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!
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”
April 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, 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 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.