Before becoming an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer with the North Central Texas Area on Aging, Betty Hall was an active advocate dedicated to aiding nursing home residents. She was touched by the circumstances of many of the residents that she observed while visiting her family members in nursing homes. She then decided to become a Certified Volunteer Ombudsman, and successfully completed the training required to be certified by the state of Texas to help nursing home residents achieve the best possible quality of life. It was in her service as an Ombudsman that she learned of the opportunity to become a VISTA volunteer and recruit other volunteers to become advocates, also.
Inspired by the many nursing home residents that she was helping and the many residents that still needed advocates, Hall applied for the VISTA position and was chosen as the best candidate. She rose to the many challenges of her position with AmeriCorps. The task she faced was enormous geographically, and it was imperative for her to recruit volunteers. She worked with a rural 14 county area that boasted of 89 nursing homes accommodating approximately 8,745 residents. Although she had no prior experience, Hall immediately began to develop an innovative approach to volunteer recruitment. She traveled from county to county in North Central Texas and spread the message of need through grassroots methods and increased the number of volunteers from 28 to a record 74 after her first year of service.
In addition to the extensive geographic area Hall was required to cover, she also overcame other challenges as a VISTA volunteer. The volunteers must be available 24 hours a day 7 days a week for the community they serve, and they only receive a small monthly living allowance to pay for necessities. Despite this, she became so committed to the program, the North Central Texas Area Agency on Aging, and her mission to advocate for nursing home residents, that she enrolled for a second year of service.
During her second year, Hall oriented another VISTA volunteer to the program. They both worked to increase the number of Certified Volunteer Ombudsmen, and by the end of her second term of service there was a 400% increase in the number of active volunteers.
The effect of Hall’s dedication and hard work can still be seen today. The North Central Texas Area Agency on Aging presently has 90 active Certified Volunteer Ombudsmen. Now 6,725 nursing home residents in their area have a volunteer who visits regularly to identify, investigate, and resolve complaints. They have someone who can provide them with information about their rights and the facilities procedures as well as much needed social contact.
After her second term with VISTA ended, Hall returned to being a Certified Volunteer Ombudsman. Today she continues her work, advocating for nursing home residents and acting as a mentor to new Ombudsmen.