I moved from New Jersey to Minneapolis in 2019 for my first VISTA position; and at that time, I only had one connection in this state. Being a part of the MAVA VISTA cohort helped me feel more connected to other people amidst a lot of changes and unknowns. The training opportunities that were provided supported me in my personal networking and allowed me to meet people in a new environment; and the professional development opportunities granted me the ability to fully dive into the hunger relief sector here in Minnesota.
During my first VISTA year, I developed and administered FFEN’s first ever annual client satisfaction survey as well as designed more formal volunteer processes. I was excited about the level of trust and transparency FFEN offered in that project and I was proud of what we learned from that project, but also how we grew from it. In my second VISTA year, I was able to work closely with a volunteer to automate some of those volunteer processes and dedicated a huge chunk of my time researching and vetting volunteer management databases. I was thrilled about the new skills I was developing in that work, and how I could use them to support food shelves in the state.
My first VISTA year was fundamental in helping me understand the type of work I love and the type of work I do not love. I learned that I absolutely love working on small teams. In 2019 I joined Kate Burggraff, our Executive Director, and we were a team of two. We are now a team of four and I’ve moved through three different positions at FFEN: Food Shelf Capacity Mobilizer VISTA, Volunteer Program Capacity Developer VISTA, and now Program Coordinator.
My VISTA years also helped me recognize what my strengths are. Would I have thought that project management and process development was one of my strengths before I started at FFEN in 2019? Absolutely not, but in my year and a half at FFEN as a VISTA, it became apparent. My VISTA years at FFEN shaped and guided me as a professional and continue to do so now in my staff role.