Today, Columbia was announced as a winner of the Cities of Service Experience Matters competition. With support from AARP, Cities of Service will work with Columbia and five other cities to develop volunteering initiatives that address public problems related to the drivers of poverty.
Each city will receive $25,000, technical assistance, and two full-time AmeriCorps VISTA members based in city hall who will build capacity and raise awareness for the initiatives. They will focus on engaging residents 50 and older in program implementation.
In Columbia, volunteers will act as mentors for youth, forming the strong relationships that are necessary for children to succeed and increasing the likelihood of high school graduation.
“Columbia strives to be an age-friendly city for all people,” said Mayor Steve Benjamin. “The support from Cities of Service and AARP will strengthen our ability to leverage the incredible experience of our residents 50 and over. One of the most important focus areas of our cities strategic plan is to empower our residents, and that is exactly what this partnership will do.”
In addition to funding and technical assistance throughout the duration of the program, Cities of Service and AARP will provide support in recruitment and selection of AmeriCorps VISTA members, pre-program training to ensure fidelity to Cities of Service’s proven citizen engagement model, project design assistance customized to each city, expert and peer learning opportunities through site visits and convening, and promotion of projects to encourage replication of best practices.
“We are thrilled to expand our partnership with AARP through the launch of this new Experience Matters program,” said Myung J. Lee, Cities of Service Executive Director. “Our expertise helping cities engage volunteers combined with AARP’s experience working with adults age 50 and older will allow Columbia to have a significant impact on some of the issues it is facing related to poverty.”
“AARP South Carolina is pleased to work with the city of Columbia to help achieve the goals laid out in the Experience Matters program,” said Teresa Arnold, State Director for AARP South Carolina. “We know how much experience, expertise and commitment that 50+ volunteers bring to the table and think the Cities of Service Experience Matters program presents a great opportunity to engage older adults to make an impact in Columbia.”