Network of Community Ministries, Inc. located in Richardson, TX responds to human need by giving assistance with the goal of helping individuals achieve long-term independence. Its mission is “caring, coaching and empowering neighbors in need as they seek an improved quality of life.” Ben Chapman serves as the Marketing and Fundraising VISTA spent time shadowing Networks’ Handy-Men Program, a service provided to Network clients who are either seniors or disabled. He and the volunteers went to a senior woman’s home and he took photos of the volunteers fixing a woman’s fence for her. He also had the opportunity to interview her about her situation and how Network has been there for her. She is forced to be a working senior but still cannot afford to keep up with her home, despite already having a roommate. She told Ben that the fact that the Handy-Men Service can be there for her is truly a blessing. She stated “They keep you together. Because if your house is falling apart, it’s impossible to put your life back together”
VISTA leader, Marcela Solia, connected with Keep Denton Beautiful to organize a 9/11 day of service project. This was a chance for the VISTAs to contribute to our community in a more direct way. They spent their morning at Lake Forest Park in Denton collecting trash and recyclables that had been left behind. Several bags of trash were collected, including an entire pile of recyclable cans left by the lake. Being able to salvage as many recyclable items as possible is important so that resources aren’t wasted and can be reused in the future. We emphasized to the VISTAs that it is important to keep our parks clean not only so that those who attend the park are safe from sharp and dangerous objects left behind but also because a clean environment is essential to our health. Trash may lead to pollution or damage plants that provide nutrition to humans. In return for contributing to their project, Keep Denton Beautiful posted our picture on their website. This gives the VISTA North Texas project more visibility and allows us to reach those who may not know about us or the role we have in our society.
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.
Tierra has taken on CCA’s grants Spring Cycle in full force this month. So far, she has completed and submitted a total of six grants for a potential of $74,000 to support CCA’s comprehensive services and programs to assist low-income individuals across North Texas. Tierra has already secured $15,000 in funding from CoServ Charitable Foundation to assist CCA’s CoServ clients with utility assistance, as well as $5,000 in funding from Direct Energy’s Neighbor-to-Neighbor program to assist Direct Energy clients with utility assistance as well. But it doesn’t stop there! Tierra is already working on six other grants for CCA, including an application to the Texas Emergency Shelter Grant Program with a Denton County Collaborative, including Giving HOPE Inc., Denton County Friends of the Family, Salvation Army of Denton and Interfaith Ministries to reduce and prevent homelessness across the County.
Steven Tillman, an AmeriCorps VISTA currently servicing the city of Lewisville in Denton County through the nonprofit Christian Community Action (CCA), has completed his initial cycle of the Life Skills & Job Readiness Course pilot, which is designed to help course participants secure gainful employment. Steven recently completed analysis of the surveys he administered to participants, and came to some interesting conclusions which changed his view of the level of information the program must provide. He states that the majority of CCA’s potential clients experience a chronic measure of underemployment, and have an increasing need for finding solutions to make their working hours more effective at not only earning an income, but also at reaching their overall goals. Several members of CCA’s Administrative Leadership have taken notice and are eager to see the results of his work. Occupational Psychology and Workforce Development are his forte, and he says that his efforts to secure a team of trainers are beginning to produce results, which may prove to be of tremendous benefit to the citizens of Denton County. He also states that he sees that citizens of Lewisville whom are experiencing struggles with employment can benefit from taking more practical steps toward accomplishing their overall goals, as well as securing employment. Steven says he took great inspiration for the changes he’s making from a former employer, teacher, and mentor of his hometown of Chicago, Illinois.
North Central Texas College (NCTC) officially submitted and was approved for a VISTA project through VISTA North Texas in the month of February. VISTA Leader Chanell Rose first made a connection with Roxanne Del Rio, Associate Dean of Denton County Campuses for NCTC, in the first few months of her service. Throughout her term, Chanell has stayed connected with Ms. Del Rio, and fostered the relationship with NCTC into a blossoming VISTA site. With this new addition, the North Texas Project has been able to diversify its partner agencies with a college site, which could open other recruitment avenues at campuses in Cooke County. We are excited to begin recruiting for this position starting in July!
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.
Aleisha Tunstall is the Grant Research and Development VISTA at Our Daily Bread (ODB). ODB is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit community soup kitchen located in Denton, TX, that provides nutritious meals, special services and referrals for other services to those in need. Currently, Aleisha is assisting the Executive Administrator to plan for ODB’s Volunteer Appreciation Event. Aleisha is assisting with organizing and developing event flyers, decoration themes, giveaway items, and scheduling. The event takes place on Thursday, April 27th from 5:30pm to 7:30pm. There will be music, an ice cream sundae bar, and a gift giveaway at the event. The purpose of the Volunteer Appreciation Event is to ensure that all Our Daily Bread volunteers receive a personalized and meaningful acknowledgement for their efforts.
This February, VISTA Hannah McNeill serving with Woman to Woman PRC, co-facilitated a Best of Denton campaign for Twice as Nice Resale. Best of Denton is Denton’s annual community acknowledgement of their town’s outstanding restaurants, coffee shops, stores, etc. Hannah assisted in composing graphics to use for advertising on social media and providing Twice as Nice with quality content to market their resale store for the event. Hannah’s hope is that through promoting Twice as Nice Resale in Best of Denton, the store will experience an improved presence in the community. Higher revenue, increased customers, and new volunteers will contribute to the Woman to Woman clinic in supporting women, children, and families in the Denton community. Throughout the month, businesses have been in a frenzy in the pursuit of the #1 spot. Now, the dust has settled. The ballots have been cast. Stay tuned to hear what’s next for Twice as Nice Resale.
During the month of February, Adam Jones, a Volunteer Training VISTA at Woman to Woman Pregnancy Resource Center, was recruited to amass a wealth of information on the topic of volunteer management. The information gathered was used in a lecture hosted by Funding Information Network. With the track record of over 183 volunteers trained and managed and 424 hours of service contributed to Woman to Woman over a span of 10 months, it would be safe to say that he has a few things to share about volunteer management. This lecture not only helps Woman to Woman to establish a presence in the community, but it also offers opportunities to network with other non-profits in the area. Adam also created two volunteer leadership positions to be used with the hopes that volunteers will play a more prominent role in the management of the sales floor and warehouse. These positions allow staff to resume the administrative aspect of the organization, which will allow staff to seek out other creative means to make a presence in the community.