Keith Uselton, the Curriculum and Development VISTA for the Collin County History Museum, began laying the foundation for the organization’s 3-year project by creating a working outline of curriculum for a 6-week summer program as well as one for an 8 week after-school program for elementary school children. He is working with the organization’s executive director, Mary Strother, and Sarah Gonzoles, a local elementary school counselor, to begin identifying a base of student participants to be served by the programming he has written. Keith researched and compiled a list of local historical sites and museums within Collin County that might serve as a guiding resource for himself and future VISTAs as far as what type of programming and resources are available to the McKinney community. He began to lay the foundation for securing grants and funding to finance the museum’s summer and after-school programming by meeting with and introducing himself to the Collin County Historical Commission which has served as a financial source of funding for the museum in the recent past.
In December, Drug Education VISTA, April Comperda, continued mobilizing the Chisholm Trail RSVP, Inc., Prescription Drug Take Back project in Denton County, TX in response to the CNCS call to action. Chisholm Trail RSVP’s Take Back campaign, includes events providing services such as medication review and providing mail-back envelopes to assist residents with a safe, convenient way disposal method for any unwanted and expired medications in order to prevent drug diversion with addicts, curious teens, innocent children, and pets. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has definitively concluded that the majority of people who misuse prescription drugs obtain them from family or friends first. Consequently, as the prescription opioids start to become harder and harder to get off the streets, many addicts turn to heroin for the cheaper and faster high. Four out of five (80%) new heroin users started out misusing prescription painkillers (NIDA, SAMHSA, 2016). Not only is the Denton community home of two universities and several retirement communities, its metropolis location, which resides so close to DFW area, creates an opportune channel of drug trafficking and diversion. April and Chisholm Trail RSVP organized (DEA) National Prescription Take Back events as part of the Disposal Campaign, targeting senior living communities and senior centers across Denton County. The overarching goals of the Take Back Program are 1) reduce the amount of prescription medications circulating the streets; 2) to prevent the diversion of prescription medicine; 3) gain community support; and 4) increase education and awareness of the opioid epidemic and prevention measures; 4) conduct medication reviews to identify any medicine errors, especially for seniors. The event will be on April 28th at five senior community locations in Denton County.
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.
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.
North Texas nonprofit Christian Community Action (CCA) continues its efforts of service to the communities of Lewisville, Texas and the surrounding areas of Denton County. With over 40 years of service, it’s no wonder that CCA has come to be well respected by many. AmeriCorps VISTA Steven Tillman took the challenge of developing a new program for CCA’s clients which would assist them with laying a foundation for continued employment and successful endeavors in the professional business market. Steven’s research and curriculum development have resulted in a program which incorporates job market awareness, the vision-scaping of future plans, and personal brand marketing with concurrent case management and assessment. His program takes a progressive approach because it not only focuses on clients securing employment but also on clients assuring that the same employment aligns with their personal habits and ambitions. Steven conducted research on the entire county of Denton and concluded that its citizens deal with a chronic matter of underemployment, with some households having as many as five means of employment distributed amongst two adults. He says that this is due to the average living wage not being sufficient enough to sustain the average worker through a singular means of employment, resulting in many individuals requiring additional employment. Steven is poised to roll out the program to an extensive degree once an embodiment of case managers are trained and additional trainers are recruited. He states that his work with CCA is directly connected to his “life’s work” and future ambitions.
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.
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.
This month, Denton County Friends of the Family Speakers Bureau grew when two new members joined the group. VISTA Nicole Owens provided the first part of their training in which they learned the basics of intimate partner violence and sexual assault. It also got easier for volunteers to get involved with the creation of a shared speaker’s bureau calendar. Volunteers will easily be able to see when they can help and participate in presentations. One volunteer started presenting individually when Nicole became unexpectedly ill shortly before a presentation. With no other staff members available on such short notice, the speaker’s bureau volunteer was able to step up and represent Denton County Friends of the Family. VISTA Nicole’s training perfectly prepared this volunteer for any circumstance!