This is the fourth year of #GivingThanksgiving! We partnered with Radical Hospitality to deliver fully-cooked meals to families in need this #Thanksgiving. The event was hosted at Barley & Board and volunteers delivered full meals all over Denton.
A few months ago, we contacted a few of our nonprofit partner agencies and community partners to ask if they knew of anyone who was home-bound for the holiday and could use a Thanksgiving meal. They came back with 90 families, which equaled out to 311 individuals!
There is no shortage of hardworking nonprofit professionals in and around Denton County. In fact, many of these pros share a building with us. To recognize our partners and discuss how they Serve Denton, we decided to launch a recurring series about our Local Leaders.
Toni Johnson-Simpson: Executive Director of Denton County Friends of the Family
Here are a few volunteer opportunities happening in May! If you volunteer for any of these opportunities please email us a picture of yourself or your group during the event. Tag us and use the hashtag #ServeDenton for the chance to be featured on our social media platforms!
I cannot speak for all college students, but I believe many of us have some kind of meaningful experience during college that inspires us to change the world.
Sometimes though, we may become disheartened by the circumstances and realities around us that seem to limit our ability to influence all of the people, societies and institutions that make up the world. That is not to say none of us will make an impact for the benefit of many because that can still happen. However, what I think we sometimes miss that we can impact the world in which we live in through the immediate world around us—our community.
Serve Denton was able to honor CoServ at our April board meeting as our Business Partner of the Month! When it comes to their service to our organization, where do we even begin?
To start, CoServ gifted Serve Denton a $20,000 grant to go toward our partnership with the Denton Community Food Center. In less than a year, Serve Denton plans to move into a new building where the Denton Community Food Center will relocate in order to expand their services and serve more people facing hunger.
Serve Denton is excited to welcome a new nonprofit tenant: TruExpansion Foundation! Their mission is to teach and demonstrate personal development, life skills and wellness to youth. TruExpansion was founded in 2001 by Tawanna Rucker, a certified professional life coach and licensed wellness specialist who concentrates on youth development. The organization has four programs that aim to empower youth through encouraging self-confidence, building on strengths, improving self-confidence, and teaching life skills.
Denton Calvary Academy (DCA) has agreed to purchase all the property on the west side of Nottingham Drive and W. University Drive from Denton Bible Church (DBC).
Serve Denton currently leases a 32,000 square foot building on this property with a 20- year lease from Denton Bible Church. The agreement includes a significant termination fee that DCA will pay Serve Denton. This will enable Serve Denton to pursue other real estate options to advance its mission of supporting nonprofits that open doors for people in need to become self-sufficient. Serve Denton has formed a search committee to look for other potential properties to purchase, renovate and operate in a similar manner to what it does at its present facility.
As part of this agreement, Denton Bible Church will transfer the ownership of The Wheeler House to Serve Denton. This facility provides space for healthcare services, homeless street outreach, and transitional housing for women and children in need. Since Serve Denton has been staffing and operating the facility since its initial opening, the transfer of ownership gives Serve Denton more latitude for development and expansion of that mission. This transfer represents a significant gift to Serve Denton.
Concurrently, Pat Smith, Serve Denton’s Executive Director, has been generously loaned to the organization by Denton Bible Church for over two and a half years. He has given notice of his desire to step aside so the board of directors can hire a full-time executive director. A search committee composed of Tim Crouch, Larry Parker and Rebecca Stanley will lead the effort. Pat Smith is deeply committed to Serve Denton’s success and will remain a board member. The board anticipates making a hiring decision by March. Pat will remain the executive director until someone is hired and assumes that position.
For more information about Serve Denton, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Serve Denton is excited to welcome four new board members to the 2017 Serve Denton board of directors! The new board members include Cynthia Foster, Roxanne Del Rio, Desiree Patterson and Charles Crouch. Safran HR Manager Cynthia Foster has been a contributing member on the Serve Denton Communication Committee in 2016 as an independent and critical thinker. Roxanne Del Rio is the North Central Texas College Dean of Strategic Student Initiatives & Multicultural Outreach. Roxanne’s relationship building, follow-through, and problem-solving skills will be real assets to the Serve Denton team. The Crouch Group Account Executive Charles Crouch was previously the Serve Denton student board member and has now accepted a full position on the board of directors. Desiree Patterson, a Sports Nutrition graduate student from Texas Woman’s University is an honors student and the new student board member. Desiree is passionate about research and helping people make lifestyle changes to live better lives. We are so pleased to have these individuals on our team!
Additionally, Serve Denton also appointed a new chair, vice chairs and treasurer for the upcoming year! The Crouch Group President, Tim Crouch, is the new Board Chair. Tim Crouch has served on the board since our inception and continues to be a Serve Denton advocate. Denton Depot Owner Larry Parker moved up from Second Vice Chair to First Vice Chair. Guaranty Bank & Trust Vice President of Marketing Michele Barber is the new Second Vice Chair. DATCU Chief Financial Officer Melanie Vest is the new Treasurer.
We are looking forward to a great year full of a powerful and positive future! We now have 41 board members who are experts in many different fields such as banking, legal work, government, ministry and education. Thank you to the new and existing board members for your willingness to serve the community in this unique way. For the full list of board members, click the button below:
This fall, Serve Denton is helping start a project called The Little Free Pantry!
What is The Little Free Pantry?
The Little Free Pantry was an idea that started in May of 2016 in Fayetteville, AR, to support those dealing with food insecurity. The goal of this project was to bring the community together to provide easily accessible foods and goods to local individuals in need.
In most food pantries, you may be required to fill out an application or bring a photo ID. They also have set hours of operation restricting individuals looking for food support. The Little Free Pantry provides 24/7 access to food, without having to fill out any information.
With multiple locations, more people have an opportunity to obtain these goods if unable to walk or drive to a local food pantry center. The convenience of this project insures that everyone has access to free food and useful items no matter the circumstance.
Why Set up Little Free Pantries?
According to the Feeding America: Map the Meal Gap, approximately 115,480 individuals living in Denton County suffer with food insecurity. Out of that number, 41,140 of these individuals are children. This large amount of people needing assistance justifies the importance of this project.
How to Get Involved
Argyle Young Men’s Service League will take care of the installation and construction of the pantries. Once they are operational, there will be a need for sponsors to maintain and stock the units. Sponsors may include businesses, churches or nonprofits in Denton County.
Items that can be placed in the pantry may include canned goods, personal care items and paper goods. During cold weather months, pantries may also be stocked with mittens, gloves and scarves. Sponsors should have a group of individuals such as co-workers or members of an organization to continuously supply these pantries.
The Little Free Pantry project will create an environment that not only sparks up conversations but bring community-wide awareness to this issue.
We do not know the exact amount of people in Denton who are food insecure, but we do know those people are out there. Serve Denton hope this project will provide a new source of food for that unknown group of people in need and bring light to this issue while unifying our community.
If you or your organization is interested in sponsoring a Little Free Pantry, contact Serve Denton at email@example.com.
[button url="https://docs.google.com/a/servedenton.org/forms/d/17DX0wZMYPCOyzXjcy2cLiwQGkU05iuDazTUAIpCK9d4firstname.lastname@example.org&ts=57fe637f&actionButton=1#response=ACYDBNhUQjgQvBGqpB79YcAjiMdOG2kEe3Bu2an-MaOMW-jg2RaiFERfoFvusQ" color="gray"="_top" custom_class="" ]LFP Application[/button]
This is a video highlighting the woman who created the first Little Free Pantry!
We talked with two mentor navigators from NewDay Services' Fatherhood EFFECT Program, which is a class that gives male caregivers the skills they need to become more involved and stronger dads. They meet at Serve Denton every Saturday morning to go through the curriculum. Check it out!
Aunt Bertha is Serve Denton’s special aunt that helps people find the care they need in difficult times. Aunt Bertha is the Aunt we all had growing up. She tells it like it is. She’s the first one to give you a high-five when you make the honor roll. She’s the friendly face that won’t judge you when you get in trouble. She’s who you call or visit during those times when you get real with yourself. You see, Aunt Bertha is not a real person but a company whose mission is to make human service program information more accessible to those in need in order to help more people reach self-sufficiency. Aunt Bertha picks up where Uncle Sam leaves off by making it easy to find food, health, housing and education programs based on need.
It began with a simple idea – that every person and family should have one place online where they can find help in a time of need – and they’ve been transforming the way social services information is organized and delivered ever since. For people in need, Aunt Bertha is building the country’s most comprehensive online directory of social service organizations. By putting the information in their hands, they’re bringing dignity to the experience of finding help. And for organizations offering help, they are giving them tools and insights to deliver the right services to the right places and to do more with less.
She (Aunt Bertha) may not save the day – that’s up to you – but she can give you some perspective with a clear set of eyes and a full heart. – Founder, Erine Gray
By organizing the world’s human service program information, people can easily find out which programs they qualify for in a matter of seconds. Aunt Bertha also helps human service organizations administer programs better by offering easy-to-use web-based case management software.
Aunt Bertha is all about trying to help people understand options that are out there for people with low income. In the United States, there are 89,000 government organizations, over a million public charities and more than 300,000 congregations. Many of these organizations offer programs designed to help people with food, health, housing or education needs. But navigating through the information available can be intimidating – and all too often people give up and fall further into crisis.
Serve Denton is fortunate to have Aunt Bertha as one its strategic partners. They have helped us think through many issues and brought a capability to Denton County that few places have.
This June and July, they embedded some of their team with key nonprofits across Denton County to learn how to make Aunt Bertha easier to use for case workers and provide the functions those people wish they had. At the same time, they spent time with people called “seekers” who are searching for help.
They collected data during the monthly mobile food pantry and are using it to refine the system. All in the hopes of empowering everyone to find help when they need it and use their time efficiently rather than driving all over town asking for help and finding they need to go someplace else.
Serve Denton partnered with Aunt Bertha to create CAReS. It is the same database, just geared toward Denton County social services. Click on the button below to check out the website!
We look forward to continuing the collaboration and seeing Aunt Bertha grow in its use.
[button url="https://cares.auntbertha.com" color="gray" customcolor="""_top" custom_class="" ]Visit CAReS[/button]
Human Trafficking in Denton
When you think of human trafficking, you probably think of a few different things. The first could be history—you know that the buying and selling of humans has happened since—well, since always.
But you may not think it happens so much now, and where you believe it does happen is influenced by the second thing that comes to mind when you think of trafficking: Hollywood.
Movies like Taken brought a very specific, problematic kind of trafficking to light, which focuses most Americans’ attention to trafficking overseas. What you’re unlikely to think of is North Texas. You’re unlikely to think of people living in places like Southlake and Denton being trafficked, but the reality is this: it does happen here, and it happens often.
Vision Gets Involved
That’s why Vision Ministries has decided to host Human Trafficking 101: Our Children at Risk. We sat down with Carrie Powell, Women’s Coordinator at Vision Ministries, to talk about this community awareness event to understand more about what folks in Denton can get out of attending this seminar series.
What’s important to know, first and foremost, is Vision Ministries is not an organization that combats human trafficking directly. Vision Ministries is an outreach of Denton Bible Church that helps people get on their feet and get connected to the church and a faith community through programming and providing food, clothing, and other essentials.
As Carrie puts it, Vision is a “comfortable place” that the community relies on. They serve a diverse group of clientele and work with a faithful core of volunteers. They are eyes in the community, and what they see is a growing human trafficking problem.
Responding to a Crisis
In response to this, they’ve decided to jump into the fight against human trafficking. One way is through participation in the Denton County Human Trafficking Coalition, hosted and facilitated by Serve Denton. The coalition is a space where agencies that serve possible victims of human trafficking can come together to learn more about the issue and work collaboratively to stop trafficking in Denton County and surrounding areas.
Human Trafficking 101 is one of the efforts being made collaboratively to educate the community about what’s going on in Denton County. Over the course of four sessions, different agencies in North Texas that combat human trafficking in a variety of ways will present the community at large with information about how to recognize and report human trafficking as well as how to get involved as volunteers.
Carrie says they decided to hold the event because Vision is committed to taking ownership of Denton’s problems. “I’ve lived in Denton for 20 years. I feel like this is my town,” she says. According to her, initiatives like Human Trafficking 101 create the kind of awareness that “takes idleness and turns it into action.”
And there is a lot of action to be taken. North Texas is home to a growing number of agencies related to human trafficking and are always in search of new volunteers for a wide variety of needs; anything from writing to women who live in shelters to renovating group homes to participating on intel teams that use social media to find potential trafficking victims and perpetrators.
Human Trafficking 101 will take place over the course of four nights from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Denton Bible Church, located at 2300 E. University Drive Denton, TX:
To learn more about the Denton County Human Trafficking Coalition, please email Katelynn Blasavage at email@example.com.
On a hot July Saturday, a little over a year ago, volunteers from the Denton community, agency representatives from the Denton Hunger Coalition (DHC), and Tarrant Area Food Bank (TAFB) came together for two purposes—distribute fresh produce to hungry families in Denton County and make community resources available to them. The event was called “Summer Harvest.”
Serve Denton participated by offering space for the event, and its reception was overwhelmingly positive; the DHC distributed food to 521 families (adding up to 1,951 individuals) that day.
Following the success of this trial run, TAFB and DHC made a commitment to the Denton community—monthly mobile pantries on each second Saturday, and thus the Denton Mobile Pantry (DMP) was created. Including the Summer Harvest, the DHC and TAFB fed 1,969 families (7,673 individuals) in 2015 and have served 2,479 families (8,591 individuals) to date in 2016.
Second Saturday Success
Each month comes with its own set of challenges and rewards, but one constant across the board has been volunteer engagement. The DHC achieved what many groups struggle to do in its very first year operating the DMP—establishing core volunteers from diverse sources, including Catholic Daughters, Denton County Young Professionals, Young Men’s Service League, UNT, the Target Distribution Center, and more. Some volunteers, like Mr. Fritz, show up every second Saturday bright and early to make a difference in the community.
Others are able to commit less frequently, but make large commitments. For example, bringing large groups of volunteers or additional resources like free flu shots. An average of 50-60 volunteers show up each month. In 2015, the time they gave to the community collectively valued $23,370 in volunteer hours. In 2016 to date, that time adds up to $31,560. We cannot understate the importance of DMP volunteers, because they drive its biggest success—community engagement.
Without terrific volunteers, the DMP would simply have been an event that distributes food. While that function of the pantry is essential, it relies on the community built around it for continued success. The Denton Mobile Pantry is more than a resource; it’s a community event bringing families, friends, and volunteers together. It’s part of a growing culture of service and generosity in Denton County.
The DHC is also committed to ensuring the DMP is waste-free. Denton Mobile Pantry coordinators arranged for Shiloh Fields to receive and compost all spoiled produce, and distribution materials like boxes and pallets are reused when possible and otherwise recycled.
When It Works Best
While the first year of the DMP has been an overwhelming success, the DHC is committed to making improvements that will help it grow with the needs of the community. That’s done in a few ways by the coalition: tracking GIS data helps the coalition understand where in Denton County people reached, talking with clients to understand how food is being used at home, and pursuing agency partnerships to increase DHC capacity. Additionally, the coalition identifies factors influencing attendance each month to develop targeted solutions.
The DMP takes place outside, so weather is an important factor in attendance; water is provided in the summer when possible. Accessibility is an issue as well, so a collaborative effort with Primrose Senior Apartments and Heritage Oaks Senior Apartments means that seniors and homebound folks are able to receive food from the DMP each month through the work of Primrose staff and volunteers that pre-register recipients and deliver food directly to residents.
Availability of food for the whole family, including four-legged friends, contributes to the success of the DMP as well; a new partnership with Don’t Forget to Feed Me allows the DHC to distribute dry dog and cat food to DMP recipients.
However, data shows that what may be the most important factor in DMP success is its involvement of the community. Three times in its first year the DMP was hosted in conjunction with a community resource fair, and these three months were among the highest in terms of attendance. People come for the food, yes—but they often have other needs as well, and providing access to community resources makes the DMP an even more effective event.
Steps for the Future
The first year of the DMP has exceeded the expectations of the DHC. There is excitement among members for what is to come and passion for continued growth in the face of Denton County’s increasing needs for access to healthy food.
The DMP is an excellent model for community engagement and provision, and it’s beautiful to see people being served and walking away happy, hopeful, and sure of their next meal. The DHC is just getting started, and Serve Denton is glad to be a part of it.
The Denton Mobile Pantry is operated by the Denton Hunger Coalition and committed community volunteers. Food is provided by the Tarrant Area Food Bank, and space is provided by Serve Denton. If you’d like to get involved with the Denton Mobile Pantry, visit the Denton Hunger Coalition Facebook page, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or sign up to volunteer and receive updates at http://vols.pt./Ohqu3M. To learn more about mobile pantries like Denton’s, visit TAFB at http://tafb.org.