My name is Molly Swisher and I am serving at TrueNorth Community Services in Fremont. TrueNorth is run by a staff of over 130 employees and provides more than 60 programs to 63 Michigan counties.
The work I’ve been doing at TrueNorth has evolved a lot since the start of my service. The original plan was to provide my employment services through a series of workshops I created in a program designated as TEAM. Once I made the service available to the public I discovered that our clients lacked the time and resources needed to take advantage of TEAM in this format. Instead, I found my time was better spent working one on one with referrals provided by TrueNorth’s Self Sufficiency case managers. Because each person had different needs the assistance required was varied. Some clients needed job openings, others required a new resume, and sometimes they just needed a cheerleader to stay motivated. A woman I’ve been working with since April finally found a job and I am probably more excited about it than she is!
A large part of VISTA service is creating sustainable programs. When I learned that TrueNorth wasn’t going to have a VISTA next year, I had to abandon the TEAM program (which I was in the process of making more accessible) because there would be no one to continue these employment services once I depart in November. To address this I turned my focus to making resources that could be used by the case managers to aid their work. My current project is turning the workshops I designed into a dozen short videos that could be shown to clients. To do this I am creating infographic-esque graphics that will be combined with audio to hopefully make the information more interesting and memorable. It’s a long process, but I’m having a lot of fun!
My experience as a VISTA hasn’t been what I expected, but is invaluable none the less. As a typical millennial I found myself lost post-college with no clue of what to do next. CNCS, MNA and TrueNorth have allowed me to discover what I enjoy doing, what I’m good at, and what I wouldn’t do again, even if you paid me a salary that’s above minimum wage.
Hello fellow VISTAs! My name is Molly Swisher and I am serving at TrueNorth Community Services in Fremont, Michigan. TrueNorth is run by a staff of over 130 employees and provides more than 60 programs to 63 Michigan countries. These programs include: youth services like Big Brothers Big Sisters and Project FOCUS, an afterschool enrichment program; housing assistance through our affiliate, Center for Nonprofit Housing (CNH); and emPower, our heat and energy assistance program. The clients who use emPower are evaluated to determine if they would be candidates for TrueNorth’s reputable Self-Sufficiency Program, where our case managers work with the clients to reduce and remove the need for financial assistance.
My role in this organization is as the Program Coordinator for TrueNorth Employment Access & Mentoring (TEAM), which provides our housing and Self-Sufficiency clients with the knowledge, support and assistance needed to find and maintain employment. There are also new resources available to our Self-Sufficiency case managers in case they would like to address employment barriers 1:1 with their clients. This is only the second year of the program, so we are restructuring, improving and making additions as needed in order to provide the services our clients need. Last year’s VISTA built a fantastic foundation on which to improve, and by evaluating the previous successes and failures I am creating more targeted services.
The program consists of weekly workshops about everything job-related from writing resumes to interviewing to mental health during unemployment. Because transportation is a large barrier in Newaygo County there will also be online access to recorded workshops, worksheets and resources. The service itself has not yet been made public due to the large number of changes, but the goal is to have a public launch by the end of April. To address the sustainability of the program I am recruiting volunteers to continue the program after my service year ends.
I have also spent time working with CNH in expanding to counties beyond the two it currently serves. My contribution was to investigate the 8 possible regions by researching demographics, service gaps and the established organizations. In addition I am using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to map the families and houses for which the nonprofit has provided services in its 20 year history. This project will be used primarily for securing future grant funding.
The past four and a half months have been very a lot of planning and I’m excited to see TEAM in action!
Each blog post was written by one of our VISTAs!