A Year of Service at the Central Texas Red Cross

Two AmeriCorps VISTAs came to our Austin, TX chapter in July of 2012 to begin a year of service giving back to their country to alleviate poverty. As their years come to a close, here are their thoughts about the experience.

Krista Nielsen, development

Being a VISTA in development at the Red Cross has been a truly humbling experience. I am a brand new Texan and I have been blessed to get to know the people here. This community is generous, compassionate and any time a disaster has struck will light up our phone lines wanting to give their time, collect food, give every last dollar they have and even let disaster victims stay in their homes. Through Hurricane Sandy this fall, apartments fires over the winter and the recent explosion in West it has really touched me to see how everyone around me has responded and wanted to be involved in helping in some way.

My AmeriCorps year has been about hard work to reinforce and build the capacity of our organization, community outreach and public relations, service to people who have lost everything in a disaster and helping be prepared for the next. Being a VISTA is something unique. It lets you love the work for the work’s sake, and the longer I’ve worked at the Red Cross the more I believe in the mission.

Victoria Goldfedib, Service to Armed Forces

A life-long passion for volunteer work and community service called me from my home in New York City, the capital of the world, to the capital of Texas, Austin. Throughout my year of service, I have helped hundreds of service members and veterans in times of crisis. One day, I received a frantic phone call from a service member’s wife, who was on a Skype call with her husband deployed overseas. They had just found out one of his close family members was critically ill. She placed the call on mute and told me that she did not think the family member had much time left, but did not want her husband to know at this time. I calmly explained the process for creating an Emergency Communications Message, and the information necessary for verification. She thanked me and called the Service to the Armed Forces Call Center. Several days later, I saw their case pop up in our regional queue. I called the service member’s wife to conduct follow-up and to find out if her husband was able to come home. Immediately, she recognized my voice, and told me that not only was he granted emergency leave, but he came home just before the family member passed away. The service member’s wife thanked the American Red Cross for assisting and giving her husband the opportunity to say goodbye to his family member while he was deployed.

Although bittersweet, this moment made me realize that what we do as AmeriCorps VISTAs is truly vital and necessary. Whether it is providing a homeless veteran with a bus pass so that they can travel  to the local VA facility, or assisting a service member and their family in a crisis, AmeriCorps VISTAs are truly Volunteers in Service To America.

If you are interested in giving back to your community, two year-long VISTA positions are available starting this summer – one begins in July and one begins in August. If you have questions about these positions or would like to learn more please get in touch with Cheryl Sawyer, Director of Community Resource Development and VISTA Project Director at 512-471-6173, or email at cheryls@austin.utexas.edu.

A Year of Service at the Central Texas Red Cross

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