My name is Neil Allen. I have been an AmeriCorps VISTA member serving at TLC Family Resource Center since August 2017 working with the agency to help with marketing and communications as well as working with volunteers.
I fell in love with the concept of family resource centers (FRC) when I was the editor of Parents Express, a newspaper published by the Keene Sentinel for families, nearly a decade ago. At that time, there was a struggling FRC in Keene. When it closed its doors, I needed to find out more about why it failed and how to create a successful one.
In 2011, I started on the path to getting a degree in Human Services. The program of study allowed for me to do research into FRCs, discussing what worked and what didn’t work in many different contexts. I found a way to work the study of FRCs into nearly every class, which could be a challenge but I really wanted to understand them fully. It was fascinating work and I learned a lot of important things.
My classes also taught me about community building and gave me an understanding of the struggles those with addictions and in domestic violence face. All of these are important things to know when working at a FRC. Over time, my goal has changed from creating a FRC to an LGBTQ+ resource center but the core is much the same.
For my senior project for my Human Services degree, I wrote about TLC. I interviewed the director, read through all their literature, and scoured their website. I had already known about the agency through my work as a former reporter in the area, but it wasn’t until I did my paper about them that I found out the breadth of what they do and discovered it was a place I wanted to work.
Then in 2017, the opportunity to become a VISTA at the agency opened up. I was unemployed at the time and the salary that came with the position would pose a financial challenge, but it was the only way I could work with the agency at the time and get hands on experience with a well-established and growing FRC. I also knew they were an open and affirming agency where I knew I would be supported as I moved through my gender transition. When my daughter got accepted into a VISTA position in Claremont as well, it became something I could easily commit to for a year.
Working with TLC has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and I look forward to continuing with the agency after my year of service ends.