VISTA Highlights the Impact Network of Community Ministries has on the Lives of Low-Income Seniors

IMG_0856-(003)Network of Community Ministries, Inc. located in Richardson, TX responds to human need by giving assistance with the goal of helping individuals achieve long-term independence. Its mission is “caring, coaching and empowering neighbors in need as they seek an improved quality of life.” Ben Chapman serves as the Marketing and Fundraising VISTA spent time shadowing Networks’ Handy-Men Program, a service provided to Network clients who are either seniors or disabled. He and the volunteers went to a senior woman’s home and he took photos of the volunteers fixing a woman’s fence for her. He also had the opportunity to interview her about her situation and how Network has been there for her. She is forced to be a working senior but still cannot afford to keep up with her home, despite already having a roommate. She told Ben that the fact that the Handy-Men Service can be there for her is truly a blessing. She stated “They keep you together. Because if your house is falling apart, it’s impossible to put your life back together”

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VISTA Lays the Groundwork for Successful Drug Take Back Events at Senior Living Communities

IMG_16662April Comperda, serving as the Drug Education VISTA at Chisholm Trail RSVP in Denton, TX continues working on the agency’s Prescription Take Back Day campaign. Even though the Take Back Days occur just twice a year, Chisholm Trail RSVP continues to stand as mechanism for change and bridge the gap all year long. Recognizing that seniors do not fit the typical stereotype of a drug abuser, Chisholm Trail RSVP understands the necessity of bringing the Take Back Days to senior living communities and senior centers. In addition, April’s mission to increase public awareness, has led her to create a media kit containing resources promote the Take Back campaign to target seniors. In addition, she secured a generous donation of 1,000 Dettera at-home disposal pouches from a nationwide pharmaceutical corporation. The pouches reinforce the dangerous effects of leaving medication in places for anyone to find. April’s efforts build the capacity and necessary sustainability to carry-out Chisholm Trail RSVP’s initiative for years to come.

Cornerstone Ranch VISTA Organizes Donor Data Leading to Successful Fundraising

Martha TonnCornerstone Ranch, located in McKinney, TX, is a unique home and day program for adults with intellectual and physical disabilities. In late November, Cornerstone Ranch began working with a development consultant to design and implement a strategic fundraising plan for the end of 2017 and 2018. The first step was to craft a year-end direct mail appeal targeting various segments of donors and prospects to consider an end-of-year gift. For the past two years, Cornerstone Ranch has maintained approximately 2000 names and address in their database, but not donation information. Donations have been stored in QuickBooks and various event-related spreadsheets. For this reason, it was a very difficult and time-consuming process to segment donors into major donors, mid-level donors, event donors, general donors, and lapsed donors, as was needed for the appeal. VISTA member Martha Tonn took the information that was compiled from various sources and sorted out the donors into the appropriate categories, taking the time to check and re-check for errors and duplications. While one large group of constituents was sent to a mailing house for processing, the smaller groups, totaling approximately 500 letters in six different segments were printed and processed in-house to save on costs. The appeal was successfully mailed in early December and resulted in donations of $37,275. These funds support the Day Program activities and operating costs for Cornerstone Ranch where the residents and day program participants learn new skills, and reach their highest level of independence, as active participants in grocery shopping, home care, meal preparation and personal grooming. They can also be found volunteering at local nonprofits and making contributions to their communities.

Victoria Jackson Updates Tools to Assess Clients’ Ability to Live Independently

IMG_12511Victoria 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.

Maegan Shafer Helps Denton Christian Preschool Increase Funding

Maegan ShaferMarketing 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.

April Comperda Helps Raise Funds for Victims of Domestic Violence

IMG_16662AmeriCorps 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.

Victoria Jackson Provides Homeless and Housing Resources to Hurricane Harvey Refugees

IMG_12511In 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 Takes Integral Steps towards Program Launch, Lands Critical Referral Source

StevenVISTA 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.

Stephanie Adams Writes Grants to Fund Christian Community Action’s Family Assistance Programs

IMG_13502In 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.

Rashika Smith Doubles her Efforts to Increase Donations to Epilepsy Foundation Texas

RashikaLast 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.