Community Champions: Step Up Savannah AmeriCorps Vista Program

There was one constant in a year when everything was different.
There was one constant in a year when everything was different.(WTOC)
Updated: Jan. 6, 2021 at 5:42 PM EST
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - There was one constant in a year when everything was different.

“Poverty has been a persistent issue for Chatham County. But we understand the importance of moving the needle one family at a time and one agency at a time. And that’s how you have to strengthen the community and change the outcomes,” said Step Up Savannah Executive Director Alicia Johnson.

Despite the pandemic, those outcomes were impressive once again for Step Up Savannah’s AmeriCorps Vista program, which places volunteers with partner non-profit agencies for a year of full-time service.

“They are the boots on the ground, they are volunteers themselves, they are there to make a difference and they are there for one year working on anything from food scarcity to health issues,” said Step Up Savannah Community Collaboration Coordinator Alexandra Nicosias-Kopp.

Nine Vistas were assigned to nine local non-profits, including the Wesley Community Center, the Mediation Center and Performance Initiatives. And they had an impact everywhere they were - raising funds and recruiting other volunteers.

“This year alone, that group brought about $175,000 in funding and skilled labor to our community.”

“We reached some really high goals, especially with COVID. That put barriers on a lot of our members.”

But the WTOC Community Champions at Step Up Savannah once again overcame barriers on their way to supporting the social safety net for less fortunate residents.

“I think what the pandemic did show was the disproportionate effects of wealth integrity and income integrity and wage integrity on our county and nationwide.”

“A lot of our work is really spread across the community. Poverty affects people’s lives in so many different capacities.”

“Being able to assist those other agencies that are part of that social safety net and giving them the needed resources that they cannot otherwise have was a great outcome for us in the 2020 year.”

In addition to raising $140,000 for their local non-profits, the Vistas also recruited 180 new volunteers who totaled 1,350 volunteer hours.

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