Friday, September 25, 2009

VISTA Memories - Mark Sullivan

Tick, tock, tick, tock my friends. Time is nearly up! Time to dust off your dancing shoes and get ready for the good times, the VISTA celebration is TOMORROW! Come out for a great night of entertainment with folks like today's posterchild for local VISTA made good, Mark Sullivan. Now an Athens County Commissioner with over 10 years experience, Mark began his VISTA service all the way back in 1994. Today we accompany Mark Sullivan on his trip down VISTA memory lane. And make sure to say hi to him on Saturday; he will be hard to miss, as he will be the emcee of the big party! Here's his story.

“I served from 1994 to 1996 and at first, all VISTAs did pretty much whatever needed tending to. Then, Jack, May and I were given the task of finding a new location for our headquarters. After that I was asked to find some way to create a revenue stream for Rural Action, and I started Rural Action Office Supplies, which focused primarily on offering recycled office products and products from women and minority-owned businesses. Though this did not create the great revenue stream I had hoped for, it did create enough revenue to allow me to remain with Rural Action for a couple of years after my VISTA terms were up. The business was also able to grow enough so that another VISTA volunteer was provided to help continue the growth. Sadly, the business eventually closed down a year or two after I left.

It’s extremely hard for me to pick just one best moment as I thoroughly enjoyed all my time with Rural Action. Though the pay was terrible, I enjoyed getting up and going to work each and every day as I knew I, and my fellow VISTAs were making a difference in people’s lives and the communities they lived in. But, if I had to name one it would probably be when I was one of two VISTA volunteers to be selected from Ohio to go to Washington D.C. for training at Georgetown University. During this time I also got to meet Vice President Al Gore and to chat at length with Sargent Shriver before someone sidled up beside me and told me who I was talking to. Though I knew of Sargent Shriver, I had no clue that he was the person I had been chatting with for a half an hour or so. I just assumed he was another VISTA Volunteer. Upon learning to who I was talking, I was deeply touched by his kindness and humbleness. It had a deep impact on me that someone so famous spent so much time talking to just me.

The dear friendships I made are what I remember most about my time of service. Though I'm not as close to them now as I was then due to being so involved in the lives of my children and county business, I still cherish the friendships I made. Bob Castro, Alan Rees, Michelle Decker, Carol and Bruce Kuhre, Mary Ann Borch, David Eson and Jack May are truly beautiful people that I very much loved working and forming friendships with. And, though I formed many, many friendships, I can't recall them all right now as I'm, as always, running late, so please forgive me if I left you out.

One of the most important lessons I took away from my VISTA experience is that proper planning prevents problems, or at least helps minimize them and allows you to put problems in proper perspective when they do occur.

I'm now an Athens County Commissioner and have been since November 20, 1998. This is a date that I'll always remember easily as I became a father for the first time on November 19, 1998. I can honestly say that without having been a VISTA I highly doubt I would be where I am today."


Isidore Foods said...


I got a google alert this morning telling me that someone had mentioned me - can't believe it was you!

Glad to see you are doing well. Wendy and I live in Pittsburgh now with 3 children - Isabella, William and Georgia.

I run my own business now - Isidore Foods -

Wendy is a childbirth educator and birth doula.

Everytime I see my dad's old ford tractor I think of the time we drove to my hometown to bring it to Athens.

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