Last week, we said goodbye to our 2018 Americorps VISTAs. This week, we say hello to our 2019 team. For the new year, Sarah Gifford, Josy Jones, and Amber Cullen will be working as VISTAs in our Dallas and Akron offices. We are excited to see how their individual talents and skills will be utilized to increase the capacity and impact of Better Block.
The Americorps VISTA program organizes a network of volunteers that serve nonprofits, public agencies, and community agencies in an effort to improve the public’s well-being.
Sarah moved from her home in Las Vegas to serve at our Dallas location. She joined the Americorps VISTA program so she could have the opportunity to give back to the community and learn about the workings of a nonprofit organization. “Better Block stood out to me because of how fast the impact is,” Sarah says. “Change is never easy, but I love how Better Block showcases the joy and meaning behind the process.” She will be involved in general event programming like other VISTAs, but will specialize in the business side of things, putting together some of our marketing and networking plans for the future. She is excited to get to know Dallas and its neighborhoods better.
Josy hails from Cleveland. She was drawn to Americorps because of her passion for working with unique communities and learning how to improve them. “I want to gauge their strengths and weaknesses,” Josy says, highlighting the importance of analyzing the culture of the communities she works in. Josy has a background in international relations and theater. Before Better Block, she worked for an art group in Akron that became connected with the Knight Foundation. Through this connection, she discovered the impact of Better Block’s Exchange House and immediately wanted to be a part of the magic. During her service, Josy will be in charge of community outreach as she creates a hub for community engagement.
Amber is an Akron native who was first involved with the Exchange House as a local participant. At the time, she worked for another nonprofit that dealt with community development called South Street Ministries. Amber became interested in the Exchange House when she attended an art-based event long before applying to be an Americorps VISTA. “I will be focusing on making an asset-driven community space through The House Next Door,” Amber says, referring to The Exchange House’s neighboring building that we acquired to expand our reach. Amber be will working with her team to prepare the building for optimal use.
We are very excited to welcome these three to our Better Block family.