Woman to Woman (W2W) Pregnancy Resource Center’s VISTA, Jennifer Annen, took volunteer training to the next level this September! As W2W welcomed in a new volunteer coordinator, Jennifer worked closely with her to demonstrate their procedures for recruiting, contacting, and orienting new volunteers. Joining forces with her fellow VISTA and new volunteer coordinator, Jennifer helped to identify weak spots in the current recruitment and training processes as well as brainstormed improvements. This collaboration provided staff with a checklist of items to be completed by the volunteer coordinator and store staff when engaging new volunteers. Having these vital steps clearly defined will help W2W recruit volunteers more efficiently and reduce the unfortunate opportunity for procedures and people to slip through the cracks. Jennifer will now analyze the next half of the process: how the agency orients and trains their volunteers in their respective departments. Ensuring new volunteers start off on a good footing encourages smooth sailing during the training process. W2W is largely volunteer-driven and would not be able to provide free services to the community without them. For example, in the month of July, Twice as Nice Resale’s volunteers served 1,755 hours. Their hard work processing tons of donations, cleaning and organizing store shelves, running the cash registers, and many other important duties contributed to the agency being able to provide 40 sonograms to pregnant women at no cost to them. For disadvantaged women and families facing an unintended pregnancy, one sonogram could cost an average of $270, according to New Choice Health. This means women in the area saved about $10,800 in July for sonograms alone!
As the Fall Semester at North Central Texas College (NCTC) began and students came back to school, VISTA member Rachel Bingham helped welcome several new members into the NCTC Elite Team by creating an application process and recruiting at various NCTC events. NCTC Elite Team is a peer to peer mentoring program that assists students with the college going culture and building a network of student engagement. The team has now grown from 6 peer mentoring work studies to 25, allowing the Elite Team to reach out to many more students and even begin to form partnerships with nonprofit organizations in the community as student ambassadors. In September, the Elite Team reached 300 people and provided them with important college-going information. Rachel is now helping to train new members of the team and teaching those skills necessary to being an excellent peer mentor. Recruitment efforts will continue in October as the NCTC Elite Team starts a new branch at NCTC’s Flower Mound campus.
When thinking of helping the homeless, some people might think of social workers. However, we more likely tend to think of volunteering at a soup kitchen or food pantry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, faith-based communities report the most volunteerism, and the most frequently reported forms of volunteerism are meal services and food pantries. Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance has dedicated part of its Strategic Plan to engaging and coordinating with the faith-based communities of Dallas and Collin counties with the goal of serving more homeless neighbors in the Continuum of Care (CoC). AmeriCorps VISTA member, Victoria Jackson, has joined this Faith-Based Collaboration to map the system of services in religious communities. The purpose of this map is to discover where our homeless neighbors enter and exit the system, how they navigate it, and how organizations in the CoC can engage them. Additionally, if the faith based communities of the Continuum of Care collaborate through increased communication then more referrals with direct clients to housing programs will end their homelessness.
AmeriCorps VISTA member Steven Tillman has been more active within the Lewisville/Flower Mound area while continuing his outreach towards staffing Christian Community Action’s Job Readiness Training Program with volunteer trainers. His host site, Christian Community Action, in collaboration with a local branch of Old Navy, recently held a well-received “Back to School” event for citizens of Denton County. Steven assisted with the facilitation of the event, where families received free clothing and school supplies for students. He also recently attended two business events: The Willow Creek Association’s Global Leadership Conference, and The Lewisville Chamber of Commerce Breakfast Social. Both of these events hosted key members of Lewisville’s business and nonprofit sectors. Steven connected with attendees of both events and spread the word of his efforts towards developing a team of Job Readiness Trainers increasing the populous of gainfully employed citizens of Denton County. The Job Readiness Training program is anchored upon teaching people methods, belief systems, best practices, and techniques for maximizing one’s employment/earning potential and then strategically navigating an action plan of elevated employment, training, and/or education until one’s desired outcomes are achieved. Such outcomes range from a person obtaining a GED diploma through information provided about such resources, to a person securing employment which pays a functional wage suited for independent living, to a person earning a promotion at work, to a person identifying a career field which best suits his/her education and training, to a person earning an advanced degree through a well-executed plan of organization and achievement while simultaneously employed.
In August 2017, VISTA Sean Enfield worked to improve the communication and relationships between the North Texas Performing Arts organization/staff and its volunteers while also continuing to standardize its volunteer practices. With such wide array of theatres and programming, the organization’s volunteer network is widely dispersed and hard to manage efficiently. As a part of his role with the organization, Sean has been working to ensure that all volunteers are aware of the rules and procedures while making sure they have some creative input and feel valued. Throughout August, he coordinated with volunteers across the four theatres and trained them for a variety of volunteer positions. This enables more volunteers to do the work and helps make sure the work is done consistently even as different hands take it over.
Hurricane Harvey shifted the dynamic in fundraising efforts for Epilepsy Foundation’s Community Outreach VISTA, Rashika Smith. The Dallas office took over the calls for the Houston clinic August 25, 2017. The Epilepsy Foundation wanted ensure the crisis would not have a big impact on patients receiving much needed medication. The calls Rashika received helped her understand how important funding is to keep the clinic open. Epilepsy Foundation staff worked with the doctors and pharmacies to make sure patients received their medication wherever they were. Rashika took on a personal challenge to increase the in-kind donation for our upcoming fundraiser in November, Race for the Cure. In August, Rashika sent out over 343 inquiries for donations and has received over 43 items so far with a value of $10,000. She has also helped secure sponsorships worth $38,000. The secured donations increase the likelihood the fundraiser will bring in more money than before.
In August 2017, AmeriCorps VISTA Business Development Officer Melanie Cheney helped raise nearly $26,000 in matching funds to help motivate donors on North Texas Giving Day (September 14). By giving a presentation to the theatres’ Management Boards in July, Melanie secured donations from excited board members who are interested in raising as much money as possible on the day of the fundraiser. Her organization raised $28,000 total last year, so the fact that she was able to raise $26,000 in a matching fund alone, a month before the actual fundraiser, means that there is the potential to raise so much more this year.
NewDay Services’ Community Outreach VISTA, Meghan Kajihara spearheaded the effort to secure Fatherhood EFFECT a spot at the Back to School Fairs for Northwest ISD and Lewisville ISD. The agency gained visibility with the other participating organizations as well as the 600+ clients in attendance and distributed 362 flyers. She also developed relationships with 8 new businesses and set up a successful meeting with the Denton County Community Supervision and Corrections Department. The work Meghan does with NewDay Services uplifts and educates parents so they can provide stable home environments for children, curtailing child abuse before it can ever begin and putting a stop to destructive, comorbid factors that hurt a child’s probability of escaping poverty. This month, while working on her organization’s data management pipeline, she discovered some interesting statistics that she thinks are a perfect indicator of how the Fatherhood EFFECT program changes the lives of fathers and their children. No single participant with a criminal record or who entered the program as part of their reentry from incarceration ever returned to prison after going through the class. That’s a recidivism rate of 0%. Not a single father who has ever been through the program has ever had another CPS case opened against them. Sixty percent (60%) of fathers see an improvement in their work lives. The lessons they take away from EFFECT stick and change their lives and the lives of their children.
During the month of August, AmeriCorps VISTA North Texas welcomed three new VISTA Members. VISTA leader, Marcela Solia, assisted in welcoming these new VISTAs by facilitating their onsite training and creating social media posts introducing them to the community. After helping the new VISTAs settle in, she continued to recruit for the open November positions. The last week of August was spent at various universities’ career fairs speaking with students about AmeriCorps VISTA and the many opportunities available. Many students showed interest in the program and even left their contact information requesting more information.
Denton Christian Preschool opened its doors during the month of August to welcome new 3 and 4 year olds. As the weeks progressed the children transitioned from anxious into excited and motivated learners. Since the 1970’s the organization has served thousands of at-risk children in the Denton area. AmeriCorps VISTA, Maegan Shafer, contributed to their continued success by making their online presence more viable by increasing their social media activity and updating their website. In addition to updating the information Maegan created several graphics that would advertise the Denton Christian Preschools services to be shared across all media platforms. With over 500 viewers reached we hope to increase our revenue and strategize to increase funding.