In January 2017, AmeriCorps VISTA Melanie Kuriger, serving with Plano Children’s Theatre, helped develop a spreadsheet for tracking and providing details about potential grants and their corresponding foundations/charitable organizations. She had noticed that the previous method of recording information about potential funders did not include a way of monitoring the next steps needed in the process. She developed a spreadsheet that took this into consideration, including a way to record important details that would help her organization become better at time management when it comes to grant-writing. The information in the spreadsheet is also very easily translated into a timeline or Gantt chart, as it includes a place to record due dates and suggested action/action dates. As she’s been working on logistics for submitting grants, Melanie was able to help submit a small grant to Texas Health Resources for $3,000. Her early work in January will hopefully prove to bring great rewards to Plano Children’s Theatre throughout the rest of the year!
In the month of January, VISTA Sean Enfield’s time was primarily devoted to the Plano Children’s Theatre’s volunteer show manager position. Early in the month, he, the managing director, and a senior volunteer organized a meeting of last year’s show managers in order to receive their feedback. From this meeting he and the staff hope to develop a “Best Practices” and a series of trainings for the position of Show Manager. Already, he has developed two new resources for show managers–one PowerPoint template and a new form for recruiting the remaining production volunteers. This is the first month these two new resources have been utilized, and while there are still kinks to be ironed out, Sean hopes that these new documents will continue to be used by future productions.
VISTA Casey McCollum with Denton Affordable Housing Corporation (DAHC) has been hard at work to submit another grant for his agency. Casey has submitted the HOME program grant through the city of Denton this past month, asking for $60,000 in funds. DAHC will use this grant money to rehabilitate properties they own for use by MHMR. These are important group homes in use for those with mental health needs. Keeping these properties safe and up to date is vital to the health of not only the residents, but also the MHMR staff. As Casey nears his end of service, his hard work has definitely shown!
Everyone at Giving Hope, Inc. has started off the year with their best foot forward. After setting up a staff retreat, every person at the agency was able to evaluate what worked, what didn’t work, and created individualized plans for the 2017 year. Our goal as a whole is to become more efficient in helping our community. AmeriCorps VISTA member Daisy Martinez has held true to her goals of bringing in more funds, and funding opportunities for the agency by getting a head start on the planning of the 5th Annual Night of Hope fundraiser which is scheduled for April 6th, 2017. She was able to create a sponsorship form for board members and staff to use to bring in large sponsors for the event. She also created four different spreadsheets for board members and staff to easily track their sales for: sponsorships, tickets to the event, raffle tickets, and donations to the event from those who are not able to attend. Along with that, she has already had the tickets for the event printed and ready to sell, and has put in an order for the programs that will be used for the event as well. In addition, Daisy wrote and submitted two separate grant requests to the City of Denton. One of the grants was for $35,000 for the funding of their Transitional Housing program, and the second one was for $18,000 for the HMIS system that they (and other nonprofit agencies) use to track the homeless clients they serve. As for finding funding opportunities, Daisy spent a whole day at the University of North Texas Grant Library researching grants that her agency would be able to apply for. She was able to compile and organize a list of thirteen different grants that programs of the agency can benefit from when they apply.
Rebecca Dake, Community Outreach VISTA at Interfaith Ministries of Denton wanted to boost her site’s ability to implement the goal written in its mission statement. The emergency financial assistance nonprofit serves the working poor and those on fixed incomes in northern Denton County. The nonprofit’s goal is to help those clients become self-sufficient–one interpretation meaning to help those clients plan, budget and save for future emergencies to avoid the need for outside assistance. This can be quite hard for those on low and fixed incomes, but it is not impossible. Rebecca’s site already offers financial counseling, and recently had a staff member and volunteer complete a financial training; however, it is challenging to get clients to sign up for financial counseling after they have received emergency assistance. Rebecca wondered if more financial education could be offered for her site’s clients before they receive assistance. The VISTA member met with Metrocrest Services, a nearby agency who provides this service. Rebecca interviewed a staff member about their agency’s best practices and made recommendations to her site about the feasibility of doing something similar. The suggestion was well received by Interfaith Ministries and Rebecca plans to help with the creation of materials that can be administered pre-assistance and ultimately be used to help those struggling become self-sufficient and break the cycle of poverty.
VISTA Steven Tillman, a second time AmeriCorps member from Chicago, Illinois, has launched a pilot version of his Life Skills & Job Readiness Training course for nonprofit staple Christian Community Action. Steven developed surveys to administer to clients for the purpose of data collection during the course’s trial run. This is the first of two trial run data snapshots to be captured before the program is officially launched. Having spent a sizable amount of service hours conducting online research in the areas of Occupational Psychology and Workforce Development in order to obtain data and information to add to the curriculum, Steven now feels that his research oeffors are nearing completion.
January 2017 brought in a storm of grant writing for Tierra Bishop, Grants VISTA with Christian Community Action (CCA). Within the last month, she wrote and submitted a total of four complete grants for a potential income of $330,000 to support the ministry of CCA. She has also begun work on two grants to be submitted in early February for an additional potential $46,000. These grants, if awarded, will be used to support CCA’s various programs that serve low-income individuals across North Texas, including the Food Pantry, Family Assistance Services, Life Skills training, as well as general operational costs for the organization.
MLK Day of Service is a national service day that AmeriCorps members across the country take part in, hosting or participating in various service projects aimed at fighting poverty within their community. For the VISTA North Texas Project, VISTA Leader Chanell Rose coordinated with Denton County Homeless Coalition and partner agency Giving Hope to bring all of the North Texas VISTAs together to lend a hand with the annual Point in Time (PIT) Count. All 14 VISTAs within the project, 2 VISTA Leaders, and the Project Director Christina Penland spent Saturday morning, January 21st, packing 200 incentive bags to give out to homeless members of the community during the PIT count surveys. These bags are filled with toiletries, clothing, and other essentials for the colder winter months. The full 17 member VISTA North Texas Project came together in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.’s day of service, and also took the chance to connect and grow as a North Texas team.
What an eventful month for VISTA Hannah McNeill serving at Woman to Woman Pregnancy Resource Center in Denton! Hannah assisted Twice as Nice Resale (TANR) at the 2nd annual Denton Bridal Show. Hannah managed 11 volunteers modeling for the Denton bridal show. Her duties included contacting all volunteers and creating the schedule for model volunteer fittings, the organization of volunteer dresses to be used and transported to the show, as well as creating the spreadsheets used by the bridal show coordinator the day of the event. Hannah assisted the volunteer coordinator in booth preparations for the event and assisted in outreach for the organization at the booth during the event where over 300 brides were present. Hannah completed all of this while also planning and scheduling social media posts to go out before the event and the day of to market TANR with hopes of building capacity through growth in volunteers and customers. Later on in the month, the organization also participated in the National holiday of Sanctity of Human Life. The goal of this event is create awareness of our services in the community as well as recruit volunteers through 9 different table set ups with local participating organizations. Hannah assisted the event coordinator in creating materials that would draw new volunteers and organized the suitcases containing materials for the booths, such as brochures, business cards, and other necessary items. Each suitcase was picked up by an existing volunteer who manned the table in the community. By preparing these materials for outreach, the volunteers were able to more easily share with others about Woman to Woman, and we received over 20 volunteer interest cards. It was a great start to the year!
AmeriCorps VISTA Leader Jessica Platt has felt very welcomed since she has started with the VISTA North Texas Project team. She is learning about the organization and the mission of the project. Jessica is getting familiar with her VISTA Leader duties, meeting the VISTA cohort, and getting familiar with the culture of the overall North Texas Project. She is very thankful for her supervisor and the other VISTA leader in their efforts in making her transition smooth. With the addition of a second VISTA Leader, the North Texas Project will have a greater capacity to launch its first Summer VISTA Associate program with City of Denton Parks and Recreation. This project will have 2 separate programs with 3 individual start dates, and will house a maximum of 29 Summer VISTAs. The work Jessica is putting in towards recruitment and outreach will ensure the project’s first Summer VISTA Associate program will be a huge success!