2017-01-26 / News

St. Ignace Volunteer Trish Sanders Brings Assistance To Help Businesses Grow

By Jacob A Ball


Trish Sanders, now in her third year as an AmeriCorps VISTA service volunteer, stands behind the desk at the St. Ignace Chamber of Commerce, where she has been working since August. She is assisting local businesses with improving their Internet presence, and helping to develop business-related programs at LaSalle High School. Trish Sanders, now in her third year as an AmeriCorps VISTA service volunteer, stands behind the desk at the St. Ignace Chamber of Commerce, where she has been working since August. She is assisting local businesses with improving their Internet presence, and helping to develop business-related programs at LaSalle High School. Trish Sanders works at the St. Ignace Chamber of Commerce office to help small businesses set up and maintain a Web site. She also has organized a program to help high school students prepare for college and employment, and plans to soon provide workshops for small business owners. An Ameri- Corps VISTA employee, she has worked in the office since August.

A three-year veteran of the VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) program, which places about 8,000 volunteers in communities each year, Ms. Sanders came to St. Ignace following two years working at Kirtland Community College and the women’s transitional shelter there in St. Helen. Her commitment to St. Ignace expires in August, but she would like to stay longer, if possible.

She believes volunteers must learn from the communities what programs would be beneficial.

“We don’t go into a community saying, ‘Okay this is our plan for you,’” she said. “We have to listen to them and see what they need, and then we go forward with their needs, getting them active in doing for themselves.”

In addition to her background in volunteering and community service, Ms. Sanders has studied computer science, Web site development, and interactive media design, which have have proven to be especially beneficial to her service here.

In addition, she has “stepped right in, above what her VISTA role would be, and volunteered at our events and activities,” said Chamber of Commerce Director Janet Peterson. “She has [always] gone the next step.”

Ms. Sanders said she has seen how wonderfully supportive the community is here.

“I’ve worked with different chambers of commerce and there is not another that I have been to [where] actually everybody helps the community. People help the community, the chamber helps build the community, and it’s awesome.”

Her projects have led to dividends for businesses in St. Ignace. KC Hobbies and Toys, one of the first businesses in town to receive her services, already has a running Web site from which to make online sales. She is also assisting in training business owners on how to run their Web site.

“They’re getting the skills to be able to maintain [the Web site] themselves,” Ms. Sanders said, a skill that will allow the community’s presence on the Internet to grow long after her time working with VISTA in St. Ignace is through.

She likes to be busy and juggle tasks. Apart from her work with small businesses, she has almost completed a project at LaSalle High School to help assist the students with building portfolios. The ultimate goal is for students to learn how to translate the skills they have learned throughout their education into employable traits that businesses, colleges, and universities look for.

“People often don’t understand that everyday things that they do, like volunteering or helping babysit kids,…are actually job transferrable skills. They just don’t know how to write it [down],” Ms. Sanders said.

She has been developing a more efficient, digitally recorded version of the resume-building project, a first at St. Ignace schools. The goal behind this project is to train students prior to graduation about how to approach the next stage of their lives, in the hopes that understanding how the application process works for school and employment will improve their success.

Shirley Sorrels, a Chamber of Commerce board member, said, “If there are people that are having a difficult time getting a job, then maybe it relates to building a resume and finding out what people’s skills are, [and Ms. Sanders] will be able to help them with that.”

The building of Web sites for local businesses could lead to the hiring of additional employees to help with an increase in sales. These jobs, unlike many of the employment opportunities in the area, would not be dependent on local tourism. The VISTA workers are meant to use their skills to help community members improve their community. VISTA is a program designed to alleviate poverty in urban and rural areas.

She will assist in the organization of the Job Fair in April at Little Bear East in St. Ignace.

Ms. Sanders’ ability to impact growth is dependent entirely on how the chamber and the city as a whole decide to take advantage of this opportunity. During the remainder of her time here, she hopes that additional projects can be completed that improve the overall capacity of the region through educational programs to foster economic development.

Return to top


Click here for digital edition
2017-01-26 digital edition