Synergy of the Heart

June 24, 2019 / 5 mins read

At the forefront of supporting human services that are most needed, United Way of Porter County continues to create opportunities for volunteers, nonprofits, and those in need to flourish and thrive. “We are always excited when we can make connections that help those in need,” said Kim Olesker, president and CEO of United Way of Porter County. “Working with Hilltop has been a joy for us.”

Kim Betustak, a native of Highland and a senior at Valparaiso University, is the AmeriCorps member serving at Hilltop through United Way of Porter County. Majoring in social work, Betustak wanted experience and found exactly that at Hilltop. “I love kids,” she said. “I get plenty of opportunities to interact with them through my service work here, which provides me with a realistic vision of how the program works. It’s a great experience.”

Lisa Pavlopoulos is director of Finance and Community Development at Hilltop and works closely with Betustak. “This is our first AmeriCorps member,” she said. “It’s been a great experience for both of us. Kim enjoys the opportunities she gets, the kids love her, and she also gets a chance to help out at our food pantry.”

Located in Valparaiso, Hilltop is a child-care center dedicated to helping the community by providing a place to learn, grow, and belong; 78 children are enrolled in the program. Hilltop also runs a food pantry that distributes every Thursday, helping up to 1,000 food insecure people every month. Volunteers make the engines go at all three nonprofits. The synergy of collaboration helps those engines run smoother. Betustak is also focused on the longterm by helping to recruit others to AmeriCorps via the United Way of Porter County with the goal of adding to the volunteer ranks at Hilltop. “

AmeriCorps provides unique opportunities to those who want to give back to their community but aren’t sure where to start,” said Maddie Grimm, United Way AmeriCorps program director. “When someone contacts us, we discuss the wide variety of options available to find the perfect fit for them.” Pavlopoulos is always looking for volunteers at Hilltop, whether it’s interacting with children, helping at the food pantry, or working with the parents at the end of a long day. “It’s exciting to open another avenue through AmeriCorps,” she said. “The United Way has always been great to work with, and this opportunity is a win-win for everyone involved.” AmeriCorps is a network of national service programs, made up of three primary programs that take a different approach to improving lives and fostering civic engagement. Members commit their time to address critical community needs such as increasing academic achievement, mentoring youth, fighting poverty, preparing for disasters, and more. Their involvement with Hilltop can provide children additional opportunities to learn and grow.

AmeriCorps members:
• Tutor and mentor disadvantaged youth
• Manage or operate after-school programs
• Help communities respond to disasters
• Build organizational capacity
• Improve financial literacy
“We encourage everyone who is thinking of serving their community in any way to contact us about the AmeriCorps program,” Grimm said. “There’s so much we want to accomplish. You can become a part of something bigger than all of us.”

United Way of Porter County
951 Eastport Centre Drive