The University of Georgia VISTA Network was established in 2013 to support local community partners with AmeriCorps VISTA members to increase their capacity for bringing individuals and communities out of poverty in the Athens, GA area. The AmeriCorps Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA) program places passionate individuals in a year-long, full-time position to serve on a specific project at a nonprofit organization or public agency. They focus their efforts to build the organizational, administrative, and financial capacity of organizations that improve health and educational services, reduce food insecurity, foster economic development, and otherwise assist low-income communities. AmeriCorps VISTAs are compensated with a small living allowance, health coverage, possible relocation allowance, and receive an end-of-term education grant or stipend. See more on the VISTA program and its requirements and benefits.
UGA's network is led by a VISTA Leader who helps coordinate, train, and support the VISTAs and their site placements. In Summer 2018, UGA also had eight-week Summer Associates placed with Campus Kitchen, UGArden, and Grow It Know It.
Current VISTA positions as of 2018 include:
- Campus Kitchen VISTA: This VISTA focuses on increasing the capacity of the Campus Kitchen at UGA to collect food donations and produce and distribute meals to food-insecure seniors in Athens-Clarke County. The VISTA strengthens volunteer recruitment and training procedures and sustains partnerships with UGA service-learning courses, UGA student organizations, and local service agencies.
- Senior Hunger Coalition VISTA: This VISTA member is placed at the Athens Community Council on Aging (ACCA) and works with the various partners to build capacity within the Senior Hunger Coalition (SHC) efforts. The VISTA collaborates to expand meal distribution to better meet the needs of current clients and to reach more under-served seniors in the area.
- School Gardens VISTAs: These VISTAs are placed at middle schools in Clarke County (and, starting 2018, in Barrow Co.) to recruit and train volunteers to assist with school gardens, develop and implement garden, nutrition, and sustainability programs at local middle schools, support food waste reduction and promote increased use of fresh produce in the school cafeteria, and build capacity for program sustainability.
- Athens-Clarke Co. Library VISTA: This VISTA works with the library's teen services and leverages volunteers and community organizations to offer a range of relevant programming for young adults at the library.
- Clarke Co. Mentor Program VISTA: This VISTA helps recruit, train, and support community and UGA mentors who are partnered with mentees in the Clarke Co. School District.