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VISTA or Volunteers in Service to America was created by Lyndon Johnson's Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 as the domestic version of the Peace Corps. Initially, the program increased employment opportunities for conscientious people who felt they could contribute tangibly to the War on Poverty. Volunteers served in communities throughout the U.S., focusing on enriching educational programs and vocational training for the nation's underprivileged classes.
VISTA’s legislative purpose, as defined under the Domestic Volunteer Service Act (DVSA) of 1973, is to supplement efforts to fight poverty in low-income communities by engaging Americans from all walks of life in a year of full time service. VISTA members support the program’s purpose through three primary objectives: 1) encouraging volunteer service at the local level, 2) generating the commitment of private sector resources, and 3) strengthening local agencies and organizations that serve low-income communities. There are currently over 5,000 VISTA members serving in over 1,000 projects throughout the nation.
During the Clinton Administration, VISTA was brought under the newly created AmeriCorps program, a division of the Corporation for National and Community Service, and was renamed "AmeriCorps*VISTA." VISTA members sign up with a host agency to a full-time term of service - 365 days. In return for their service, members are provided with orientation and training, a living stipend calculated at no less than 95% of the poverty line, settling in and transportation costs, child care benefits, and a basic health care plan. Upon completion of their one-year term, VISTA members have the option of receiving $1,200 or an education award of $4,725.