VISTA program expanding in Walker County
by Jennifer Cohron
Mar 26, 2012 | 1710 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Amelia Trowbridge, the new team leader for local AmeriCorps VISTAs, goes over paperwork in her office.Photo by: Jennifer Cohron
Amelia Trowbridge, the new team leader for local AmeriCorps VISTAs, goes over paperwork in her office.Photo by: Jennifer Cohron
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After decades of living in various parts of the United States, Amelia Trowbridge moved back to Walker County with her husband in 2007 to retire.

In less than two years, she began looking for a way to fill her time.

Paul Kennedy, president of the Walker Area Community Foundation, suggested that she apply to be an AmeriCorps VISTA.

VISTAs, or Volunteers in Service to America, make a year-long commitment to serve with a nonprofit organization or public agency in exchange for a modest living allowance and health benefits.

In 2010, Trowbridge was assigned to the Walker County Arts Alliance as well as the local Nonprofit Council.

“I wanted to do it to give back to the community. I felt I could make a difference because of my experiences living in so many places and cultures,” Trowbridge said.

WCAA was a perfect fit for Trowbridge, who had helped set up an interactive art display in an inner-city school while living in Atlanta.

While serving as a VISTA, she helped increase the number of artists and volunteers participating in WCAA’s annual juried show Art in the Park.

Trowbridge also assisted with office work, in-school programs and last year’s 50 Mule Team Public Art Project.

Beth Sargent, executive coordinator of WCAA, said Trowbridge’s services as a VISTA were invaluable to the organization.

“Amelia was instrumental in the area of community outreach. A lot more attention is focused on the Arts Alliance now, and Amelia helped propel us forward,” Sargent said.

Trowbridge, who served as a VISTA for two years, was recently promoted to team leader of the VISTAs currently serving through the Walker Area Community Foundation.

One of them is her replacement at WCAA, Alisha Barber.

Barber, a college student from Arley, volunteered with several nonprofits in Walker and Winston counties before joining the VISTA program.

Barber said she hopes to continue building the volunteer base for WCAA as well as increasing its exposure in the community.

“I think it’s a great program as far as reaching out to different artists,” Barber said.

VISTAs have been active in Walker County since 2007. The program recently expanded from five VISTAs to 12. The additional volunteers are helping with long term recovery efforts in Walker, Marion, Franklin and Lawrence counties.

The position of VISTA team leader became available in Walker County for the first time because of the program’s growth.

Trowbridge said some of her main responsibilities include training and motivating the current crop of local VISTAs as well as recruiting more to take their place.

She added that being a VISTA is both a rewarding and eye-opening experience.

“I think once you’ve been a VISTA, you’re always going to want to give back,” Trowbridge said.

For more information about the program, visit www.americorps.gov/about/programs/vista.asp.