Community Benefits from VISTA Service Learning Projects
By Kim Lewis
Charity and generosity are two of the values that brought together a small team of eight students from Tunxis Community College and Main Street Community Foundation in the spring semester of 2012. The students, enrolled in sociology class taught by Professor Marie Clucas, PhD, participated in a VISTA service learning project which benefitted six immediate response funds at the Foundation: Bristol Board of Education Immediate Response Fund, Karen DuCotey Fund for Kids, Leading Ladies Immediate Response Fund, Main Street Children’s Fund, Werner Family Fund and the Women & Girls’ Immediate Response Fund.
The students determined that as of the 2010 census, there exists a higher-than-state-average unemployment rate in four of the six towns served by MSCF. The area’s higher unemployment rate is one of the causes for the increase in immediate response fund (IRF) requests from social service agencies. The IRF distributions assist families and individuals in need with a one-time grant.
VISTA Coordinator Susan Dantino suggested a service learning project to add resources to the immediate response funds at Main Street Community Foundation. After speaking with Foundation staff and learning that one way of disbursing immediate response funds is through gift cards, the students decided to hold several gift card drives at Tunxis Community College and throughout the surrounding communities. They had two objectives. The students wanted to contribute to the Foundation’s immediate response funds, while raising awareness about the effects of the economic downturn on individuals. At the end of the project, over $600 in gift cards and donations were donated to benefit the immediate response funds at the Foundation during a ceremony at Tunxis Community College.
Main Street Community Foundation was fortunate to again partner with Tunxis Community College students participating in the VISTA project during the Fall 2012 semester to create a Community Wish List. The list is a collection of the needs of nonprofit organizations serving the towns of Bristol, Burlington, Plainville, Plymouth, Southington and Wolcott.
“The partnership between Tunxis Community College’s VISTA program and Main Street Community Foundation was designed to get students interested in service learning, in the hopes of developing future leaders of non-profit organizations, as well as community volunteers and philanthropists,” explained Susan Sadecki, President and CEO of Main Street Community Foundation.