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What Community Service Taught Me as a College Student

What Community Service Taught Me as a College Student

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.

Nonprofit Centers & Why They Exist

Nonprofit Centers & Why They Exist

Serve Denton operates two nonprofit centers in Denton, TX, which provide low-cost space and collaborative opportunities to nonprofit agencies in the health and human services industry. We are not alone in our efforts, there are almost 400 known nonprofit centers in the U.S. and Canada! Together our sector occupies 13.75 million square feet, houses 28,000 employees and serves 99,000 people per week. The majority of the information and the studies below are from Nonprofit Centers Network. To find out more about them, click HERE.

Little Free Pantries are Coming to Denton!

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 info@servedenton.org.

 

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This is a video highlighting the woman who created the first Little Free Pantry!

The Creative Mind Behind The Tiny House Project: Hannah Rodriguez

This summer, we had the privilege of having Hannah Rodriguez intern for Serve Denton. She is leaving us this week to finish her last year of the interior design program at the University of North Texas. In just a short three months, she helped start an initiative here in Denton, one with the word “tiny” in the name, but no tiny task at all – the Tiny House project. She is one of the reasons the conversation about legalizing tiny houses in Denton has been brought to light. Instead of me blabbing on about what she accomplished this summer, I’ll let her answer the questions!

What was your role at Serve Denton?

Conceptual Synthesis. So my job was essentially to explore and sort through tons of ideas with the help of my team and put together the most helpful ones.

From there, I tried to figure out how these ideas are represented and felt in the built environment. How can a house or a neighborhood embody a holistic community environment—what does that physically look like? How does someone build that? What is it in the physical environment that makes people want to interact? My job was to figure that out.

What have you accomplished so far?

I created a site plan and five preliminary tiny house designs. To do this, I collaborated with many homeless outreaches and tiny house owners in DFW.

With the generation of this visual starting point, I think I’ve been able to foster a strong sense of unity within the team and that is something I’m extremely proud to have been able to create.

[button url="http://docdro.id/wFKCiL7" color="gray" customcolor="" iconcolor="white="_top" custom_class="" ]Final Site Plan[/button]

What have you learned?

  • I learned a lot about Denton and it's people.
  • I learned that people aren’t what they look like and shouldn’t be measured by my own standard of living.
  • I learned how to learn from opinions with grace and an open mind rather than allowing different viewpoints to offend me. I think I’ve fully grasped the power of positivity in the face of negativity.

What do you see happening with tiny houses (in Denton) in the future? 

Denton is full of unique individuals who are unafraid to venture outside of norms. I think this is the perfect city for tiny houses to flourish. A lot of what I’ve done, I see as not simply for one demographic or one crisis, but as laying a foundation upon which anyone can build. I think people, especially in Denton, are starting to look around and realize they don’t need a lot of (fill in the blank) to have a full life. Tiny houses in all their forms are perfect for that kind of idea, and I think they’ll catch on once the initial step is taken.

Any cool stories/ experiences/ people you've met? 

I’ve met and worked with several city officials, which I kind of find cool because I’m a bit of a nerd. I’ve hung out with Alexis and Christian from the Tiny House Expedition which was one of the coolest tiny house experiences I’ve had so far. Also, everyone at Serve Denton is so inspiring. They are literally always stoked by making an impact in people’s lives.

I’ve met lots of homeless residents. I made a really cool homeless friend named Michael who always reminds me that God loves me which is super encouraging. I’ve spent a lot of time at the library which is always filled with homeless people on the weekends.

Any Final Words?

I sought out this internship because I wanted to help people. What I got out of it was a VIP ticket to a new world. At the beginning, I was really challenged by my unconscious misconceptions of people who aren’t like me. I don’t think I’d ever really taken the time to think about homelessness before. I knew it was a sad thing, but I never really thought about why. Growing up, homeless people were kind of the epitome of stranger danger, and I never really thought about why. It has been truly eye-opening to now be in a position of service to people I’d always kind of pitied from afar.

I’m just at the edge of my seat in anticipation for the day I get to come back to Shiloh Village and be able to meet someone and ask them how they like their house. I mean, hopefully, they don’t hate it. Haha! That’d be pretty depressing.

But seriously, that day is literally the day of my dreams.

Lunch with a Leader Podcast

We interviewed Amber Shattuck from Communities in Schools North Texas to talk about a new mentoring program coming to Denton called Lunch with a Leader, which focuses on leadership development in a small group atmosphere. If you want to get involved, email Amber at volunteer@cisnt.org.

Moms Moving Out

This past Christmas, two of the four moms staying at The Wheeler House moved out into permanent housing. This was the goal for Giving Hope INC., the organization that manages the housing portion of The Wheeler House. The Wheeler House provides transitional housing for single moms and their children in a housing crisis. The first mom to move out of The Wheeler House transitioned out in late October. Many of the moms now live in the same apartment complex, which gives them a sense of safety and support. Jamie Gutierrez, one of the moms who recently moved out of The Wheeler House with her three children said it felt like a family the first week everyone moved into The Wheeler House.

Jamie Gutierrez never had to spend a day on the streets because of The Wheeler House, which is one of the reasons she said, “For anyone that doesn't believe that God always finds a way! I lost all hope until I found the Wheeler House! Thank you Giving Hope and Serve Denton."

With the continued help from Giving Hope and our faithful Denton community, these moms will have a support system for the rest of their lives. For more information about The Wheeler House, please contact Serve Denton Executive Director Pat Smith at psmith@servedenton.org or Giving Hope, INC. Executive Director Dr. Alonzo Peterson GH CD at alonzopeterson@hopeincdenton.com.