What Is the History of the VISTA Volunteers?


Quick Answer

VISTA, volunteers in service to America and part of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, first welcomed volunteers in January 1965. That first year, over 2,000 VISTA volunteers provided services in Appalachia, migrant camps in California and poor neighborhoods of Hartford, Connecticut, growing to 3,600 in 1966. VISTA became part of the ACTION agency in the 1970s and, with the creation of AmeriCorps, became the AmeriCorps VISTA program of the Corporation for National and Community Service in 1993.

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Full Answer

Many of the early VISTA projects, such as credit unions, agricultural cooperatives and small businesses continue in 2015, including some of the original Head Start programs and Job Corps sites. In its early years, VISTA also recruited professionals, such as lawyers, doctors and architects, to provide needed services in impoverished communities across the United States. In 2015, the year of its 50th anniversary, VISTA boasts 8,000 members serving at 1,100 projects across the United States. VISTA projects continue to focus on addressing local problems and fighting poverty by ameliorating its root causes.

In addition to the traditional year-long volunteer program, AmeriCorps VISTA also offers an eight to 10 week summer program for volunteers, which places them with a continuing AmeriCorps VISTA project. Both programs provide a small living allowance and are open to U.S. citizens, nationals or lawful permanent residents who are at least 18 years old.

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