Friday, September 28, 2012

We will miss you Billie!

One of the perks of working for a great organization like The Salvation Army, is getting to know some great community leaders, via our Advisory Board.  They don’t list “getting to know the board” on our benefits sheet, but they probably should.  Our board is amazing and it has been led for the last two years by Billie Barnett. 

Billie is not a leader in title only.  She leads by example and works hard.  Personally, I attend or lead 3 board committee meetings monthly and although Billie doesn’t have to be at all of them, she almost always attends.  And she doesn’t just come to my meetings, she has equal enthusiasm for every meeting.  She always knows what is going on.  She checks in with me a lot and always encourages me to do my best and aim higher and higher. She has sat by me in donor meetings as we request gifts that are larger than 6 figures--she is fearless when asking others to financially support our work (and I think she could get us a donation to buy ice for Eskimos if we told her we needed it).

Various photos of Billie representing the Army
and one of she and I at her last meeting as Chair.

Billie is handing over the reins to our Advisory Board on Oct. 1.  She is moving on to some other exciting community roles with United Way and other local organizations.  She has promised me that she isn’t leaving for good and she will still serve on our board, but I will miss her leadership and that splash of orange she always adds to our meetings (GO POKES!). 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

'Tis the season!

Tis the season!   

For many people the holiday season is still far, far away. But here at the Salvation Army we have been gearing up for Christmas since July! If you are like us and already have holidays on the brain, we are now accepting volunteers!

Every year thousands come out and help us with a variety of volunteer opportunities, such as: Bell-ringing, Angel Tree Booths, Gift Sorting, Meal Serving, Christmas Distribution, Food Sorting, Food Packing and more. 

We hope you will be one of them!

To register for any of these great opportunities click here!

New this year!!

I am so excited to announce our new Winter Wonderland Experience. Every year hundreds of volunteers come through our doors during the Christmas season, but most only participate in one holiday opportunity and never get to see all of the efforts taking place to make Christmas wonderful for thousands of local families.

The Winter Wonderland Experience is a unique volunteer experience; you are able to choose how much time you'd like to give and we give you the opportunity to see what goes into creating Christmas joy for thousands in need.

Do you have a heart to serve a holiday meal, but would like to do more? Sign-up for our Snow Flake experience.

Are you really excited about the season? Already started singing "Silent Night"? Then we have the perfect opportunity for you! Be our Snow Angel and kick off the holidays right with a wide range of holiday volunteer opportunities!

Check out the other wintery opportunities HERE to decide which best fits your holiday schedule. 

Each Winter Wonderland volunteer will receive a limited edition t-shirt to wear while volunteering-- showing the world how special you are to us! You will also be invited to a VIP reception (in January) where you will be honored for your dedication to making The Salvation Army Christmas programs a success!

Spaces are very limited, so I hope to hear from you soon!


Friday, September 21, 2012

Meet Nate Waters, United Way star

One of my favorite things about fall is the United Way Annual Campaign.  For three years I've gotten to make speeches about The Salvation Army to organizations which contribute to the campaign.Tuesday I spoke at the OSU Center for Health Sciences and I had the added pleasure of running into an old friend, Nate Waters. Nate is in the United Way's campaign film and I had been looking forward to teasing him about being a movie star. A few years ago, I met Nate in the gym where we both work out at the Center for Individuals with Physical Challenges. Nate is partially paralyzed and I have a disability with chronic back pain. I usually see Nate when he has finished his work out and I'm just getting started. So he zips around the gym in his wheelchair wheeling and dealing on his cell phone while I'm grunting and groaning on the weight machines. The photo at left is of Nate, me and OSU-Tulsa President Howard Barnett. The photo at right is of the Center for Health Sciences' United Way campaign committee members, from left, R.D. Bell, Amanda Bern and Bria Taylor. 

Nate also spoke Tuesday and  I was interested in hearing more of his story. One of the things that amazes me about Nate is that he is now helping the organizations that helped him as a youth. As a teenager, Nate and his mom stayed in the Center of Hope for a short time when they moved from Chicago to Tulsa and became homeless. Nate was paralyzed after an altercation with his mother's boyfriend when he was 19.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Why the EFA program deserves another $20,000

Maybe it’s the grant writer in me or maybe it was the sheer volume of need I saw the day that I observed the inner workings of the Emergency Assistance Program at the Center of Hope, but I know for sure that the EFA program would easily put another twenty or heck, fifty thousand dollars to excellent use. To give an example of the volume, the 211 Helpline, the "911 number for social services" refers more callers to EFA than to any other social service program in the Tulsa area. (Read a Tulsa World article about it.)  The community members who apply to the EFA program have a direct need, a financial need, and come to the Salvation Army as an outlet of the community’s goodwill to get their need met.

Fortunately, The EFA application process is fairly straightforward. First, if a community member calls to inquire about financial assistance, they are directed to call back at 2pm to make an appointment. Appointments are made for the following business day, at 9am. At 9, applicants (of which there are usually between 20 and 40) come to see program specialists, Cathy and Heather,and fill out an application packet. The packet consists of just a few items: a photo id, the utility bill in question, verification of income (can be a current paycheck stub, DHS statement, or social security statement) and some sort of housing verification (rent receipt, lease agreement or mortgage papers). This usually takes about 15 minutes or so.

Then after packets are filled out, Cathy and Heather call each applicant up (by their folder number) and verify that they brought everything they need and to find out what their ‘story’ is -- that is, why they couldn’t pay their bill. For many, it was a matter of a fixed income and high summer bills not being compatible, for others, it's chronic unemployment. And of course, there’s always a handful of unusual circumstances: medical issues, immigration issues, and recent release from jail.
Applicants who I met ranged from families with children at home, to a great-grandmother toting a baby, to single moms, single dads, and ex-cons. Although the bills were high and the number of applicants lower, Cathy informed me that Christmas was the busiest season -- when the heating bills get big and families are trying to put together a good holiday for the kids.

Friday, September 14, 2012

4 Things You Don’t Know About Getting Financial Assistance from The Salvation Army

Recently, I left my cozy grantwriting cave, er, office at Tulsa Area Command and ventured over to our social services hub, the Center of Hope, in downtown Tulsa. I spent the morning shadowing a few different staff members as they went about their duties in the programs that we offer at the Center of Hope.  I spent the most time with the ladies who manage the day-to-day operations of the Emergency Financial Assistance program (EFA), Cathy and Heather. Cathy is a nearly 10 year Salvation Army veteran; she started working at the Center of Hope in 2003 and has been doing EFA for the past 5 years; she considers it her life work to assist families in need.

I was interested in learning about this program because I have a grant application that I’m putting together for a new funder- one that I know through my research is interested in social and community projects and has already given money to other local organizations similar to ours. And, as I was to learn, the EFA program is impressive in that it exemplifies what the Salvation Army does best: serves those in need, without discrimination.

1. Doesn’t matter who you are. The Emergency Financial Assistance program is open to everyone in need- regardless of home owner status or income. If you have a need, you can apply for assistance.

2. Helps with immediate needs. Most commonly, this looks like utility bills that are past due and/or in danger of being disconnected. You can bring your bill (along with a few other required items) and our case managers, like Cathy and Heather, will call the utility company on your behalf! (The woman pictured above didn't want us to use her name, but she was happy that we were able to help her with her untility bill!)

Vicki Thorne: blogger and grant writer

I'm so excited to introduce yet another member of our development team and a huge contributor to our social media efforts! Vicki Thorne joined our team here at the Army in July and has been a great addition. Vicki has lots of non-profit experience (working with YWCA, A New Leaf, Inc. and DVIS/Call Rape) as well as a firm foundation in writing and communications (Composition instructor at TU & TCC). So far she has been working tirelessly on some new funding for us as well as reinvigorating our social media presence.  Vicki is a Tulsan to her core with a love for midtown.  She recent finished renovating a classic Lortondale flat -opped home.  In her spare time Vicki and her husband attend LifeChurch and serve our state as a DHS Bridge Resource (i.e. Foster) Family. She always has great ideas and great stories to share and  I think you will be hearing a lot more from her on this blog in the future!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Day of Caring a success!

Each year the Salvation Army is fortunate to partner with the Tulsa Area United Way for Day of Caring.  For those of you not familiar with Day of Caring, it’s a Friday in September when dozens of businesses descend upon deserving non-profits to help provide much-needed services. It also serves as a way for businesses to give back to the community.  This year, The Salvation Army had volunteers from 16 different companies provide a little TLC to our six different Boys and Girls Clubs and the Center of Hope.  Many of the companies are return volunteers from previous years. 

The great thing about Day of Caring is that it’s a perfect testament to what people can do when they work together!  This year projects ranged from a cook-out for the guests at the Center of Hope courtesy of Mazzio's to the cleaning of the fence line at the Sapulpa Boys and Girls club, courtesy of the Williams Companies. 

With 16 companies providing an average of 20 volunteers per company and donating roughly 4 hours of their time that’s 1,280 hours of time donated.

Get to know Jenny McElyea

Jenny McElyea started as the Volunteer Coordinator At The Tulsa Area Command In March. Since then, we have all grown to appreciate her enthusiasm, warmth and surprising wit. I say surprising because although at first glance Jenny  appears to be a stay-behind-the-scenes, quiet and reserved young woman, when you get to know her she can be side-splittingly hilarious. We learned at our two recent golf tournaments that Jenny also has the qualities of the Energizer bunny. Long after those of us who are a little older are exhausted, Jenny keeps going, going and going. Jenny already has some huge volunteer successes under her belt including the recent Day of Caring!

Friday, September 7, 2012

QuarterShare uses beef for relief

People love their beef: the United States is #2 in the world for meat-eaters (Luxembourg is #1 – who knew?). I grew up hearing the slogan “Beef: it’s what’s for dinner.” But really, it’s what’s for snack time too.  Walk into any QuikTrip and you’ll see a section of beef sticks and jerky. There’s a new company that is using beef… for relief. QuarterShare works just like the name says: the company will donate one quarter of all beef snack sticks sold back to local charities, food pantries and after-school programs.

We met QuarterShare’s President and CEO, Richard Cranford, while planning our two summer golf tournaments.  Richard has been successful in executive management and is the founder and CEO of three medical device companies based in Tulsa.  Richard created the QuarterShare Beef4Relief program in hopes of helping several charities throughout the nation, starting in Tulsa. QuarterShare was a sponsor for both the 13th Annual Boys and Girls Clubs Golf Tournament and the 5th Annual Women Helping Women Golf Tournament. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

“Crafty Treasures Bazaar” starts Friday!

Beautiful handcrafted jewelry. Authentic  Native American pottery. Scrumptious baked goods. Hillbilly handicrafts. WHAT? Something doesn’t fit into the much-anticipated Crafty Treasures Bazaar and it looks like it is the hillbilly crafts of  Captain Jay Spalding (photo below right). The bazaar will be held at Area Command and is organized by the Citadel Corps where Jay and his wife Jamie are officers. “Please don’t make it sound like the whole bazaar is some kind of redneck craft show,” asked Capt.  Jamie and the Citadel’s busy assistant, Charity Mitchell.

I promised I wouldn’t  as we checked out the websites of some of the vendors. I’m going to be doing some early Christmas shopping at the jewelry booths if they are as wonderful as they look on line. (photo above left) The bazaar was also held last year, but this year it has expanded from the gym of the Citadel to The Salvation Army’s Area Command at 924 S. Hudson. Charity and Capt. Jamie have been planning the Crafty Treasures Bazaar for months and are proud of the elegant crafts that the hand-selected vendors will be selling.