Washington D.C. -- The U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan resolution saluting VISTA for its extraordinary contribution to alleviating poverty and improving American society, kicking off a series of events to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the poverty-fighting program.
The resolution, which passed unanimously last Tuesday, was introduced by Senators Jay Rockefeller (WV) and Thad Cochran (MS), and was cosponsored by Senators Mark Begich (AK), Robert Byrd (WV), Barbara Mikulski (MD), and Russ Feingold (WI). A similar resolution (H.Res.1152) was introduced in the House last week by Representatives Gwen Moore (WI) and Howard Berman (CA), both former VISTAs.
Launched in 1965 by President Johnson as part of the War on Poverty, VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) has engaged more than 175,000 Americans in devoting a year of full-time service living and working in low-income communities to help eradicate poverty. VISTA became part of AmeriCorps in 1993 and is administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service.
“For forty-five years, VISTA has been on the frontlines of the war on poverty, bringing hope and opportunity to millions of our most vulnerable citizens,” said Corporation CEO Patrick Corvington. “We thank Senators Rockefeller and Cochran for leading this effort to recognize VISTA's proud legacy and ongoing impact in reducing poverty in America.”
In introducing the resolution, Senator Rockefeller recalled his own story of coming to West Virginia in 1964 as a 27-year-old VISTA volunteer providing resources and opportunities for young people in the small mining community of Emmons.
“So, we fought for a school bus. We built a small library. We built a park. We started a baseball team. We didn't win a single game, but that wasn't what was important. It was opening up new possibilities for those kids. My experience was just one of thousands. Since 1965, more than 175,000 Americans of all ages and walks of life have answered VISTA's call. I am proud to count myself as a member of that very special group,” Rockefeller said.
The 45th anniversary has special meaning for the Senator, who cites VISTA as the foundation for his career in public service. “When I look back on VISTA beginnings, I see my own roots--the foundation on which I have built the rest of my life. Everything that I have done in my career in public office has been grounded in the VISTA experience and in those kids and families who taught me so much about life.”
“VISTA has been hard at work in the fight against poverty for 45 years. Today, the VISTA program is stronger than ever,” said Senator Cochran. “These volunteers are committed to serving the needs of the poorest Americans at numerous program sites, and they are to be commended for their unselfish contributions to helping others.”
AmeriCorps VISTA annually engages more than 7,000 members in helping more than 1,000 local organizations build sustainable anti-poverty programs. Last year, AmeriCorps VISTA members generated more than $100 million in resources and mobilized more than one million volunteers for their projects.
The Senate resolution is the first of a series of activities commemorating VISTA's 45th anniversary. Events highlighting the people and stories behind VISTA's work as an anti-poverty program will take place during AmeriCorps Week (May 8-15) and at the National Conference on Volunteering and Service (June 28-30).
A key goal of the anniversary is to reconnect with VISTA alumni so they can share their stories about the transformational impact of service in their lives. VISTA alumni and supporters are encouraged to email VISTA.Alumni@cns.gov if they are interested in getting involved in these anniversary activities.
Click here for text of the Senate resolution.