Volunteer history: Pet-sitting, dog-walking, animal care and community outreach at an animal shelter
Why did you choose VISTA? I had earned my bachelor’s degree in Animal Science, but towards the end of my schooling I found a deep interest in human and societal issues. I had a gut-feeling that becoming a VISTA would allow me to sharpen skills in new areas while also contributing towards the elimination of poverty in Denton County. Almost seven months into my program, I couldn’t have imagined ever not making the jump!
Tell us a little bit about what your organization does and your role in it:I am currently serving as the Volunteer Training VISTA through the Woman to Woman Pregnancy Resource Center in Denton, TX. Woman to Woman provides a multitude of free services to women and men in the community, including pregnancy testing and sonograms, STI testing, counseling, and other vital resources to new mothers. Woman to Woman also operates Twice as Nice Resale store and the Living Choices program, where they educate middle and high schoolers on sexual health and healthy relationships. I am lucky to serve in volunteer training with the amazing folks at Twice as Nice Resale! My role is to strengthen their volunteer program by increasing retention and setting in place policies and procedures so that current volunteers feel confident in their hard work.
What is your biggest accomplishment as a VISTA so far? I feel like my biggest accomplishment is a combination of small accomplishments that all amount to being able to equip our staff and volunteers with training guides for multiple volunteer departments. Upon arrival at Twice as Nice Resale, I learned how many different ways their volunteers are contributing but noticed a lack in updated, clear project and task instructions. Going from department to department and working with fellow staff and volunteers, I have been able to craft four completed books so far. After debuting each guide, we hosted a training of at least 20+ volunteers to demonstrate the policies and procedures, as well as answer any questions. I love knowing that after I leave, staff will be able to train new volunteers confidently and easily. Our current volunteers will also be able to lead other volunteers and train them as well!
Raven Carr is a VISTA member serving at Interfaith Ministries of Denton, Inc. (IFM) as the Volunteer Coordinator. Interfaith’s mission is to provide emergency basic needs assistance to the people of Northern Denton County with the goal of helping those people become self-sufficient. Before each school year begins, IFM provides a program to the Denton community called Apple Tree. Apple Tree provides school supplies, a backpack, and a shoe gift card to families with Denton ISD students that are on free or reduced lunch. Raven was in charge of recruiting volunteers to work the distribution day. She used Volunteer Match and personal contact with past volunteers as a way to recruit volunteers for the program. Raven recruited more than enough people to volunteer and had to cut the list to about 20 volunteers to help distribute the supplies, backpacks, and gift cards to 1,500 Denton ISD students.
The VISTA North Texas project would like to welcome Daisy Martinez! Daisy is dedicating a year of service to Giving HOPE, Inc. in Denton, TX as their Resource Development VISTA. Daisy will help end poverty by increasing Giving HOPE’s financial capacity to give a hand up to those experiencing or at-risk of homelessness in Denton County, Texas. She will be enhancing fundraising capabilities and opportunities within the local community, cultivating relationships with new donors as well as researching and writing grants in line with the agency’s mission.
Our Daily Bread is a community soup kitchen that serves a free, nutritious lunch meal Monday through Friday to the hungry and homeless in Denton County, TX. Our Daily Bread also distributes hygiene products, offers medical services and assists their clients through referrals to other social service agencies for assistance.
VISTA Nate Dears has increased Our Daily Bread’s capacity to serve the homeless and hungry of Denton through his grant writing and fundraising skills. Since July 2014, Nate has helped raise $67,417 of which $16,709 came from the “Donate” button he installed on the agency’s website!
Nate has successfully written grants totaling $23,713 to provide MREs (meals ready to eat), fund a staff position and aid with emergency assistance to the 2,333 unduplicated clients of which 1,044 are homeless and 89 are children.
December 2015 was a great conclusion for PediPlace, a non-profit children’s health clinic. Thanks to the work of AmeriCorps VISTA, Kendra Reams, the toy drives, volunteer organization and distribution of toys and warm clothes for PediPlace’s patients went smoothly and successfully.
PediPlace adopted 4 families with a total of 21 children to which the toys and clothing were given. The Motorcycle Toy Drive brought in 157 new toys and $200 in cash donations. Another 450 toys were donated from various community groups.
Kendra developed social media marketing materials to make a final push for the Holiday Giving program which garnered $23,000 in cash donations to the agency. With the various toy drives, volunteers decorating, families adopted, and community supporters, PediPlace has been able to not only make health care a reality for every kid, but also were able to make a Happy Holiday a reality for their patients.