AmeriCorps VISTA Stephanie Adams’ work this month at Christian Community Action (CCA) included receiving $15,000 from the Celanese foundation for CCA’s comprehensive programs and services as well as writing grant requests to Communities Foundation of Texas, City of The Colony, City of Coppell, TJX Foundation, ADR Foundation, Stallings Foundation, and Walmart Communities Foundation. If granted the requested from each foundation, Stephanie’s work could provide $99,000 to CCA’s comprehensive programs and services such as food assistance, rental and utility assistance, spiritual counseling, seasonal and senior programs, as well as job readiness and life skills training. This month CCA hosted its second annual Sporting Clay Tourney event which Stephanie attended and assisted in coordinating. The fundraising event included 87 shooter participants from local organizations and groups in the Lewisville community and provided the organization with over $35,000 in funds for CCA’s programs.
VISTA Meghan serves with NewDay Services Fatherhood: EFFECT program in Denton, TX. They have successfully settled into their new facilities. Meghan was thrilled to have a stable launch pad from which to coordinate her outreach efforts and made sure to take advantage of it this month. She used the new opportunities presented by the excitement of new facilities to engage old contacts by encouraging them to come by and see what has changed in the program. Meghan has also been working on steadily building the relationship she has developed with two other community organizations, Our Daily Bread and the Salvation Army. This approach resulted in three very successful meetings with, producing a plethora of good ideas for collaboration as well as interagency goodwill. The first meeting was with the Community Liaison for Salvation Army. Meghan and the Fatherhood: EFFECT mentor-navigators were taken on a tour of the facility and given a detailed breakdown of the services they provide. On inclement weather days, they also provide presentations from the community and Fatherhood: EFFECT is being considered for participation. The second meeting was the team’s first outreach day at Our Daily Bread. Meghan and the mentor-navigators came away with a few referrals and were pleased to have kicked off the process of building recognition and trust with the ODB clientele. The third meeting was with the Denton County AgriLife office. They provide nutrition and SNAP benefit orientations free of charge and Meghan was interested in seeing how EFFECT could work with them. What came out of the meeting was the prospect of guest speakers during class as well as the idea for a charming dad and children bonding event–a family cooking class! Meghan can’t wait to see where this idea goes and hopes that it proves as fun and meaningful as past family events she has helped organize for the EFFECT team.
Cailli Perry, Drug Awareness and Prevention VISTA, began her first month of service at STOMP (Standing Together on Meth Prevention) in rural Jacksboro Texas. STOMP’s mission is to educate the communities of Jack County and raise awareness of the dangers of methamphetamine use, crime awareness, and promote prevention. STOMP kicked off the month of April with their “Spring into Action” Campaign, which provides opportunities for Jack County to come together and spread awareness while educating the dangers of drug use/abuse with various events and activities. Cailli and 53 others participated in STOMP’s “Paint the Town” event and their Community Cleanup Day, equating to over 70 hours of community service. They de-cluttered the community of trash and other larger items such as furniture and decorated the Courthouse and schools with turquoise ribbons and STOMP signs. Two additional elements of the campaign involved Senior Scholarships and a Middle School Poster Contest. The overall goal of the annual “Spring into Action” Campaign is to bring the Jack County community together in thinking about how they as individuals, and a community can “Spring Into Action Against Drugs.”
AmeriCorps VISTA member, Victoria Jackson, Victoria played an instrumental role in MDHA’s overall mission to make the experience of homelessness in Dallas and Collin Counties rare, brief, and non-recurring with the creation of a comprehensive Youth Services Directory for young people seeking services. The Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance (MDHA) brings together more than 85 shelters, housing and supportive services programs through their Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), a community-wide database serving 10,126 persons. Understanding that youth experiencing homelessness are far more likely to utilize community Wi-Fi hotpots on smartphones when choosing to seek services, Victoria transformed her directory into an online database on the MDHA resource page. Users will see a paragraph explaining the webpage, followed by links to different service areas such as housing, educational help, employment services, and LGBTQ-affirming services. The Youth Services Directory webpage incorporates user friendly features, including direct links to each program website, gender identity symbols indicating whether or not programs house transgender individuals. And, as a precautionary effort to provide clients with an added sense of security while seeking services, the webpage displays an escape button that immediately exits out completely.
Cailli Perry, a Drug Awareness and Prevention VISTA, is serving with STOMP (Standing Together on Meth Prevention), located in rural Jacksboro Texas. STOMP’s primary focus is to educate the communities of Jack County and create a greater awareness of the dangers of methamphetamine use, crime awareness, and prevention. The non-profit organization has developed a new summer program called “Xtreme Challenge Camp.” The leadership camp will provide 50 youth (6th-8th grade) the opportunity to learn various leadership/teamwork skills (i.e., CPR/certification, fire safety/rescue, outdoor survival skills, and much more), throughout the week of June 4th-8th. For the camp, Cailli created a youth camper registration packet and camp schedule. She, also created a database for the organization to use in order to keep track of the event’s budget/details, the youth campers as they register, and the adult sponsors/volunteers who sign-up to guide the organization in running a safe and successful camp. This upcoming summer, Xtreme Challenge Camp will help these youth develop positive attitudes in the hope they will make smart choices as they continue to grow up and live their lives.
Homelessness can be both visible and invisible. When there are encampments under the freeways, homelessness is visible. But when someone goes to school every day for a hot meal, or couch surfs for weeks on end that is when homelessness is invisible. Youth Homelessness is often invisible, and receiving feedback from young people who have experienced homelessness is imperative to finding a sustainable solution to it. As a result, Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance’s AmeriCorps VISTA member, Victoria Jackson, has founded a Youth Action Board (YAB) that consists of individuals under the age of 25 who have experienced homelessness, foster care, or unstable housing. The YAB’s inaugural meeting was held in March, and Victoria facilitated the meeting as the members connected across agencies, discussed goals for the group, and possible marketing techniques to get more Youth Experts involved in the YAB. For their next meeting in April, they will establish governance if a quorum is present. The YAB will elect a Chair who will attend the Continuum of Care board meetings and report back to the group, as well as facilitate meetings and activities in which the YAB wishes to participate.
Miranda Bonilla is a Resource Development VISTA with Youth and Family Counseling in Lewisville, TX. Youth and Family Counseling provides sliding scale and free services to low-income at-risk youth. She has been busy marketing for the agency’s many upcoming scheduled fundraisers by creating and distributing flyers. She has written and submitted a grant to the Build a Bear Foundation that, if funded, will provide weekly on-site group and individual counseling sessions to homeless and at-risk teens as identified by Journey to Dream and Kyle’s Place, the county’s first teen homeless shelter. Miranda also found success in the request for funding proposal she submitted in February to the Speedway Children’s Charities. For the first time in recent history, Youth and Family Counseling has been invited to officially apply to this grant. If granted, the funding will benefit the agency’s First Offender and At Risk Kids (FOARK) Program. In a true act of altruism, Miranda held a Facebook birthday fundraiser in honor of her birthday and raised $200 for Youth and Family Counseling.
NewDay Services’ Fatherhood EFFECT program strives to prevent child abuse and ease the burdens of poverty for children and families. Community Outreach VISTA, Meghan Kajihara continues to increase awareness and develop partnerships to help the agency achieve their goals. In March, she secured the Fatherhood: EFFECT program a place at the Mobile Food Pantry’s Resource Fair in Denton, TX and was able to share information with the 250+ people who visited. She was pleased to notice that her efforts have built the program’s brand recognition. Visitors to the food pantry have begun to recognize the mentor-navigators by name and as well as the agency’s mission. In addition, Meghan and the Fatherhood: EFFECT mentor-navigators met with the Executive Director and Program Coordinators of Our Daily Bread, a local soup kitchen. Meghan has was elated to have been able to set up this meeting to share information about NewDay Services, and even more so to have finally been able to set up a recurring outreach/tabling date with Our Daily Bread. Having a standing appointment to do outreach once a month will help build a sense of recognition and community between their programs. Furthermore, the meeting she coordinated went so well, that Our Daily Bread is eager to expand this nascent partnership by hosting a special Nurturing Fathers class for their clientele.
Keith Uselton, the Curriculum and Development VISTA for the Collin County History Museum, began laying the foundation for the organization’s 3-year project by creating a working outline of curriculum for a 6-week summer program as well as one for an 8 week after-school program for elementary school children. He is working with the organization’s executive director, Mary Strother, and Sarah Gonzoles, a local elementary school counselor, to begin identifying a base of student participants to be served by the programming he has written. Keith researched and compiled a list of local historical sites and museums within Collin County that might serve as a guiding resource for himself and future VISTAs as far as what type of programming and resources are available to the McKinney community. He began to lay the foundation for securing grants and funding to finance the museum’s summer and after-school programming by meeting with and introducing himself to the Collin County Historical Commission which has served as a financial source of funding for the museum in the recent past.
As VISTA Jennifer Annen nears the end of her service with Woman to Woman Pregnancy Resource Center, she is working to make sure that all of her hard work is sustainable and guarantees success in the future. In the month of March, Jennifer focused on one of the most important ways to interact with the community and recruit new volunteers- service groups. After Jennifer facilitated a group of 20 volunteers from a local church who came in to paint the entire Twice as Nice Resale store, she realized how important it is to maintain a strong process in preparing for and hosting groups. In just March alone, groups collectively served over 100 hours, which left Twice as Nice looking refreshed and also inspired the staff to rearrange the store’s departments. Not only does having a more attractive store lead to greater customer retention and sales, but it also helps staff to see the value in our community partners and encourages them to make one-time volunteers into individuals who would likely serve again, maybe even weekly. Jennifer feels confident that after her term ends, the Twice as Nice staff will feel confident in facilitating groups using her planning guide, which includes a step-by-step process and easy to follow flowchart. Overall, VISTA Jennifer is thrilled to see the impact of her training guides, but she also is excited to see how they can help grow the entire Woman to Woman volunteer base!