Martha Tonn is the Volunteer Recruitment and Development VISTA at Cornerstone Ranch, a unique home and day program for adults with intellectual and physical disabilities located in McKinney, TX. On Saturday, October 28, Cornerstone Ranch held their annual Gala & Art Auction, which accounts for approximately 80% of the organizations operating funds for the year, as well as building capital towards their site expansion plan. The event was a sellout, with over 350 people attending. Martha played a vital role in preparation for this year’s event, recruiting 17 new volunteers to assist with auction set up, decorating, and running the silent auction portion of the event. Martha scheduled three pre-auction work days prior to the event to accommodate volunteers who are only available on weekends. These volunteers did many projects early so that set up and decoration could proceed smoothly on the day of the event. Martha also used Signup Genius and social media to promote volunteer opportunities throughout the month, assuring that each stage of the preparation had adequate volunteer support. On the Saturday of the Gala, Martha managed 41 volunteers who served a total of 175 hours that day from set up in the morning through the wrap up of the event.
September was quite a busy month for VISTA Sean Enfield. As his organization, the Plano Children’s Theatre, prepares for its big move, Sean has been tasked with recruiting volunteers for the move as well as volunteers to help with the build out of the new space. He has been utilizing the organization’s online presence and talking with community service volunteers in order to get them involved in the Raised Seating Project. While that project is underway, he is still managing the day-to-day operations of the various theatres, their productions, and events. This month, he has recruited 32 volunteers for October’s Halloween fundraiser and the agency’s move and managed 9 volunteers on the production teams for the 11 shows that began rehearsals and 6 shows that performed. These volunteers have served 365 hours cumulatively at Plano Children’s Theatre.
Woman to Woman (W2W) Pregnancy Resource Center’s VISTA, Jennifer Annen, took volunteer training to the next level this September! As W2W welcomed in a new volunteer coordinator, Jennifer worked closely with her to demonstrate their procedures for recruiting, contacting, and orienting new volunteers. Joining forces with her fellow VISTA and new volunteer coordinator, Jennifer helped to identify weak spots in the current recruitment and training processes as well as brainstormed improvements. This collaboration provided staff with a checklist of items to be completed by the volunteer coordinator and store staff when engaging new volunteers. Having these vital steps clearly defined will help W2W recruit volunteers more efficiently and reduce the unfortunate opportunity for procedures and people to slip through the cracks. Jennifer will now analyze the next half of the process: how the agency orients and trains their volunteers in their respective departments. Ensuring new volunteers start off on a good footing encourages smooth sailing during the training process. W2W is largely volunteer-driven and would not be able to provide free services to the community without them. For example, in the month of July, Twice as Nice Resale’s volunteers served 1,755 hours. Their hard work processing tons of donations, cleaning and organizing store shelves, running the cash registers, and many other important duties contributed to the agency being able to provide 40 sonograms to pregnant women at no cost to them. For disadvantaged women and families facing an unintended pregnancy, one sonogram could cost an average of $270, according to New Choice Health. This means women in the area saved about $10,800 in July for sonograms alone!
In August 2017, VISTA Sean Enfield worked to improve the communication and relationships between the North Texas Performing Arts organization/staff and its volunteers while also continuing to standardize its volunteer practices. With such wide array of theatres and programming, the organization’s volunteer network is widely dispersed and hard to manage efficiently. As a part of his role with the organization, Sean has been working to ensure that all volunteers are aware of the rules and procedures while making sure they have some creative input and feel valued. Throughout August, he coordinated with volunteers across the four theatres and trained them for a variety of volunteer positions. This enables more volunteers to do the work and helps make sure the work is done consistently even as different hands take it over.
During the month of August, AmeriCorps VISTA North Texas welcomed three new VISTA Members. VISTA leader, Marcela Solia, assisted in welcoming these new VISTAs by facilitating their onsite training and creating social media posts introducing them to the community. After helping the new VISTAs settle in, she continued to recruit for the open November positions. The last week of August was spent at various universities’ career fairs speaking with students about AmeriCorps VISTA and the many opportunities available. Many students showed interest in the program and even left their contact information requesting more information.
Jennifer, a VISTA serving at Woman to Woman Pregnancy Resource Center in Denton, TX has found the importance in maximizing potential for volunteers from every walk of life. Working closely with the volunteer coordinator at Twice as Nice Resale, (a branch of Woman to Woman PRC) Jennifer determined areas where she could improve the process for new volunteer intake and training. She decided to begin where it all starts: the initial contact the volunteer makes with someone at Twice as Nice Resale. Responding to all volunteer inquiries, including those from individuals who are looking to complete their community service hours, is imperative in ensuring that you are utilizing all of the help that is offered. In the month of August, Twice as Nice Resale received dozens of community service inquiries and Jennifer played a large part in the correspondence, keeping the individual’s information and status updated, and preparing them for their first day of service or volunteering. In order to be able to provide free medical services, education, and needed goods like diapers and formula to the Denton County area, Woman to Woman PRC relies heavily on their volunteers to help in all areas of the organization. Jennifer has also supported the organization’s efforts in a more efficient volunteer introduction process by facilitating new volunteers and community service members in their application, interview, and orientation. Maintaining accurate records daily using a spreadsheet to keep track of each person’s status as they move through the acclimation period has been an essential method in immersing them quicker, more efficiently, and more thoroughly. Jennifer plans to continue refining this process as she moves into evaluating how she can improve the overall training procedures so that Woman to Woman PRC can engage more community members as well as help even more people who are uninsured, economically disadvantaged, or facing a hard time in their lives.
Brianna Young is serving with Woman to Woman Pregnancy Resource Center as the Volunteer Recruitment and Development VISTA. Twice as Nice Resale (TANR) hosted a group of 15 volunteers on August 25, 2017 from the Texas Academy of Math and Science at University of North Texas. The volunteers served 2 hours each to help organize, label, and clean the store. The staff and volunteers of TANR are very appreciative of the work they put in. While this event took place a TANR volunteer, who will soon become a leader of this setting, was shadowing the event so she will take over and continue organizing these events in the future providing students experience and helping the store altogether. Tending to the store aesthetics will help produce more revenue which funds Women to Women Pregnancy Resource Center’s clinic providing women with free testing, information, and resources to help reduce the stress of finances for upcoming families.
July was certainly a month of growth for Twice as Nice Resale, an entity of Woman to Woman Pregnancy Resource Center (W2W) in Denton, Texas and VISTA Jennifer helped to lay the groundwork for expanding their volunteer program! Alongside her project’s fellow VISTA, Hannah McNeill, Jennifer worked to open up a new opportunity for Twice as Nice Resale’s volunteers to take more ownership and lead volunteer groups. Over the last couple of years, W2W has received an increased amount of interest from many organizations and church groups looking to serve at their resale store. With the number of volunteer groups growing, the need for assistance in coordinating, planning, and running the groups has also grown. Keeping in mind that the VISTA project will not be at W2W forever, Jennifer co-constructed a group lead “to do” checklist to help train five volunteers Hannah recruited for the leadership roles. To ensure that the volunteers received a comprehensive learning experience, Jennifer created mock “groups” and provided the necessary information for the volunteers to then work with each other to plan and coordinate for the group, just as they would eventually have to do when they are planning on their own. The next step in their training process includes them shadowing at least 3 volunteer groups where they watch and help the VISTAs run them and then ultimately leading their own groups. Jennifer hopes that this training will not only help the current volunteer leaders to train new leaders after the VISTA project, but also that the organization’s capacity to host more volunteer groups will surge. Jennifer predicts that being able to better spread the word about the organization will only benefit them in donations and sales, thus allowing W2W to provide their services to the community for free!
VISTA Sean Enfield continued his efforts to train volunteers for the Plano Children’s Theatre (PCT). During the month of July, he helped organize, schedule, and run a workshop for the theatre’s high school interns, and he held another Training Workshop for the theatre’s production volunteer position. The production volunteer workshops covered the Set Build and Light/Sound coordinator volunteer positions. Since our volunteer roles are often combined with scholarships and tuition reimbursement, these volunteer roles help make theatre programs affordable to the patrons. Sean also continued management of PCT’s vast array of existing volunteers as the end of the summer ramps the theatre back into its busiest season. During the month of July, he recruited 15 new volunteers and managed 101 volunteers for a total of 389 service hours which saved Plano Children’s Theatre $9,768 in labor costs.
Jennifer Annen, the Volunteer Training VISTA serving with Woman to Woman Pregnancy Resource Center in Denton, TX, has already gotten a kick-start in building capacity within the organization’s Twice as Nice Resale store. Woman to Woman and Twice as Nice Resale (TANR) have grown tremendously over the last couple of years and are continually striving to improve, but with great growth can also come growing pains. To help ease some of those growing pains, Jennifer has been tasked with strengthening the organization’s volunteer training program as well as increasing the retention of their current volunteers. She has begun creating departmental training guides which includes all the necessary knowledge for each individual area of the store and warehouse as well as a checklist for the trainer and trainee to complete. This ensures that our volunteers are receiving the attention they deserve during their training and TANR staff can feel confident knowing we covered all the essentials for our volunteers to be successful in their department. By implementing these station guides early on in her VISTA term, Jennifer hopes that they will be easy to follow and use beyond her next 11 months of service. To complement the new individual training process, TANR will hold a monthly two-hour training and review session for all staff and volunteers. To facilitate a meaningful learning opportunity and use of our volunteers’ time, Jennifer drafted a template to be used when planning each monthly session. She hopes that through using this template, staff will also be able to easily keep track of the progress and usefulness of these trainings over time as well as fill in any information gaps as needed. Jennifer looks forward to practicing these new training strategies to not only improve the experience for our staff and volunteers, but to continue aiding Woman to Woman as they serve their community!