52 AmeriCorps Members to Support SOAR Initiative in Eastern Kentucky

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National Service CEO Joins U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers and Gov. Beshear to Announce $1 Million Investment

PINEVILLE, KY – The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) today announced it will invest more than $1 million to engage 52 full-time AmeriCorps VISTA members to support the Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) initiative to improve the economy and quality of life in Eastern Kentucky.

Through this investment, AmeriCorps VISTA members will provide more than 100,000 volunteer hours over the next year to Eastern Kentucky families and individuals in the areas of job creation and retention, youth engagement, education success, and health and human services. These AmeriCorps VISTA members will recruit and manage volunteers, raise funds, and build the capacity of 16 local nonprofit and education organizations that tackle poverty and expand opportunity in Kentucky’s Appalachian region.

“SOAR is a bold and innovative effort to improve the lives of the people of Eastern Kentucky, and we are thrilled to join Congressman Hal Rogers and Governor Steve Beshear to advance this important goal with a major investment of human capital through AmeriCorps,” said Wendy Spencer, CEO of CNCS, who made the announcement at the SOAR executive committee meeting here today. “AmeriCorps members are passionate, dedicated citizens who give a year of their lives to service, and we know they will make a big difference for Eastern Kentucky.”

“This new investment builds upon the great work that the Corporation for National and Community Service already offers to teachers and students in our region, by offering additional resources to expand economic opportunity for the people of Eastern Kentucky, “ said Congressman Hal Rogers. “National service perfectly aligns with the mission of SOAR, to tap the energy of local citizens to solve problems. AmeriCorps members have impacted the lives of so many families in our region already, and I have no doubt that this investment will make a significant difference as we shape the future of the region.”

“As Governor, I have seen first-hand the impact of AmeriCorps in meeting a variety of needs across our state,” said Governor Beshear. “We are grateful to the Corporation for National and Community Service for being one of the first agencies to come forward to support the SOAR initiative by providing a surge of human capital to strengthen Kentucky’s Appalachia region.”

The SOAR initiative was launched by Governor Steve Beshear and Congressman Hal Rogers in late 2013, after a stunning downturn in the coal market exacerbated historic challenges in eastern Kentucky related to unemployment and poverty. SOAR is intended to help the region develop and put into action new locally-oriented strategies to attack persistent challenges. 

The AmeriCorps VISTA SOAR initiative will serve more than 25,000 people living in Appalachian Kentucky. Through the service of the AmeriCorps VISTA members, it is expected that more than 300 people will have increased food security, 1,600 adults will receive job training and placement services, 3,000 children and adults will receive health education or experience greater access to health care and healthy foods, 7,500 children and adults will improve academic achievement, and 13,000 people will achieve financial stability or gain financial literacy skills.

The AmeriCorps VISTA initiative is being led by Kentucky Campus Compact based at Northern Kentucky University with guidance from President Wayne Andrews of Morehead State University. Members will be placed directly with SOAR and its working groups, and in 16 nonprofits, local agencies, and higher education institutions in Eastern Kentucky.

Today’s announcement is part of the Administration’s larger focus on Eastern Kentucky, including through its Promise Zones initiative, where the federal government is partnering with and investing in communities to create jobs, leverage private investment, increase economic activity, expand educational opportunities, and improve public safety. One of five such zones across the country, the Eastern Kentucky Promise Zone (compromising 8 of the 54 counties that are part of SOAR) is focused on economic development. Five of the AmeriCorps VISTA members announced today will serve in the Promise Zone.

As part of the Administration’s overall commitment to Eastern Kentucky, Administrator Jay Williams of the Economic Development Administration also attended today’s SOAR meeting in order to discuss the economic development tools of the agency. Officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will be visiting the Eastern Kentucky Promise Zone later in the week to announce additional Administration investments.

Recruitment is now underway for individuals to make the 12-month commitment to serve in the SOAR AmeriCorps VISTA project. Members will receive a living allowance, an end-of-term benefit of either a $5,645 education award or a $1,500 cash award, health benefits, training, and a great opportunity for professional growth and networking. Focusing on local recruitment, this project demonstrates the impact of Kentuckians helping Kentuckians. To apply to serve, visit http://my.americorps.gov website and search for TASK.

About the SOAR Initiative

The SOAR initiative was launched by Governor Steve Beshear and Congressman Hal Rogers in late 2013, after a stunning downturn in the coal market exacerbated historic challenges in eastern Kentucky related to unemployment and poverty. More than 1,700 Kentuckians attended a one-day SOAR summit in Pikeville in December. SOAR is intended to help the region develop and put into action new locally-oriented strategies to attack persistent challenges. For more information, visit www.soar-ky.org.

About the Corporation for National and Community Service

The Corporation for National and Community Service is a federal agency that engages more than five million Americans in service and developing community solutions through its AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, Social Innovation Fund, and other programs, and leads the President's national call to service initiative, United We Serve. For more information, visit NationalService.gov.

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