My name is Sarah Haber and this past year I served as the VISTA Team Leader in Prescott for Arizona Serve. As I reflect on my last 2 years it’s crazy to think my time as a VISTA member is coming to a close.
I am originally from New York state and grew up in Rockland County which is about 45 minutes north of NYC. I went to school at SUNY Oswego, a state school in upstate New York where I studied Public Relations and Computer Science. I had a great experience in college where I made some really incredible friends and found a passion for playing rugby. Needless to say, I learned how to take a hit in college. There was still a big question on my mind after graduating in May of 2017. I had no clue what I wanted to do as far as a career goes.
I had learned what some of my personal life passions were but not necessarily my professional passions. I looked into serving as a VISTA and through Arizona Serve I was able to find a VISTA opportunity in the redneck capital of Arizona, Chino Valley. So this New York gal packed her bags and headed out to the wild wild west.
My time serving in Chino Valley was my first taste of a professional experience. I served as the Community Volunteer Program Coordinator for the Chino Valley Area Chamber of Commerce. I know, it’s quite a mouth full. The CVACC was very small and was made up of The Director, my supervisor and myself. Yup. Just the two of us.
If I am going to be totally honest…I wasn’t completely sure what serving as the Community Volunteer Program Coordinator meant or even what exactly what I was going to be doing. I was the first VISTA serving on this project which gave me very little context as to how to go about serving for this organization. I was really starting over at square one with a completely blank canvass.
Not only was I responsible for recruiting and managing the volunteers for the chamber but I also built an online database that helped individuals in the area connect with local volunteer opportunities. Sounds pretty cool but the connection back to poverty wasn’t super clear to me at that point.
In using my communication skills to get the non profits excited about this program, it helped me understand the importance of this program and the cycle of giving. This program was meant to provide an essential service to the non profits. Volunteers. Nonprofits really do run on their volunteers and if we can provide this service of connecting them to potential volunteers for free, those nonprofits can then focus on fulfilling their organizational mission. Which by the way, most of the missions of these non profits are to serve the community. YeeHaw!
This is very similar to Arizona Serve. Because I had such a great experience learning more about myself as a professional, I decided to extend my service for a second year and take on the Team Leader role and continue to help connect non profits with potential VISTAs.
Although it didn’t start out amazing, this position as a team leader was super important for my own professional development. I had to think about what skills I had that I was really proud of. Public Speaking, media relations, and partner development. In a nutshell, I’m a people person.
I learned that these skills would really help in event planning, a task I had never really done before. By utilizing my skills I was able to find new organizations to partner with us, receive several donations, and spread awareness of our events and awareness of Arizona Serve in general.
The event I am the most proud of would be our Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service Project. I established partnerships with 7 different organizations and recruited 136 community members to join our AmeriCorps team for the projects. The volunteers assembled 1,063 naloxone kits for Sonoran Prevention Works, built two raised garden beds for Prescott Unified School District’s Indian Education Program, painted a hallway at Northpoint Academy, primed a house for Prescott Habitat For Humanity, beautified the La Tierra Community School, sorted donations for all three Stepping Stones Agencies, and moved over 16 tons of sand into stalls for Horses with H.E.A.R.T.
Some of these organizations I had gotten to know from my previous year of serving. I knew exactly how much of an impact these projects had on the organization as well as the community. The naloxone kits that were assembled for Sonoran Prevention Works can literally save someone’s life who is here in our community. A small task that leave a huge impact.
I am proud to have been an integral part of such a fulfilling event . All of these organizations are different and serve different needs for our community. This is what gives me hope. When we can all put our differences aside and come together as one and be apart of the cycle of giving
I don’t think I would have learned about my professional skills and life lessons if it weren’t for moving away from home and serving as a VISTA. At times we question whether we’re even really making a difference or an impact in our communities. It might not be obvious as to how our work helps others. I never thought that my skills could even be used to “serve” a community or make much of an impact. I realize now that even that smallest things that we have to offer can make as hard of an impact as a hit from a rugby game.
And it turns out, I may know a thing or two about events. I will be relocating to Tucson to fill the role as the Communications and Events Coordinator for Arizona Serve. I’m excited to see what this new adventures brings.