Lea is our new VISTA. It’s just Lea because she dropped her first and last names some time ago. Vistas used to be Volunteers in Service to America when the program was started in the late 60s by Lyndon Johnson following on Kennedy’s creation of the Peace Corps. VISTA was placed under the umbrella of the multifaceted Americorps program in 1993 during the Clinton administration.
Volunteer is not the key word any more. It is rather SERVICE. And, that hits a chord with Lea who joins twelve other Vistas in Montana at this time. She is working out of the Prevention Resource Center of Montana in Helena. Mandie Reed is her local supervisor.
“I have always wanted to be involved with people and help make their lives better. Advocating for people. I have been blessed with a good life and now I want to be of service. My three boys are on there own now and I have all that I need.”
Lea went back to college at age 46. That was in 2002. “I had always been good in math and had worked for 20 years as a restaurant manager in Summerland. (The Nugget was a popular, rustic spot which purveyed famous hamburgers to the public and celebrities like Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.) Lea took an AA degree in accounting and sociology at a community college then went on to complete a Bachelors degree in sociology at the University of California at Santa Barbara.
“I was a full-time student and a full-time mom. My kids were in school and I fit college in around their schedules.” Interestingly, Lea graduated from college one month after her oldest son.
How did she find VISTA and a place in Montana? “I was looking for a service organization and Americorps came up. They have thousands of positions available. I pored over the positions on the Internet for hours and hours. I was drawn to work in a rural area and considered quite a few places.” Like cleaning a watershed in West Virginia. Another was working with Habitat for Humanity in Florida.
“But, I really liked the thought of coming to Montana. It’s beautiful and rural.” I had visited here a few times. After high school and then with her children in more recent years. Lea is originally from the San Francisco Bay area and has lived in Florida and Illinois.
Enthusiasm and success are two qualities Lea wants to project and promote. “I just want to do one little thing. If we all did just one little thing, what would this country be like? I think everyone should do some form of service. I would like to be a model for others that we can do these kinds of things.”
Even though she is focused on little things, the process seems to suggest
big changes. “I just up and moved. I have driven back forth across the country (California to Connecticut with Montana in the middle) three times in recent months. We’re not going to grow if we don’t take risks.”
“Basically, I am a strong believer in service and people advocating for themselves - and finding or being mentors. I look at this town and see that there are lots of resources here.
“What is fascinating about this town is that I have never been given so many gifts in my life. I have never been blessed so much. How did I get here? I can’t believe I’m here!”
Lea will be working in the area of Wellness. “When I first heard the idea, it invigorated me. It seems like people get stigmatized and stuck in old ways of thinking. If we could just look at life from a different perspective. We tend to fall into holes that we don’t have to. I believe we also have to get over our dependence on so much technology and take care of ourselves.”
What is Wellness? “It’s huge. It’s tons of things. It means self-image, self-esteem, peace of mind, sunshine, fresh air. A healthy mind in a healthy body. Being able to enjoy the sparkle of life around us.”
“For the year ahead, I will be serving the town by finding out what resources are available, the organizations which are already involved in wellness. Like the hospital, schools, businesses, churches and senior center. And, individuals like Shannon Jones and Ty and Krista Franks.
“I will basically be exploring resources and contacts in the community. At some point, we will put the information together in a friendly and usable form.”
“The goal is to utilize existing programs and apply community resources to the establishment of programs that promote physical activity, wellness and health related issues for the people of Wheatland County. And my goal is to make known and provide this information to all members of Wheatland County.”
Welcome to our community, Lea. And, thanks for bringing some more Wellness here.