Guest Post: The Hidden

by Carol Klocek, CEO, Center for Transforming Lives

In late February, I had an opportunity to speak about family homelessness at a forum designed to address the growing reality in our community and in our country. 

On the panel with me was a courageous young mother who told her story of waiting to get into a homeless shelter after her infant son left the NICU. They were first told that they did not ‘look homeless’ and turned away.  After living in a tent for a time behind a hotel, she returned and was put on a list.  Every Friday she called to see if a spot had opened for her and her newborn.  After three long, frightening months of living in a tent, being helped by other homeless strangers, they were admitted.  And their lives began to change.

With braces, nervous giggles and tears, and bright blue hair, this young woman told her story.  She is proud of how far she has come and knows their future holds more struggle and difficulty, but she describes herself as determined. “I’m going to make it” she said – over and over again throughout the day. 

I wonder if I could I be that strong?  That fearless?  Or was she hiding her true feelings because she is so used to being judged?  I don’t know. 

What I do know is that there are many more young mothers just like her, and they need our help. 

The Center for Transforming Lives led a collaborative effort, resulting in a report, The Hidden Homeless: Early Childhood Homelessness in Tarrant County.  Recommendations were developed by this group to effect change to systems so they work better for children and more effectively take their needs into account.

Key points:

  • An estimated 14,981 children experience homelessness each year in Tarrant County, meaning they and their families live in other people’s homes, motels, shelters or sleep in cars. 
  • All forms of homelessness for children cause trauma, negatively impacting their developing brains, as well as harming physical and emotional health.
  • The homeless service system is not equipped to handle these unseen families.
     

We’ve created the Coalition for Homeless Children to effect these changes by:

  • Championing change in the homeless service system through and alongside Tarrant County Homeless Coalition’s Task Force on Family Homelessness, 
  • Engaging faith communities by bringing Bridge of Hope programming to Tarrant County, 
  • Establishing a pilot project serving 30 families, to demonstrate how integrating safe housing, affordable child care, employment and transportation is more effective at eliminating homelessness for families with young children, 
  • Working with policy partners in local, state and federal level system to better meet the needs of children and families experiencing homelessness.

If you’d like a copy, please visit https://www.transforminglives.org/hidden-homeless. 

At the Center for Transforming Lives, this collaborative effort has taken us out of our comfort zone and pushed the boundaries of our transformative work.  Sometimes you have to go big so kids can go home.

September Nonprofit of the Month: Center for Transforming Lives

Welcome to Center for Transforming Lives (CTL), our first Reader’s Choice nonprofit of the month feature. Beginning as the first YWCA in Texas in 1907 as a boarding house for poor women, the organization expanded services over the years, and in 2015, changed its name from YWCA Fort Worth and Tarrant County to Center for Transforming Lives, directly describing the organization’s mission. Their mission: lifting women with children from poverty to possibility.

CLT provides safe homes, early childhood education, and financial and career coaching for women and children in Tarrant County. Through these programs, they serve 3,500 annually, helping to break the cycle of poverty.

This month, I hope you will follow along with us as we hear from their Chief Executive Officer, Carol Klocek and share stories of CTL’s success over the years and the women and families CTL has impacted.

Learn more now:
www.transforminglives.org
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When the Vision Comes True

The vision of Fort Worth Metro is to see the generational cycles in the inner city of Fort Worth be broken in children and their families by providing them with hope and resources. Here is a story of that vision coming true for one special Metro family.

Story by Ruth Calzada, Executive Director, Fort Worth Metro

Meet Mrs. Tamara Royal.  She has a son who is 27.  He attended Metro from the age of 7.  He is graduating this fall from the University of Houston, and you can bet for sure Metro will be there. Her youngest is 11.  We have practically helped raise her kids in the Stop 6 area.  However, Mrs. Tamara got an amazing opportunity to make a new way for her family this past April.  She moved from the Stop 6 Projects into a beautiful new apartment complex.  She called me one day because she was struggling financially.  She works for the school and when they are not in session, she does not have income. I rallied and collected groceries for her.  When I delivered the groceries, I discovered they were living in this apartment and it was empty. They had NO FURNITURE!

She gave me a tour of the empty shell of an apartment, and she was SO PROUD!  Proud to have made a new way for her family!  I discovered that the projects she had moved from were so infested with bugs and roaches, that she left all of her furniture behind.  Yet she was SO PROUD of her new place.  She said, “It’s like a mansion isn’t it!?!” 

I spent the next few days rounding up furniture for her, and within a week her apartment was fully furnished. She is thriving and has successfully paved a new path for her and her family!

Help Fort Worth Metro continue to live out their mission and vision by supporting them with your own time, talent, and treasure. We’ve spent the month sharing Metro stories and ways to get involved. Now learn how your dollars can make an impact on Metro and the families they serve:

How Your Dollars Help

  • $50 buys a child a new bike
  • $25 buys a new toy
  • $20 buys a frozen turkey
  • $72 fills the Metro truck with fuel for mobile outreach
  • $20 buys a brand new pair of tennis shoes
  • $15 buys a package of socks
  • $200 buys our weekly give away for our students
  • $250 month helps us maintain our sound and equipment resources for our mobile outreach

No matter how you want to get involved, stay connected with Fort Worth Metro on the web, Facebook, or Instagram.

Get Involved with Fort Worth Metro

Fort Worth Metro not only goes out into the community on a weekly basis to bring hope and lasting change, they hold three annual events to continue to provide for Fort Worth citizens. To get involved with one of the events listed below, visit their website to learn more.

SOLES4 SOULS
The highlight and largest outreach event of the year of Fort Worth Metro’s year is their Soles4Souls event. Fort Worth Metro gives away more than 1,000 brand new tennis shoes. Guests take a seat in a tent, sitting across from a Metro worker who has a towel and a water bucket. The Metro team washes guests’ feet and prays with them before supplying them with a brand new pair of tennis shoes.  It is an opportunity for the guests to feel SO SPECIAL, even if it’s just a for that one short moment. 

THANKSGIVING
Thanksgiving time at Fort Worth Metro means the annual turkey drive, collecting frozen turkeys to give to the families they serve.  One year more than 900 turkeys were handed out to families in need. 

Metro Executive Director, Ruth Calzada recalls one special woman from the event. “One day at our Stop 6 event, I looked out into the crowd and saw a mother crying.  I went to check on her and asked her is she was ok.  She said ‘I was wondering how I was going to feed my kids while they were out on Thanksgiving break.  This turkey is going to feed them and I’m so grateful.'”
Gift cards in multiples of $20 are a great way to give back for this event. The more turkeys Metro can provide, the more families they are able to serve during the time of year where we wish thanks on all.

BIKES
Fort Worth Metro gives something big away at Christmas, whether bikes, scooters, stockings, etc.  Two years ago, there was a young lady named Cindy.  She had received her bike, and she came up to Mrs. Ruth crying.  She said “Mrs. Ruth thank you so much for my new bike.  I have NEVER had a bike of my own.” We got to make her dream come true! 

Guest Post: Fort Worth Metro

by Ruth Calzada, Executive Director, Fort Worth Metro

People ask me often “why do you do what you do?”  My short answer is always “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”  But allow me to share my long answer with you.

I was 12 years old in the summer between my 7/8 grade school year. I was headed on a mission trip to Detroit, Michigan. We were going to be working in the inner city, and I could not have been more excited! We did street ministry, homeless outreaches, children’s crusades in parks and so much more. I was in heaven! It was like nothing I had ever experienced before. I was hooked! The fulfillment in my heart was indescribable.

Fast forward to right out of high school.  I was asked to volunteer with “Metro” in Stop 6.  The man running the program was a part of my church, and he needed workers.  That was in 1993, and here I am today, still in Stop 6.  Only now I am the Executive Director.

After volunteering for a few years, I met my husband and he quickly jumped right in.  We were married in May 1997.  In August of that year, I quit my job and began running Metro full time.  By January 1998, he did the same.  Within our first year of marriage, we quit both of our jobs and went into full time ministry together.  It was tough financially, but God never ever let us down!

We have raised our kids alongside the ministry.  At 6 weeks old, my daughter was in a backpack carrier, while I gave out school supplies to needy kids.  My kids were potty trained on our Metro outreach truck!  And now they help us run the entire thing.  

It’s our heartbeat!  It’s our passion!  It’s everything to us.  The opportunity to invest into other people is the most rewarding experience I could ever have.  There is nothing more fulfilling than knowing you were the hands and feet of Jesus.  Nothing more amazing than seeing hope restored in someone’s eyes. 

I have a philosophy that I was taught way back in 1993 when I first stepped foot into Stop 6 and I live by in ministry.  I don’t wear sunglasses, or anything that covers my eyes!  Often times, the beautiful people in the inner city feel forgotten, overlooked, neglected, unloved, not wanted and unimportant.  My goal and my focus when I am out at Metro is to look people right in the eyes, to touch them, to hug them, to call them by name, to make them feel like they are the only person that matters in that moment.  I keep my eyes uncovered so they know that I see them.  Even more than that, God sees them!  They are NOT FORGOTTEN!

Another question I get asked often is “You’re still doing that?”  Often times people are shocked to find out that I’m still “doing Metro” after all of these years.  Consistency and Longevity are two of our core values!  We are in this for the long haul.  Our goal isn’t to come in and provide our families with a quick fix.  Our goal is to be a strong foundational resource that they can rely and depend on and yes we are over 25 years strong, but we intend on being another 25 years stronger!

If I had to share one of my biggest, honest frustrations, I would have to say that I believe people don’t realize the need that is literally right under their noses!  So many programs and resources are sent over and over again to foreign countries.  While I know there is such a great need there, we have MAJOR needs sitting right here in our back yard! 

I remember one year, at Christmas, we had an organization that wanted to adopt one of our families.  We were told to get “wish lists” from the kiddos.  In our excitement, we sat the kids down and were ready to come up with a whopper of a CHRISTMAS LIST!  Here is how the conversation went…

Me:  Mireya, if you could have anything you wanted at all for Christmas, what would you want?
Mireya:  (With a very perplexed expression!) School Supplies?
Me:  No, I mean if you could dream of anything at all you wanted for Christmas, ANYTHING, what would you want?
Mireya:  Pencils?

I was shocked!  Hope didn’t exist for Mireya!  She didn’t even have the ability to dream!  It broke my heart!  I’ve seen this time and time again. 

Last year we adopted a family and when we delivered the toys, I was shocked to see the conditions.  We walked into the “living room” and in the middle of the room was one big torn up mattress and a broken futon. All of the children were sleeping right in the middle of that room on that one mattress.  The gas stove was on to provide heat in the apartment.  This was just a small taste of how many of our Metro families live.  Kids are growing up right here in the City of Fort Worth, lacking so many of their basic needs being met and WE CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!

We’ve seen ups and downs, wins and losses, we’ve seen successes and failures.  We’ve seen teen pregnancies and we’ve seen high school graduates.  We’ve seen some of our young men get arrested, while others are now husbands and fathers.  We’ve seen some pillars of these neighborhoods pass on to be with Jesus.  We have roots.  We have connection.  They are our family!  They mean the world to us.  We protect them and love them as if they are our own.  We take this calling very seriously. 

We are in this for the long haul. Lasting change, breaking generational cycles, building strong foundations that will last an eternity!

Learn more about Fort Worth Metro by visiting http://ftwmetro.org

August Nonprofit of the Month: Fort Worth Metro

Meet Fort Worth Metro.

An organization that has served Fort Worth for more than 25 years, and, until recently, not many in the community knew about it. It’s one of those “best kept secrets” that doesn’t need to be a secret anymore.

Fort Worth Metro provides tangible resources to needy families throughout the inner city of Fort Worth giving hope to those that feel hopeless. With a mission to impact the city of Fort Worth with hope and bring lasting change to generations, Metro, as those that know it well say, utilizes its 24-foot sound stage and trailer as a way for families to experience God’s hope and peace.

Metro staff and volunteers live by the values of the organization: Consistency, Tangibility, Visibility, and Mobility. They are not a one-time visitor to the areas they serve. They return weekly with messages of faith. They return with groceries for those who are hungry. They return with shoes for those who need a new pair. They return with turkeys for a holiday meal. But most importantly, they return with fun activities letting families enjoy time together without the stresses of their everyday lives.

Throughout the month of August, follow along as we learn more of the impact that Fort Worth Metro has on our community.

Learn more now:
www.ftwmetro.org
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Congratulations!

Thanks so everyone who voted in the Nonprofit of the Month Reader’s Choice poll! I look forward to learning more and sharing more with you all about a variety of nonprofits, including our Reader’s Choice winners:

  • Tarrant County Furniture Bank
  • Tarrant Churches Together
  • Center for Transforming Lives
  • James L. West Center for Dementia Care

Vote for your Favorite

You’ve told us who is your favorite, and now it’s time to vote for your favorite nonprofit to be featured as the Reader’s Choice nonprofit of the month.

Vote on the PBx Facebook page to select the Reader’s Choice nonprofit. Voting will end July 24.

Reader’s Choice nonprofits will receive:

  1. Q&A with staff member of choice.
  2. Sharing of client stories, stats, photos.
  3. Guest blog post.
  4. Ability to share how donated dollars make an impact for the organization.

Best of luck to our amazing Fort Worth based organizations:

ACH Child and Family Services, Alliance for Children, Casa Manana, Center for Transforming Lives, James L. West Center for Dementia Care, Lena Pope Home, Tarrant Churches Together, Tarrant County Furniture Bank, and Women’s Policy Forum.

What’s Your Favorite Fort Worth Area Nonprofit?

We all have our favorite nonprofit organizations. Whether we’ve worked for them, received services from them, volunteer for them, or simply love their mission, our favorites leave a mark on our hearts.

As PhilanthroBlox grows, I want to share favorite nonprofits with my growing readership through a new feature launching in August, Nonprofit of the Month. Some will be my my choice, others will be readers’ choice.

Want your local nonprofit to become readers’ choice? Here’s how to nominate your fave:

  1. The organization must be located and serve the greater Fort Worth, TX, community.
  2. Leave a comment with your nomination of your favorite nonprofit on any of the PhilanthroBlox social media sites.
  3. Sign up to follow the PhilanthroBlox blog, like/follow PhilanthroBlox on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
  4. Share with your friends and ask them to do the same.
  5. The nominations will close July 10.
  6. A new round of votes will commence July 15 with a new set of guidelines to help select reader’s choice. Follow along to gain additional free publicity for your nonprofit.

As the Nonprofit of the Month, the selected nonprofit will receive:

  1. Q&A with staff member of choice.
  2. Sharing of client stories, stats, photos.
  3. Guest blog post.
  4. Ability to share how donated dollars make an impact for the organization.

This is simply my way of saying “Thank You” to the nonprofits who do amazing work in our community while sharing their mission and stories with a new audience.

Volunteering is good for the heart

Last week I spent time with youth from my church as they participated in a Give Back Camp. I helped kids who just finished 3rd through 5th grade volunteer in the community during their summer break. To them, it was fun activities to fill their days while parents were at work. To those they served, it may have been the best thing that happened to them all week. The children painted, cleaned, cooked, made crafts and performed music. While they performed their first song “Jesus Loves Me” at a dementia care center, one of the residents began singing along – word for word. He continued to sing through a few more songs common in most churches. It’s moments like this that remind me why it is so important to volunteer.

My own volunteer path started when I was around 4 years old. I remember sitting on the floor of the Junior League of Memphis headquarters licking stamps for a mailing. My mom was a member, and I often accompanied her to her volunteer outings. I continued to volunteer throughout high school with my church, the children’s hospital, and my school. Once I was on my own, my volunteering slowed during college and the early years of my career. As I became more settled in my non-profit career, I realized I needed to begin volunteering again, so I did. Some of my volunteering consisted of team building with my co-workers. Other volunteering began with organizations that I had a personal connection. My volunteer commitments have changed through the years as I learned how to make them work with my schedule. I’m the type of person that has a hard time saying “No”. My colleagues know that I will help out in any way that I can, so they ask. Today, I’m more particular about when and where I volunteer, but I still will do my best to help in any situation.

As fundraisers, we spend our days working to raise funds for a cause. We tell the stories that will pull at a donor’s heartstrings. We share the statistics, results, impact, etc. of our organization’s programs. As I continued to grow in my nonprofit career, I look for organizations that have meaning to me. While there are plenty of volunteer positions available, I realized early on if I didn’t have a heart for the mission, then I did not enjoy the volunteering as much. The best volunteer jobs left me with the “this makes a difference” feeling. Whether serving on a board of directors, serving on an event committee, or training with others who are wanting to end blood cancers, all of the tools I’ve learned as a volunteer have impacted my career as well.

As a nonprofit fundraiser, I rely on volunteers to make anything I do successful. Fundraisers are constantly looking for their next volunteer chair. We build committees knowing that many voices are much better than one. We look to our friends and colleagues to help build out successful campaigns. We need to also remember to spend time within our own organization, outside of the fundraising department.

Why should a fundraiser volunteer within his/her own organization? Because it brings you back to the basics of why we do what we do. Volunteers, like fundraisers, have a heart for the organization. One of my favorite activities when I worked at Girl Scouts was to spend time with the team that took Girl Scouting into Title 1 schools through a program called Girl Scouts at School. The girls served are so excited to have this after school activity. The energy the girls have filled my heart and gave me a personal story to share when talking to donors about the program. Each year, at the beginning of the school year, I volunteered to help with the initial meetings. My last year on staff (although I didn’t know it was my last year at the time), I told the girls at that meeting I would be back to see them. For their end of semester party, I came back. I had spent one hour with these girls previously, and they remembered me! I was blown away by their excitement to see me again, although I can guarantee you I was more excited to see them. The smiles and faces that I remembered from day one were even bigger smiles at the end of the semester. I could see the impact this program made in their lives. As fundraisers, we need to get out of our department and spend time in a volunteer’s shoes within one of the organization’s programs.

As a parent, I want my child to understand the importance of giving back just as my mom taught me. Today, I spend more time volunteering than working. My son watches me “work” on projects throughout the year. He sees how much I love doing it. He wants to learn more about what I’m doing and why. When I tell him I do this as a volunteer, he is always amazed. He’s eight. When I can, I take him with me to age appropriate activities to teach him the value of giving back. He has now started to ask when he can go do certain activities again. To him, it’s a fun way to spend his time as he doesn’t quite understand the impact his actions are making on others. To me, it’s an important life lesson on the value of giving to others.

Why I love volunteers? Volunteers are the lifeline of most nonprofit organizations. Everyone from your board president down to the teenager who comes in to earn volunteer hours for school has an impact on your organization. We spend the month of April annually celebrating our volunteers during National Volunteer Month. We celebrate with luncheons, awards, ceremonies, words of thanks, and so on to recognize and honor our volunteers. What are we doing the other 11 months of the year to celebrate these important people in our organization? If your organization is not thanking volunteers on a regular basis, think of ways to make that happen. A simple, “I appreciate what you do for us” goes a long way.

The 2018 statistics from the Independent Sector regarding the value of the volunteer hour is estimated at $25.43. Now, think about your nonprofit organization. How many volunteers do you have? On average how many hours do they volunteer. Multiply that by $25.43. That is a good chunk of change. One organization I volunteer with provides more than $1.2 Million worth of time and talent annually through volunteers.

Volunteers make a difference in the lives of those they help and the organizations which they are committed. Volunteers come to organizations with various time commitments, talents, and a wide range of ages. Some volunteers are passionately opinionated, while others are not. Some volunteers you will only see once or twice, while others will stay for years. Some volunteers want to be able to come with friends and family, while others are looking for individual opportunities. There is a volunteer for every organization, and an organization perfect for everyone who wants to volunteer.

Last week, I watched a group of youth paint a heart in a homeless shelter. The heart began as a simple outline of geographic shapes with a cross in the middle. The completed heart was filled with colorful shapes surrounding the solid heart. When you volunteer, you begin as the outline – beautiful, but not truly knowing what you are missing. Through a volunteer experience, much like the heart, you begin to take on the color and story of an organization while filling your heart.

Unsure of where to start looking for volunteer opportunities? Look up your local volunteer center, think about the nonprofits that you already commit your personal dollars to annually, and ask your friends what they do to volunteer.  No matter how little time you think you have, there is always time to volunteer.