“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!
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!
The Volunteer Coordination VISTA will help break down the barriers poverty creates for low-income children seeking an arts education through the development of a new comprehensive volunteer recruitment and training program. Major functions will include evaluation and updating the volunteer handbook, policies and procedures, evaluating the agency’s volunteer needs and recruiting 50 new volunteers to fill those needs, and the development of training materials to educate and enable volunteers to serve the needs of the agency. Applicants should possess good oral and written communications skills, volunteer recruitment experience and computer skills.
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!
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.
The month of July at Woman to Woman Pregnancy Resource Center in Denton, TX was volunteer focused for Hannah McNeill serving as the Volunteer Recruitment and Resource Development VISTA. She managed 45 volunteers with a total of 222 service hours. These volunteers consisted of two groups that served at Twice As Nice Resale and a training that she and VISTA Jen led for 5 volunteers to prepare them to become group leads. As Hannah finishes out her VISTA term, she has begun implementing a new volunteer opportunity that allows volunteers to lead groups. This opportunity will not only help to build confidence in the volunteer group leaders but also provide the Twice As Nice Resale staff with volunteer group resources so that they may easily focus on other tasks. Throughout Hannah’s VISTA term, she has coordinated with fellow VISTA Jen and designed comprehensive documents for leading volunteer groups; including a group summary sheet (group point of contact info, assigned projects, group size/demographic), a volunteer group task list (separated into appropriate tasks for seniors, College/adults, high school/middle school, and elementary school), and a volunteer group lead checklist. These volunteer group documents will allow Woman to Woman to experience more growth through effective and efficient communication with volunteer groups and aid in the retention of the great people who serve with the agency.
Volunteer Coordination VISTA Sean Enfield focused his efforts on expanding Plano Children’s Theatre’s (PCT) volunteer base through its summer intern program and a newly implemented Volunteer Training program. Both programs help make enrollment in productions and classes more affordable. PCT interns earn credits that can allow them to earn up $400 toward a future production, and volunteers often receive credits for the productions in which their child is cast. By expanding the reach of these positions, the theatre hopes to allow those who might be interested in theatre, but unable to afford it, an opportunity to participate with little to no financial involvement. Sean has developed trainings for two of the organizations vital volunteer positions and will eventually develop trainings for all positions. The goal is to minimize the stress in all of the positions and to acclimate new participants into the theatre community.
June was an exciting month for AmeriCorps VISTA Jennifer, who was able to grow within her role of volunteer training at Twice as Nice Resale, an entity of Woman to Woman Pregnancy Resource Center in Denton, TX. On June 24, Jennifer played a large role in the style show at Woman to Woman PRC’s annual Ladies’ Purse Auction, which also hosts a brunch, guest speaker, and an amazing silent auction. Working closely with 9 volunteers, Jennifer ensured they felt comfortable and confident in their roles by promoting proper training, communication, and clear instructions. The volunteers modeled head-to-toe outfits and their prices picked straight from Twice as Nice Resale to showcase how you can find cute clothes for a great price. In order to build capacity for Woman to Woman PRC as well as ensure success for the future VISTAS in her role, Jennifer documented every step of the process. This will allow the next VISTA or community volunteer acclimate to their role and make it easier for them to continue magnifying the prosperity of the organization through large events like this one. Indeed, the Ladies’ Purse Auction was a huge success with 193 women attending the event which raised $15,835, providing the highest numbers Woman to Woman PRC has seen yet! Jennifer loved seeing the team’s hard work flourish into such an amazing opportunity to provide Woman to Woman PRC with greater freedom to serve the Denton area’s low-income men, women, and families with free services.
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!