VERDE VALLEY -- "Fight poverty with passion." That is the mission of Americorp: VISTA. Originally called Volunteers in Service to America when originally formed in 1965, shortly after the birth of the Peace Corps, VISTA is aimed inside the U.S., not outside.
John Rolph works out of the Cottonwood City Hall and his goal is neighborhood revitalization. It's a big challenge. He is perhaps best situated in the oldest area of Cottonwood. Rolph can walk through the community nearby and see what is needed.
Since coming on board, he has been getting his feet wet, determining what is possible and networking with other housing rehab and affordable housing groups in the Verde Valley. Both Camp Verde and Sedona have housing groups and the Verde Valley communities jointly have an organization in addition to
It is a often overlooked but needed position in Cottonwood, where 45 percent of the housing stock is rental housing. In some of the lower income communities, crime and drug abuse numbers are high.
Originally, he was looking for grants and other options, "I would like to take some housing stock in need of repairs, repair it and resell them to very low income."
Rolph is also looking a programs to weatherize homes
A CDBG, Community Development Block Grant, may be his best option. It looks specifically at needs o the low income community.
Another VISTA member is Katelyn Cohen who works with the Teens a Chillin' Teen Center project in Camp Verde.
A third VISTA member works with the Cactus-Pine Country Council of the Girl Scouts in the Verde Valley.
Sponsored by Youth Count, which oversees the programs in Yavapai County, there are now 16-VISTA members scattered in a number of mostly non-profit programs around the county.
Others work with the Big Brothers Big Sisters, Yavapai College, the Prescott Women's Shelter and other organizations.
According to their web site, "VISTA members commit to serve full-time for a year at a nonprofit organization or local government agency, working to fight illiteracy, improve health services, create businesses, strengthen community groups, and much more.
With passion, commitment, and hard work, you'll create or expand programs designed to bring individuals and communities out of poverty."
In addition to paying an annual stipend, Cottonwood provides Rolph with a computer link and a desk and phone.