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VISTA Reflections

Reflections on a Year of National Service

~December 2009~

Editor's Note: Meet Megan Thompson, a VISTA volunteer serving in Eastern Washington. She is performing a year of National Community service through the AmeriCorps VISTA program. (Think of it as a domestic Peace Corps program.) Her column each month will reflect on her experiences in working in a community to build capacity. This is the story of volunteer community service as up-close and personal as it comes. (VISTA--Volunteers in Service to America)                                 


Thank you and goodbye to those who have read one or more of these columns.  A week and a day before Thanksgiving, and the day of my 50th birthday, I left my AmeriCorps*VISTA placement at the Benton-Franklin Volunteer Center five months before I would have completed my promised year.  No one but my mortgage holder wanted this, and the position I left for is seasonal work bell ringing for a Volunteer Center partner, the Salvation Army.

From my bell ringing station in front of a local liquor store, I watch diverse people step off the city buses and walk a few feet to the other end of the large parking lot I face.  No doubt some have histories that would lead the Volunteer Center to decline to place them.  As I bell-ring near one of the iconic kettles, I enjoy my assignment of treating the general public, including this group, with warmth and cheer.

During my first day this season, I noticed a worker jot down a plate number.  Later, overhearing a smoke break conversation, I realized that, immediately after I had greeted him, a young man had shoplifted a half-gallon of R&R.  Later, in a restroom stall, I noticed something underfoot and discovered a pen cartridge; possibly the remains after the sheath was used for drug paraphernalia.  I don’t have the answers.  Sometimes I know what I’m personally sure the answers don’t look like, then am left speechless or rambling when asked for an alternative.

At any rate, I am grateful to have served seven months as an AmeriCorps*VISTA and more than content to have a column posted above their recruitment information one more time.  I am grateful for the opportunity to have been involved with the Benton-Franklin Volunteer Center and to continue to be involved in my hometown community.  I am moved with gratitude for a household that is together, safe, and healthy, in which each member has his or her own take on a resilient sense of humor.  I am moved to watch members of our community, like volunteers at their best, stand by my kettle and reach deeper to give more.

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Megan Thompson has volunteered since tutoring Vietnamese refugees as a high school student.  She earned a masters in social work from Eastern Washington University, following a BS Business Administration with a management and organization specialization from Central Washington University, and Columbia Basin Community College degrees in Chemical Dependency and Human Services.  After 15 years of coordinating and administrative support roles, she began self-employment as a grant writer, before suspending it for her year of National Service.  She has written and researched grants for various Eastern Washington non-profits serving at-risk children, youth, and young adults.

Corporation for National and Community Service

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