AmeriCorps, helping veterans and making a difference

By Peter MacArthur, Special to the BDN
Posted March 15, 2012, at 4:42 p.m.

I have worked as an AmeriCorps VISTA at Pine Tree Legal Assistance on its veteran and service member specific website www.statesidelegal.org since November. As an AmeriCorps VISTA, I represent a specific part of the AmeriCorps community. My goal from the beginning has been to aid Pine Tree in its fight against poverty here in Maine.

Pine Tree Legal Assistance is a statewide nonprofit organization committed to providing civil legal assistance to low-income people in Maine. Pine Tree has served as the primary legal aid provider in this state since 1967 and is committed to the goal of access to justice for all Mainers.

With the vital help of many other individuals and organizations, Pine Tree Legal developed the Stateside Legal website as a clearinghouse of information on various legal needs, especially for low-income members of the military, veterans and their families. The website includes both original content on legal problems (such as foreclosure, divorce and service member Civil Relief Act issues) and links to quality legal content on other sites.

It seems that it was only a matter of time before Pine Tree Legal and AmeriCorps would find a way to work together on a project such as Stateside Legal.

The majority of my work over the past few months has dealt with updating the legal content and resources found on the site and creating a Facebook page for Stateside Legal, but Pine Tree has big plans for the future of the site. During the next year we are planning to give the website a major face-lift and graphic redesign to better serve this community. We are also planning on creating a section of the website that will provide content specific to women veterans.

The other aspects of my work over the remainder of my AmeriCorps VISTA term will be geared towards outreach to our local veteran community. I have already participated in meetings geared toward ending homelessness among veterans in the state, and I look forward to more opportunities in the coming months to work with other organizations around the state that serve this community.

There are many ways to combat poverty in our communities, but the first step is communication. I’m not a stranger to the state of Maine and the diversity that lies within it. I have lived here since I was five and am a graduate of Lewiston High School and Bates College. I know that Mainers can sometimes have a stubborn attitude toward asking for help, but we need to come together as a community and collaborate to find solutions to poverty.

People will ask, “What difference can I make? I’m just one person.” The answer is that you can always make a difference. You just need to jump in and offer your best effort.

I know that money and time are luxuries that not everyone has right now, but it is only through continuous local effort and actions that we can make a serious dent in the poverty here in Maine.

AmeriCorps, Pine Tree Legal and the Stateside Legal project gave me the opportunity to come home to Maine and to help make a difference in this fight against poverty.

If you are interested in learning more about AmeriCorps, Pine Tree Legal Assistance or Stateside Legal please check out the following websites: americorps.gov, ptla.org and statesidelegal.org.

Peter MacArthur works in the Pine Tree Legal Assistance Bangor office, volunteers for AmeriCorps and is from Bangor.

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/03/15/opinion/contributors/americorps-helping-veterans-and-making-a-difference/ printed on December 20, 2014