AmeriCorps VISTA Project

Providing affordable resources to nonprofits in rural communities across Colorado

1More than 5,100 nonprofit organizations operate within the eight Rural Philanthropy Days regions in Colorado. These organizations play an important role in improving quality of life in Colorado’s communities and provide services to address human needs, such as food for the hungry, transitional housing and poverty alleviation. To build the capacity of rural nonprofits to more effectively address key factors that influence poverty in our communities, CRC is providing a limited number of AmeriCorps VISTA members to our nonprofit partners across the state. The Rural Capacity Building AmeriCorps VISTA project seeks to:

Grow Organizational Capacity: Nonprofits and community groups in rural Colorado grow in organizational capacity and gain additional resources to accomplish their missions.

Provide Professional Development: VISTA members have a positive experience during which they increase in ability and gain valuable insight for future studies and employment.

Alleviate Poverty: Persistent poverty in rural Colorado is reduced.

What is a VISTA?

VISTA stands for Volunteers in Service to America, and is a national service program that seeks to fight poverty in America. AmeriCorps VISTA members make a year-long, full-time commitment to focus their efforts to build the organizational, administrative and financial capacity of organizations that fight illiteracy, improve health services, foster economic development, and assist low-income communities.

AmeriCorps VISTA is a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).

What can a VISTA do for my organization?

VISTA members enable an organization to turn dream projects into reality. They mobilize local human, financial, and material resources to expand the capacity of low-income communities to build on their own resources and address the challenges they face. VISTA members around the country are involved with:

  • Project Management and Expansion
  • Fund Development
  • Volunteer Engagement and Management
  • Community Outreach
  • Convening Stakeholders

How do you define rural capacity building?

2016 RPD regional mapCapacity Building is defined as tasks and activities to create, expand or strengthen systems or processes in order to increase an organization’s ability to function effectively and meet its mission. VISTA members do not take part in direct service activities. Instead, they take part in capacity building activities that aim to make an organization self-sustainable.

Our statewide Rural Philanthropy Days program has identified eight rural regions consisting of 52 counties. We are looking for nonprofit organizations in these eight rural regions to host AmeriCorps VISTA members. The VISTA members will bring their capacity building skills to rural Colorado in order to grow organizational capacity and move the community towards alleviating poverty.

Hear From Some of Our Current VISTAs

Mary McDonald“The VISTA program has provided me with an awesome opportunity to learn new skills and serve in a position with a lot of responsibility that might not be as easily attainable without VISTA. As the community coordinator for a nonprofit called La Puente Home Inc., I plan fundraising events, write articles, and am responsible for a lot of the organization’s graphic design work. This position has challenged me and allowed me to grow and improve on very vital skills. As the community coordinator, I also have an exciting role in educating the community about issues that I am very passionate about, like homelessness, poverty, and food insecurity. It has been a wonderful opportunity to fulfill my passion for giving back to less advantaged communities while also expanding my skill set to help my job and grad school prospects.”

– Mary McDonald, VISTA at La Puente Home

Holly“I wanted to become an AmeriCorps VISTA member for many reasons, but the most prominent reason was to serve and improve the community while improving myself. A couple of months into my year of service at CRC, I find I am able to do just that every day. With a biomedical engineering background, I bring a unique set of skills and perspectives and have plenty to discover about the nonprofit sector. I am proud of the impact I’m able to make and excited to see all the new things I’m learning! The connections I’m making and skills I’m acquiring are invaluable assets, and I feel fulfilled by the work I am doing. This perspective on the nonprofit sector will help guide me into a challenging and satisfying career.”

– Holly McKissick, Rural Outreach and Evaluation Associate at CRC

Meet Our Rural VISTAs

Madison FowlerMadison Fowler

Outreach and Program Development Assistant at Region 10 in Montrose

Madison Fowler grew up in Jonesboro, AR, where she also attended Arkansas State University. Madison has worked with nonprofit organizations in the past, namely the Hispanic Center in her hometown of Jonesboro, serving as the After School Program Coordinator. She also spent 7 years working as a competition dance instructor, as well as working with local grant programs to extend dance to underprivileged children in and around Jonesboro, AR. Madison is enjoying her year as a VISTA so far, and hopes to broaden her understanding of rural non-profits over the course of the next 12 months. When not working as a VISTA, Madison can be found hiking, rafting, reading, or watching documentaries.

SamanthaSamantha Gibson

Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator at La Plata Youth Services in Durango

Samantha Gibson was born and raised in South Carolina where she attended the College of Charleston. She recently graduated with a BS in psychology and a minor in Crime, law, and society. After interning with 2 nonprofits, both involving youth, she knew she wanted to use her degree to foster the relationship between youth and their communities. She played rugby throughout college, Junior VP and Senior Pres. After traveling abroad she knew she wanted to travel in the US while helping people and learning as much about nonprofits as possible. She is enjoying her time as a VISTA, growing personally and professionally, while working towards grad school within the next year. In her free time, she enjoys snowboarding, rock-climbing, and reading.

jessicaJessica Goncalves

Outreach and Education Associate at Advocates for Victims of Assault in Dillon

Jessica grew up in Farmingdale, New York and studied Counseling and Human Services at The University of Scranton in Pennsylvania. She interned at several nonprofits during her time at school and was an active volunteer at the university’s women’s center. Jessica’s passion for social justice and service lead her to a year of service through AmeriCorps VISTA program. She serves Advocates for Victims of Assault in Dillon, Colorado as an Outreach and Education Associate. During her year of service, Jessica will be able to educate the youth and the public about domestic violence and sexual assault. She will also be contributing to prevention efforts with local businesses. Jessica plans on getting her masters degree in social work to continue her mission of helping others. Outside of service, you can find Jessica enjoying the mountains, reading, and petting every dog she comes in contact with.

khKristine Hensley

Outreach Coordinator for Families Plus in Delta

Kristi Hensley was born in Washington State and grew up in Washington DC and Parker, Colorado. Now, she has raised her family in beautiful Cedaredge, Colorado. She has served with The American Legion Auxiliary, the largest women’s patriotic service organization, and is currently the State Director of the ALA Colorado Girls State, a week-long program for girls between their junior and senior year of high school that recreates the United States government. She has had the honor of serving on many boards in Delta County for youth scholarships and local economic growth. Kristi is very excited to be a VISTA and looking forward to meeting the expectations that have been set in place by Families Plus. Through Families Plus, she has the opportunity to meet a rural communities needs by supporting struggling children and families in the community. When she is not working as a VISTA, Kristi can be found walking her four dogs, hanging out with her daughter, or playing Pokémon with her husband.


Hannah Huggins

Early Childhood Systems Building VISTA for Grand Beginnings in Hot Sulphur Springs

Raised on the coast of Maine and a fishmonger by trade, Hannah is the new Early Childhood Systems Building VISTA with Grand Beginnings in Grand County, Colorado. She is working to increase the capacity of Grand Beginnings to provide early learning opportunities and healthy child development by coordinating outreach, marketing, and delivery of universal health care screenings throughout Grand County. Hannah studied Public Health and Biological Anthropology at Hampshire College in Massachusetts and went on to work with the All Alaska Pediatric Partnership Immunization Workgroup in Anchorage, Alaska where she fell in love with nonprofit work and community health initiatives. Hannah is excited to continue this type of work with Grand Beginnings and to take advantage of all the outdoor recreation Grand County has to offer. When she’s not serving, you can find Hannah in the mountains, hiking or snowboarding, or the kitchen, cooking delicious vegetarian cuisine.

Mary McDonaldMary McDonald

Community Coordinator at La Puente Home in Alamosa

Mary McDonald (MK) grew up in Suwanee, Georgia and studied International Affairs at the University of Georgia. With experience teaching English abroad, sustainable development, and communications, MK’s passion for social and environmental justice has led her to serve as an Americorps VISTA in Alamosa, Colorado. Under her VISTA position, MK serves as a community coordinator for La Puente’s volunteer services and communications center in Alamosa, in which she is responsible for educating the public about homelessness, hunger, and poverty through community presentations, educational events, publications, and articles. With a drive to making a positive difference and a passion for healthful, equitable, and happier communities, MK plans on getting her masters degree in community planning. Outside of serving, you can find MK cooking world cuisines, reading, long distance running, and exploring the beautiful natural places Colorado has to offer.

Amber Photo cropAmber Middleton

VISTA at San Luis Valley Local Foods Coalition in Alamosa

Amber Middleton was born and raised in Wisconsin. She attended college on the beautiful Mississippi River where she obtained a BA in Communication Studies and English. Amber has had an interest in nonprofits ever since she began volunteering as a child. After spending her final year of college interning at a local nonprofit and focusing her senior thesis on nonprofit social media usage, she knew the nonprofit sector was for her. Amber is loving her time as the VISTA for the San Luis Valley Local Foods Coalition, especially the chance to learn about the local community and how to integrate local foods into her life. In her free time, Amber enjoys exploring new places and video chatting with her nieces and nephews.

How to Host a VISTA in Your Community

Join CRC for an informational webinar to learn more about the application process, requirements, cost and the timeline to apply! Register for a webinar through CRC’s events calendar using the tag #VISTA.

For more information, please contact:

Leah Rausch, Director of Rural Partnerships
303.623.1540 X170 or email hidden; JavaScript is required