Last week, Veronica Boda returned to her Brigantine, NJ, home to pick up her favorite blankets. This weekend, she’ll go back to sort through winter clothes. Veronica is one of many survivors of Hurricane Sandy still struggling to adjust to life after last year’s storm.
But she finds strength in giving back to her own community as an AmeriCorps VISTA member with HOPE Coalition America in Atlantic City. During her one-year assignment, Veronica will use her background as an attorney to assist clients with mortgage and real estate-related issues.
“Participating in this program renewed my faith in our country,” she said. “Who knows where we could be headed if we didn’t have this kind of enthusiasm about helping fellow members of society.”
Before the hurricane hit the East Coast last October, Veronica was self-employed and worked out of her home as a financial consultant. But after the storm, she was displaced from both her house and her business. Then she heard about a meeting hosted by HOPE Coalition America, the local disaster unit of the national non-profit Operation HOPE. Both organizations provide financial literacy and counseling for members of underserved and middle-class communities.
At the suggestion of the organization’s program manager, Veronica applied to become an AmeriCorps VISTA worker. She started her new position in August.
Yet one of her favorite parts of the program has been participating in orientation sessions with other VISTA members.
“I’m an older American and many people in my training were right out of college,” Veronica said. “I call this program the encore of my career.”
Veronica’s story is one example of how service is making a difference in the Garden State, just one year after Sandy.
Communities are still rebuilding and AmeriCorps is still committed to helping get things done in New Jersey. AmeriCorps VISTA members have been mobilized to provide critical support by helping build the capacity of key groups leading recovery efforts. VISTAs have been placed at local organizations to help expand and strengthen services so that individuals and families are able to move forward and rebuild their homes and communities.
The Corporation for National and Community Service -- the federal agency that administers all of the national service programs including Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, AmeriCorps VISTA, and AmeriCorps NCCC -- has pledged to continue rebuilding New Jersey with a commitment valued at more than $1.5 million.