Name: Jennifer Annen
Hometown: Crystal Lake, IL
Alma Mater: Iowa State University
Volunteer history: Pet-sitting, dog-walking, animal care and community outreach at an animal shelter
Why did you choose VISTA? I had earned my bachelor’s degree in Animal Science, but towards the end of my schooling I found a deep interest in human and societal issues. I had a gut-feeling that becoming a VISTA would allow me to sharpen skills in new areas while also contributing towards the elimination of poverty in Denton County. Almost seven months into my program, I couldn’t have imagined ever not making the jump!
Tell us a little bit about what your organization does and your role in it:I am currently serving as the Volunteer Training VISTA through the Woman to Woman Pregnancy Resource Center in Denton, TX. Woman to Woman provides a multitude of free services to women and men in the community, including pregnancy testing and sonograms, STI testing, counseling, and other vital resources to new mothers. Woman to Woman also operates Twice as Nice Resale store and the Living Choices program, where they educate middle and high schoolers on sexual health and healthy relationships. I am lucky to serve in volunteer training with the amazing folks at Twice as Nice Resale! My role is to strengthen their volunteer program by increasing retention and setting in place policies and procedures so that current volunteers feel confident in their hard work.
What is your biggest accomplishment as a VISTA so far? I feel like my biggest accomplishment is a combination of small accomplishments that all amount to being able to equip our staff and volunteers with training guides for multiple volunteer departments. Upon arrival at Twice as Nice Resale, I learned how many different ways their volunteers are contributing but noticed a lack in updated, clear project and task instructions. Going from department to department and working with fellow staff and volunteers, I have been able to craft four completed books so far. After debuting each guide, we hosted a training of at least 20+ volunteers to demonstrate the policies and procedures, as well as answer any questions. I love knowing that after I leave, staff will be able to train new volunteers confidently and easily. Our current volunteers will also be able to lead other volunteers and train them as well!
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.
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.
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.
VISTA Hannah McNeill, serving in Volunteer Recruitment and Development at Woman to Woman Pregnancy Resource Center in Denton, TX, spent her month utilizing social media to market her agency’s Annual Ladies Purse Auction and Brunch. Hannah created a social media schedule posting once a week with a reminder and encouragement to register paired with the Purse Auction graphic to Woman to Woman and Twice As Nice Resale (TANR) Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The week of the event, Hannah used TANR’s and Woman to Woman’s already implemented daily posts to advertise for the event. W2W’s #FactualFriday post let everyone know that the purse auction was coming up and TANR’s #TuesdayTreasures was of a purse that was currently for sale in the store with information that there would be more at the Ladies Purse Auction. The day of the event, Hannah was in charge of social media and co-coordinating the Twice as Nice Resale style show. Hannah communicated thoroughly with the style show volunteer models as to where they would go and what they would need to expect that morning. Hannah documented the event with pictures and videos of auctioned purses, brunch, the guest speaker, and the TANR Style Show. Hannah’s efforts on social media garnered 273 likes across all social media platforms combined. This year’s event’s monetary donations are still coming in, but so far the 193 guests in attendance gifted Woman to Woman with over $15,835, the highest amount received from the Annual Purse Auction ever! Hannah’s efforts will assist in the ultimate goal to further build the TANR and Woman to Woman social media and customer/client base thus increasing the number of low-income women who will receive free health care services.
In April, VISTA Sean Enfield recruited 20 new volunteers and managed 52 volunteers to help organize a number of events for the North Texas Performing Arts (NTPA) organization. He connected with the Plano chapter of the National Charity League to operate a crafting booth at the Shops of Willow Bend, a mall located in Plano, TX. This booth was used to reach kids and advertise for Plano Children’s Theatre’s eventual move into that retail center. In addition, he connected with National Honor Society chapters in the McKinney region to recruit volunteers for the last of NTPA’s award ceremonies. Throughout April, Sean worked to improve his volunteer recruitment and management skills. He developed a survey to distribute among the office staff weekly so that he can better prepare a list of Volunteer Needs, Opportunities, and Activities. He has also been working to improve communications among the existing network of parent volunteers, particularly as it pertains to the production volunteers.
This month was one of thankfulness and festivity as volunteers were appreciated at Woman to Woman Pregnancy Resource Center in Denton, TX. Volunteer Recruitment and Development VISTA Hannah played an integral role in developing the ways that Woman to Woman encourages and honors their volunteers. Hannah used social media to shed light on how thankful Woman to Woman is for their faithful volunteers. She did this by making one Volunteer Spotlight post each day. Hannah interviewed the volunteers and posted a little about them. Her goal in this was not only to honor each highlighted volunteer but also help people outside of the organization to better understand the joy, community, and integrity within Woman to Woman and encourage them to choose to volunteer with the non-profit. The organization hosted theme days with a candy or food item each day to give away to the volunteers to show appreciation. Hannah assisted Woman to Woman’s Volunteer Coordinator in assembling the needed decorations for the week. They set up a “Compliment Corner” to provide everyone with the opportunity to encourage others and create a more life-affirming atmosphere. Hannah anticipates that the volunteer environment at Woman to Woman will grow more and more like family and that this will draw in potential volunteers for the organization.
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.
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.