“Focusing on our foundation and building on it” is the theme that VISTA Jennifer Annen is using to create a new training for the volunteers at Woman to Woman’s Twice as Nice Resale in Denton, Texas. January was the second phase in the construction of the quarterly training, known as “BUILD,” for the resale store’s staff and 120+ active volunteers. After conducting over 20 hours of interviews with current volunteers, Jennifer and her volunteer management team took the feedback into consideration when planning how to most efficiently use the volunteers’ valuable time during trainings. Jennifer and her team began by replacing one of their old methods of training every first Thursday of the month and implemented BUILD, which would gather more volunteers at a time most convenient to them and jam-packed with the most pertinent information. By working closely with various presenters to compose their portion of the training, Jennifer made sure that the activities and lessons would be worthwhile, interactive, and even fun! To string together all sections of the training, Jennifer designed a PowerPoint presentation that remained on the screen to help the audience follow and to highlight the largest takeaways. She and the volunteer management team created a booklet for all of the audience members to fill in the blanks, take notes, and walk away with important upcoming dates and events. Ultimately, forty-five volunteers and staff participated in the training event and two of the founding board members even made an appearance. One of the highlights of the evening involved a long-term volunteer of thirteen years who spoke about why she has stayed with Woman to Woman for so long and how much of an impact you can within your volunteer service. Jennifer’s team received excellent feedback from all attendees and she cannot wait to see all of the hard work of the BUILD event transpire into more cohesiveness and ownership within the ministry. The value of these amazing volunteers’ service has helped to provide over 1,700 hours at the resale store in just the last month of 2017 alone. These hours enable Twice as Nice to serve Woman to Woman in providing many free services to the community. Jennifer hopes that these quarterly trainings will encourage volunteers to continue spreading the word to friends and the community how just serving a few hours a week can provide so much for the Denton County area!
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.
Name: Rashika Smith
Hometown: Orlando, Florida
Alma Mater: Florida A&M in Tallahassee
Volunteer history: I did AmeriCorps City Year and Pfeiffer Camp. I also volunteered with CASA, Red Cross, and Big Brothers and Big Sisters.
Why did you choose VISTA? I chose VISTA because of my experiences with the AmeriCorps in the past through City Year and Pfeiffer Camp. When I had the opportunity to move to a new city, I knew the skills that I would continue to gain while giving back to my new community would AmeriCorps would be exceptional. This was also an opportunity to develop skills for graduate school.
Tell us a little bit about what your organization does and your role in it: Epilepsy Foundation helps lead the fight to overcome the challenges of living with epilepsy. My role is fundraising and community outreach.
What is your biggest accomplishment as a VISTA so far? I was able to increase the fundraising efforts for the entire organization. I was able to help increase volunteerism.
Jennifer Annen, Volunteer Training VISTA serving at Woman to Woman Pregnancy Resource (W2W) in Denton, Texas, has launched the first stage of revamping the training program for the volunteers at W2W’s Twice as Nice Resale. Knowing that the monthly trainings were well-intentioned and full of useful information, but could not reach an optimal amount of volunteers, Jennifer set out to devise a plan to magnify their impact. Jennifer sat down with Twice as Nice’s weekly, permanent volunteers to gain feedback on their satisfaction with their current duties and if they feel appreciated for their hard work within the ministry. They discussed at length what method of training they thought could be most useful and what times match best with their schedules. After over 20 hours of conversation, Jennifer took this crucial information and teamed up with staff to begin planning a quarterly training which could reach more people and pack a more powerful punch with relaying vital information to their volunteers. Jennifer hopes that the trainings’ cohesiveness will encourage Twice as Nice’s volunteers to feel empowered, appreciated, and the desire to take greater ownership. The value of their contributions amounted to 1,724 hours served in just the last month but provided 80 class presentations through W2W’s Living Choices education program and allowed the Pregnancy Resource Center to hold 76 client visits. Without the volunteers’ efforts, it would be impossible to reach so many individuals within the Denton county community!
Marcela Solia began her VISTA Leader service with the VISTA North Texas project in April. Her role is to both support the current VISTAs and to support partnering agencies in recruiting new VISTAs for the North Texas Project. Marcela was able to facilitate future recruitment by creating a step by step guide on the recruitment process including templates of marketing materials. Every partner agency will receive this guide to help them through their recruitment. The marketing materials developed include flyer templates and social media posts that can be adapted to the agency’s needs. In order to support the current VISTAs, Marcela takes time to get to know each VISTA and their roles.
In May, April Comperda began service with Denton County Friends of the Family (DCFOF) as their Community Marketing Liaison VISTA. April will build capacity through increased awareness of DCFOF’s brand and services, create a sustainable form of communication with donors and volunteers, improve social media marketing and donor acquisition/ retention. The goal of the project is to create a sustainable donor relations plan, with the intention of increasing donor retention, donor acquisition, and dollars raised through fundraising efforts. The majority of April’s first month was learning the various ins and outs of the entire organization and her own role at DCFOF. She attended the four day New Worker’s Institute training for all new interns and employees and began to work with her team to promote their latest campaign, Faith for Freedom. The goal of the campaign is to build a relationship of trust with faith communities in order to connect clients with congregations of their faith, while simultaneously raising awareness of domestic violence and resources that are available. The campaign will kick off with a social event on June 22, 2017 at the outreach office to raise momentum and strength for the campaign.
April Neal, the Grants and Resource Development VISTA at Youth and Family Counseling coordinated the first dine-in fundraiser of the year at the IHOP restaurant in Lewisville, TX. Everyone had a great time playing board games and purchasing raffle tickets. Over $200 was raised through in-kind donations of gift cards, raffle sales, and the percentage of sales. In addition to the IHOP fundraiser, April went out in the community and met with many great organizations to develop partnerships for the agency’s next major fundraiser a 5K run! April is excited to collaborate with other nonprofits in the community. She also continues to research and write grants to give Youth and Family Counseling the ability to provide free counseling to at-risk youth.
As VISTA Leader Chanell Rose’s service term comes to an end, she has been firing on all jets to leave the North Texas Project with more than it had when she came in! In the month of March, Chanell welcomed in the last new group of VISTAs during her service term, taking them through On-Site Orientation & Training (OSOT). As the PowerPoint for OSOT had yet to be finalized, Chanell worked on getting a final draft of the OSOT PowerPoint approved by the Project Director. Along with the presentation, Chanell also began work on a VISTA checklist that will lay out the recruitment process in an easy to follow format. This will help to stabilize the project once the VISTA Leader’s service term has ended. Chanell has truly enjoyed her year of service as a VISTA Leader with the VISTA North Texas Project. She’s learned so much from working with Project Director Christina Penland, and plans to take everything she’s learned on with her in future endeavors.
AmeriCorps VISTA Sarah Crain has made a tangible impact on Woman to Woman as their Logistic Specialist. While with Woman to Woman, Sarah has authored 5 different manuals that help improve efficiency and continuity within Twice as Nice Resale. These manuals range from how to react during a fire to how to efficiently sort donated items at the warehouse door. Sarah wanted to ensure Twice as Nice was operating at its fullest potential to increase sales for the store that would in turn increase financial support Woman to Woman. Throughout her service year, Sarah has ensured that Staff and Volunteer voice’s were heard in every policy she created. Often times Sarah would shadow volunteers to discover best practices for each department in order to efficiently write policy. Staff are now equipped to author and edit policy themselves to always ensure their organization grows. Sarah has been able to make an impact in the Denton community by building logistical capacity for Woman to Woman!