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.
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.
Over the past year serving at a financial assistance nonprofit, AmeriCorps VISTA Rebecca Dake has taken the lead getting client stories out to the public. From a quick social media post about a family receiving help with their utilities to larger campaigns, including a video featuring multiple clients, she has relayed to her community the desperate needs of those living on the financial edge. In February, Rebecca focused on making her work easily replicable for staff. She created a graphic for the agency’s counselor Melody, featuring the counselor’s image blurred out with the title A Message from Melody. Rebecca trained Melody in the use of a free graphic design program so she can easily add text to the graphic, enabling her to state something moving about a client’s story. This will ensure the agency has a steady stream of quality content for social media channels when the VISTA’s term of service ends.
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.
December was a merry month for Community Outreach VISTA Rebecca Dake of Interfaith Ministries of Denton. Rebecca spent the month soliciting donations for a care package collection called Santa Loves Seniors that served 120 low to middle income senior citizens. She spread the word through email marketing, social media and newspaper contacts. Rebecca showed how powerful social channels are for community outreach through tweets she had with a local resident on Twitter in early December. The resident tweeted the agency asking what donations were still needed, and Rebecca responded that the agency was looking for more, new blankets. Showing great holiday spirit, the citizen committed to bring 15 new blankets (resulting in a $75 in-kind donation). Rebecca’s agency was previously inactive on Twitter, and those series of communications proved just how valuable the social media tool can be
For VISTA Rebecca Dake, a large part of November was spent on expanding and enhancing Interfaith Ministries of Denton’s Santa Loves Seniors holiday care package collection, which served 50 residents last year. Earlier in the year Rebecca created a partnership with the Denton Housing Authority’s Heritage Oaks Apartments, a low to moderate income senior housing complex. Rebecca planned, with Heritage Oaks Assistant Manager Shawna Walker, the care package distribution, for up to 120 seniors, in conjunction with a holiday meal for late December. Rebecca helped identify potential in-kind donors and wrote a successful grant to ALDI for $200 that will be used to purchase cans of soup for each senior. In order to promote community involvement in the project, Rebecca created a Santa Loves Seniors Web page and Facebook event and notified the city’s newspaper, the Denton Record Chronicle, which ran the event as a news brief. Additionally, Rebecca created and scheduled emails in Constant Contact along with Facebook and Twitter posts throughout the month encouraging the community to help collect items and volunteer for the distribution. Check back in late December or early January to see how the project went.
Rebecca Dake, VISTA at Interfaith Ministries of Denton, worked hard this month to publicize the emergency assistance nonprofit’s fall fundraiser: The Interfaith Ministries Wine & Craft Beer Tasting & Silent Auction. Rebecca created graphics and videos, to involve sponsors and vendors and engage the public before the event. The graphics and videos were posted on social media and distributed to email lists through Constant Contact, an email marketing tool. She designed two Facebook promotions to target potential event goers in Denton, resulting in 74 link clicks that her organization would likely not have gotten through the organic reach of posts. A discount code in one of the promotions produced 13 confirmed ticket sales. Through the VISTA’s hard work, attendance at the fundraiser was increased.
Community Outreach VISTA Rebecca Dake created and distributed many of the visual communications for Interfaith Ministries (IFM) of Denton, an emergency assistance nonprofit in their fundraising campaign for North Texas Giving Day, a communal day of philanthropy. She also maintained the social media accounts for IFM during this important month for outreach and donations. Rebecca created graphics specific to North Texas Giving Day for social media and email marketing to engage loyal supporters as well as community members and partners. She created 10 videos for her organization for the campaign, ranging from short quotes made by one client or volunteer to longer (one minute) videos with more graphics. She pinned the main video she created in August, for North Texas Giving Day, to the top of IFM’s Facebook timeline. By the end of September, the video had 567 views on Facebook and 73 views on YouTube. A fun video she posted the day before North Texas Giving Day received 94 views on Facebook and 11 views on YouTube and 61 engagements on Twitter. Rebecca helped IFM gain 46 new followers on Twitter in September. The donor emails she scheduled in September averaged a 35% open rate. What do all these numbers amount to? IFM Denton gained 21 new donors this year for North Texas Giving Day than the previous year and raised $6,175.
Raven Carr is a VISTA member serving at Interfaith Ministries of Denton, Inc. as the Volunteer Coordinator. Interfaith’s mission is to provide emergency basic needs assistance to the people of Northern Denton County with the goal of helping those people to become self-sufficient. As Raven’s year of service is coming to an end she has been focusing on developing things that will be available to the agency to use after she leaves. Lastly she has been working on volunteer job descriptions. She has already developed multiple job descriptions that the agency has used to recruit volunteers. Raven continues to develop job descriptions to be used in the future by the agency to recruit more volunteers.
Rebecca Dake, Community Outreach VISTA at Interfaith Ministries (IFM) of Denton, got some amazing news this month. Her organization is going to be a featured story in the Winter 2016 edition of Denton Magazine. Rebecca contacted the magazine hoping for the inclusion of an event photo. That outreach piqued the interest of the editors at Denton Magazine. Rebecca worked to photograph and collect images of the amazing people and programs that represent IFM Denton. She is excited to see the feature this November, and she is completely confirmed in her belief that the media and the public wants to hear great stories. They will never know unless they are told.