Stephanie Del Los Santos is serving at the Epilepsy Foundation of Texas in the Houston office as the Camp and Resource Development VISTA. Stephanie keeps everyone informed of the Foundation’s activities and events through the monthly CEO Update. The CEO Update reaches over 7,000 people and includes board members, major donors, and involved participants. The Update allows the community to stay informed about the Foundation’s activities and learn about the people they serve.
Volunteer Coordination VISTA Sean Enfield focused his efforts on expanding Plano Children’s Theatre’s (PCT) volunteer base through its summer intern program and a newly implemented Volunteer Training program. Both programs help make enrollment in productions and classes more affordable. PCT interns earn credits that can allow them to earn up $400 toward a future production, and volunteers often receive credits for the productions in which their child is cast. By expanding the reach of these positions, the theatre hopes to allow those who might be interested in theatre, but unable to afford it, an opportunity to participate with little to no financial involvement. Sean has developed trainings for two of the organizations vital volunteer positions and will eventually develop trainings for all positions. The goal is to minimize the stress in all of the positions and to acclimate new participants into the theatre community.
VISTA leader, Marcela Solia, spent the month of June putting her artistic skills to use by creating marketing materials for recruitment events. She developed flyers and social media graphics that will be used to market each of the 8 VISTA positions that are currently open. Templates of the flyers and graphics were saved for future recruitment events. Marcela also created a pop up banner for the North Texas Project. Thorough research was done to find the best strategies for creating an aesthetic banner that also grabs the viewers’ attention. This banner will be taken to tabling events in the hopes of attracting even more potential VISTAs and partnering agencies. The more our project grows, the bigger the impact can be made on our community.
AmeriCorps VISTA Member Victoria Jackson serves with the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance (MDHA). MDHA leads the development of an effective homeless response system to make the experience of homelessness in Dallas and Collin Counties rare, brief, and non-recurring. Victoria continues her work on the Youth Services Directory (YSD). She has met with over 15 different organizations that serve homeless youth, runaway youth, and youth aging out of the foster care system. According to the State of the Homeless based on the 2017 Point in Time count there are 569 homeless youth in Dallas and Collin Counties. Through these dedicated and hard-working agencies, youth are able to work on life skills, job readiness, and savings accounts so that when they exit the program, each youth is ready to hold their own lease, work, and go to school. Throughout the YSD is a series of symbols that allow each young person or case manager to search specifically for programs that provide emergency housing, childcare, or house transgender individuals based on their gender identity. The goal for this feature is to direct clients to the agencies that are most suited for their needs, thereby preventing an excessive amount of referrals and allowing the client to take ownership of his or her own housing plan.
AmeriCorps VISTA member Steven Tillman recently completed development of the Christian Community Action (CCA) Job Readiness Training Program Standard Operating Procedures Manual, which is to be a cornerstone for the Job Readiness Training Program’s continued development and maintenance for years to come. With the completion of four successful pilot-trials of the Job Readiness Training classes reaching 70 individuals with information on employment and education resources, training 15 individuals and the completion of the S.0.P. Manual, Steven is putting the finishing touches on a presentation for partnership solicitation of other social service nonprofits. Organizations within Denton County, including Goodwill Industries, The Salvation Army, and Texas Workforce Solutions have expressed interest in incorporating the program into their client assistance efforts due to the manner in which the program addresses employment matters with clients. Steven is seeking volunteers to complete training as Job Readiness Trainers. These Volunteer Job Readiness Trainers will train clientele seeking gainful employment within CCA and within other partnering sites. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of Denton County is currently estimated at slightly above 806,000 people, with 3.4 percent of those individuals estimated to be unemployed and 8 percent estimate to be living in poverty; those factors are calculated at approximately 27,000 people and 64,000 people, respectively. The Job Readiness Training program, with regard to this group of the population, is anchored upon teaching people methods, belief systems, best practices, and techniques for maximizing one’s employment/earning potential and then strategically navigating an action plan of elevated employment, training, and/or education until one’s desired outcomes are achieved. Such outcomes range from a person obtaining a GED diploma through information provided about such resources, to a person securing employment which pays a functional wage suited for independent living, to a person earning a promotion at work, to a person identifying a career field which best suits his/her education and training, to a person earning an advanced degree through a well-executed plan of organization and achievement while simultaneously employed.
When running a race and you see the finish line, people have a way of pushing harder and finishing as strong as they can. The month of June was no different for the Epilepsy Foundation of Texas. This was the month to make every fundraiser and in-kind donation matter because it was the start of Camp! Epilepsy Foundation-Texas host three camps and send over 325 kids to camp for free. On average, the cost to send one kid to camp is $1,200. Community Outreach VISTA, Rashika Smith was responsible for obtaining in-kind donations of water and snacks for participants for two events which took place in west Texas. The Lubbock Landmark Lope, a 5k trail run at the Lubbock Lake Landmark and Sharon’s Ride. Walk. Run in Amarillo raised $22,876.57 which will support medical and educational service provided by the Epilepsy Foundation of Texas. The final June fundraiser brought the heat, sweat, and money. The Cornament was an entertaining and unique event featuring a cornhole tournament, side games, entertainment, beverages and food. Rashika obtained in-kind donations of gift cards worth over $1,040, to be used for prizes for participants. During the event a parent spoke about how the camp provided a place for their kid to be a kid and how no other camp was willing to give the child a chance to attend because of their medical condition. Over 100 people attended the Cornament and raised $29,412 which will send approximately 24 children to camp at no cost!
In June 2017, AmeriCorps VISTA Resource Development Officer Melanie Cheney serving with Plano Children’s Theatre helped deliver a presentation at the Plano Metro Rotary Luncheon that resulted in a $5,000 donation from the club. This donation will be used to pay for scholarships for underprivileged children who cannot otherwise afford tuition costs. This will allow children from low-income households to have access to enriching extracurricular arts activities that help teach valuable life skills (responsibility, discipline, integrity, etc.) and push them to become better students and citizens. Simply by bringing a few of our students to perform a couple songs at the Rotary Luncheon, we also received a $100 donation from a rotary member who was so moved by their performance that he attended the actual performance that weekend and wrote a letter detailing how thoroughly impressed he was by our students’ passion and skills. In 2016. Plano Children’s Theatre awarded 255 scholarships to underserved students, totaling $30,906.
Meghan Kajihara is a Community Outreach VISTA serving with NewDay Services for Children and Families in Denton, TX primarily through the Fatherhood EFFECT program. Fatherhood- Educating Fathers for Empowering Children Tomorrow (Fatherhood EFFECT) seeks to reduce child abuse and neglect by engaging fathers and father figures in preventative services. Meghan has built solid relationships with school district representatives from the Denton ISD, Lewisville ISD and Northwest ISD who combined serve 100,537 students. These individuals will help NewDay Services collaborate more closely with the school districts and provide outreach more effectively to community parents. The work Meghan does with NewDay Services uplifts and educates parents so they can provide stable home environments for children, curtailing child abuse before it can ever begin and putting a stop to destructive, comorbid factors that hurt a child’s probability of escaping poverty. The way NewDay Services helps strengthen families is by leading classes and support groups for parents, teaching them how to be present in the lives of the children and to learn how to understand and meet emotional needs for themselves and their families. They also provide individualized life coaching and mentorship, so these growing and learning parents always have someone to turn to on their journey. The key change seen in the 183 clients served is the transformation they undergo from anxious and alone into the parent they dreamed of being and that their children deserve. Clients have come to them with substance abuse issues and found sobriety. They have come to them homeless and unemployed, and found housing, work, and purpose. Above all, they leave connected to resources, their community, and their children, no longer isolated by their challenges or anxieties.
On Tuesday, June 20, AmeriCorps VISTA Jennifer Weatherford attended a Career and Community Resource Expo in Mt. Pleasant, TX on behalf of the Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC). Jennifer regularly attends expos similar to these in order to inform communities about the information and referral services offered by the ADRC, services which work to prevent homelessness in vulnerable populations, including the elderly, veterans, disabled persons, low income families, and those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness by coordinating and connecting crucial community service providers with those most in need. During her time at the Mt. Pleasant Expo, Jennifer provided outreach materials to the more than 160 local community members who were in attendance, and made personal referrals to 14 of those who stand to benefit immensely from the ADRC’s services.