which was created in 1990 when President George H.W. Bush saw a decline in national service.
LAF has hosted 110 Vistas since 1998 and has granted VISTAaccess to other organizations throughout Chicago and Cook County. These organizations include the AIDS Legal Council, Chicago Lawyer’s Council, DuPage Federation, First Defense Legal Aid, ILAO, Land of Lincoln, Loyola, Prairie State, and the Shriver’s center. The VISTA program helps prepare the 21st century workforce, expands educational opportunity, builds community leaders, mobilizes volunteers in the community, and builds capacity within non-profit organizations across the country.
In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the VISTA program follow our blog series this month to see what great work our VISTA’s here at LAF and our partnering organizations are doing!