Volunteering can be one of the most rewarding things a person can do, and in Shoshone County it seems like the need for volunteers is always one of the biggest struggles that groups face when trying to do anything that could invoke even the slightest bit of change.
Kellogg School District superintendent Woody Woodford saw this issue began looking into ways that it could be remedied.
What he came up with was partnering with AmeriCorps and their VISTA program which has helped launch the Valley Volunteers program.
VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) engages more than 8,000 people annually to support community efforts to overcome poverty.
Shoshone County has an estimated cost of living of $58,277 (two-parents and two-children), but the median income is only $35,257.
There is an estimated 16.5 percent of its Shoshone County residents living below the poverty line.
For Kellogg School District 8 percent of the student population qualifies as homeless.
These numbers are simply unacceptable and Woodford and the district’s motto of “Our kids are worth whatever it takes” really embodies the action that has been taken.
Woodford has put the mother/daughter tandem of Shayleen Jerome and Sue Hall in charge of getting the Valley Volunteers organization off the ground.
Through training and exploration of data, the pair came up with their mission statement:
“Kellogg School District #391 involves volunteers from the Silver Valley as part of our motto “Our Kids are Worth Whatever It Takes.” Valley Volunteers is a key component to the success of our organization. We see the value in the skills, experiences, and talents that volunteers contribute beyond what our excellent professional staff already bring to the schools and its work. By involving community members as volunteers we will see a positive culture change in the Silver Valley.”
What the Valley Volunteers will be doing is essentially recruiting locals to go into a database of volunteers and when there is a need for volunteers they will find people in their database who closely match the needs of that specific assignment.
“We are essentially volunteer headhunters,” Jerome said. "We will be looking for volunteers for things like Dare to Imagine summer camp, Day of Hope, and many other special events that go on in our community. But we will also be looking for volunteers for school programs, and other things of that nature."
For Jerome, understanding that there is an issue and having a heart to serve made this a very natural fit for her.
“There is such a need in our community for people to step up and volunteer their time,” Jerome said. “In the school system alone there are several programs that allow for people to get involved. We have the opportunity to start ending these things like generational poverty, by getting involved to make sure that our students aren’t falling behind.”
And while this program is specifically geared towards the Kellogg School District and the area it serves, both Hall and Jerome hope that the surrounding communities will take their lead and begin putting together volunteer databases of their own.
“We want to plant a seed of change here,” Hall said. “And from there we hope see it spread into the Osburn, Wallace, and Mullan areas as well.”
Volunteering can be a fulfilling way to spend one’s time and has been found to give people a sense of purpose, while also helping them maintain a healthy lifestyle.
AmeriCorps VISTA is a national service program that has been working to alleviate poverty in America since 1965.
The program’s nationwide corps of VISTA members serve full-time for a year at nonprofit organizations or local government agencies to build the capacity of these organizations to carry out programs that fight poverty.
AmeriCorps VISTA members recruit and manage community volunteers, raise funds, and help manage projects.
VISTA members support programs that improve academic performance, expand job opportunities, develop financial assets, reduce homelessness, and improve health services.
They also support programs that increase housing opportunities, increase economic opportunities for low-income veterans and military families, and expand access to technology for those living in rural and urban areas of poverty across America.
More information on the Valley Volunteers can be found at valleyvolunteers.kelloggschools.org and to volunteer please email Shayleen Jerome at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their office at the Kellogg School District Community Center (the former Kellogg Middle School) in the former art room.