Paonia Mayor Charles Stewart attended a volunteer cleanup of the Paonia River Park Tuesday, April 4, to recognize the value of community service to the nation during an event organized by local AmeriCorps VISTAs (Volunteers in Service to America).
During the event, the mayor thanked local volunteers for their contribution to the town and signed a proclamation which outlined the importance of service to the community. "National service expands economic opportunity by creating more sustainable, resilient communities and providing education, career skills, and leadership abilities for those who serve," the proclamation said.
Current and former AmeriCorps VISTAs from Solar Energy International and the Western Slope Conservation Center in Paonia also attended the event. The event was just one in a national effort for local governments and county officials to highlight the importance of community service. In total, over 4,500 similar events took place across the country.
The mayor explained, "In terms of the River Park Project, that really is a situation where the local government, local organizations and volunteers have come together to do something that really is very nice for the community," he said. "What has happened here over the years is a very positive thing. We now have a wonderful river park which the community can enjoy and that is, in big part, the result of volunteers, and volunteers that are here today to help clean up the park."
The Western Slope Conservation Center attributes much of the development and success of the River Park to service from their VISTA program. Their VISTAs are responsible for the Youth Outdoor Network, which provides Delta County high school students with insight into outdoor and conservation sector career opportunities.
Since the inception of the AmeriCorps program at Solar Energy International, through a Solarize program, VISTAs played a part in creating nine jobs in Delta County and garnering nearly $1 million in local investments in a solar market. Additionally, VISTAs teach in local Delta County high schools in a vocational training program featuring SEI's professional curriculum.
Marla Korpar, Ameri-Corps VISTA at Solar Energy International, said on her service experience, "National service gave me the opportunity to contribute to the education and economic development of Delta County while developing skillsets to enhance future career opportunities."
A collaborative effort between the Delta County Sheriff's Office and municipal law enforcement agencies throughout Delta County has resulted in a proposal for a 1 percent sales tax increase to fund public safety. A PowerPoint presentation titled "Back the Badge" is starting to make the rounds at city/town council meetings, service club luncheons and other events.