ne month into their year of service, Cities of Service City Hall AmeriCorps VISTAs are already helping to create positive change in their communities with our Love Your Block program. Our Seattle VISTAs, Lindsay Bingaman and Hilary Nichols, share their rewarding moments and favorite places in their new city.
Inspired to Service
Lindsay Bingaman (LB): I was inspired to become a City Hall AmeriCorps VISTA because AmeriCorps has a reputation of making an incredible impact and building programs that bring low-income individuals and communities out of poverty. I wanted to move to Seattle, and jumped at the opportunity to be a public servant to my new city, get to know the people living here, and gain experience in local government.
Hilary Nichols (HN): Everyone should have the right to a happy and healthy life. That’s what initially drew me to the program, because it aimed to address wellbeing and safety by making simple changes to the physical environment. There is so much power and innovation in Seattle, and I want to help harness that creative energy and supply the resources needed to improve neighborhoods one block at a time.
Challenges and Rewards
LB: The most challenging aspect thus far has also made for an exciting first month attempting to hit the ground running (more like sprinting). Navigating city government, meeting people across various departments, and gathering with community members to hear their perspective has been a bit overwhelming. My coworkers have done a great job making us feel welcome in City Hall.
HN: When talking with community members in neighborhoods that have recently seen a lot of change, it’s hard for the topic of gentrification not to come up. I’m not always sure how to react when someone tells me that they are being priced out of the community they’ve lived in for decades.
LB: Everyone is extremely busy in City Hall – working on various projects, meeting with important officials, and making sure the people of Seattle are happy. I have already honed my problem solving skills— I learned how to fix a jacked-up stapler and that’s it okay to take matters into your own hands when needed, and get creative!
HN: I’ve enjoyed seeing the community projects come to life! The City is awarding $5,000 in grant money to each neighborhood for community members to spend on projects that they come up with. In our first neighborhood, we’ve seen the start of a new mural on a community center, compost bins and rain barrels for the community garden, and new lights on a gazebo that community members like to use in the local park. It’s been amazing to see what the neighborhood is capable of doing and I feel honored to be able to supply the funds for these projects!
LB: I love how close Seattle is to both the water and the mountains. I enjoy going for a swim or paddle boarding in Lake Union, or taking a short trip to hike a nearby trail. There is so much to see and do and each neighborhood is very unique!
HN: There’s one street on the top of a long ridge where if you look to your left, you can see the Cascade Mountains in the east, and if you look to your right, you can see the Olympic Mountains in the west. Basically, you can see mountains from anywhere in Seattle and the sunsets here are better than any other place I’ve ever lived!