Victoria Jackson is the Homeless Resource Development VISTA with Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance (MDHA). MDHA serves as the lead agency for the local Continuum of Care and it administrates the local Homeless Management Information System, which tracks performance and drives improvement of service providers. The homeless assistance agencies that have programs for Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) have encountered a new challenge: what to do when a client no longer wants services. About 5% of the tenants of PSH feel that they can live independently and no longer need supportive services. AmeriCorps VISTA member, Victoria Jackson, has joined an endeavor spearheaded by the Dallas/Collin County Continuum of Care to create a path to independence from the PSH Program. Victoria has helped update the Independent Housing Readiness Assessment (IHRA), a tool that will be used to help a client decide if he or she is ready to live independently. Considering the fact that affordable housing is extremely limited in Dallas, creating more Permanent Supportive Housing for the homeless with disabilities is even more difficult. Therefore, finding room for more clients in the PSH programs will help alleviate the burden on the emergency shelter system. With the help of the IHRA, more clients might be willing and able to live independently and create more room for clients in Permanent Supportive Housing Programs.
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.
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.
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.
Woman to Woman (W2W) Pregnancy Resource Center’s VISTA, Jennifer Annen, took volunteer training to the next level this September! As W2W welcomed in a new volunteer coordinator, Jennifer worked closely with her to demonstrate their procedures for recruiting, contacting, and orienting new volunteers. Joining forces with her fellow VISTA and new volunteer coordinator, Jennifer helped to identify weak spots in the current recruitment and training processes as well as brainstormed improvements. This collaboration provided staff with a checklist of items to be completed by the volunteer coordinator and store staff when engaging new volunteers. Having these vital steps clearly defined will help W2W recruit volunteers more efficiently and reduce the unfortunate opportunity for procedures and people to slip through the cracks. Jennifer will now analyze the next half of the process: how the agency orients and trains their volunteers in their respective departments. Ensuring new volunteers start off on a good footing encourages smooth sailing during the training process. W2W is largely volunteer-driven and would not be able to provide free services to the community without them. For example, in the month of July, Twice as Nice Resale’s volunteers served 1,755 hours. Their hard work processing tons of donations, cleaning and organizing store shelves, running the cash registers, and many other important duties contributed to the agency being able to provide 40 sonograms to pregnant women at no cost to them. For disadvantaged women and families facing an unintended pregnancy, one sonogram could cost an average of $270, according to New Choice Health. This means women in the area saved about $10,800 in July for sonograms alone!
As the Fall Semester at North Central Texas College (NCTC) began and students came back to school, VISTA member Rachel Bingham helped welcome several new members into the NCTC Elite Team by creating an application process and recruiting at various NCTC events. NCTC Elite Team is a peer to peer mentoring program that assists students with the college going culture and building a network of student engagement. The team has now grown from 6 peer mentoring work studies to 25, allowing the Elite Team to reach out to many more students and even begin to form partnerships with nonprofit organizations in the community as student ambassadors. In September, the Elite Team reached 300 people and provided them with important college-going information. Rachel is now helping to train new members of the team and teaching those skills necessary to being an excellent peer mentor. Recruitment efforts will continue in October as the NCTC Elite Team starts a new branch at NCTC’s Flower Mound campus.