VISTA leader, Marcela Solia, connected with Keep Denton Beautiful to organize a 9/11 day of service project. This was a chance for the VISTAs to contribute to our community in a more direct way. They spent their morning at Lake Forest Park in Denton collecting trash and recyclables that had been left behind. Several bags of trash were collected, including an entire pile of recyclable cans left by the lake. Being able to salvage as many recyclable items as possible is important so that resources aren’t wasted and can be reused in the future. We emphasized to the VISTAs that it is important to keep our parks clean not only so that those who attend the park are safe from sharp and dangerous objects left behind but also because a clean environment is essential to our health. Trash may lead to pollution or damage plants that provide nutrition to humans. In return for contributing to their project, Keep Denton Beautiful posted our picture on their website. This gives the VISTA North Texas project more visibility and allows us to reach those who may not know about us or the role we have in our society.
VISTA leader, Marcela Solia, spent the month of July focusing on recruitment for the November VISTA positions. She worked to market for the open positions by posting openings on college sites and social media and preparing for tabling events coming up in August. Many applications have already come in and Marcela has taken the time to screen the applicants. She also spent a week at leadership training along with several VISTA Leaders throughout the nation. During the conference, she learned techniques for communication and conflict resolution allowing her to be a better support system for her VISTAs.
VISTA leader, Marcela Solia, spent the month of June putting her artistic skills to use by creating marketing materials for recruitment events. She developed flyers and social media graphics that will be used to market each of the 8 VISTA positions that are currently open. Templates of the flyers and graphics were saved for future recruitment events. Marcela also created a pop up banner for the North Texas Project. Thorough research was done to find the best strategies for creating an aesthetic banner that also grabs the viewers’ attention. This banner will be taken to tabling events in the hopes of attracting even more potential VISTAs and partnering agencies. The more our project grows, the bigger the impact can be made on our community.
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.
In the month of January, VISTA Sean Enfield’s time was primarily devoted to the Plano Children’s Theatre’s volunteer show manager position. Early in the month, he, the managing director, and a senior volunteer organized a meeting of last year’s show managers in order to receive their feedback. From this meeting he and the staff hope to develop a “Best Practices” and a series of trainings for the position of Show Manager. Already, he has developed two new resources for show managers–one PowerPoint template and a new form for recruiting the remaining production volunteers. This is the first month these two new resources have been utilized, and while there are still kinks to be ironed out, Sean hopes that these new documents will continue to be used by future productions.
VISTA Casey McCollum with Denton Affordable Housing Corporation (DAHC) has been hard at work to submit another grant for his agency. Casey has submitted the HOME program grant through the city of Denton this past month, asking for $60,000 in funds. DAHC will use this grant money to rehabilitate properties they own for use by MHMR. These are important group homes in use for those with mental health needs. Keeping these properties safe and up to date is vital to the health of not only the residents, but also the MHMR staff. As Casey nears his end of service, his hard work has definitely shown!
Everyone at Giving Hope, Inc. has started off the year with their best foot forward. After setting up a staff retreat, every person at the agency was able to evaluate what worked, what didn’t work, and created individualized plans for the 2017 year. Our goal as a whole is to become more efficient in helping our community. AmeriCorps VISTA member Daisy Martinez has held true to her goals of bringing in more funds, and funding opportunities for the agency by getting a head start on the planning of the 5th Annual Night of Hope fundraiser which is scheduled for April 6th, 2017. She was able to create a sponsorship form for board members and staff to use to bring in large sponsors for the event. She also created four different spreadsheets for board members and staff to easily track their sales for: sponsorships, tickets to the event, raffle tickets, and donations to the event from those who are not able to attend. Along with that, she has already had the tickets for the event printed and ready to sell, and has put in an order for the programs that will be used for the event as well. In addition, Daisy wrote and submitted two separate grant requests to the City of Denton. One of the grants was for $35,000 for the funding of their Transitional Housing program, and the second one was for $18,000 for the HMIS system that they (and other nonprofit agencies) use to track the homeless clients they serve. As for finding funding opportunities, Daisy spent a whole day at the University of North Texas Grant Library researching grants that her agency would be able to apply for. She was able to compile and organize a list of thirteen different grants that programs of the agency can benefit from when they apply.
Rebecca Dake, Community Outreach VISTA at Interfaith Ministries of Denton wanted to boost her site’s ability to implement the goal written in its mission statement. The emergency financial assistance nonprofit serves the working poor and those on fixed incomes in northern Denton County. The nonprofit’s goal is to help those clients become self-sufficient–one interpretation meaning to help those clients plan, budget and save for future emergencies to avoid the need for outside assistance. This can be quite hard for those on low and fixed incomes, but it is not impossible. Rebecca’s site already offers financial counseling, and recently had a staff member and volunteer complete a financial training; however, it is challenging to get clients to sign up for financial counseling after they have received emergency assistance. Rebecca wondered if more financial education could be offered for her site’s clients before they receive assistance. The VISTA member met with Metrocrest Services, a nearby agency who provides this service. Rebecca interviewed a staff member about their agency’s best practices and made recommendations to her site about the feasibility of doing something similar. The suggestion was well received by Interfaith Ministries and Rebecca plans to help with the creation of materials that can be administered pre-assistance and ultimately be used to help those struggling become self-sufficient and break the cycle of poverty.
VISTA Steven Tillman, a second time AmeriCorps member from Chicago, Illinois, has launched a pilot version of his Life Skills & Job Readiness Training course for nonprofit staple Christian Community Action. Steven developed surveys to administer to clients for the purpose of data collection during the course’s trial run. This is the first of two trial run data snapshots to be captured before the program is officially launched. Having spent a sizable amount of service hours conducting online research in the areas of Occupational Psychology and Workforce Development in order to obtain data and information to add to the curriculum, Steven now feels that his research oeffors are nearing completion.