“Focusing on our foundation and building on it” is the theme that VISTA Jennifer Annen is using to create a new training for the volunteers at Woman to Woman’s Twice as Nice Resale in Denton, Texas. January was the second phase in the construction of the quarterly training, known as “BUILD,” for the resale store’s staff and 120+ active volunteers. After conducting over 20 hours of interviews with current volunteers, Jennifer and her volunteer management team took the feedback into consideration when planning how to most efficiently use the volunteers’ valuable time during trainings. Jennifer and her team began by replacing one of their old methods of training every first Thursday of the month and implemented BUILD, which would gather more volunteers at a time most convenient to them and jam-packed with the most pertinent information. By working closely with various presenters to compose their portion of the training, Jennifer made sure that the activities and lessons would be worthwhile, interactive, and even fun! To string together all sections of the training, Jennifer designed a PowerPoint presentation that remained on the screen to help the audience follow and to highlight the largest takeaways. She and the volunteer management team created a booklet for all of the audience members to fill in the blanks, take notes, and walk away with important upcoming dates and events. Ultimately, forty-five volunteers and staff participated in the training event and two of the founding board members even made an appearance. One of the highlights of the evening involved a long-term volunteer of thirteen years who spoke about why she has stayed with Woman to Woman for so long and how much of an impact you can within your volunteer service. Jennifer’s team received excellent feedback from all attendees and she cannot wait to see all of the hard work of the BUILD event transpire into more cohesiveness and ownership within the ministry. The value of these amazing volunteers’ service has helped to provide over 1,700 hours at the resale store in just the last month of 2017 alone. These hours enable Twice as Nice to serve Woman to Woman in providing many free services to the community. Jennifer hopes that these quarterly trainings will encourage volunteers to continue spreading the word to friends and the community how just serving a few hours a week can provide so much for the Denton County area!
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.
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!
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.
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.
This month, Denton County Friends of the Family Speakers Bureau grew when two new members joined the group. VISTA Nicole Owens provided the first part of their training in which they learned the basics of intimate partner violence and sexual assault. It also got easier for volunteers to get involved with the creation of a shared speaker’s bureau calendar. Volunteers will easily be able to see when they can help and participate in presentations. One volunteer started presenting individually when Nicole became unexpectedly ill shortly before a presentation. With no other staff members available on such short notice, the speaker’s bureau volunteer was able to step up and represent Denton County Friends of the Family. VISTA Nicole’s training perfectly prepared this volunteer for any circumstance!
Many new volunteers are quite nervous on their first day and wonder a lot about their new organization they are volunteering for. Topics like “what is the dress code?”, “where do I park?”, “what time is my shift?”, and “who do I contact if I cannot make it?” are examples of questions that bounce around in a new volunteer’s mind. VISTA Sarah Crain sought to find a solution that would help give information to these new volunteers in a concise and effective manner. From previous volunteer experience, Sarah was able to author a New Volunteer Information Packet that included answers to all of the above questions. She also added in a letter from the Director of Woman to Woman to engage volunteers and ensure they knew their time was extremely valuable. This welcome packet will be given to every new volunteer that starts with Woman to Woman by the Volunteer Coordinator. Come to a volunteer information meeting for Woman to Woman and you can see Sarah’s work!