Economic Opportunity

AmeriCorps VISTA members out in the community they serve

  • National service members conduct trainings and workshops that support and educate hundreds of thousands of Americans.
  • AmeriCorps VISTA specializes in assisting organizations that combat poverty in America.
  • AmeriCorps NCCC teams travel to all corners of the country to partner with local organizations and do their part to expand economic opportunity.
  • AmeriCorps State & National places thousands of members in projects dedicated to economic opportunity.

The Virginia Housing Alliance, Fairfax, VA

An AmeriCorps NCCC team was deployed to work in Fairfax County, VA alongside the Virginia Housing Alliance (VHA), a local non-profit organization that helps individuals and families meet their emergency shelter, food, and medical needs, and one of their affiliates, FACETS. The team helped the preparation process for the Point In Time (PIT) Count by assisting members of the Fairfax-Falls Church Continuum of Care (CoC) with document preparation by dividing themselves into two hypothermia shelters, surveying and conducting 47 community assessments. The team served The Lamb Center including organizing their clothing closet by sorting 20 pounds of household goods, inventorying 40 pounds of food for the pantry and serving 20 meals.

The Housing First Village: Tiny Shelter Project, Human Resource Development Council (HRDC); Bozeman, MT

Ten members of AmeriCorps NCCC completed 4,597 service hours alongside the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) and four of its community programs and partners (Housing First Village, Fork and Spoon, the Warming Center, and the Gallatin Valley Food Bank) to assist in reducing the impacts of poverty on the Gallatin Valley.  Over 12 weeks, all ten members of the team cut and assembled the walls for 16 houses and finished to completion (siding, painmknting, flooring, etc.) one home as a model in the HRDC’s shop space. In the long-term, this project will benefit the lives of 50 to 60 people which will in turn benefit the community as a whole. Annual service costs for one chronically homeless individual is estimated around $28,000. This figure represents a significant cost to the community that will be greatly reduced once a secure living environment is established. Furthermore, Corps members were not only taught skills in construction work such as cutting, siding, insulation, and flooring, but they were also pushed to be self-starters. In 11 days with the Food Bank, Corps Members received, sorted, and distributed 243,562 pounds of food. Two Corps Members worked the night shift at the Warming Center Overflow, assisting 353 individuals and 32 families experiencing homelessness. The team served 253 meals during their time.

Programming on Employment in Community Technology Empowerment Project (CTEP) Programs 

(2015) The CTEP study was designed to evaluate whether participation in the CTEP program improved job placement rates for adult learners compared to adult learners in other similar programs in Minnesota. The study found that: CTEP participants had a post-program employment rate nine points greater (50 to 41 percent) than other intensive training program participants, and 20 points higher (50 to 30 percent) than Minnesota adult learners in general; CTEP program participants showed a 14.9% increase in employment before and after the program; and CTEP participants identified personal improvement, help with job search, and improvement in Microsoft Word as the top three reasons for joining the program. The program is still operating.



Senior Companion volunteer helps senior with forms

Senior Corps for Economic Opportunity

RSVP of Worcester Area Volunteer Senior Fraud Prevention Initiative (MA)

The three components of this initiative are the “RSVP Senior Fraud Helpline”, the “Fraud Brigade” and the Fraud Squad Players” and “RSVP’s Senior Fraud HelpLine, each is linked to the others but meets different needs in combating frauds and scams targeting seniors. 

A cadre of 35 RSVP volunteers support the RSVP Senior Fraud HelpLine which operates daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday with RSVP volunteers answering calls.  These volunteers are trained in active listening, as well as in identifying the various components of abuse and various scams and frauds. Callers to the Helpline find a peer who may have had a similar experience, a peer trained and knowledgeable about what to do next, and a peer who cares about their fears.  Referrals are also included as local advocates may be contacted as the RSVP Helpline volunteer has the phone numbers and names and can readily put the caller in touch with the organization that will be most helpful.

For more than three years, a squad of 28 “Fraud Squad Players” have been performing original, scripted scenes depicting current scams and frauds targeting seniors. Each performance is followed by a volunteer-led discussion and concludes with a spokesperson asking for those in attendance to consider becoming a “Fraud Brigade” volunteer.  The spokesperson also highlights the Senior Fraud HelpLine and hands out printed material with the 1-800, toll free number of the HelpLine, encouraging seniors to call if they feel they have been targeted or if they are considering sending money to someone they don’t know.

The "Fraud Brigade" builds on the other elements of the initiative. Eight volunteers serve "in place" at their own senior centers to provide support and active listening to seniors who feel they may be at risk of a scam or are already to victim of a scam but may be too embarassed to tell family or friends.

Cuyahoga County RSVP Program for Job Preparedness (OH)

Sponsored by Greater Cleveland Volunteers, RSVP volunteers in Cuyahoga County assist clients who are severely challenged with job preparedness due to low education or other factors that inhibit their job readiness. Serving at three local sites, RSVP volunteers conduct activities such as: GED tutoring, teaching English as a Second Language (ESL), coaching and teaching computer skills, helping with resume preparation, and conducting mock interviews, all with the goal of helping their clients to be prepared to seek employment. They also help to walk clients through the process of online applications.  In one six-month period, these volunteers served 101 clients.

Western Arkansas RSVP Tax Preparation (AR)

Throughout Western Arkansas, WestArk RSVP provides community outreach and assistance to low-income individuals that address urgent community needs including providing free tax preparation services.  RSVP volunteers prepare and electronically file federal and state (Arkansas and Oklahoma) tax returns for the elderly, disabled, unemployed, active duty military and families with incomes under $54,000.

Partnering with IRS, volunteers receive annual training and are tested and certified by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).  WestArk RSVP operates Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) programs six days per week from January through April.  After April services are available one day per week through September.

A core group of 93 WestArk RSVP volunteers have been involved with tax preparation for many years.  Twenty-four of the 93 volunteers are military veterans and 9 of those veterans are certified military volunteer tax preparers which requires additional study and testing. Other volunteer tax preparers include retired accountants, teachers, engineers, business people and retired members of the military.

During the 2018 tax season, WestArk RSVP volunteers prepared and electronically filed state and federal income tax returns for over 5,000 families in up to 140 different zip codes.   Tax preparation fee savings for those families exceeded $500,000.  Total refunds received equaled $5.1 million back to the economy with $1.3 million in Earned Income Tax Credits.  Also during this time RSVP volunteers served 37 active duty military families, 534 disabled workers, 67 homeless individuals, 261 Spanish-speaking families, 78 families with limited English proficiency and 129 Native American families.

New York Community Service Society Financial Coaching Corps (NY)

The Financial Coaching Corps (FCC) has 29 RSVP volunteers serving in 23 community-based organizations, many of which focus on job training or serve populations such as the homeless, formerly incarcerated or those recovering from substance abuse. Each year, the program provides one-on-one coaching sessions to over 750 clients helping them develop positive financial skills in the areas of asset building, budgeting, banking, credit repair and debt management.

Many of the clients are experiencing severe credit and debt problems. Unlike other financial coaching programs, FCC does not require clients to have income and a stable financial situation to receive assistance. In fact, 48% of the clients are unemployed and looking for work and 68% have an annual income at or below $20,000.

RSVP volunteer financial coaches provide clients with the tools and skills needed to build confidence in money management by obtaining credit reports, developing debt reduction plans, creating a household budget, and setting financial goals. At the end of each coaching session clients are asked to fill out a voluntary survey to assess their level of understanding of the topics covered in the session. Ninety percent of the clients surveyed report an increase in understanding in one or more financial topics.


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