Connecting People with Purpose - Celebrating 50 Years of Volunteering


One of the significant events in HOSC's history took place in 2003 when we qualified as a recipient organization for AmeriCorps VISTAs (Volunteers in Service to America).  Developed as an anti-poverty program, AmeriCorps is sometimes referred to as "the domestic Peace Corps." It is part of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), whose overall mission is "improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering." Enrollees receive a stipend and specialized training while they live in the communities they are helping.

Between 2003 and 2016 HOSC was privileged to host 54 AmeriCorps VISTAs!

In my ten years serving on the HOSC Board, I had the pleasure of working with dozens of dedicated, enthusiastic, and brilliant VISTAs that spent their year of service transforming both HOSC and our nonprofit community.  In my opinion, the best thing about AmeriCorps VISTAs is that they don't know what can't be done - they just make things happen.  Our VISTAs have helped bring new ideas, capabilities, and lasting programs to truly make a difference. E xamples of the  transformational impact of our  VISTAs are listed below.

On behalf of the HOSC Board, I would like to thank all of the VISTAs that helped HOSC realize the mission of "Connecting People with Purpose." 

Sincerely ,
Tom Gaynor,
Board Vice-President
HandsOn Suburban Chicago

Meet our first VISTA-Maureen Stabile

We recently spoke to Maureen Stabile, HOSC's first VISTA volunteer, to learn about the impact AmeriCorps had on her life. Maureen, a former teacher, had moved to the area a few years earlier with her husband. She was already volunteering at The Volunteer Center (our name back then) and was encouraged to apply to the program. 

Once accepted, the next 12 months flew by as she focused on grant writing, adding content to our website, developing a more professional version of our annual report, and spreading the word about HOSC's programs. According to Mary Fitzgibbons, past Executive Director, "One of the outstanding things I remember about Maureen was her ability to read a two inch thick book in one night-the brand new United Way outcomes based requirements for grants."

The experience turned out to be a win-win for both our organization and Maureen. Through the VISTA program, HOSC expanded its service within the community. Maureen applied the grant writing skills she learned to change professions. Fifteen years later, HOSC is still going strong and Maureen is still writing grants, currently for Township High School District 214, right downstairs from where HOSC sits today!

Our VISTAs on their time with HOSC

I really enjoyed my time as a VISTA and I look fondly back on the year I was there. It was a very supportive place to learn and grow. -Asha Anne 2009-2010

I truly value my experience as an AmeriCorps VISTA with HandsOn Suburban Chicago because I was able to make real impact in my community while also learning valuable skills. As a VISTA, I gained experience in marketing, relationship building, and project management, all while helping to connect volunteers with meaningful service projects. Some of my favorite experiences were helping to motivate hundreds of students through the CHiL after school program, and bringing in volunteers to build community gardens in schools. I'll always cherish my time with HOSC and the friendships that I made while serving there!
-Emily (Mihalcean) Bentley  2011-2012

My time at HOSC was very valuable and formative as my first job out of college.  A few highlights from my time at HandsOn Suburban Chicago include developing and delivering training for nonprofit leaders on volunteer management, developing a newsletter, spearheading volunteer opportunities for experienced high-capacity volunteers to do marketing campaigns and product launches for a local organization, and mobilizing local writers to do reporting for a pioneering micro-journalism initiative. The diverse experiences, opportunities to be creative and take risks, and the amazing supportive supervisors and mentors made HOSC a memorable and invaluable experience for my career, and a gratifying time to make friends and make a difference for the community. -Joshua Little 2012-2013

Working at HandsOn Suburban Chicago changed my life. I learned what it was like to care for your community, and that is a lesson that I will take with me forever. 
-Elisabeth (Libby) Boer 2015-2016

Examples of VISTA Transformational Impact:

Engaged in grant writing, applying for capacity building grants for what was then The Volunteer Center. Previously, The Volunteer Center wrote limited grants to companies and foundations. The VISTAs greatly expanded our scope setting up systems so writing grants would be easier and more efficient. This increased both the numbers of grants written and ultimately funding for the Center enabling more people served in communities.
Took a leadership role in expanding marketing efforts. The gathering and standardization of helpful statistics led to the development of various basic outreach materials such as annual reports, new brochure templates, and expanded marketing outreach in more creative ways to connect volunteers with volunteer opportunities. Because of VISTAs marketing focus, more people now know about HandsOn Suburban Chicago and its mission to help others.

Created the 
SAVE (Strategic Action for Volunteer Engagement ) methodology by
adapting a corporate strategic planning approach. VISTAs used this methodology to serve as business consultants to over a dozen nonprofit executive directors while showing how volunteers can address nonprofit organization challenges. The SAVE methodology was "digitized" and shared with a broad range of nonprofit leaders to enable their own program improvements.
Served as technology consultants through a corporate sponsorship from Google. Our nonprofit community struggles to stay current with technology that can have a huge impact on their mission. These high-tech VISTAs were out in the community bringing new technology, computing capabilities, software, web presence, and cloud services through numerous training and coaching sessions.

Recognized the need for a comprehensive Schools & Youth program to mobilize volunteers to engage with at-risk middle school students through tutoring, mentoring, and after-school activities. The VISTAs designed, developed, and deployed programs such as the CHiL program in Wheeling middle schools that continues to grow in scope and reach over the past seven years.

HandsOn Suburban Chicago
Connecting People with Purpose