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Better Block Welcomes AmeriCorps VISTAs

Better Block today announces the newest additions to its team—four AmeriCorps VISTAs.

The VISTAs are members who commit to a year-long, full-time fellowship. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, “they focus their efforts to build the organizational, administrative, and financial capacity of organizations.”

Better Block’s four VISTAs are Emmanuel Melendez, Victoria Ferrell-Ortiz, Katie Beck, and Kai Wick. Melendez and Ferrell-Ortiz will be based in Dallas, working on a development plan, programming opportunities for the organization’s headquarters, and projects in the city of Dallas. Beck and Wick will be in Akron, Ohio, working on the Exchange House and expanding the Wikiblock library.

“AmeriCorps VISTA has four principles they hold themselves to in their sponsorships: ending poverty, empowering the community, building capacity, and creating sustainable solutions,,” says Ferrell-Ortiz. “These are things I believe Better Block addresses. I am eager to begin my service. There’s no doubt in my mind that Oak Cliff and I (along with the other communities we partner with) will be all the better for it. It’s going to be a great year.”

Ferrell-Ortiz, an Oak Cliff native, will be working on development and programming. Melendez will be focused on Dallas projects for the Better Block.

“I am interested in helping communities to re-envision their public spaces to improve their daily life and overall happiness,” he says. “With Better Block, I hope to learn more about the process of developing short-term, low-cost, urban projects that can take advantage of opportunities that are sometimes hidden in public spaces and to create partnerships.”

Wick and Beck will both be in Akron, where they live. Wick will work on expanding Wikiblock, a library of designs that can be downloaded and used to make streets better immediately.

“I am excited to join the Better Block VISTA program because of their dedication in expanding community involvement and entrepreneurial growth. During my time in working with Better Block, I hope to acquire the skills to be able to communicate and carry out programs that bring awareness and growth in my community.”

Beck will be developing the programming and process behind the Exchange House, an Airbnb concept in Akron, Ohio. The house has been renovated and will serve as an office, an Airbnb, and a cultural exchange with the Bhutanese refugees in the community.

“I look forward to serving and working with my neighborhood to create a space that is safe and inclusive for all North Hill residents. I hope to expand my network and grow my urban development and community-building skills with the Better Block.”

With the AmeriCoprs VISTAs, the Better Block is able to expand its reach by building capacity. “We look forward to this partnership,” says Krista Nightengale, managing director of the Better Block. “We have four passionate, driven people who will be able to take our work to the next level.”


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