“I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to support others in my community,” explains Emily Melhorn, the coordinator of volunteers at Families in Transition (FIT) and the FIT VISTA Program. After graduating in 2010 Melhorn chose to return to her native New Hampshire and work for a non-profit organization as part of the AmeriCorps VISTA program – a series of steps from there lead her to balancing two vital roles that support volunteers and people dedicated to helping those in need.
AmeriCorps VISTA is a national service program designed to fight poverty. Founded in 1965 Volunteers in Service to America became part of the AmeriCorps network of programs in 1993. Members, often recent graduates or those looking for a new challenge, make a year-long, full-time commitment to serve on a specific project at a nonprofit organization or public agency. Here in New Hampshire there are three organizations that take on the planning for and deployment of VISTA members around the state, including Families in Transition in Manchester.
“I was a VISTA myself,” continues Melhorn “I really believe in national service, and young people giving back to their community, and to those who need a little more support.” Melhorn is responsible for overseeing the work of 20 VISTA members in organizations across the state as well as organizing the volunteers for Families in Transition programs, their thrift stores and during fundraising events.
FIT is a nonprofit organization located in Manchester, Concord and Dover that supports homeless individuals and families as well as those at risk of losing their home in the greater Manchester area and throughout the state. “It was founded in 1991, and it is recognized as being on the cutting edge of providing resources to those in need,” says Melhorn.
With the main goal of returning individuals to safe, secure independent living FIT helps those who have lost their homes through unemployment, mental health issues, substance abuse, violence as well as the many other factors that affect living conditions. It has 18 buildings, with more than 200 units of housing throughout the state.
“In 2013 we had more than 35,000 hours logged by our volunteers at the organization – they do everything, and we couldn’t survive without them,” Melhorn explains. “My job is to ensure we have the right people doing the right work, and making sure they know how important they are.” Melhorn never has a dull day balancing her two important roles, “I love working in a fast paced environment and not knowing what challenge might be ahead.” But Melhorn is rewarded for her hard work, “I know that everyday I go in to work I will have an impact on someone’s life, someone that might be struggling.” It’s clear that Melhorn has a passion for helping people, and guiding others to help in their communities as well. For her, it’s all about empowerment – “I want to encourage everyone to do great things.”
If you would like more information about Families in Transition please visit their website – you can also find further information on their VISTA program on their Facebook Page and their website. You can learn about becoming a VISTA member across the country at the AmeriCorps VISTA Program website.
If you would like to share your stories about a great non-profit organization or individual who is Doing Good in New Hampshire, then do get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.