Hello, my name is Laura Johnson, and I am an AmeriCorps VISTA serving at Easter Seals Blake Foundation (ESBF). I am a native Tucsonan and proud Wildcat! This is my second term as a VISTA at ESBF. For my first term, I served with the Incredible Years program, which involved organizing community-based First Things First-funded parenting groups and providing program support. This year, I am serving with the development team at ESBF. It has been a wonderful learning experience to apply what I learned during my time working with a direct-service program to a more administrative role. I feel as inspired by ESBF’s mission statement as I was when I first started: “The mission of Easter Seals Blake Foundation is to enable each individual served to discover and meet his or her maximum potential for independent, productive living and developmental growth”. This is why VISTAs and other AmeriCorps members across the country have served and are serving: belief in the power of the individual and advocating for those who are marginalized.
During this service term, I have been a part of some major fundraising events, which have made for a busy, whirlwind experience. The first was our Cooking with the Stars dinner. Cooking with the Stars recruits local celebrities to be Teppan chefs for the night to prepare meals for guests. A large portion of the evening is set aside for silent and live auctions. I assisted in soliciting, recording, and preparing items for the auctions and also recruited and managed volunteers to assist with the auction via third-party websites and social media. There were a total of 20 volunteers who served 100 hours in all. Cooking with the Stars raised a total of about $30,000 for Easter Seals Blake Foundation.
The second major event I participated in so far this year was El Tour de Tucson. El Tour de Tucson is a cycling event where cyclists join various teams to raise money for nonprofit agencies and organizations. Easter Seals Blake Foundation was the primary beneficiary for the event this year. I assisted development staff by recruiting and managing volunteers for the Tour's dedication dinner, EXPO, and day-of booth. 35 volunteers who served a total of 100 hours assisted Easter Seals Blake Foundation and Perimeter Bicycling staff. I also created website and social media content to promote the event and communicate with Wheels for Easter Seals cyclists. In total, Easter Seals Blake Foundation received around $130,000 from this event.
I feel grateful each day to have the opportunity to serve as a VISTA. From my service terms, I have learned so much about my community, my country, and myself. I have been educated, matured, and humbled by this experience. I have had the opportunity to meet and work beside the wonderful people that make up the ESBF, Arizona Serve, and Tucson communities. I know that my contribution is small, but I feel lucky to have the chance to give back to my community and country, both of which I love dearly. To all potential AmeriCorps members out there, don’t forget: “Your world, your chance-to make it better”.