Emily Keimig, AmeriCorps VISTA Leader
When people ask me what I do, it can be hard to explain. Do I work at Turn the Page KC? Not exactly. Do I volunteer? In a way. More accurately, I serve at Turn the Page KC as an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteer in Service to America). Let me explain.
AmeriCorps VISTA is a national service program with the longstanding goal of overcoming poverty in the United States of America. Most AmeriCorps members devote a year of their life to intensive, full-time service at a nonprofit organization or school. Currently, 400 AmeriCorps members serve in the Kansas City area, working to improve health services, increase housing opportunities, promote literacy and otherwise assist our city’s lowest-income communities. These dedicated individuals choose to fight poverty while living in poverty, receiving a living stipend approximately equivalent to the federal poverty line.
As an organization proudly invested in Kansas City’s future, Turn the Page KC saw an opportunity to help cultivate today’s socially-motivated service members into tomorrow’s impactful community leaders. Two months ago, I was lucky enough to gather with numerous nonprofits around Turn the Page KC’s table to discuss how we could best invest in the development of our organizations’ corps members. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a renowned advocate for human capital and talent development in Kansas City, quickly offered their support in facilitating monthly professional development sessions for AmeriCorps members, for which I was given the honor of organizing. Designed to bolster skills relevant to service and engage with career paths leading to Kansas City jobs, these sessions set the stage for the establishment of the KC AmeriCorps Alliance.
Currently hosting 20 member organizations, the KC AmeriCorps Alliance seeks to provide AmeriCorps members with more than training, facilitating connections to low-income assistance resources, fellow corps members, and the Kansas City community. Only two months in, several AmeriCorps members have eagerly volunteered for a Community Resource Committee, locating and sharing resources important to service members’ economic and personal well-being, like how to apply for SNAP benefits or minimize student loan debt. The collaborative nature of Kansas City’s nonprofit sector is not lost on its national service members. Like our parent organizations, AmeriCorps members learn to build each other up in order to achieve a common goal, resulting in a collective impact which proves stronger than the impact of its individual parts.
When I began my service a year ago as an AmeriCorps VISTA member hoping to make a difference, I expected to grow as an individual. What I didn’t expect was to join a movement.