How My Vista Years Shaped My Professional Growth

If you've been involved with FFEN as a volunteer, board member or a food shelf partner, chances are you've met or worked with FFEN's Project Coordinator, Jenny Moore!

Jenny started their career at FFEN in August of 2019 as an AmeriCorps VISTA and has since held another VISTA role in 2020 and is now FFEN's Program Coordinator. Jenny was recently featured in the Minnesota Association of Volunteer Administrators (MAVA) Newsletter where they shared how their AmeriCorps VISTA experience shaped their professional growth.

The AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) program provides non-profits across the country with fulltime members to create and expand programs that strength communities. In 2019, FFEN applied for the first VISTA member and were able to hire on Jenny!

Jenny shares their experience accepting their first VISTA role and changes that came with moving to a new state. "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."

Jenny's first VISTA role title was the Food Shelf Capacity Mobilizer. Jenny shares what their first VISTA project entailed. "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 their VISTA role, Jenny worked to develop a survey that would capture the experience of food shelves that worked with FFEN and any improvements that food shelves would like to see.

In August of 2020, Jenny started their second year of AmeriCorps VISTA as the Volunteer Program Capacity Developer. Jenny shares the project they worked on in their second year.

"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."

Jenny reflects on their experience as a VISTA member and how it supported their professional growth. "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."

In becoming a VISTA member Jenny has learned a lot about themselves and have seen growth in many area's. "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."

FFEN is excited to see Jenny's growth in their different roles and are excited that they've chosen to continue their journey with FFEN after AmeriCorps.