AmeriCorps VISTA Member Victoria Jackson serves with the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance (MDHA). MDHA leads the development of an effective homeless response system to make the experience of homelessness in Dallas and Collin Counties rare, brief, and non-recurring. Victoria continues her work on the Youth Services Directory (YSD). She has met with over 15 different organizations that serve homeless youth, runaway youth, and youth aging out of the foster care system. According to the State of the Homeless based on the 2017 Point in Time count there are 569 homeless youth in Dallas and Collin Counties. Through these dedicated and hard-working agencies, youth are able to work on life skills, job readiness, and savings accounts so that when they exit the program, each youth is ready to hold their own lease, work, and go to school. Throughout the YSD is a series of symbols that allow each young person or case manager to search specifically for programs that provide emergency housing, childcare, or house transgender individuals based on their gender identity. The goal for this feature is to direct clients to the agencies that are most suited for their needs, thereby preventing an excessive amount of referrals and allowing the client to take ownership of his or her own housing plan.
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.
In February 2017, AmeriCorps VISTA Melanie Kuriger was able to write and submit a grant application for $20,000 from the Andrea-Mennen Family Foundation. The grant money, if received, will be used to strengthen North Texas Performing Arts’ Therapeutic Drama program for children and adults with special needs. In the preceding weeks, she created an outline and wrote several drafts of the application. She also generated statistics based on information she was able to obtain from archived 2016 documents. Upon approval from her supervisor, she submitted the application in mid-February.
In February, VISTA Sean Enfield played a part in the opening of North Texas Performing Arts’ new theatre in Fairview. A couple weeks prior to the Ribbon Cutting, he managed a small team helping in the final stages of the build out, and conducted interviews with the major volunteers in the Fairview project. The new theatre opened a few weeks later, and he helped volunteers ready the reception and put on the final touches for that evening’s production of Mary Poppins. In addition to the Fairview project, Sean also worked on the Plano branch’s move to Willow Bend. On that end, he recruited over 40 National Honor Society volunteers to help organize and package up parts of the theatre over Spring Break in March. He also began leading the community service volunteer initiative there and managed his first volunteer on the last Monday of the month.
Volunteer Enablement VISTA Sean Enfield with Plano Children’s Theatre is experiencing first-hand the expanse of his 25 year old organization which has grown to support 5 active performance spaces in 5 different North Texas cities. So far, his primary accomplishments have been to initiate himself into a group and a volunteer network that already has a very distinct culture. He has spent a great deal of time tracking down old playbills and paperwork so that he can develop the organization’s volunteer database. With this, he hopes to organize the theatre’s volunteer system, but there is still much to learn and track down in this regard. He has had personal and online communication with a number of volunteers already and suspects that, as his role is more and more engrained into the organization’s community, this will likely increase exponentially. This month, he has trained two parents on the agency’s ticketing system and has coordinated 4 set builds.
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.
As a Grant Writing VISTA at Plano Children’s Theatre, you will help end poverty by writing grants that will allow under-served youth to learn skills which will serve them on and off the stage and in life. Major functions will include becoming familiar with arts education and agency programs, researching funding opportunities, preparing grant applications with goal of raising $500,000 and assisting in other fundraising efforts and assisting with increasing revenue to support our program. VISTAs serve their communities through indirect service. The programs developed by the Grant Writing VISTA will endure for years, however the VISTA member will have limited interaction with Plano Children’s Theatre’s clients and will be based in an office setting. Applicants should possess good researching skills, strong verbal and writing communication skills, and computer skills.