by Jamie Shapiro, Downtown Colorado, Inc., Rural Outreach Specialist
One of the most difficult challenges for rural Colorado communities, one that Downtown Colorado, Inc. (DCI) sees again and again, is the small size of municipal staff. In rural communities throughout the state, professional staff work tirelessly to help their communities. With limited time and a multitude of projects, it can be impossible for staff to tackle new projects or expand their efforts.
With this challenge in mind, and with the experience of having hosted a VISTA for the last three years, DCI set out to establish its own VISTA team for rural Colorado. This year, DCI is launching Downtown Capacity Builders, a team of VISTAs placed in rural communities, dedicated to downtown revitalization efforts. Host communities throughout Central and Southern Colorado are, as we speak, working hard to prepare for the VISTAs, who will begin their work in April, 2016.
AmeriCorps VISTA, envisioned as the domestic Peace Corps, began in 1965. VISTAs, or Volunteers in Service to America, dedicate one year to working full time for a non-profit or small public agency to build capacity of that organization, so that it can better meet community needs. VISTAs are typically young and college educated, and through their service gain valuable career skills in the nonprofit and public sector. They are paid a living stipend throughout their time.
As a former VISTA, I can attest to the powerful community of VISTAs and VISTA Supervisors, and the incredible opportunity afforded by such an experience. DCI could not be more proud to be launching this time. Hopefully the enthusiasm and time of a full time VISTA our partner communities will see their time management worries decrease and their projects grow and expand.
For more information on the Community Capacity Building program and how it can help your community, please contact Jamie Shapiro by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call DCI at 303-282-0625 with any questions.
Jamie Shapiro previously served as DCI’s AmeriCorps VISTA. He is currently pursuing a masters in Historic Preservation from the University of Colorado Denver.