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VISTA Program helps people find jobs through community service

News 12 This Morning at 6 o'clock / Monday, December 13, 2010

AUGUSTA, Ga. --- The Ameri Corps VISTA Program gives some job seekers better opportunities for finding long term employment. The program has been around in the CSRA for four years. It gives participants the chance to gain new skills by partnering them with a non-profit organization in need of more resources.

Mikey Coffman says she went through to program because she didn't have any skills she could use after her 30-year marriage ended.

"I had lost my dignity, was living in section 8 housing." said Coffman. "My world had turned upside down. I had a nice home in Martinez, the 2.2 kids and white picket fence"

Coffman says after learning about VISTA she was placed with a non-profit group in a poor neighborhood that needed her help. It wasn't a full time job, just a way to learn new skills and give back to the community.

"I could start with new training I could get my self confidence back. I was in a protective environment. As I was growing, I could help others grow." Coffman explained.

At the Friendship Community Center she spends her time with mental health patients and does a lot of clerical work. Mikey isn't the average out of work divorcee looking for a fresh start.

She's legally deaf also and needed to find a place that was willing to work with her. Coffman says, "Communication is a factor. I do not hear. So often, the telephone is a problem but we have someone hear as a backup, that is hear to answer the phone for me."

Joan Stoddard with the United Way says there are a limited number of slots she can fill for the program "I look for people who have been involved with community service and have a desire to serve," said Stoddard.

70 people have gone through VISTA in the past 4 years. Stoddard added, "They've been sitting at home unemployed, unable to go out into the community to do things."

Now the number of applications keep growing because of high unemployment.

Mikey is one of the lucky ones who landed a full time position after her time through VISTA.

"I think it's a wonderful program for someone who had to start life all over again in her early 50's . This was the opportunity of a life time." said Coffman.

If you want to learn more about the Ameri Corps VISTA program you can visit their website at

You can also call the United Way in Augusta at 706-724-5544 ext 127, ask for Dorothy Gibson.

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