Marketing and Fundraising VISTA Maegan Shafer is serving with Denton Christian Preschool, a non-profit day care serving at-risk 3-and 4-year olds in Denton, TX. In September, Maegan successfully coordinated with University of North Texas service groups to promote and participate in Denton Christian Preschool’s Tamale Fundraiser being held in October. Maegan helped Denton Christian Preschool raise $10,000 through North Texas Giving Day, an annual on-line fundraising event. These funds will be used to continue programing for the children in their care. In addition she organized a campaign to raise funds for the new Stop Poverty Educate At-risk Kids (or SPEAK) initiative that focuses on providing the best opportunity for at risk children in the Denton community regardless of their situation by writing a $25,000 grant to Wells Fargo. Maegan also wrote a grant to the Denton Benefit League to purchase new computers and projectors.
AmeriCorps VISTA member, April Comperda, worked alongside Denton County Friends of the Family (DCFOF) Marketing and Development team to prepare for Taste for a Cause, DCFOF’s largest fundraising event of the year. April assisted with garnering in-kind donations for the silent auction. These donations had a total value of $14,000 and contributed to DCFOF raising over $75,000. In addition, April helped her agency raise $11,000 through North Texas Giving Day, an annual online fundraising event. April spread the word about the event through social media and attended a tabling event held on the Square in Denton. These funds will allow DCFOF to serve more clients by providing lifesaving services and programs to victims of sexual and domestic violence across Denton County. It’s the dollars that make the difference as $1,500 provides one week of emergency shelter for a mother and her two children and $1,000 provides one month of groceries for the entire shelter. Since January, DCFOF has been able to serve 1,302 new clients and because of events like Taste for a Cause and North Texas Giving Day, DCFOF is able to increase their capacity to help more and more.
In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, at least one thousand refugees were sheltered at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Center in Dallas. FEMA, OEM, and the Red Cross served several hundred of these individuals, who were able to return home or were able to secure housing. However, about 300 people were able to return to their towns, but not their apartments or houses. Additionally, some refugees were homeless before the disaster and continued to be homeless afterwards. In light of these complications, AmeriCorps VISTA member Victoria Jackson serving with Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance, drafted a list of homeless and housing-related services organized by county to assist case managers at the shelter in making referrals. Victoria also provided copies of a local directory of housing services in Dallas for refugees who had no choice but to stay in Dallas. As a result, refugees have access to housing stabilization services no matter where they are staying.
VISTA Steven Tillman has played several key roles in north-Texas nonprofit Christian Community Action’s (CCA) efforts to garner both a stronger online presence and program-based funding. While recently visiting the Aunt Bertha website, an online social services reference source which provides an information hub for nonprofits across the country, Steven noticed that the Job Readiness program was not listed as one of CCA’s services. In addition, some of the information associated with other service listings was out of date or incorrect. He decided to research the process for adding the Job Readiness program to CCA’s profile, as well as the steps needed to update any information regarding the other services. Within a period of three weeks, the task was complete. Not only had he corrected the information within CCA’s Aunt Bertha account, but he successfully added two new service listing to the profile: Job Readiness Training and Employment Assistance. Within days of completing the task, Steven met with a Programs and Training Representative from Workforce Solutions for North Central Texas. His efforts resulted in the Job Readiness Training program being placed on the program-referral list. He is now taking measures to have the Job Readiness program recognized by the Texas Workforce Commission as a customized-training location. In addition to this, he recently submitted a small grant request to the Walmart Foundation in support of the Hiring Fairs which CCA will host in partnership with Goodwill Job Connection of Lewisville. His Job Readiness “Train the Trainer” curriculum is near full completion, with volunteers poised to begin the mission of waging a war on poverty. Their mission is not likely to be in vain.
In September, Stephanie Adams, Grant Writing VISTA at Christian Community Action (CCA) has submitted grants to the Lupe Murchison and Wells Fargo Foundation, with the potential to receive $60,000. If awarded these funds will provide operational support to Christian Community Action as well as fund its family assistance services, which provides immediate financial assistance to families and individuals in crisis ensuring homelessness prevention. Additionally, Stephanie submitted a letter of inquiry to the United Supermarkets Foundation. If awarded, this foundation will grant $1,000 to CCA’s food bank which offers a diverse selection of nutritious items as well as hygiene and household products to low-income families and individuals of North Texas. Stephanie’s work will build community connections and partnerships between CCA and foundations, ensuring sustainability for the organization long after the completion of Stephanie’s VISTA service year.
September was quite a busy month for VISTA Sean Enfield. As his organization, the Plano Children’s Theatre, prepares for its big move, Sean has been tasked with recruiting volunteers for the move as well as volunteers to help with the build out of the new space. He has been utilizing the organization’s online presence and talking with community service volunteers in order to get them involved in the Raised Seating Project. While that project is underway, he is still managing the day-to-day operations of the various theatres, their productions, and events. This month, he has recruited 32 volunteers for October’s Halloween fundraiser and the agency’s move and managed 9 volunteers on the production teams for the 11 shows that began rehearsals and 6 shows that performed. These volunteers have served 365 hours cumulatively at Plano Children’s Theatre.
Last month Hurricane Harvey caused financial challenges for Epilepsy Foundation Texas. The Foundation made sure every affected patient needing their medication received it at any cost to them. VISTA Rashika Smith made it her personal goal to double the in-kind donations from last year in order for the silent auction at the “Race on Over” fundraising event in November to be successful. The word “no” became a common word she heard but that one yes kept her motivated to reach for another yes. Thus far, Rashika has garnered 78 items for the silent auction for a total value of $41, 364. She was also able to network with different business to set up a fundraiser day, such as Kendra Scott Jewelry. Kendra Scott has agreed to not only donate jewelry for the auction but also set up a giving day (Oct. 20) where 20% of the money is donated back to the Foundation. Monies raised will help Epilepsy Foundation Texas provide medical services to patients with epilepsy, education to patients, families and the community and will help send children to summer camp.
In September 2017, AmeriCorps VISTA Business Development Officer Melanie Cheney helped bolster her organization’s total fundraised amount from North Texas Giving Day on September 14th. Through careful strategizing and posing a fundraising challenge to the Board of Directors, Cheney successfully helped raise nearly $9,000 more in 2017 than her organization raised in 2016 (increasing the total amount fundraised from $28,000 to $37,000). The money she helped raise will go toward tuition scholarships for children from low-income backgrounds, in fulfillment of North Texas Performing Arts’ vision of making arts education accessible to all North Texas families. In addition, Melanie strengthened the agency’s existing database of potential local donors for our silent auction fundraisers by adding over 20 new donor businesses to the spreadsheet and garnered in-kind donations worth $3,200.
VISTA leader, Marcela Solia, connected with Keep Denton Beautiful to organize a 9/11 day of service project. This was a chance for the VISTAs to contribute to our community in a more direct way. They spent their morning at Lake Forest Park in Denton collecting trash and recyclables that had been left behind. Several bags of trash were collected, including an entire pile of recyclable cans left by the lake. Being able to salvage as many recyclable items as possible is important so that resources aren’t wasted and can be reused in the future. We emphasized to the VISTAs that it is important to keep our parks clean not only so that those who attend the park are safe from sharp and dangerous objects left behind but also because a clean environment is essential to our health. Trash may lead to pollution or damage plants that provide nutrition to humans. In return for contributing to their project, Keep Denton Beautiful posted our picture on their website. This gives the VISTA North Texas project more visibility and allows us to reach those who may not know about us or the role we have in our society.
On Saturday, September 30, Affordable Housing Advocate VISTA Jennifer Weatherford attended the Veterans and Family Resource Expo in Sherman, TX on behalf of her host agency, Texoma Council of Government’s Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC). The ADRC, which acts as a referral agency and advocates to address the needs of the elderly, persons with disabilities, low income individuals and families, homeless and at-risk homeless persons across twelve counties in Northeast Texas, is an especially crucial resource for veterans. During her time spent at Saturday’s expo, Jennifer shared crucial information about the ADRC’s available resources to the community in attendance, many of whom were not aware of the help TCOG and the ADRC offers.