By Kelsey Snyder, Thrivalaska VISTA '19-20
Serving as the Development Coordinator at Thrivalaska involves a lot of outreach to the community including creating relationships with donors and companies. I recently submitted a grant to Wells Fargo to help my host site complete a re-flooring project at our thread Resource and Referral building. One of the main goals for my year of service is to help my site see visible growth in their ability to reach out to companies and individuals in the community for project and program support.
While the flooring project may not be seen as a dire need project, many families come to our organization looking for resources and we want to ensure they feel welcomed and comfortable while getting the help they need. We have used grants as an opportunity to gain funds for projects in the past such as new internet servers or other building updates in the classrooms. If approved for grant funds, you must use the funds given specifically for the project you had listed in your application.
My time writing the grant involved a lot of collaboration with my administration offices. I had to learn about the demographics our non-profit serves, and generate specific numbers to show the application board why our target population was in need. Writing this grant was a very useful way for me to practice painting a full picture of what my site does and the true difference it makes in our community.
The process began with creating an organization profile, simple information based on location and contact addresses. The large portion of the grant itself is the project proposal. You begin with funding purpose and describe what project you need funding provided. Many grant applications ask if there is a benefit to the company such as mention in a newsletter, daily paper, or on your website. This specific grant asked for information on how many low to moderate income group individuals you serve throughout the organization. Finally, you talk specifically about your organizations goals and accomplishments. This is where you get the opportunity to show the company why your program matters in your community!
After collaborating with my Executive Director and get approval to submit my proposal, we were told to expect our application to be reviewed within 45 days. Around a month and half after submitting our initial proposal to Wells Fargo, we were fortunate to receive an email letting us know that our grant has been approved! The email explained how we could expect a check in the mail within the next 8 weeks. As a non-profit, these application approvals are big victories!
What it's like being on the other side?
By Vicki Slobodyanik, Love INC. VISTA '19-20
The Fairbanks Reentry Coalition held a Reentry Simulation that I was able to be a part of. It was a very good opportunity to experience the life of someone who was incarcerated and is reentering society.
My name is Meagan Scheer and I served as a VISTA from 7/2011 - 7/2012 and then came back in 12/2015 for another round as VISTA Leader.
I am a military brat so I have lived everywhere; however, I spent the better part of my life on and off in Hampton Roads, Virginia. In 2011, I had been working full-time in a pretty toxic work environment for about 3 years and working towards my Associates Degree. I knew there was more out there for me so I applied for a VISTA position in Fairbanks and moved here in 2011 to serve at Love INC of the Tanana Valley. In April of that year, my project ended and I had the opportunity to begin work at Fairbanks Youth Advocates working on an outreach project. In that one year, I developed relationships that will last a lifetime.
After my service was over, I left to use my Ed. award to finish school in Colorado. There I worked another dead-end job (I really like to balance my work experiences) until I graduated and moved back to Virginia. One day I got a phone call from my friend and fellow VISTA co-worker at FYA to let me know she was leaving her position as VISTA leader and that I should apply.
I laughed and laughed. It was 90 degrees in October in Virginia Beach and I was sipping on a frosty PBR while Sarah told me it was snowing in Fairbanks and I should come work for VISTA wages again for another year.
Well, long story short, I applied and came back as Fairbanks VISTA leader. Here I was again: poor, working a hard job, and walking around in sub-zero temps.
Honestly, it was the best decision I ever made.
I had the opportunity to work with other VISTAs and help support them through their VISTA year. I met community members that have made Fairbanks a better place. I made friends that will last a lifetime. I worked at the University, the Borough building, had the opportunity to connect with other VISTAs in Anchorage and all around the state of Alaska. I was able to work with the Housing and Homeless Coalition, Access Alaska (where a huge part of my heart still exists), and now I work at the Girl Scout Council. I have the opportunity to volunteer with the Boys and Girls Club, the Ester Community Association, Bread Line, Angry Young and Poor, and other organizations.
Fairbanks has become a part of my soul. I owe my career and passions to the AmeriCorps VISTA program and to the community of Fairbanks. I hope that each and every one of you find your experience here as special as I have found mine.
By Emily Dreszer, AKCH2 VISTA '19-20
On September 25 and 26th, I had the tremendous opportunity to meet with Legislative Assistants of the Alaskan Congressional Delegation: Senator Murkowski, Senator Sullivan, and Representative Young in Washington D.C.
While I was visiting family and friends in my native Maryland, I had the opportunity to visit our nation’s capital and encourage support of bills would greatly support AKCH2’s mission to increase affordable housing and end homelessness in Alaska. Given the vast geographic area of our state and the increased cost of living/development, accomplishing this mission comes with unique challenges. This will be voted in a House-Senate agreement, tentatively scheduled for late fall/early winter.
My first step was requesting a meeting, which can be done through a form on the representative’s website. It is very important to give multiple dates and available times, to make the meeting possible. A recommended time frame for a request is at least four weeks, but try to stay mindful that staff are busy and schedules are ever changing. In my experience, two weeks before your requested date a legislative assistant should be able to set a firm time and date with you.
Be sure to arrive to the building at least a half hour ahead of time. Security lines do move quickly but they can also be quite long. You only need to remove metal items and your cell phone from your pockets and put your bag on a conveyor belt. No need to show identification. Be sure to know the floor on which the meeting is taking place as well as the room. For instance because a room begins with the number “2” does not mean it is on the second floor. Being early will also assist you in going over any notes or checking sites govtrack.us for any updates.
Giving staff a timeline and opportunity to follow up is a great way to continue the relationship and keep their attention. In our meetings, I stressed how our organization looks forward to keeping their local staff in the loop of how the process is developing and look forward to setting up a local visit to one of our youth agencies in the future so our federal representatives and their staff can see the great work that the funds will bring. Over the next four to six months, AKCH2 will facilitate a coordinated community planning process which will bring together youth with lived experience, youth agencies, the Office of Children’s Services (OCS), the AKCH2 Continuum of Care Board, and other funders. This group will look at existing data, identify service gaps, identify innovative new programs that we could use YHDP dollars for, and set up a system evaluation protocol. Open communication with our Federal Delegation could assist greatly in support of current and future programs and their funding.
Once agencies are awarded, they will have until the end of the Federal Fiscal year (Sept 30, 2020) to finalize their contract with HUD. Then programs can begin implementation. I was sure to express great interest in having staff and even a member of the delegation visit a site. This could be a personal tie to our projects to get the offices involved, as well as a great opportunity for press for both parties.
It is important to stay up to date on the bills which you are encouraging the delegation to support. Facts like if the member supported the bill or similar bills, where the bill is along the process, how well supported it is, if it is estimated to be passed, as well as an estimated timeline. I also highly recommend bringing printed documents to share and supporting data up your sleeve.
This bill would finally make Native American tribes eligible to receive HUD Continuum of Care/McKinney-Vento funding--which is huge for AK! I focused on urging the Senators' staff to support a version of a HUD funding bill which includes $2.761 billion for Homeless Assistance Grants, and $45.1 billion for Housing Choice Vouchers, both of which would represent vital increases.
Finally, one of the most important steps is following up after your meeting with a “thank you” email summarizing the points you made and answering any questions that may have come up during your discussion. I highly recommend writing a draft of each of these emails ahead of time while you are preparing for your meeting, and making adjustments as need be after you have said your goodbyes. It is also highly encouraged that you send this email as soon as possible to keep the attention of busy staffers and to be as polite as possible to keep things moving forward.
Hydroponics in Anchorage and Racing to Build a Grow Tower
We headed out to Alaska Seeds of Change where we were met by Sara Renard, the AKSoC staff coordinator. We stopped to discuss the successes and challenges of both AKSoC and the project I am working on, the Fairbanks Urban Hydroponic Farm (FUHF), and offered each other advice on methods of best practice.
The next day started early as Mel and I headed over to the Z. J. Loussac Public Library to set up for the workshop. Our students for the day, all teachers by trade, arrived at nine and we got right into the hydroponics education. Mel took them through a PowerPoint to teach them all about gardening in the classroom, from soil fertilization to which types of seeds will grow best. Just before lunch we got up on our feet and explored different interactive stations, each with an easy classroom activity the teachers could do with their own students. Then after lunch, it was all hands on deck to build a seven foot tall hydroponic grow tower.
With power drills out and at the ready, instruction packets in hand, and disassembled buckets, pipes, and screws scattered around the floor we were given a challenge: build the tower in 1.5 hours, beat the previous workshop’s record and someone will get to take the grow tower home. With our deadline looming in the near future, we rushed into action, naturally splitting into groups to tackle different aspects of the tower. I got to work helping with the sump basin, which is the foundation of the tower and holds all the water.
AGENCY: ACCESS ALASKA
AGENCY: ALASKA COALITION ON HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS
AGENCY: BOYS & GIRLS CLUB
AGENCY: BREAD LINE INC.
AGENCY: FBX HOUSING & HOMELESS COALITION
AGENCY: FBX NATIVE ASSOCIATION
AGENCY: FBX NORTH STAR LIBRARIES
AGENCY: FBX REENTRY COALITION
AGENCY: FBX RESCUE MISSION
AGENCY: FBX SOIL & WATER CONSERVATION DISTRICT
AGENCY: FBX WELLNESS COALITION
AGENCY: FBX YOUTH ADVOCATES
AGENCY: INTERIOR ALASKA CENTER FOR NON-VIOLENT LIVING
AGENCY: JP JONES CENTER
AGENCY: LION'S DEN
AGENCY: LOVE INC
AGENCY: NORTH STAR COMMUNITY FOUNDATION
AGENCY: SALVATION ARMY
AGENCY: THE DOOR
AUTHOR: ASHTON VARNER
AUTHOR: EMILY DRESZER
AUTHOR: KELSEY SNYDER
AUTHOR: LEAH SHAFFER
AUTHOR: MEAGAN SCHEER
AUTHOR: MIKE REIDERER
AUTHOR: VICKI SLOBODYANIK
EVENT: COMMUNITY NEEDS DRIVE
TOPIC: GRANT WRITING
YEAR LONG VISTA