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AmeriCorps/VISTA makes difference for Catholic Charities Print
Guest column
Amy Lachuk & Katherine Styler

For the past year, Rachel Dietzman has gained professional experience by completing one year of full-time service for The Beacon and Catholic Charities.

The 23-year-old recent University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate is a member of the AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers In Service to America) program. AmeriCorps VISTA is a highly professional and rigorous volunteer service program through which members serve in organizations; it is often called a domestic Peace Corps.

Real-world work experience

Dietzman joined VISTA to gain real-world work experience related to her undergraduate major in Nonprofit Management. Serving as the Transportation and Grant Development Coordinator, Dietzman split her time between The Beacon, located at 615 E. Washington St., and Catholic Charities’ offices, located at 702 S. High Point Rd.

As part of her year of service, Dietzman explored free transportation options available for The Beacon’s guests. She worked with Beacon staff to develop a “work-to-own” bicycle program. In this program, Beacon guests who complete eight hours of community service are eligible to receive a free bicycle, donated from the Madison Police Department’s property room.

As a grant writer at Catholic Charities, Dietzman collaborated with the Development team to develop a grants management program, oversee the grants life cycle, and secure grant funding for The Beacon. Working with the grants team, she has applied for over $200,000 in grant funding.

Resonates with VISTA program

Because of its commitment to supporting those who are most vulnerable in our community, Catholic Charities staff felt as though the vision for The Beacon resonated with the VISTA program’s anti-poverty, community empowerment, and sustainable solutions focus areas. The Beacon consistently helps persons who are living in poverty access the resources they need to overcome homelessness and secure stable employment.

As part of its role as a VISTA sponsor, each year for three years The Beacon and Catholic Charities recruits for three VISTA positions. The Volunteer Coordinator is responsible for recruiting and training volunteers for the largely volunteer-run day shelter. The Transportation and Grant Development Coordinator is responsible for securing grant funding and troubleshooting transportation options for a population that has critical transportation needs. The Guest Empowerment Coordinator engages homeless guests in the operations and policies of The Beacon, and works to develop leadership, employment, and service opportunities.

After having made a profound impact, Dietzman is ready to move on from her VISTA responsibilities. She recently accepted a position in a local non-profit where she will build on the skills she gained through VISTA.

Catholic Charities and The Beacon welcome her successor, Katherine Styer. Styer relocated from Northern Illinois to join the organization. She brings vast experience in grant writing and management to The Beacon and is eager to carry on the legacy that Dietzman leaves behind.

Rachel Dietzman and Katherine Styer are Catholic Charities of Madison staff members.