The V.I.S.T.A.s are Making More Possible at the Telluride Foundation

  • Published
  • On August 31, 2015
Group smiling for a photo

It is with great excitement that we warmly welcome Sarah Hendley as our newest AmeriCorps VISTA.  Born and raised in Paducah, Kentucky, Sarah most recently hails from Washington, DC, where she lived for four years while attending college at The Catholic University of America.  She graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Politics and minors in Economics and Peace and Justice Studies.  She has worked for the US House of Representatives and Senate, the UK House of Commons, the European Union, the Council on Foreign Relations, and Mercy Corps International.


Sarah will spend her VISTA year as the Paradox Community Development Coordinator.  She will be working with our four Paradox Communities – Rico, Dove Creek, the West End, and Norwood – to help build capacity for their local endowment funds. Sarah was drawn to apply for this position because of the Paradox Community Development’s unique concept.  “The idea of creating a locally funded and controlled endowment which enables self-sufficiency and positive economic growth through grassroots efforts really appealed to me. A bottom-up approach to economic development was the focus of my academic interests, so this position provides a great cross over from the classroom to real life experience.”


The Telluride Foundation has been fortunate to have AmeriCorps VISTAs over the last four years.  They have been indispensible in developing and expanding our programming efforts.  These volunteers have proven to be a vital resource for the Foundation office, helping the Programs Director manage and coordinate the day to day operations of our programs, not to mention the young energy and enthusiasm they bring to the office!  We felt it was about time to sing the praises of these team members, who have sacrificed a year of their lives to live at poverty level and spend long working hours at the Telluride Foundation.


What is AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America)?  In 1965, President John F. Kennedy penned an idea for a service program that would fight poverty in America.  Today that program is AmeriCorps VISTA.  Volunteers are paid a living allowance equal to the poverty line of the area in which they are serving.  They work to build capacity for nonprofits ministering to the poorest, most at-risk populations around the country.


As you might imagine, it’s no easy task living at poverty level in Telluride, but that’s what makes our VISTAs truly extraordinary.  Despite the hardships and the sacrifices, they’ve accomplished amazing things.  Over the course of three years our VISTAs have

  • Completed a Community Health Needs Assessment across 2.5 counties that garnered more than 1000 completed surveys
  • Created a new program that serves the rural aging population
  • Successfully secured $1.1M in grant funding for TCHNetwork for the next 3 years
  • Provided training and technical assistance to community boards in Rico, Dove Creek, Naturita, and Norwood, all of which are now raising money for their local community endowments.
  • Provided assistance and managed a grant program for the Paradox Business Technical Assistance Program, assisting approximately 13 startup businesses and entrepreneurs.


Karl Shaddock (2009-2011) was our first VISTA from Nebraska.  He managed our “American Recovery & Reinvestment Act” Strengthening Communities Fund Grant to train and build the capacity of nonprofits working in the area of economic recovery and development in the Paradox region.  Karl worked with the Foundation for two years and coordinated our activities associated with this approximately $1 million dollar grant.  As a result of the grant and Karl’s efforts, $618,358 was awarded in cash grant funding to 37 organizations; 5 social enterprise businesses and 8 new nonprofits were developed; 25 nonprofit organizations expanded services and 46 organizations received 1,507 hours of training and technical assistance.


Dylan Hoos (2014-2015), native Virginian and graduate of University of Virginia, was our second VISTA who was brought on to coordinate our Paradox Community Development Initiative, which provides technical assistance to businesses and provides training to communities to develop endowment funds.  Dylan helped coordinate technical assistance for approximately 7 businesses in the Paradox region and worked closely with 4 communities which are all raising funds to support their endowments.  Dylan also helped manage our Energy Outreach grants, which assist low income families in paying their utility bills and was a great asset in the Foundation Office.  Dylan was recently hired as a Donor Fellow for the Foundation, working with two donor family foundations to help manage their private donor funds.


We hope that if you get a chance to see Dylan or Sarah around town or catch them answering the Foundation’s phones you’ll give them an exuberant thank you for all the great work they’ve done while expecting so little in return.


Thank you to all our VISTAs both past and present.  We just couldn’t be where we are today without you!