Adam Jones, a VISTA serving at Woman to Woman Pregnancy Resource Center completed two new training seminars for the volunteers serving at the agency’s Twice As Nice Resale store. The book department training and the bomb threat and terrorist activity training are equipped with activities and quizzes to test and gauge volunteers’ understanding of these two areas. The training seminars will instill a sense of confidence and ownership in the volunteers and will aid them to find proper solutions to stressful circumstances. These seminars are the first of many to come as Adam has already begun working on the toy department training seminar. Adam is setting a strong foundation for volunteer training which will lead to a stronger volunteer program at the Twice As Nice Resale store.
Casey McCollum, a VISTA with Denton Affordable Housing Corporation (DAHC), has spent the last few weeks updating the agency’s personnel policies. He has contacted other area non-profit agencies and reviewed their policies, which he found to be particularly helpful. In addition, Casey interviewed the current DAHC staff to gather input on policies; such as vacation time, benefits, and procedures for time-sheets. While this project is behind the scenes and does not require interaction with tenants, it is extremely important to have up-to-date policies for employees from a legal standpoint and from a workplace morale standpoint. Having clear policies and procedures for the staff gives them a peace of mind and confidence that translates into better performance and tenant care.
VISTA recruitment for the month of November is in full swing, and VISTA North Texas Leader Chanell Rose has been hard at work screening applicants and marketing for the open VISTA positions. As the VISTA project grows, there is an increasing need to expand recruitment and learn about new areas of North Texas. In November, the project will welcome its first VISTA members outside of Denton County with one VISTA in Grayson county serving with Texoma COG, and 2 VISTAs in Collin county serving with Plano Children’s Theatre. Chanell has been working diligently to ensure that these positions, as well as the other VISTA openings in Denton County for November, are well advertised and get filled by a new VISTA.
The month of July has been a busy one for AmeriCorps VISTA member Daisy Martinez. To start off the month, Daisy created a 30th Anniversary logo for Giving Hope, Inc. in order to increase awareness of the milestone that the agency has reached. She assisted her coworkers in adding the logo to their e-mail signatures, and created a T-shirt as well. Daisy has sent out at least 33 donation letters to the donors who have contributed to the “Lazy Day” Fundraiser that was led by her in the previous month. She collaborated with a previous client who offered to write thank you cards to all donors who contributed to Lazy Day. To keep count of the money being raised from Lazy Day, Daisy created a goal tracker board that all staff members can see in the office. Daisy has also had the opportunity to write the Co-Serv Charitable Foundation Grant that is due at the beginning of August. One of the projects that was assigned to Daisy was the North Texas Giving Day event. In order to prepare for it she has already chosen the theme, set up a schedule for the social media posts related to the event, and updated their donation page information. In between planning and collaborating, another task that Daisy has had a chance to complete in the month of July was creating a flyer for the Veterans Summit being held this year.
Woman To Woman Pregnancy Resource Center is an organization that contributes to the Denton community in significant ways by providing free resources. Woman To Woman could not do what they do, at the level they do it, without their volunteers. Volunteers are the life-blood of this organization and on Saturday, July 30, staff and almost 130 volunteers and their families gathered together at Rancho De La Roca to celebrate this. In one of her final contributions as the Volunteer Recruitment & Development VISTA, Marissa Castilleja helped the staff at Woman To Woman show their gratefulness for their faithful volunteers. Marissa worked on a team with fellow AmeriCorps VISTAs to plan the program, develop the theme, and help with set and break down of the event. The theme of this year’s volunteer appreciation event was “Woman To Woman’s Got Talent”. Marissa worked closely with a local videographer, who contributed 24 hours of service, to produce a video that showed just that. The event was a giant success and the volunteers expressed an immense amount of gratitude for the hard work of the staff. It was quite fitting for this to be the final event for Marissa as she was able to play an essential role in showing appreciation to the volunteers that she spent the past year recruiting and investing in.
Nicole Owens, the Community Education VISTA at Denton County Friends of the Family (DCFOF) developed a social media fundraising event to promote the agency’s Faith for Freedom campaign. Two original designs were created for the event with a festive “freedom” theme! On Facebook, over 15,000 people were reached and over 5,000 of those liked, shared or commented on the posts. Through social media and marketing efforts, several local churches participated in this fundraising cause which was targeted specifically towards religious or faith based groups. Friends of the Family earned over $6,000 in donations during this campaign and was able to raise awareness in five local churches.
Raven Carr is a VISTA member serving at Interfaith Ministries of Denton, Inc. as the Volunteer Coordinator. Interfaith’s mission is to provide emergency basic needs assistance to the people of Northern Denton County with the goal of helping those people to become self-sufficient. Raven has realized that her year of VISTA is coming to a close and has taken the necessary steps to help her host agency find her replacement anyway she can. She was been active in the screening process by calling possible candidates and telling them what the VISTA position consists of and what the agency expects from the person that fills that position. Raven and her supervisor have agreed on a candidate that they both feel is highly qualified for the position. This candidate has already been active helping Interfaith with Apple Tree and knows quite a bit about what Interfaith does to help the community. The candidate was called in for an interview and to answer any questions that she may have. She later accepted the position. Raven believes that her VISTA successor has potential to do amazing things at Interfaith and can’t wait to her about them later on.
There is awareness, and then there is actionable awareness. Community Outreach VISTA Rebecca Dake strives for the latter when developing communication and marketing materials for the emergency basic needs nonprofit Interfaith Ministries (IFM) of Denton. As a VISTA she is tasked with increasing awareness of IFM Denton, and she wants to see signs that action has accompanied awareness. In July, Rebecca created an email requesting donations for the Apple Tree Project, a back-to-school assistance program. The Denton Kiwanis Club quickly contacted IFM and announced a $500 donation to the program. They mentioned they had seen the appeal in the email. This type of cause and effect is a clear example of the importance of community outreach, marketing and social media activity for nonprofits who rely on donations. Through press release writing and media follow-up, Rebecca was also able to secure two pieces in the city’s newspaper, the Denton Record Chronicle, in July. A source she provided was quoted in one of the stories. While being less clear what impact inclusion in the newspaper can offer in terms of action, it is clear IFM’s message was able to reach a wider audience than those touched through their social media circles.
Safety policy doesn’t create itself by accident at Woman to Woman Pregnancy Resource Center. For this reason, VISTA member Sarah Crain was tasked with creating safety policy for all potential hazards that face the Twice as Nice Resale store that helps fund Woman to Woman. By taking existing safety policy from Twice as Nice, Sarah updated 3 policies and created 12 new safety policies. By using her FEMA Corps experience she created a new Bomb Threat Procedure, Natural Disaster Procedures, Evacuation Procedure and a new Injury/Accident Form. Sarah was also able to attend an informational DOVIA luncheon surrounding Risk Management for Non-Profits. In order to disseminate safety policy to volunteers, Sarah implemented daily safety briefs that include new topics every week. Safety of volunteers is key to keeping an organization running efficiently while a huge group of volunteers provides for a productive day. With this in mind, Sarah managed a group of 30 productive young adults for 2 hours with help from fellow VISTA Adam Jones. This group did a tremendous amount of work that helped the organization greatly. July was a great month for safety and logistics!
Tierra Bishop, Grant Writing VISTA for Christian Community Action (CCA) has kept busy researching and writing grants to support the agency’s programs. She wrote a grant seeking $5,000.00 to the City of Highland Village to provide support for CCA’s various programs that benefit Highland Village residents. Tierra also received a promise for $1,000 from WalMart to benefit CCA’s Back to School program which will provide new school uniforms to economically-disadvantaged students in CCA’s community.