We recently caught up with two former AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) team members – Steve and Kazoua – to find out what they have been up to after their service years at Neighbors, Inc.
Steve Watanaskul was the first of three AmeriCorps members to work in the Volunteer Department at Neighbors. His title was Talent Engagement Coordinator and the project he worked on was identifying ways to engage different population groups as volunteers at Neighbors. One of Steve’s favorite things about his time with Neighbors was getting to know the volunteers. He particularly enjoyed his involvement with the volunteers serving in the Holiday Gift Program because of the overall sense of gratitude and care he felt while supporting the program’s efforts to spread holiday cheer through gifts and toys.
In his opinion, Steve believes nonprofits, like Neighbors, are essential resources to the community. Without them, items such as food and clothing would not be provided to those who need it most. Steve says, “Good job and happy anniversary to Neighbors for celebrating 50 years. That’s a huge accomplishment and I know that the families living in the area are grateful to have Neighbors as a resource in their community. Neighbors continues to do great work, especially in the pandemic. They surely have a lot to celebrate!”
Steve continues to support nonprofits, working as a Program Manager at Hammer, a local organization that supports persons with developmental disabilities. Hammer provides support in group home and apartment building settings to assist its members with independent living resources.
Kazoua Yang followed Steve at Neighbors, working in the Volunteer Department. Expanding on the work done by Steve, her title was Talent Acquisition Coordinator and she focused on both growing the involvement of volunteer groups at Neighbors and promoting volunteerism throughout our community and beyond. One of Kazoua’s favorite things about her time with Neighbors was finding new ways to recognize and thank volunteers for their work. She loved to do even small things for the volunteers because she appreciated how much they contribute to Neighbors. “They (volunteers) are the light of your day and provide a small break from sometimes stressful work,” she says.
When asked what she thinks one of the biggest milestones has been at Neighbors in the past 50 years, Kazoua wanted to recognize the accomplishments of the Volunteer Department. In particular, she is impressed with the transition to flexible online scheduling. She was part of the initial research into making online scheduling possible and is please to know that it has been fully integrated into the volunteer program.
Kazoua continues to keep up with what is happening at Neighbors through social media and LinkedIn. She feels incredibly grateful that she was matched with Neighbors for her year of service. She would like to wish Neighbors a happy anniversary: “Happy 50th anniversary to Neighbors, Inc. It’s amazing to see what you’ve done in 50 years and we can’t wait to (see you) get brighter for the community and reach 75 and 100 years.”
The AmeriCorps VISTA program was created in 1964 to help communities combat poverty. Throughout its history, Neighbors has utilized AmeriCorps VISTA members in its Volunteer Department and Hunger Relief Programs. Today, AmeriCorps continues to send VISTA members throughout the country to serve alongside organizations for the betterment of every community. For more information about AmeriCorps, click here.
These interviews were conducted by Sophia Dahlke, Neighbors Intern and Volunteer, as part of the historical research for Neighbors’ 50th Anniversary Celebration (2022). For more information about anniversary events and to explore Neighbors’ history, click here.