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.
AmeriCorps VISTA, Nicole Owens, is in the process of completing the Denton County Friends of the Family’s community education project. Nicole has welcomed two new Speakers Bureau members who completed their training in the month of March. They are now able to shadow tabling events and presentations to learn more about representing Denton County Friends of the Family (DCFOF). Developed by VISTA Members, the rigorous Speakers Bureau training covers a variety of topics to insure members have an adequate understanding of intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and the dynamics that contribute to both. Once they’ve observed several presentations, members will assist with presentations, alleviating some of the heavy workload of the DCFOF community education team.
The month of March was chock-full of new volunteer groups for Twice As Nice Resale and VISTA Hannah McNeill was instrumental in coordinating these volunteers! Volunteer Recruitment and Resource Development VISTA, Hannah McNeill, serves with Woman to Woman Pregnancy Resource Center where she organized and led three volunteer groups (51 volunteers) who contributed 132 hours of service to Twice As Nice Resale, the fundraising arm of Woman to Woman. As Hannah supervised each group, she became acclimated to the role of volunteer management and she noticed a lack of procedure when it came to assigning projects to a volunteer group, thus leading to miscommunication and confusion among the staff. To solve this issue, Hannah began developing a volunteer group task list. The task list will bring clarity and serve as a catalyst for well thought out projects for groups of volunteers. The task list is categorized by age appropriate projects, i.e. elementary school, middle school, high school, and senior age groups. Her next goal is to focus on producing and training confident individuals proficient in managing volunteers which will transfer the responsibility of managing volunteer groups from staff to volunteer leaders allowing Twice As Nice Resale staff to take on even bolder endeavors!
In March, Volunteer Enablement VISTA Sean Enfield led major volunteer events for Plano Children’s Theatre. He led teams of National Honor Society volunteers as they disposed of old set pieces, rearranged the theatre’s backstage spaces and assisted with the theatre’s awards ceremony. He led a group of Eagle Scouts who purged and reorganized the theatre’s offsite Scene Shop. A team of ten Eagle Scouts created new shelving units and cleared a great deal of space in this warehouse. Sean also created contact lists and corresponded with production volunteers. In total, Sean recruited 6 new volunteers and managed 88 community volunteers who served 423 hours of service.
Jennifer Weatherford, an Affordable Housing Advocate VISTA serving with the Texoma Council of Governments (TCOG), is creating a sense of coordination and collaboration between the many agencies and resources available to the homeless throughout the north Texoma area. As part of her advocacy for affordable housing, she has been attending monthly homeless and veteran’s coalition meetings to network and develop solutions and strategies to help the homeless overcome barriers to housing. Jennifer is compiling a Public Housing Authority (PHA) master list, which includes all of the PHAs in the 12 county area that TCOG’s Aging and Disability Resource Center serves, their contact information, pertinent information regarding housing preferences, and number of units and/or vouchers attached to the authority. This master list will be updated as new 5-year and Annual Plans are released and will provide invaluable information for housing referrals to neighboring counties. She has also begun the arduous process of organizing a counties-wide resource and informational expo for landlords interested in providing or developing affordable and transitional housing projects for low income families, disabled persons, seniors, and veterans within their community.
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.
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!