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Americorps VISTA has big plans

By Staff | Nov 21, 2014

Chelsey Moore has a heart to help bring seniors and youth together to help each other. Moore will work to that end over the next year serving as an Americorps VISTA in Jefferson County.

VISTA, commemorating 50 years in 2015, was founded as Volunteers in Service to America in 1965 as a national service program to fight poverty in America. In 1993, VISTA was incorporated into the AmeriCorps network of programs.

According to their website, AmeriCorps VISTA members make a year-long, full-time commitment to serve on a specific project at a nonprofit organization or public agency. They focus their efforts to build the organizational, administrative and financial capacity of organizations that fight illiteracy, improve health services, foster economic development and otherwise assist low-income communities.

Moore will serve in this capacity located at the Jefferson County Council on Aging in Ranson. While the agency’s facility is located in the city, Amy Wellman, executive director, points out that they serve senior citizens all over Jefferson County.

Moore will work to develop a mentoring program between seniors and students, kindergarten through third grade, initially. She will serve a minimum of a one-year term creating and implementing the multi-generational program.

Hitting the ground running last Monday, Moore is already developing and creating connections with a variety of groups and individuals who will help make the program not only a one-time success, but sustainable through the future.

Moore said, “I am looking at developing an intergenerational program to bridge the gap between seniors and youth.” She went on to say that she hopes the program will help prevent isolation of seniors who don’t have young people connections.

“It will also be a ‘grandparent’ type bond for kids who may not have grandparents,” she said.

The program plans include an afterschool and early evening connection between seniors and youth. To start, the desire is to have approximately 30 participants meet at the Council on Aging facility in Ranson. Seniors will help the kids with homework, share stories and then have dinner together. The program is intended to be a five-day-a-week program.

Moore is writing a program plan and making contacts with potential funding sources for the program to be sustainable. She will meet with Jefferson County Board of Education members to discuss the feasibility of moving the program directly into some county schools in the future.

Wellman shared that Sen. John Unger has helped facilitate the program and secured $13,000 for the Feed to Achieve program to be part of this new program.

Moore stressed that the process revolves around the West Virginia Promise Alliance for Youth that began in 1997 under the direction of its founding chairman, General Colin Powell.

The organization was formed to meet a presidential challenge to make children a national priority, built around the framework of providing the Five Promises to America’s young people. West Virginia’s Promise accepts the challenge by leveraging an AmeriCorps Promise VISTA Project that places AmeriCorps members throughout the state to assist in strengthening the Five Promises:

Caring adults such as parents, teacher, mentors, neighbors and coaches

Safe places that offer constructive activities when young people are not in school

A healthy start with healthy bodies, healthy minds and healthful habits

An effective education that prepares young people for successful work and lifelong learning

Opportunities to help others through service

Those who may be interested in helping with the program, either through financial resources or to serve as a senior mentor, contact Moore at the Council on Aging at 304-725-4044.