Meghan Kajihara serves as the Community Outreach VISTA for NewDay Services in Denton TX. In July, Meghan established new relationships with 9 local businesses with the hope to establish the Fatherhood EFFECT program with business owners as a resources for employees as well as a place where they can seek service referrals. By working with employees and enacting a meaningful change in their lives, the agency can help employers see the value of our work not only to their community but to their business and begin the process of turning these community contacts into donors. Meghan also spearheaded the effort to get Fatherhood EFFECT a spot at the Denton Mobile Food Pantry’s quarterly resource fair which will gain visibility for the organization not only with the other organizations present but also with the 150+ clients in attendance. The contacts Meghan has made will lead to new opportunities to increase volunteers and resources. 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. She has seen the change begin in an HIV-positive father who came to the Fatherhood EFFECT program for resource referrals. Though he was previously long-term unemployed, he has found work and his son will be coming to stay with him. This will be the first time he has seen his son in many months and he is both nervous and excited to reunite with him. In fact, the kids’ activities database Meghan created was very helpful to him in planning activities for him and his son. As in the case with this father, Meghan and her NewDay Services colleagues continue to strive to connect people to resources, their community, and their children, no longer isolated by their challenges or anxieties.
In June 2017, AmeriCorps VISTA Resource Development Officer Melanie Cheney serving with Plano Children’s Theatre helped deliver a presentation at the Plano Metro Rotary Luncheon that resulted in a $5,000 donation from the club. This donation will be used to pay for scholarships for underprivileged children who cannot otherwise afford tuition costs. This will allow children from low-income households to have access to enriching extracurricular arts activities that help teach valuable life skills (responsibility, discipline, integrity, etc.) and push them to become better students and citizens. Simply by bringing a few of our students to perform a couple songs at the Rotary Luncheon, we also received a $100 donation from a rotary member who was so moved by their performance that he attended the actual performance that weekend and wrote a letter detailing how thoroughly impressed he was by our students’ passion and skills. In 2016. Plano Children’s Theatre awarded 255 scholarships to underserved students, totaling $30,906.
Stephanie De Los Santos, Camp and Resource Development VISTA serving with the Epilepsy Foundation Texas, began her year of service in March and dove right in to grant writing. Stephanie has been able to submit 3 grants for a potential outcome of $33,600. If awarded the funds will be used to send children with epilepsy to summer camp. The Epilepsy Foundation Texas camping programs provide children and youth with epilepsy a safe, structured, FUN and encouraging home away from home. In order to learn more about how epilepsy effects individuals and families, Stephanie interviewed a father and son. The son has a seizure disorder and the father was away at work while most of the testing/diagnosis process was ongoing. They told her about the fear, worry, and anxiety of having to go through the medical testing. They also told her about the relief of becoming involved with the epilepsy foundation and how the agency has helped them. At that moment, Stephanie felt like she was a part of something important.
In April, VISTA Sean Enfield recruited 20 new volunteers and managed 52 volunteers to help organize a number of events for the North Texas Performing Arts (NTPA) organization. He connected with the Plano chapter of the National Charity League to operate a crafting booth at the Shops of Willow Bend, a mall located in Plano, TX. This booth was used to reach kids and advertise for Plano Children’s Theatre’s eventual move into that retail center. In addition, he connected with National Honor Society chapters in the McKinney region to recruit volunteers for the last of NTPA’s award ceremonies. Throughout April, Sean worked to improve his volunteer recruitment and management skills. He developed a survey to distribute among the office staff weekly so that he can better prepare a list of Volunteer Needs, Opportunities, and Activities. He has also been working to improve communications among the existing network of parent volunteers, particularly as it pertains to the production volunteers.
The mission of the North Texas Performing Arts – Plano Children’s Theatre is to develop the character of youth through quality performing arts education and family entertainment. Plano Children’s Theatre offers full-ride scholarships to talented and less privileged children, provides complimentary tickets to charitable organizations, teacher groups, and school fundraising events and offers free programming at local community centers. Melanie Cheney, Resource Development VISTA, prepared and consolidated documents for an annual board meeting at North Texas Performing Arts. During this process, Melanie edited the documents for clarity, sorted the documents into easily understandable categories, and created binders for each board member in attendance (45 total). Cheney delegated some work to volunteers, so she was not only able to practice her editing skills, but also her leadership skills. In addition, Melanie played an instrumental role in raising $20,000 in private donations from patrons she met with in previous months. Monies raised will add to the current capital campaign for the Willow Bend Theatre and benefit low-income and special needs children through the agency’s programs. Melanie helps to solidify relationships with new and existing donors through prompt thank you letters of which she created templates for use by staff and volunteers. Melanie attended a meeting with representatives from the Hudson Foundation and established a relationship that will hopefully lead to consideration for future grant-giving.
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.
Rebecca Dake, Community Outreach VISTA at Interfaith Ministries (IFM) of Denton, partnered this month with the Denton Independent School District (ISD) on a video about the Apple Tree Project. IFM’s Apple Tree Project provides back-to-school assistance to Denton ISD families who qualify for the Free and Reduced Meals Program. Rebecca interviewed Barb Haflich, the district’s Social Services Coordinator, who said the families served by the program are “just doing the best they can.” The families live at or below the poverty level and cannot easily absorb the costs associated with going back to school. The video aims to raise awareness of and participation in the program. The VISTA’s video is a marketing tool that can be used again next year, helping to sustain the program. To view the video, visit: https://youtu.be/PJH8BjtsB4w.
In March 2017, Plano Children’s Theatre’s Resource Development VISTA, Melanie Cheney, helped source and collect auction items for North Texas Performing Arts’ annual online auction. She delegated National Honor Society volunteers to call businesses in Plano and inquired about potential donations of gift cards and services. Information was taken from interested donors and Melanie visited these businesses in person to make initial contact and collect donated materials. The auction, held at the end of March, earned Plano Children’s Theatre $6,911. The agency also benefited by collecting $5,500 in donations from a donor appeal campaign coordinated by Melanie. In addition to the work mentioned, Melanie found time to write and submit a grant application to the Junior League of Collin County for 25k. The funds would be used for our Therapeutic Drama program for actors/actresses with special needs.
The VISTA North Texas project has 3 new service opportunities that will begin on August 14th. Applications will be accepted through June 30th.
Denton Christian Preschool Marketing and Fundraising VISTA Denton Christian Preschool (DCP), located in Denton, TX, provides early education for at-risk children in the community. The Marketing and Fundraising VISTA will increase community awareness and enhance fundraising activities to help provide early education for at-risk children in Denton, TX. Major functions will include developing a marketing plan to increase Denton Christian Preschool’s presence in the community to include the development of print materials, social media content and participation in community event. The VISTA will enhance fundraising activities and write grants to raise an additional $100,000 for the education and care of at-risk children.
DCFOF Community Marketing Liaison VISTA Denton County Friends of the Family (DCFOF) located in Corinth, TX is committed to providing compassionate, comprehensive services to those impacted by rape, sexual abuse and domestic violence while partnering with the community to promote safety, healing and prevention. The Community Marketing Liaison VISTA will help stop financial abuse and help victims break the cycle of poverty by creating a sustainable system to increase support and strengthen donor relationships. Major functions will include developing and implementing a donor management system to include communication through print and social media to keep supporters informed and creating a time-effective donor acknowledgement process. The VISTA will create new, general marketing materials for agency use, assist in the planning, marketing and execution of fundraisers and create a planning manual for all agency fundraisers.
Woman to Woman Pregnancy Resource Center Volunteer Recruitment and Development VISTA Woman to Woman Pregnancy Resource Center located in Denton, TX, empowers individuals to make wise life choices financially, sexually, and relationally through 3 programs that work together to provide assistance to women in unintended pregnancies and bring families out of poverty. The Volunteer Recruitment and Development VISTA at Woman to Woman Pregnancy Resource Center will enhance the volunteer program to develop volunteer leaders. Major functions will include expanding and enhancing the volunteer program through implementation of new policy and procedure manual and continued development of a volunteer training manual, developing a volunteer management system to track volunteer activities and hours of service and developing areas to cultivate relationships with volunteers and move 12 of them to leadership positions within the organization to ensure retention and growth of the agency’s programs.
In the past month, Melanie Kuriger, an AmeriCorps VISTA at Plano Children’s Theatre/North Texas Performing Arts, has been working on developing a knowledge of the local businesses in Plano and establishing relationships with potential funders. On November 22, Melanie attended her first Chamber of Commerce meeting for the Fairview/Allen areas. She arrived alone, and was nervous about giving the 30-second elevator pitch that all attendees gave, which her supervisor had explained previously. When they drew her business card out of the bucket and her 30 second pitch began, she surprised herself and ended up giving a very clear, timely description of the new location, the organization, and their mission. Afterwards, she networked with many of the chamber members and ended up meeting a reporter for a local newspaper, with whom she set up an interview for the following week.