Rashika Smith is the Community Outreach VISTA serving at the Epilepsy Foundation Texas’ Dallas office. In May, she received the sad news that a five year old passed away in his sleep from epilepsy. Hearing about his death was hard and knowing he was just a child was even harder. Rashika met this child at Sharon’s Ride in Fort Worth. Sharon’s Ride is a fundraising and epilepsy awareness event. This was the first Epilepsy Foundation event the child and family attended and Rashika remembers seeing the child smiling and having fun. Rashika has learned first-hand that creating events is more than just making money. These events also help to make precious family memories. As a VISTA, Rashika’s work is behind the scenes where she creates positive impact and sometimes she does not get to see the results. The thought of the little boy gives her fuel to keep going and work even harder to raise money and awareness about epilepsy so one day another family does not wake up to their child not being able to say,” good morning”.
Resource Development VISTA Daisy Martinez has worked hard alongside Events & Marketing Coordinator, Morgan Collins to help grow their upcoming fundraising event, “Ladies Purse Auction & Brunch”. This fundraising event is one of the three largest fundraisers that Woman to Woman Pregnancy Resource Center hosts each year. Daisy hopes to exceed their fundraising goal through engaging the local community, and spreading awareness of their mission. Each day, Daisy reaches out to businesses, and women in the Denton Community asking them to participate in the Purse Auction by “adopting” a purse of their choosing from a selection of donated purses located in the W2W office. After adopting the purse, the woman or business takes the purse to fill it with goodies of their choice. The purses are then returned to be auctioned off to the highest bidder at the Purse Auction & Brunch event on June 24th at Robson Ranch. All funds raised go directly towards providing services to the clients of the nonprofit.
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.
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.
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.
On April 6th, Giving Hope, Inc., a nonprofit agency serving homeless and near homeless individuals and families in Denton, TX, hosted their Annual Night of Hope event which was a big success. All the hard work of Board members, staff and AmeriCorps VISTA member Daisy Martinez over the past couple of months finally paid off. At a Night of Hope, Daisy checked-in and welcomed all the guests who arrived for the night alongside board member, Janet Sheton. Once everyone had a chance to look over the silent auction items, the attendees sat down for a dinner catered by Cartwright’s Ranch House. Daisy helped present multiple members of the community, and partner agencies with “Heart of Hope” Awards in order to recognize their support and dedication to helping the agency grow. Following the dinner, there was a cake auction where each cake sold for around $150-$300! All in all, everyone had a good time and nearly $50,000 was raised overall for a Night of Hope. Funds raised will be used to assist individuals and families remain housed.
VISTA member, April Neal is serving with Youth and Family Counseling in Lewisville, TX. The mission of Youth and Family Counseling is to aid the families and children of Denton County, thereby creating healthy and productive individuals, families, and communities which will benefit the quality of life for all. In the month of April, she learned the importance of balance and time management. With good planning, April put together her second DINE- IN Fundraiser where she met a lot of people and potential clients for the agency. At the fundraiser, single moms inquired about counseling services for their children. Some parents also learned that about the free services offered to keep children and families healthy.
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.
In the month of March, Giving Hope, Inc. is seeing the hard work of Resource Development VISTA Daisy Martinez pay off. The Annual Night of Hope event has not even taken place yet, and the agency has raised a total of $42,750 in sponsorships, $1,125 in Ticket Sales, $675 in cash donations, $495 in Raffle Ticket Sales, and $540 in item donations for the Silent Auction. In total Giving Hope has raised $45,585 for A Night of Hope, and still have the opportunity to raise even more the evening of April 6th. Daisy is working very closely with Giving Hope Board President, Margaret Dawson and the other Board Members to bring in as much money as possible to help more potentially homeless, or homeless people within the community. Daisy also had the opportunity to manage 2 volunteers who went into the community to solicit donations for the silent auction. Daisy and the volunteers collected a variety of items from floral arrangements, to wine tasting classes, to gift cards to local restaurants. The goal for this year’s event was $40,000 which is double the amount of last year’s fundraiser has been exceeded. Stay tuned to hear the final total of the 2017 Night of Hope fundraiser.
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.