Monday, September 28, 2009

Local Organization Thanks Dozens of Volunteers

Jessica Neidhard

It was a night to celebrate with music, food and friends.

Dozens of volunteers from Rural Action gathered at the Eclipse Company Store in The Plains to say goodbye--and celebrate--15 years of service from hundreds of VISTA volunteers.

VISTA volunteers from AmeriCorps will no longer serve Rural Action. Instead they will be working for other organizations around the country.

Rural Action Executive Director Michelle Decker said that although the organization is losing volunteers, it will continue projects to improve sustainability across Southeast Ohio.

The Party

Still, Saturday night was a time for celebration and gratitude.

The evening started with music from The Bob Stewart Band as volunteers and guests arrived. Along one wall was a timeline listing every VISTA volunteer since 1994. There were also photos over the years and a even a mock photo booth where volunteers could take pictures together.

Decker and other Rural Action staff gave out t-shirts during a VISTA game where the audience called out called out answers to questions about the local and national VISTA programs.

Shared Experiences

Former and current VISTA volunteers shared stories of their experiences working on Rural Action projects to improve Appalachia-like planting trees and starting up local farmers' markets.

Most volunteers work for Rural Action for only a year before moving on to another organization but some stayed on two or more years.

Colin Donahue volunteered for two years right after college and said his time at Rural Action was a blessing.

"I got to work for an organization that really helps people and makes a difference," Donahue said.

After serving as a VISTA volunteer some still continued to help the area in other ways like Athens County Commissioner Mark Sullivan.

He served as a VISTA volunteer from 1994 to 1996 working on a new office for Rural Action.

"Though the pay was terrible," Sullivan said. "I enjoyed getting up and going to work each and every day knowing that I, and my fellow VISTAs were making a difference in people's lives and the communities they lived in."

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