National Service Agency Expands Investment in SOAR Initiative in Kentucky

At SOAR Summit, CNCS CEO announces $1.24 million investment for 56 AmeriCorps VISTAs

Pikeville, Ky. – The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) announced it will invest more than $1.24 million to support the Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) initiative to improve the economy and quality of life in Eastern Kentucky.

The funding will support 56 full-time AmeriCorps VISTA members to serve in the SOAR region.  Through this investment, AmeriCorps VISTA members will serve more than 100,000 hours and support more than 15,000 Eastern Kentucky residents in the areas of job creation and retention, entrepreneurship and innovation, youth engagement, education success, and health and human services.

The investment, announced yesterday by CNCS CEO Wendy Spencer at the SOAR Strategy Summit, continues and expands the federal agency’s commitment to SOAR.  The agency’s two -year commitment totals $2.25 million supporting more than 100 full-time SOAR AmeriCorps VISTA members meeting needs of Eastern Kentucky communities.   The AmeriCorps VISTA members recruit and manage volunteers, raise funds, start new programs, and build the capacity of local nonprofit and education organizations that tackle poverty in Kentucky’s Appalachian region.

“With the strong leadership of Chairman Hal Rogers and Governor Steve Beshear, the SOAR initiative is already improving the lives of the people of Eastern Kentucky, and we are proud to be a key partner in this effort,” said Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service.  “We are thrilled to expand our support of SOAR with a second major investment of human capital through AmeriCorps.  We have already seen the impact of passionate, dedicated AmeriCorps members, and this new investment will ensure they will continue to make a big difference for Eastern Kentucky.”

“I want to thank the Corporation for National and Community Service for continuing its investment in SOAR by offering additional resources to expand economic opportunity for the people of Eastern Kentucky, “ said Congressman Hal Rogers. “National service perfectly aligns with the mission of SOAR, to tap the energy of local citizens to solve problems.  AmeriCorps members have impacted the lives of so many families in our region already, and I have no doubt that this investment will make a significant difference as we shape the future of the region.”

“We are grateful for AmeriCorps’ work in meeting a variety of needs across our state,” said Governor Beshear.   “We are grateful to the Corporation for National and Community Service for continuing to invest in the SOAR initiative by providing a second year of funding to support AmeriCorps VISTA members to strengthen Kentucky’s Appalachian region.”

Since the SOAR VISTA initiative launched last summer, AmeriCorps VISTA members have already made an impact in supporting Kentucky families and individuals.  Through the service of VISTAs:

  • 5,000 adults have received job training and placement services
  • 700 new job opportunities have been made available to eastern Kentuckians
  • 6,000 children and adults have received health education increased access to health care and healthy foods
  • 10,000 youth and adults have increased access to educational opportunities
  • More than $20 million in grants and in-kind support has been raised for Eastern Kentucky projects

The SOAR initiative was launched by Governor Steve Beshear and Congressman Hal Rogers in late 2013, after a downturn in the coal market exacerbated historic challenges in eastern Kentucky related to unemployment and poverty. SOAR is intended to help the region develop and put into action new locally-oriented strategies to attack persistent challenges.

The Kentucky Campus Compact, based at Northern Kentucky University, is leading the initiative with guidance from President Wayne Andrews of Morehead State University.  In the second year, Berea College will also sponsor the AmeriCorps VISTA members.   The members will be placed directly with SOAR and its working groups, and in nonprofits, local agencies, and higher education institutions in Eastern Kentucky.  The CNCS funding supports the VISTA members and Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards for members who complete their service to use to pay for college or pay back student loans.

Today’s announcement is part of the Administration’s larger focus on Eastern Kentucky including through its Promise Zones initiative. One of five such zones across the country, the Eastern Kentucky Promise Zone, compromising 8 of the 54 counties that are part of SOAR, is focused on economic development. Five of the AmeriCorps VISTA members serve with the Promise Zone.

The SOAR funding builds on CNCS’ existing investment of $ $17.8 million in communities across Kentucky. These federal dollars leverage an additional $5.7 million in other resources. This funding supports more than 5,750 AmeriCorps members and Senior Corps volunteers serving at 950 locations in the state. These national service participants tutor and mentor children, support veterans, provide health services, and more.

Recruitment is now underway for individuals to make the 12-month commitment to serve in the SOAR VISTA project.  Members will receive a living allowance, an end-of-term benefit of either a $5,730 education award or a $1,500 cash award, health benefits, training, and a great opportunity for professional growth and networking.  Focusing on local recruitment, this project demonstrates the impact of Kentuckians helping Kentuckians.

About the SOAR Initiative: The SOAR initiative was launched by Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers in late 2013, after a downturn in the coal market exacerbated historic challenges in eastern Kentucky related to unemployment and poverty.  SOAR’s mission is to expand job creation, enhance regional opportunity, innovation, and, improve the quality of life in Appalachian Kentucky.  For more information, visit

About the Corporation for National and Community Service: The Corporation for National and Community Service is a federal agency that engages millions of Americans in service and developing community solutions through its AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, Social Innovation Fund, and other programs, and leads the President's national call to service initiative, United We Serve. For more information, visit


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