Grundy County Mayor Michael Brady and University of the South Vice-Chancellor John McCardell joined thousands of local leaders across the country in a nationwide bipartisan initiative to highlight the impact of national service in tackling local problems.
On April, Brady and McCardell issued a proclamation recognizing April 2 as National Service Recognition Day. They were joined by representatives of the South Cumberland Community Fund and the University’s Office of Civic Engagement for a luncheon held at the University honoring members of the South Cumberland Plateau (SCP) AmeriCorps VISTA Program.
“I’m delighted to join Mayor Brady in saluting the VISTA members who are improving lives here on the Cumberland Plateau,” said University Vice-Chancellor John McCardell. “As the number of VISTAs has grown over the last five years of partnership between the University and South Cumberland Community Fund, they have helped to grow and strengthen communities, mobilized volunteers, and leveraged resources to make an outsized impact.”
National service impact
Given the many challenges facing communities, county and city leaders are increasingly turning to national service as a cost-effective strategy to meet local needs. The SCP VISTA Program is a partnership between the University of the South and South Cumberland Community Fund (SCCF). SCCF was established in 2012 as a collective way for people to support the many nonprofit organizations across the South Cumberland Plateau. SCCF makes grants for projects on the Plateau and provides organizational support to these nonprofit groups, helping them develop stronger administrative structures, clearer missions, and integrated strategic plans.
AmeriCorps VISTA members within the SCP VISTA Project serve with community partners, including nonprofits and local government agencies, in the tri-county area of Franklin, Grundy, and Marion. On average, ten to sixteen VISTA members serve in the program, providing vital support to community partners. In the summer months, twenty Summer Associates join their ranks to help address summer meal insecurity and academic learning loss among youth. Through their efforts, the SCP VISTAs expand the scale, reach, efficiency, and effectiveness of programs and organizations that work to alleviate poverty on the Plateau. VISTA capacity building activities expand services, enhance delivery of services, and generate additional resources for these programs and organizations. These activities achieve lasting positive outcomes for those served by these program organizations.
SCP AmeriCorps VISTA members impact the local community in areas of economic opportunity, healthy futures, and education. Cumberland Teaching Gardens, a garden network initiated by AmeriCorps VISTA members, supports nine organizations in the tri-county area. The Grundy County Sheriff’s Office is implementing a Tennessee Institute of Public Health grant of approximately $50,000 secured by an AmeriCorps VISTA to support reentry and rehabilitation services with the goal of reducing recidivism in the Grundy County Jail. Through the efforts of an AmeriCorps VISTA, the University of the South Farm secured a USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant to enable the University Farm staff to conduct research and develop marketable elderberry crops for local farmers. In addition to these specific projects, AmeriCorps VISTA members serve with Folks at Home, Grundy County Mayor’s Office, Grundy County Department of Education, Grundy Safe Communities Coalition, South Cumberland Community Fund, Grundy County Health Council, the University of the South’s Office of Civic Engagement, University Farm, Sewanee Dining, BetterFi, and the Babson Center for Global Commerce.
National Service Recognition Day is a nationwide bipartisan effort to recognize the positive impact of national service, to thank those who serve, and to encourage more citizens to give back to their communities. This day is sponsored by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), with support from the National League of Cities, the National Association of Counties, and Cities of Service. As the federal agency for service and volunteering, CNCS annually engages millions of Americans in service at more than 50,000 locations through AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and other programs. National service participants address the most pressing challenges facing our counties and nation. From helping communities recover from natural disasters, fighting the opioid epidemic, restoring parks, strengthening public safety, to tutoring and mentoring disadvantaged students, national service members get things done.
Across the nation, local leaders are participating in a variety of activities, including visiting national service programs, hosting roundtable discussions, issuing proclamations, and communicating the impact of national service through social media. By shining the spotlight on the impact of service and thanking those who serve, local officials hope to inspire more residents to get involved in their communities.
“National service shows the best of the human spirit. People turning towards problems instead of turning away, working to find community solutions,” said Grundy County Mayor Michael Brady. “Today we thank our national service members for their commitment, let us all pledge to work together and to do our part for our county through service and volunteering.”
For more information including background and a list of participating county officials and mayors, visit NationalService.gov/RecognitionDay.
The Corporation for National and Community Service is the federal agency for volunteering, service, and civic engagement. The agency engages millions of Americans in citizen service through its AmeriCorps and Senior Corps programs and leads the nation’s volunteering and service efforts. For more information, visit NationalService.gov.