March 2017 – Meeting Invite

In Shaping Clay meetings, we have discussed a number of issues related to the topic of resource directories. There are many organizations that have their own directory, each find it a challenge to maintain up-to-date contact information, and there can be a duplication of effort since multiple organizations work to both maintain their directories and get the word out about them.

We are actively looking for a better way. We wanted to find out what resources those who are at the front-line answering the phones rely on. What questions do they get? What information do they give out? Allie got the ball rolling right after our February meeting, by reaching out to Clay County to find out what information they provide to callers looking for assistance.

 Clay County Switchboard (904) 284-6376

I did a search for community resources or assistance on the Clay County website and there wasn’t much. I called the general information number and spoke with a switchboard operator. She shared that she did not know of any community resources and didn’t have any listed to share. She shared that she has been in her position for 3 years and people call all the time asking about food stamps or food assistance, housing assistance, or information about other needs. I asked her what she usually tells people who call asking for resource information and she shared that she gives them two different telephone numbers. She didn’t know what the numbers would link me to, she just shared that that those were the numbers someone had put on the switchboard with a note that said housing/food/clothing assistance. When I googled them, they turned out to be North Florida Community Action Agency and the Clay Behavioral.

I asked her who was in charge of determining the website content and she was unsure. She shared she knew that the MIS program updated and maintained the website. I asked her if it would be helpful for her to have a resource list or to have one posted on the Clay County website and she shared it would be. I would recommend that a representative from Mercy Support Services call and give the switchboard their number so that they have it to give out. I would also recommend that when we are creating our narrative that we include how the County website does not have any helpful information for residents in need.

Then Elaine and Karen picked up the challenge and made several more calls to those on the front-lines answering calls from people looking for assistance. We were surprised, and you may be too, at what we discovered.

Clay County Switchboard (904) 284-6376

Yes, here’s what I found out at a call to the mail Clay County number a month later, and not much has changed. When going to the Clay County website to find a number to call, there is lots of information, but no phone number until you go to the ‘contact us’ tab.  People call in this main switchboard number (904) 284-6376 for rental, food, and housing assistance. The numbers that they share with callers are for these organizations: Career Source (904) 213-3888, Food Bank (904) 284-5936, Food Pantry (904) 284-0814, Housing Authority, and Neighborhood Assistance Resource Center (904) 529-2233. The woman who answered the phone did not know much about the organizations she is referring people to. For example, why there are two food related numbers and she had not heard of Mercy Support Services. I told her that we were trying to get up-to-date information into the hands of those who like her are on the front line answering phones from people looking for social service support. She welcomed this and gave me her email to stay in touch.

I did not know what the Neighborhood Assistance Resource Center was so I called them. They are based in Green Cove Springs and have two staff members plus someone who comes in two days a week from another agency. They help people with many things such as food stamps, Medicaid, and vouchers for food pantry access. The woman that I spoke with welcomed receiving any updated information that we could share. When she gave me her email address, it became apparent that I was speaking with Clay Behavioral’s Green Cove Springs office.

Keystone Heights City Hall (352) 473-4807

I spoke to the Keystone Heights receptionist.  She says that she has a few numbers for local services–their senior center, etc.–but, generally, if calls come in for other things, she refers people to the main Clay County switchboard number.  She says even the senior center is run by the Council on Aging which is a County service.

 Green Cove Springs (904) 297-7500

Green Cove Springs has a very comprehensive website, including this directory which was posted Jan 2016.Green Cove Springs Business and Community Directory

The website does not provide guidance about where to call to find answers to social service questions. When you call the main number, no one answers the phone if your question cannot be handled by the automated selections. So I dug into the online staff directory, and again there was no obvious choice, so I called the Assistant to the Town Manager. Here’s what she shared.

Most of the calls they get are for housing (e.g. section 8) and these are sent to Flagler County who handles those needs for Clay County. The other most common request is for assistance in paying utility bills and they send these to the Northeast Florida Community Action Agency. They don’t have a list of service providers, rather she distributes brochures to some staff so that they can respond to requests for food pantry and mental health needs (Clay Behavioral}. She did not know about Mercy Support Services when I mentioned them. She gave me her email address so we could send her materials that may help them answer questions. She noted that while the county is based in Green Cove Springs, most of the requests for social service needs are fielded by the county government rather than the Green Cove Springs municipality.

Orange Park Main Number (904) 264-9565

I called Sarah, who was recommended as a point of contact at our last Shaping Clay meeting. She is the Town Clerk / Assistant Town Manager so she does not answer the main number. She said that they have a list of about 10 organizations that are on a handout that they give to people who walk in looking for assistance. This list is also used as reference by the person at the front desk when a call comes in. She’s going to have someone send me the list electronically. She too would welcome updated information.

It looks like we have some work to do in Clay County in terms of getting updated lists of social service organizations and agency descriptions to those who receive questions from those who need to access these services.  Also, is there a way to effectively share information centrally about upcoming events that may be of interest to community residents and businesses?

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February 2017 Meeting Notes – Resource Directories Part II

Shaping Clay Feb 24, 2017 Meeting Minutes

Shaping Clay Resource DirectoryMeeting called to order by Ernie Cohen (Clay Behavioral, Kids First).  Karen Wintress  (Utility Bill Checkup) welcomed attendees, and began the roundtable self-introductions.  Ernie reviewed activity at the January meeting:  discussion of topic of centralized resource directory; reports on resources available by Bob Arnold (United Way, 211), plus many other resources documented in the January meeting minutes; and proposal by Karen for directory consolidation.

Result of the January discussion was that agencies wished to maintain their own directories for the functions of their agencies.  However, all face an ongoing issue of keeping directory entries current and complete.  Callen Bell reported on the website for the Non-profit Center of Northeast Florida, which is based on cataloging all non-profits that file a Form 990.  Continuing discussion led to the proposal for training sessions led by a panel of non-profit representatives and offered to those who deal with clients who require social services of various kinds.

Karen then asked attendees to begin offering ideas for next steps in maximizing the maintenance and distribution of our Clay County directories.

Allie Munch (Big Brothers/Big Sisters) suggested that someone get in touch with Sarah Campbell, Orange Park Town Manager, who is planning to restructure the Orange Park website with more emphasis on agencies offering service in the area.  Furthermore, the Clay County Chamber of Commerce is also going to have a greater focus on non-profits, and would be a good platform for information.

Ernie noted that there is frustration among those who need services but don’t know how to access them.  He had previously worked with the Council on Aging to place “prescription pads” with the COA contact number in medical settings.  This led to a 400% increase in calls to the COA.  However, there is still an issue with those who do not have access to this source of information.

Nellie Duval (Florida Department of Health, Clay County), said that she does not know how to keep her information updated because she does not know which directories list her agency as a contact.

Janey Fox (Mercy Support Services) said that keeping their call center directory updated is an ongoing and time-consuming activity for volunteers.

Andre Van Heerden (Clay Safety Net Alliance) said that some agencies, such as those dealing with mental health issues and the Way Free Clinic may need their own lists of specialized resources.

Bliss Hayes (Northeast Florida Community Action Agency) mentioned that they find the schools ‘Quick List’ to be a valuable contact list for their agency to use.

Sandy Coffey (Clay County Library Board of Trustees) suggested that Mercy Support Services send an email to all agencies in their directory once or twice a year, asking them to respond with updated agency information if they wished to remain in the referral database. 

Alisha Ross (Just Add Rhythm) reviewed the SunBiz procedures for how companies that wish to be included are required to annually update their entries. She asked if there was a comparable way to automate the updates for non-profits.  We wondered if the Nonprofit Center’s database could be helpful in some way.

Marie Smith (National Alliance on Mental Illness/NAMI) noted that they need to refer their clients to agencies that aren’t usually contained within the Mercy Support Services directory. Keeping up to date contact information for use by their referral center is a real challenge.

Karen mentioned that referrals for arts, education and other services need to be included in a comprehensive database, not just contacts for social service agencies that respond to crisis situations.

Amy Parker (Reinhold Foundation) noted that the Foundation’s major initiatives are to provide training in support of Clay County non-profits and annually recognize non-profit organizations at Celebrate Clay.

Mar 2015 MtgJessica Starkey (St Leo University) suggested using community service volunteers from the high school career academy tech programs to tackle an online directory as a project.  Perhaps they could develop an app which is used by residents. This project could go toward community service hours.

Elaine Smith (Clamour Theatre) explained that a website would require two efforts – page development and database management skills.  She also described the New York City centralized-phone system that people call to get information and which transfers calls directly to relevant agencies.

Stephanie Geoghagan (Clay Action Coalition) noted how they receive calls from people within Clay County and from out of the area who are moving into the area that are looking for service referrals. Also people just show up at their office. She generally refers them to the Mercy Support Services call center.

Other avenues for sharing information could be the Clay Chamber of Commerce, which is planning to hear a presentation from the Nonprofit Center on the state of non-profits in Clay County sometime in March.

Janey suggested that Shaping Clay (Karen Wintress) invite reps from the Chamber of Commerce (Doug Conkey), Economic Development Corporation (Bill Garrison), Small Business Development (Annie Grogan) and the Town of Orange Park (Sarah Campbell) to a meeting to discuss how the county and municipal agencies handle resident requests for service information. Our non-profit agencies would like to explore how we can provide benefit to these community stakeholders. Prior to scheduling the meeting, Karen, Jessica and Elaine will meet to create a narrative for presentation to these agencies.  This narrative will be reviewed by Shaping Clay members. The goal will be to have a preliminary meeting with agency reps to see if they are willing to work with Shaping Clay on this issue.

Allie Munch offered to contact Clay County government re the placement of non-profit contact information on their website and in their call center.  Here’s what Allie reported back to the group.

I did a search for community resources or assistance on the Clay County website and there wasn’t much related return. I called the general information number and spoke with a switchboard operator. She shared that she did not know of any community resources and didn’t have any listed to share. She shared that she has been in her position for 3 years and people call all the time asking about food stamps or food assistance, housing assistance, or information about other needs. I asked her what she usually tells people who call asking for resource information and she shared that she gives them two different telephone numbers. (I googled the numbers she gave me and one belongs to North Florida Community Action Agency and the other belongs to Clay Behavioral). She didn’t know what the numbers would link me to, she just shared that that those were the numbers someone had put on the switchboard with a note that said housing/food/clothing assistance. I asked her who was in charge of determining the website content and she was unsure. She shared she knew that the MIS program updated and maintained the website. I asked her if it would be helpful for her to have a resource list or to have one posted on the Clay County website and she shared it would be.

I would recommend that a representative from Mercy Support Services call and give the switchboard their number so that they have it to give out. I would also recommend that when we are creating our narrative that we include how the County website does not have any helpful information for residents in need.

Action items, as reviewed by Ernie Cohen:  Find ways to communicate to the community that resources are out there; how to limit duplication of services; how to keep resource lists updated.

Announcements:  Clay Behavioral and Kids First Reverse Raffle is being held on April 7 at the Hilltop. Contact Ernie Cohen (904) 710-5148 because tickets are going fast.

There is a 4-part series of Healthy Cooking Classes being held at the Barco-Newton Family YMCA. Contact Andrea Richardson (904) 502-8545 for more info.

Next Shaping Clay meeting:  Friday, March 31, 2017 at 8:30 a.m. at St. Vincent’s in Middleburg.

Challenge: Consider reaching out to someone at the meeting and have a one-on-one meeting with them to find out more about each other’s respective organizations and how you may be able to collaborate.  Contact information for meeting attendees is below.