The First Week


So it begins again.

My VISTA position here at Chicago Access Network Television ( is actually my second year as a VISTA? Why did I sign up again? Did I just enjoy living in poverty THAT much? Let's just say that the combination of public service and media work was just too tempting for me to resist.

Things are a bit different here at CAN TV than they were at the last organization that I served. The first, most noticeable one is its size. The Volunteer Center had only a handful of employees, and really had more VISTAs than staff. CAN TV is a medium sized organization with access to a (somewhat) steady source of income, thanks to a Chicago ordinance that mandates all cable stations in the area dedicate funds to public access television. There's quite a few more employees, and all of them have pretty concrete job responsibilities, instead of slashes (my job was marketing/communications/tech support/social media coordinator at The Volunteer Center).

But when you're a VISTA, some things do remain consistent. The paychecks are consistently small, no matter where you go, but that's something you adapt to. And I think that the initial period of "discovery" is always an interesting one, where you learn about the organization and they learn what you can really do for them. I'm looking forward to finding out more about CAN TV and how I can make an impact on the community through my year of service here.

If anyone is looking for advice from a grizzled veteran VISTA who's still out in the field, feel free to contact me at

Comment from Bill Brown on August 4, 2010 - 2:21pm

Welcome Mike! You worked at a place called the Volunteer Center for your first VISTA year? Where was it and what did you do? Did you know about the DASCorps last year?

Comment from Michael Ewing on August 4, 2010 - 4:32pm

Hey Bill-

Last year I worked at The Volunteer Center of Northwest Suburban Chicago (or TVC, in abbreviation-speak)as a VISTA. As you may have guessed, TVC is a non-profit located in Chicago's northwest suburbs, with a service area that encompasses some 53 communities in the region. My job as a VISTA and "Communications and Outreach Coordinator" (a title I invented myself) was to help develop TVC's marketing and communications activities. As a small non-profit, they had no marketing to speak of, so I spent my time doing everything from developing their social media and redesigning their website to leading the production of a print insert in the local newspaper and press releases. Let's just say I was a little bit busy last year.

I found out about DASCorps through one of my late-night job searches through Google. Google really is the go-to for all the best things in life. I was really impressed to learn about DASCorps, especially since I'd been thinking of starting a similar organization myself. When I saw the position here at CAN TV, right in my backyard, I couldn't resist.

Comment from Bill Brown on August 5, 2010 - 10:32am

Cool - it sounds like you were doing some DASCorps-like projects last year as well. Well, I'm excited to hear how your year develops - and I'll try to connect you with other DASCorps members that might be working on the same type of projects as you.

Comment from Ben Sheldon on September 2, 2010 - 11:03am

Hi Michael, I hope your first month with the Digital Arts Service Corps was better than your first month without us :-) I hope we're able to share our knowledge and community with you and better support you in your second year of service. Also, if you're interested in nerding out, I have some friends who run a community computer recycling program and they are always looking for volunteers: