Stories of Impact
The Dallas Community Foundation touches many lives in the Dallas community. Through our grant program, we support organizations whose programs directly assist individuals and families in need. We are the grateful for the support we receive to make a meaningful impact in the Dallas community.
Music and Memories
Enriching Lives Through Music
Ray feels like a working man again, listening to his favorite tunes, connecting to good times.
Do you have a special song that perks you up when you’re feeling down? Maybe it’s a song that you associate with a happy memory, or one that simply brings you joy. It makes you smile and brightens your day. For some residents at the Dallas Retirement Village, a special song can help them reconnect with memories long lost.
With a DCF grant, DRV health center staff received training and equipment to establish a certified Music and Memory program. At the time, DRV was one of 9 facilities in the state offering this program, the number has since expanded to 19.
This program uses music to enrich the lives of residents with dementia. Using Ipods with headphones to block out ambient sounds, residents listen to music that enables them to experience emotions and recall memories not lost to dementia. The results are amazing. A resident with Sundowners exhibiting agitation will calm down. A non-responsive resident smiles. A non-verbal resident forms simple sentences and engages with a family member.
Through the program, caregivers work with family members to identify music genres, favorite songs and popular music when the individual came of age as the teenage years are tied deeply to music. Songs are loaded onto an Ipod and as the resident listens to the music, their reaction to different songs is noted. Some residents have multiple playlists which can be used to achieve specific behavioral goals. Soothing music calms agitation; upbeat music energizes and helps them engage with their surroundings.
Currently, thirty residents are benefiting from this program. Some use the Ipods all the time, others just when needed.
According to Hilary Boyce, Health Care Center Activities Director, the most significant impact of this program is that it can help someone who has lost so much of who they are and reconnect them to themselves. Because music is connected to many different parts of the brain, emotions, memories, senses, can all be triggered by a song. By listening to music that is meaningful to them, people with dementia can better focus, become verbal, calm sundowning behaviors, engage in physical activities, reconnect with people they no longer recognize, and find themselves. “The resident may not remember going to a dance in high school where they met their first love, but if you play a song from the dance, they may feel the emotional attachment to that moment, or connect with that teenager again.” Even if they don’t recall the memory, they may still feel the joy associated with it.
Ray’s life had been centered around music. He now has dementia and is unable to play his guitar. His family brought in CD’s and videos of his favorite musicians for him to enjoy. He would sit in his room and listen, but had very little response. Then they loaded the same music onto an iPod and put his earphones on. All of a sudden he came alive. He started singing, scooting his wheelchair down the halls, waving at people and smiling. Putting on his music and memory ipod is like turning on a light switch. Boyce adds, “The music soothes the souls that are so disrupted by dementia and brings them back to themselves.”
The DCF grant has enabled 30 residents like Ray benefit from this program. It has made a huge difference in their quality of life. The DCF is very proud to be a part of this program.
CASA of Polk County
Advocating for Children in the Dallas Community
A 2 month-old with a broken collarbone. A tiny body covered with bruises. A child burned with a cigarette. A young girl sexually abused. Beaten, neglected, starved, abandoned. These children have suffered at the hands of those who were supposed to love them the most. Taken from their parents, they become wards of the court and are placed in foster care. They undergo a variety of assessments to evaluate their physical and mental health, as well as any developmental delays and learning issues. Depending on the specific and often changing emotional needs of each child, they may be moved from one foster home to another. In the absence of parents, the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program of Polk County serves these children. CASA volunteers are the voice in court for children who find their fate resting in the hands of a judge.
CASA is a legislatively mandated, yet unfunded program that relies on dedicated volunteers. “It is a job of the heart.” says Tess Gebauer, CASA and Program Manager. CASA volunteers must pass a background check, complete 40 hours of training and commit to 2 years of service as well as 12 hours per year of continuing education. CASAs put in an average of 10-12 hours each month. CASAs dedicate many hours to investigating the lives of the children, reviewing assessments and compiling a report to the judge. “We have amazing, supportive judges in this county. They have the children’s best interests at heart and they don’t make decisions lightly.” says Gebauer. CASAs also advocate for the children in school where they often struggle due to developmental delays. They work closely with DHS caseworkers and make home visits. They attend all meetings regarding the child and all court hearings.
At a time when these children have already experienced sudden disruption, their CASA is a trustworthy, dependable adult. Their caseworker, foster home, attorney and teachers may change, but their CASA will remain consistent.
“Our ultimate goal is to ensure that the child’s needs are being met and that they will have a safe, permanent home, free of abuse and neglect.” says Katey Axtell, CASA of Polk County Executive Director. In Polk County, there are over 200 children currently in foster care for abuse and neglect. Of these children, 109, or about 49% are being served by a CASA. That leaves 113 children without an advocate. The program has set an ambitious goal of recruiting enough volunteers, approximately 80, to serve 100% of the children by 2018. Through a DCF grant to support outreach efforts, CASA has been making progress towards that goal.
While it takes a lot of time and effort, CASA volunteers gain a tremendous sense of accomplishment, doing something so incredibly important, potentially making a huge difference in the life of a child who has been a victim of abuse and neglect. Gebauer recalls a girl who was being reunited with her family. “The smile on that little girl’s face, I’ve never seen a child smile like that. She had a balloon in celebration of the day; another little boy was there and wanted her balloon. She kindly gave it up. ‘He can have it,’ she said, ‘because I’m so happy.’ This is why we do this.”
This story was featured in our Winter 2016 Community Focus newsletter.
Providing Safe Activities for Local Youth
What do kids like to do? They like to hang out and be kids. After Darc, a volunteer-run organization, supports local kids by providing fun activities in a safe, supervised environment where kids can just be themselves. A group of dedicated volunteers transform the two Dallas High School gyms into a hub of activity – from basketball to video games to dances. The events are held on select Saturday evenings during the school year.
The program has evolved over time, keeping pace with the interests of the kids. Kris Gustafson, a volunteer for After Darc, became involved several years ago. She collects admission at the door. It’s also a place to make expectations clear and an opportunity to set the tone for the evening. The events draw an average of 50-70 kids, typically 6th-9th graders, and many are repeats. Gustafson gets to know a lot of these kids. “They are amazingly good kids,” she says. “The kids have a good time and see adults as positive role models.” At a time when familiarity and stability are so important in their lives, the kids develop a comfort level with the volunteers. Gustafson notes, “Many of the kids enjoy visiting and sharing their life stories with me.”
To support the program and to share the responsibility of ownership, kids pay a $5 entrance admission. This isn’t always enough to fully cover program costs. While the cost to maintain the program is relatively low, thanks to a dedicated group of volunteers, there are some necessary expenses such as insurance. DCF funds have been instrumental in supporting the program. “After Darc would not be possible without the DCF grant,” says Gustafson.
Gustafson knows the impact of the program. “There aren’t too many places to go in the city of Dallas. Our young people are truly a good investment and need a safe place to hang out.” Board chair Roger Pope adds, “If they aren’t there (at After Darc), where are they going to be?”
This story was featured in our Summer 2012 Community Focus newsletter.
The Arc of Polk County
Supporting People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
Richard Arvidson has left a legacy that will support youth, years into the
future Richard Arvidson was frustrated by all the negative news stories that seemed to focus on kids getting into trouble. He knew that there were many,many good kids in the community that were doing great things. He wanted to do something to support those kids and reward them in a meaningful way. He gave regularly to the Dallas Community Foundation, specifying that his gifts be given toward scholarships.
For individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, it can be difficult to be a part of the community in which they live. The Arc of Polk County works to create opportunities for these individuals, so they can be included and actively participate in their community.
With a grant from the Dallas Community Foundation, the Arc of Polk County has installed new lighting in the Academy Building gymnasium. They now can provide safe and enhanced socialization experiences for intellectually and developmentally disabled community members. Every two weeks, the Arc hosts social events which draw up to 100 or more participants. Staff has noted that participants are less intimidated and interact more with others. It’s a small investment for a priceless result.
Joey N., one of the participants, really appreciates the new lighting. “I really like the lights that we use for dancing. I like it when we get all the people together. The lights are a whole lot better than the big bright ones we had to use before. I like the different colors of lights; it’s like a real dance hall!”
This story was featured in our Winter 2013 Community Focus newsletter.
Dallas Education Foundation
Enhancing Education for Dallas Students
Once again, the Dallas Community Foundation has partnered with the Dallas Education Foundation in support of their Grants for Teachers program. A $3000 DCF grant matched DEF funds for a total of $6,000 which will fund 20 projects to enhance the learning experiences for students in the Dallas school district. Grants were awarded last month to teachers at Whitworth, Oakdale, Lyle, LaCreole and Dallas High School for a variety of needs, primarily technology equipment and books. We are looking forward to hearing how these grants are making a positive impact.
Earlier this year, Jen Reinhardt, a teacher from Oakdale Elementary, described the difference a grant had made in her classroom. She had received funds to purchase a flash drive loaded with materials for a reading program that is used on a daily basis. “I have seen improvement in reading skills in 10-12 students with significant special needs. The really nice part is that before, when a student didn’t master the content, the protocol was to have them repeat the same lesson with the same materials. Some students had to do this three to four times, which can really take a toll on their excitement toward the material. Now that we have access to so many more activities on the flash drive, we are able to go deeper into each lesson instead of just repeating the same thing. Students are therefore going through more quickly than before, and we are not seeing the negative behaviors that come along with repetition from doing things the old way.”
A small grant can make a really big difference!
This story was featured in our Winter 2015 Community Focus newsletter.
Dallas Mat Club
The wrestling mats at Dallas High School had been in use for 25 years. The aging porous mats were contributing to ringworm and staph infections. These serious skin conditions passed from wrestler to wrestler, and would cause wrestlers to miss 1-2 weeks of participation. The mats had been repeatedly patched and repaired, and had reached the point where they were simply beyond repair. To top it off, the mats did not properly fit the mat room. Where the mats joined, gaps contributed to ankle injuries. The Dallas Mat Club stepped in and began raising funds to purchase new mats.
In addition to a grant from the Dallas Community Foundation, the club contributed their own funds, and obtained funding from the Mid-Columbia Bus Company and the Dallas Booster club. The school district covered the remaining cost. “It was much easier to obtain matching grant funds because of the first grant received from the Dallas Community Foundation,” explains Tina Millard, Dallas Mat Club president.
Each season, approximately 150 wrestlers will benefit from the new mats. “This sport tends to serve the less privileged and they are taught many valuable lessons such as hard work, dedication, and achieving what they thought was not possible,” says Millard.
This story was featured in our Winter 2014 Community Focus newsletter.
Dallas Resource Center
Providing Assistance to Those with Urgent Needs; Promoting Self-Sufficiency
Imagine you are on the verge of having your utilities shut off, or worse, losing your home. As difficult as it is to imagine, such a turn of events can happen quickly and unexpectedly. You lose your job. You can’t find another one with comparable pay. You can’t keep up with your bills. You exhaust your savings. Other family members are unable to help. What do you do?
The Dallas Resource Center is a last stop for those who have exhausted all other means. They offer rent assistance for those who have received a 72 hour eviction notice, utility assistance for those who have received their final shut-off notice, gas vouchers for those who need to get to a medical appointment or a job interview, and prescription assistance for those who cannot afford necessary medications.
Dallas Resource Center staff carefully evaluate each assistance request, considering the circumstances that have caused or contributed to the urgent need, and the ability of the applicant to get back on his or her feet once the immediate need is met. Unfortunately, they are unable to assist every deserving applicant. Like many organizations providing assistance to those in need, the Dallas Resource Center has experienced significant reductions in funding. In some cases, funding is only 25% of normal. Additionally, many sources of funding have strict, targeted requirements, which sadly, disqualify some very deserving families.
Melissa Baurer, Dallas Resource Center Coordinator, explains that DCF funds have come at a critical time, enabling them to further stretch their limited resources. “DCF funds have given us more flexibility to help deserving people that are facing urgent needs.”
In fact, the day after the grant award was received, DCF funds made an immediate impact on a local homeless family. They had been living in their car. The father had just landed a job, but needed to obtain a set of fingerprints for a background check as well as a specific uniform in order to start the next day. He went to the Dallas Resource Center. Because of the DCF grant, he was able to get the short-term assistance necessary to start his new job. Dallas Resource Center Staff were also able to get the family assistance to move into housing. At last report, the family was self-sufficient and doing well.
Dallas Resource Center works closely with partners to make limited funds go further. DCF funds were combined with Salvation Army funds to help a couple with a one year-old get into an apartment. They had been living in an abandoned building with no running water or electricity. The father recently landed a job and had money for the deposit, but simply needed help covering the first month’s rent.
In another case, $79 of DCF grant funds leveraged $400 from the Dallas Service Integration Team to help a family avoid a utility shut-off.
“Just a small amount of dollars, but a HUGE impact,” says Baurer. She notes that if they had more funding, they could help more families. “Our goal is to help more families be self-sufficient, not to make temporary, band-aid fixes. The flexibility of DCF funds has really made a difference.”
This story was featured in our Summer 2012 Community Focus newsletter.