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.
Stephanie Del Los Santos is serving at the Epilepsy Foundation of Texas in the Houston office as the Camp and Resource Development VISTA. Stephanie keeps everyone informed of the Foundation’s activities and events through the monthly CEO Update. The CEO Update reaches over 7,000 people and includes board members, major donors, and involved participants. The Update allows the community to stay informed about the Foundation’s activities and learn about the people they serve.
Meghan Kajihara is a Community Outreach VISTA serving with NewDay Services for Children and Families in Denton, TX primarily through the Fatherhood EFFECT program. Fatherhood- Educating Fathers for Empowering Children Tomorrow (Fatherhood EFFECT) seeks to reduce child abuse and neglect by engaging fathers and father figures in preventative services. Meghan has built solid relationships with school district representatives from the Denton ISD, Lewisville ISD and Northwest ISD who combined serve 100,537 students. These individuals will help NewDay Services collaborate more closely with the school districts and provide outreach more effectively to community parents. 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. The way NewDay Services helps strengthen families is by leading classes and support groups for parents, teaching them how to be present in the lives of the children and to learn how to understand and meet emotional needs for themselves and their families. They also provide individualized life coaching and mentorship, so these growing and learning parents always have someone to turn to on their journey. The key change seen in the 183 clients served is the transformation they undergo from anxious and alone into the parent they dreamed of being and that their children deserve. Clients have come to them with substance abuse issues and found sobriety. They have come to them homeless and unemployed, and found housing, work, and purpose. Above all, they leave connected to resources, their community, and their children, no longer isolated by their challenges or anxieties.
On Tuesday, June 20, AmeriCorps VISTA Jennifer Weatherford attended a Career and Community Resource Expo in Mt. Pleasant, TX on behalf of the Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC). Jennifer regularly attends expos similar to these in order to inform communities about the information and referral services offered by the ADRC, services which work to prevent homelessness in vulnerable populations, including the elderly, veterans, disabled persons, low income families, and those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness by coordinating and connecting crucial community service providers with those most in need. During her time at the Mt. Pleasant Expo, Jennifer provided outreach materials to the more than 160 local community members who were in attendance, and made personal referrals to 14 of those who stand to benefit immensely from the ADRC’s services.
April was an excellent month for Interfaith Ministries of Denton, an emergency financial assistance agency in Denton, TX, to have an experienced VISTA. Community Outreach VISTA Rebecca Dake was able to take over a major back-to-school assistance project when a staff member moved on to another job opportunity. Rebecca took on the planning, coordination and execution of online registration and four in-person registrations for local families who met a financial hardship requirement—enrollment in the local school district’s Free & Reduced Meals Program. So far the registration process has secured spots for nearly 800 children to receive a backpack and school supplies, and as donations allow, a clothing gift card and book. When a new project lead was hired, Rebecca was able to train the new staff member on the registration process and next steps to continue coordinating and managing the project. As April is her last month of a one-year service term, Rebecca has updated the new staff member on outreach activities she led during the year. She trained the staff member in social media techniques, graphic design software, newsletter creation and email marketing campaigns. She also leaves behind a manual—with graphics of course—to make website updates, social media posts, tabling opportunities and other outreach activities easier to execute.
NewDay Services for Children and Families’ Community Outreach VISTA, Meghan Kajihara, continues her work on the agency’s organizational archive and has made meaningful progress. She is nearly done transcribing the testimonies of fathers who have participated in the FOCUS and EFFECT programs. Having these materials transcribed and organized will help NewDay perform qualitative analyses of their programs and see how they have developed over time, as well as acting as a resource for creating outreach materials. She has also started assembling templates for class materials that may be stored in the OneDrive and easily adapted after she is gone. The word for the month of April in the Fatherhood EFFECT program was “data”. Meghan found herself inundated with it this month, but she wouldn’t have it any other way. From survey results to survey writing to newsletter analytics, she had many different streams of data to learn from. The whole North Texas Fatherhood EFFECT team has been carefully considering their survey methodology as well as the information they survey for, and Meghan feels proud and excited to be able to be a part of this discussion. During the last EFFECT class cycle, she kept track of the people sending them referrals and wrote a special newsletter just for them, announcing the summer session of the Fatherhood EFFECT class. 84% of the recipients opened the email and they have since received a flurry of referrals. At the very end of the month, she pitched her idea for an analysis of class attendance data to get a better understanding of when and why participants may start to drop off, and what they can change to improve retention. Her supervisor was very receptive to the idea and she can’t wait to get started on it.
AmeriCorps VISTA Jennifer Weatherford has been busy making important organizational connections throughout the 12-county North Texas region Texoma Council of Governments’ (TCOG) Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) serves. Jennifer was invited to attend four Career and Community Resource Expos in the Texoma area. On Tuesday, April 18, Jennifer traveled to Texarkana, TX to represent her agency at the first of many expos. At this function she spoke to dozens of local individuals, many of whom expressed their interest in the services that the ADRC offers. She managed to refer more than 40 veterans and family members of veterans to the ADRC toll-free informational number, and dozens more seniors and primary caregivers received vital information regarding benefits counseling and referral services. Through community connections with housing authorities and community resource expos Jennifer has located several landlords in the Texoma and Texarkana area which are invaluable to the capacity building process. One landlord in particular has expressed generous interest in working closely with TCOG and the ADRC to house low income and disabled individuals in Grayson County. Jennifer intends to work with the landlord and inquire about the availability of 9 additional vacant units in the following months. Jennifer also took the initiative to research and compile a Local Support Services Directory for Grayson, Cooke, and Fannin counties, the major counties which the TCOG serves. This Support Services Directory will not only aid TCOG employees in their referral services, but also serve as a convenient, concise, sustainable directory for locals to take advantage of when searching for local community resources.
Forget testing the water, VISTA Rashika Smith serving with the Epilepsy Foundation Texas, had to jump in fully clothed to make Sharon’s Ride a success. Sharon’s Ride is an educational and fundraising event to increase the community’s awareness of and support for individuals afflicted with epilepsy. Rashika began VISTA service at the end of March and thought she would be learning more about the foundation and plan for the even months ahead. That was not the case as the event was less than five weeks out and there was a lot to do. Rashika was tasked with contacting donors, recruiting volunteers and developing donor letters and volunteer job descriptions. She hit many dead-end walls but after receiving the first donation she gained the confidence she needed to keep moving forward. As a result, the event was a success we had over 20 volunteers, 100 participants, a variety of snacks, and the best part, Epilepsy Foundation Texas raised $53,000 to support children with epilepsy go to summer camp.
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.
This month, Meghan spent quite a bit of time cleaning up her organization’s contact lists, adding new contacts, and training to use her organization’s Customer Relations Management (CRM) software. The effort is already paying off. Keeping track of outreaches has been simplified through access to the software and Meghan has found that it is much easier to keep NewDay’s work in the minds of community partners. As a result of the streamlined outreach with the CRM software, old contacts have reconnected and even sent referrals to the agency. NewDay has reawakened its engagement with Denton ISD and Child Protective Services and Denton County case workers are more engaged than ever. Late in the month, Meghan was gratified to see that some of her older work, the “Dadjectives” project, continues to pay dividends. The design, constructed from the compiled responses of EFFECT program participants, made for an eye-catching display at the Texas Fatherhood Summit in Austin. Program officers from Prevention and Early Intervention were reportedly impressed by the emotional growth demonstrated by EFFECT participants and Meghan is proud that her work was a part of that effort.