Authorized originally in 1964 by the Economic Opportunity Act, the federal program has provided full-time volunteers to thousands of low-income communities across the nation to address a multitude of problems as defined by those communities.
"AmeriCorps*VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) members serve in hundreds of non-profit and public agencies throughout the country. Known also as the "domestic Peace Corps," AmeriCorps*VISTA is a national service program that seeks to eliminate poverty by setting up and expanding sustainable projects that impact the lives of those being served.
Community service and volunteerism have always been a vital force in American life. Throughout history, our nation has relied on the dedication and action of citizens to tackle our biggest challenges.
In 1963, President John F. Kennedy envisioned a national service corps "to help provide urgently needed services in urban and rural poverty areas." Less than two years later, President Lyndon B. Johnson realized Kennedy's dream by launching the "War on Poverty." Johnson welcomed the first group of 20 VISTA volunteers saying, "Your pay will be low; the conditions of your labor often will be difficult. But you will have the satisfaction of leading a great national effort and you will have the ultimate reward which comes to those who serve their fellow man." VISTA, like Head Start and other lasting antipoverty programs, was created by The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 to serve the needs of the poorest Americans.
In the 1970s, VISTA merged with Peace Corps and the National Senior Service programs, and the ACTION agency was born. In the 1980s, the program placed a strong focus on literacy, substance abuse prevention and treatment, citizen participation, and community self-help.
In 1990, President George H. Bush developed the Commission on National and Community Service. With the signing of the National Community Service Trust Act in 1993, President William Clinton expanded national service to create AmeriCorps. The programs merged to create AmeriCorps VISTA. Throughout the 1990s, AmeriCorps VISTA continued the long tradition of starting new and innovative programs. Today VISTA is larger, stronger, and more vital than it has ever been. Its 6,500 members-who serve at 1,200 projects nationwide-continue to address the root causes of poverty. They are developing new programs, raising funds, helping manage projects, and otherwise building the capacity of nonprofit organizations to become sustainable and of families to break the cycle of poverty.
On April 21, 2009, President Barack Obama signed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act at an elementary school in Washington DC. The Serve America Act reauthorizes and expands national service programs administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service by amending the National and Community Service Act of 1990 (NCSA) and the Domestic Volunteer Service Act of 1973 (DVSA).
The Serve America Act (effective October 1, 2009) reauthorizes and expands national service programs administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency created in 1993. The Corporation engages four million Americans in result-driven service each year, including 75,000 AmeriCorps members, 492,000 Senior Corps volunteers, 1.1 million Learn and Serve America students, and 2.2 million additional community volunteers mobilized and managed through the agency's programs.
More information can be found at http://www.nationalservice.gov/about/serveamerica/index.asp