AmeriCorps VISTA Spotlight on Corey Rodda
Name: Corey Rodda
Hometown: Buffalo, NY
VISTA Site: Wellspring Women’s Center
When did your service start? November, 2014
What are you currently working on at your organization?
Right now, I am writing about the history and inspiration for Wellspring. I am trying to capture the essence of the Center in my writing which will appear on Wellspring’s website as well as the blog that I’ve been working on for the Center called “Tales from the Heart of Wellspring”. I am constantly interviewing volunteers, staff and guests about what the Center means to them for the blog and promoting the Center through social media. I am trying to create enough blog posts to sustain the blog with weekly blog posts until the next VISTA arrives at Wellspring in November. I finish my term this May.
Why did you decide to be an AmeriCorps VISTA in Sacramento?
I wanted to have something meaningful to do. I was lost after graduating college. I had a hard time finding a job. When I applied for the position, I was working at a Starbucks Café at Barnes and Noble. I had to get my boss’s permission to throw out a banana or food that I had dropped on the ground. The entire time I worked there, I thought about how much I wanted to write. Some of my co-workers loved it, but I silently resented customers for ordering Frapuccinos. I was a bad barista and I wanted out of the suburb that I grew up in.
I was offered a positon at Sacramento Steps Forward which focuses on homelessness at a bureaucratic level. I didn’t know very much about homelessness and I figured that rooting myself in the issue would give me perspective as a journalist and a writer. I wanted to know all of the factors that create and perpetuate the inhumanity of homelessness.
My original position wasn’t a good fit and I transferred to Wellspring Women’s Center. The opportunity to work at Wellspring has made my VISTA experience incredibly meaningful and worthwhile.
What have been some of the greatest triumphs during your year of a VISTA?
I don’t know how to capture the triumphs or adequately describe what working as VISTA for Wellspring has meant to me. It has meant human connection. It has brought me closer to understanding poverty. It has made me a fuller person. It has made me humble and has consistently inspired me. Wellspring has this quality of truly bringing out the best in people through nurturing them and the amount of support that I have drawn from the guests, my co-workers and the volunteers of the Center has crafted me into a stronger, brighter, happier and better person. I feel especially lucky that the guests allow me and trust me to be a part of their lives.
Brianna, a guest who I recently interviewed for Tales from the Heart of Wellspring, is a special person. She is a sweetheart. She somehow manages to be calm and happy despite the stresses of her life. She has overcome a heroin addiction. When I told her that I got into Graduate School to pursue an MFA in creative writing, she was happy for me. She gave me a bracelet today that says, “created on a purpose for purpose.” She wears all sorts of inspirational wrist bands to remind her why she is here. When she is having a bad day, looking at them helps her resist the temptation of relapse. She told me that when I am writing, I can wear the wristband and know that there is a whole community of people rooting for me at Wellspring. She told me to remember that because not too many people have the support of such a special place.
At Wellspring, I have had the enormous privilege of being part of a nurturing and dynamic community full of love. I’ve been able to be in a place where people have time to talk to me — as an aspiring writer, it is a rare privilege to be able to delve into people’s lives and their thoughts, musings and feelings in a community setting. I’ve been able to see so much and to learn about so many people’s life journeys. I will miss the dynamism and the richness of Wellspring. I will miss all of the people who have been so generous to me and who have shared their love with me.
There have been so many experiences that have brought tears to my eyes and so many times when I’ve been astounded by people and the magic of human kindness. Wellspring has also taught me about tough love – sometimes working at the Center isn’t easy, but true love transcends artifice and rough patches. It’s about stability and devotion. I’ve gotten so much inspiration, vision and passion out of the Center.
I hope that I can carry on what I have learned here wherever I go. I hope that I can fight for more places like Wellspring to exist because we need more community. We need more understanding. We need more spaces where we can approach difference and we need more spaces where we can find love because love is so much stronger than hate. I hope to take everything that I have experienced here with me.
What have been some of the challenges you encountered and how did you overcome and/or learn from them?
Wellspring has given me the tools to be with people even when it is not easy. My co-workers – especially Genelle, Wellspring’s Social Worker and Sister Judy, Wellspring’s Executive Director — preach about radical acceptance. They welcome women to the Center who have been barred from other social agencies and at the heart of the center is this mission to be present for people even when it is not easy. The people who are the most difficult are often the people who are the most isolated. Through Genelle’s leadership and Sister Judy’s leadership, I’ve learned how to have more patience for others. I’ve witnessed areas of my life where I have room to grow – parts of me that need to become more understanding, compassionate and loving. Sometimes, I am afraid to be around people who are in psychosis and I’ve noticed that this fear of mine is something that I need to work on. Wellspring has taught me in the kindest way possible where I need to grow.
What is a 5 word statement to sum up your whole VISTA experience thus far?
“Hospitality with Dignity and love” – Wellspring’s mission statement.
What is your favorite thing about living in Sacramento?
I like the yoga studios, the architecture, the people who are so kind, the coffee shops, the craft breweries and Sacramento’s proximity to the rest of California – Lake Tahoe, Davis, San Francisco, the wine country, Grass Valley, Nevada City and Point Reyes. I like how navigable Midtown is on foot or on bike. I have simply never lived in a place like Sacramento where there is so much to see and do and so much beautiful nature to take in. I really like the people in California. I like how progressive, open and friendly people are in Sacramento. It has a wonderful sense of community. I’ve been lucky to live near truly great neighbors.
Next Steps: What are you thinking about doing after your year as a VISTA?
I am attending the University of Central Florida to pursue a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction Writing. I hope to write and write a lot. I hope to interview people. I hope to write about things that are important and fight for change. I hope to do social work in some capacity. I want to help people. I want people to have the freedom that I’ve been lucky to have. I want people to have everything that they need. I’d also love to create a public art installation surrounding the topic of homelessness.