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VolunteerLAKE deploys three VISTA members into the community

RELEASE DATE: September 21, 2007

TAVARES — VolunteerLAKE, the volunteer program of the Lake County Board of County Commissioners, recently welcomed three new additions to its staff to help create and expand programs for disaster preparedness and community enhancement in low-income communities.
New VISTA Members

Gwen Manning, Don Schreiner and John Walton are newly sworn into the AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) program. According to the AmeriCorps Web site (www.americorps.gov), VISTA members leverage human, financial and material resources to increase the capacity of low-income communities across the country to solve their own problems.

VolunteerLAKE was able to sponsor the new VISTA members through grants. The three new members work 40 hours a week and have the potential to stay in Lake County for three years. The goal of the VISTAs is to leave beneficial programs that will continue after their service.

One particular goal for Schreiner and Walton is to teach communities how to help themselves during disaster situations.

"The first 72 hours are key when you are in a disaster," Walton said. "We teach groups how to take care of themselves and family, and then we build on that knowledge of how they can help their neighbors and surrounding community."

The duo also recruits residents that can volunteer for various duties in a disaster situation. It's important to train and recruit residents about volunteer opportunities before a disaster strikes because once it happens it's too late to begin the process of teaching specific volunteer specialties, such as food preparation, counseling and donations management.

"The first step is to find people that we can train who in return can train others in their community," Schreiner said. "The Groundhog Day tornadoes were a tragedy, but it was an eye opener for what we are lacking."

Manning's mission is focused on assisting communities to help themselves with various enhancement projects. She is currently working with the Yalaha community to find resources to build a new community center.

"We don't want to do any of this for the community, we want to teach them how to recruit people and resources," she said. "In other words, we don't give them fish, we teach them how to fish."

Unlike other AmeriCorps volunteers who are typically recent college graduates, the three new VISTAs in Lake County come with a wealth of experience and honed skills. Walton is retired after 43 years as a manager for Schindler Elevators in Washington D.C. He is also a ham radio operator. Manning served on the Eustis City Commission for 12 years, three times as mayor of the city. The 30-year retired schoolteacher has had numerous leadership roles on charitable boards and committees. Schreiner is retired after 30 years in property management and law enforcement. He also volunteers as chairman of the Lake County Board of Adjustment and deputy director of the mediation program for the Fifth Judicial Circuit in Lake County.

Interested community groups or faith-based organizations that would like to schedule a program with John Walton and Don Schreiner are encouraged to call (352) 742-6590. Gwen Manning is also looking for a second community to help. For more information, call (352) 742-6590.


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Public Information Coordinator
Office: 352-343-9603; Cell: 352-455-0445

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