VISTA has helped to set up drug abuse action centers, literacy programs, food distribution efforts and shelters for runaway youth, and the homeless.
For example, VISTA Volunteers provided assistance to families involved in a self-help housing project for low-income families by helping them to select building sites and affordable house plans, obtaining cost estimates for construction materials and subcontracting required, obtaining home ownership loans and providing the families with information on loan payments, credit counseling and home ownership responsibilities.
VISTA volunteers assigned to a nonprofit organization in New York provided low-income adults with tutoring services to upgrade their reading skills and to improve their employment potential through computer literacy activities.
Volunteers serving in technology projects assess local technology needs, develop and design technology plans, establish community Internet sites, develop web sites and recruit community volunteers for such activities as installing computer hardware and software and staffing computer labs.
VISTA Volunteers through a health project provided coordination services from a hospital and local health organizations, which enabled services and resources to be provided to medically under-served seniors in ten target neighborhoods.
Volunteers also recruited local volunteers to provide health screenings and referral services in each neighborhood.
The Corporation for National and Community Service is the nation's largest grant-maker supporting service and volunteering. Through Senior Corps, AmeriCorps and Learn and Serve America programs, the Corporation is a catalyst for change and offers every American a chance to contribute through service and volunteering.
During fiscal year 2005, approximately 6,707 VISTA Volunteers served 1,200 sponsoring organizations in 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico in a variety of poverty-related programs. The programs are focused on hunger, homelessness, unemployment, health, economic development including welfare to work , and illiteracy; including literacy problems faced by America's children. Approximately 50 percent of VISTA's resources are focused on the problems of disadvantaged youth, who comprise the largest category, by age, of America's poor. Many of these activities address the problems of substance abuse, delinquency, child abuse, and illiteracy. VISTA resources are allocated among Corporation for National Service Cluster and State offices in accordance with poverty indices within those areas.
Uses and Use Restrictions
Volunteer: Provides full-time, full- year volunteers to local sponsoring organizations to work on clearly- defined tasks which address the problems of poverty.
The volunteers live among the people they serve at subsistence levels of support.
All volunteers work to improve the community's ability to solve its own problems.
Members of the poor community should actively participate in the development and implementation of the project.
Projects must be responsive to the needs and desires of the people who are to benefit from them in order to be funded by VISTA.
Volunteers are not to supplant hiring or displace employed workers, or impair existing contracts for service.
No agency supervising volunteers shall request or receive compensation for services of the volunteers.
Volunteers are not to be involved in, and funds are not to be used for, religious activities, labor or anti-labor organization, lobbying, or partisan or non-partisan political activities.
Volunteers may be recruited locally to serve in their own communities or referred by the Corporation for National Service to sponsoring organizations in other parts of the country based on the volunteers' skills and project needs.
Sponsors applying for VISTA Volunteers must be Federal, State or local government agencies or private, nonprofit organizations.
The project proposing to use the volunteers must be designed to assist in the solution of poverty-related problems.
Persons who are assisted by VISTA project activities must be low-income and VISTA activities must directly benefit the poor.
Applicants must be bona fide public or private nonprofit organizations. Nonprofit organizations must furnish proof of nonprofit status and articles of incorporation.
Aplication and Award Process
Application inquiry forms and assistance in applying for Volunteers may be obtained through the appropriate Corporation for National Service State Office.
The application form is submitted to the appropriate Corporation for National Service State Office.
This program is eligible for coverage under E.O.
12372, "Intergovernmental Review of Federal Programs." An applicant should consult the office or official designated as the single point of contact in his or her State for more information on the review process the State requires to be followed in applying for assistance if the State has selected the program for review.
Prospective sponsors apply through Corporation for National Service State Offices. The Governor or other chief executive officer of the State concerned has the right to disapprove programs submitted within 45 days of their submission.
New renewal project applications are reviewed and judged by Corporation for National Service State Offices with final decisions rendered by the Corporation State Director.
Contact the Corporation for National and Community Service State Office for project application deadlines.
Domestic Volunteer Service Act of 1973, as amended, Title I, Part A, Public Law 93-113, 42 U.S.C. 4951 et seq.
Range of Approval/Disapproval Time
No formal appeals for denial of initial project application; however, regulations provide for hearings on terminations and suspensions, and opportunity to show cause in cases of denial of refunding.
Renewal applications are required annually at least 115 days prior to the end of the project period. Renewals are subject to the same review procedures as new projects.
Formula and Matching Requirements
This program has no statutory formula or matching requirements.
Length and Time Phasing of Assistance
VISTA Volunteers are assigned to a project for a given length of time, generally 1 year, as designated in a Memorandum of Agreement between Corporation for National Service and the sponsor. Individual volunteers commit themselves to a 1- year term of service which may be extended with sponsor and Corporation for National Service approval.
Post Assistance Requirements
Quarterly Project Progress Reports in first year; semi- annual thereafter unless requested by Corporation State Office.
Sponsors are subject to audit by Corporation for National Service.
Sponsors are expected to maintain records pertaining to volunteer assignments and training activities for 3 years after the end of the project year.
(Direct costs only) FY 07 $95,470,000; FY 08 est not available; and FY 09 est not reported.
Range and Average of Financial Assistance
Regulations, Guidelines, and Literature
VISTA Program Guidelines, 60 FR 7172 February 7, 1995; VISTA Handbook for Volunteers and Sponsors (Corporation for National Service Handbook 4302.0.)
Regional or Local Office
See Corporation for National Service Cluster and State Program Offices list in Appendix IV of the Catalog.
Director of VISTA, Corporation for National Service, 1201 New York Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20525. Telephone: (202) 606-5000 or toll-free (800) 424-8867.
Criteria for Selecting Proposals
All of the following elements must be found in the applicant's proposal for new or renewal projects. The project must: (1) be poverty oriented in scope and comply with the provisions of the Domestic Volunteer Service Act of 1973 applicable to VISTA and all published regulations and Corporation for National Service policies; (2) show that the project goals, objectives and Volunteer tasks are attainable within the time frame during which the Volunteers will be serving on the project and will produce a measurable result; (3) provide for reasonable efforts to recruit and involve low-income community residents in the planning, development and implementation of the VISTA project; (4) provide for frequent and effective supervision of the Volunteers; (5) identify resources needed and make them available for Volunteers to perform their tasks; and (6) have the management capability to carry out the project.
Leilah Janah is a social entrepreneur popularly known as the CEO of Samasource, a nonprofit organization that works to bring enterprise data services which focus on helping disadvantaged workers. Samasource also makes it possible to change the lives of its workers and their families by helping them find dignified, sustainable work online.