Nov 2015 – Volunteering / Giving Back

We say we need volunteers, but are we prepared to accept, train, and recognize them?

At our December 4, 2015 meeting we discussed the following topics. How ready are you to accept volunteers in your organization? Do your volunteers need training? Do you do background checks? How many can you take on at once? How much lead time do you need to get ready for volunteers? What skills, characteristics, or gifts would be most helpful for your volunteers? How do you recognize your volunteers?

Ryan of Clay Habitat for Humanity shared that they have a one-page waiver release of liability form that volunteers sign. Clay Habitat does not have a problem getting volunteers due to the organization’s visibility and nature of what they do. People often seek them out to become a volunteer. Their volunteers include retired people, those needing community service hours or court ordered volunteer service, companies, and Navy personnel who are required to volunteer in order to move up in rank.

For Linda of Miriam’s Basket the challenge is keeping volunteers. She feels strongly that to be successful a volunteer has to have a heart for what they are doing, they have to get it. When looking for volunteers she recommends that you should be specific about what kind of help you need. Too often someone may start off strong, but become bored and just don’t feel connected.

Sandy from the Friends of the Orange Park Library told us about how they use students in the Bright Futures program. In this program high school students work in the library either during the summer, during the school year, or both. Background checks are not performed for these students.

Stephanie from Saint Leo University explained that she has interns that are looking for opportunities to volunteer in the community. She needs to have a way to connect the students with the opportunities.

Mitzi and Dan of Community Hospice shared with us how they handle volunteers. Teens that work in the Thrift Shop go through a Level 1 background check which costs about $15. For volunteers working with patients, they go through a Level 2 background check with costs $95. Also, volunteers that work with patients have an in person interview, must provide references, and go through in-house training. The process can take a couple months to become a volunteer working with patients. Community Hospice wants people with a compassionate heart. They mentioned a volunteer recognition program sponsored by Cabot Cheese.

Jose from the Florida Department of Health/Clay noted that they do both Level 1 and Level 2 background checks depending on what the volunteer will be doing. Those working in the clinic need a Level 2 check.

Krysta from the Quigley House said that background checks are not required for those working in the Thrift Shop. An application is completed for those who will have direct patient contact. Training is required which includes 3 days on domestic violence and a 30 hour online sexual assault program. For Quigley House confidentiality is very important.

Carolyn from the American Cancer Society explained that the Relay For Life is their big event. They have a volunteer match process in which a prospective volunteer goes through a one-on-one conversation and is then matched with a role in the organization based on their skills and availability.

Anna is an AmeriCorps volunteer with the Florida Department of Health/Clay and serves as a healthy weight coach.

Rachelle described the comprehensive volunteer program that Baptist Health runs. A volunteer-to-be completes an application, provides 2 references, and undergoes a background check, interview, and health screening, including a TB test. For summer volunteers they use Bright Futures students. Baptist Health wants a one-year commitment from its volunteers, so they keep checking in on the volunteer’s progress and participation. They recognize volunteers during volunteer week, hold a Thanksgiving potluck, and as volunteers progress give them ribbons for their badges.

Judy of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) explained that all of the organization’s volunteers have been touched by mental illness in some way – either as a patient themselves or being a family member of someone with mental illness.

Susan from the Way Free Medical Clinic told us that they really need volunteer RN’s, doctors, dentists, and dental assistants. The do get student nurses as volunteers, but the challenge is in keeping them. Another challenge is staffing the front desk with volunteers. Some of the older volunteers find that working with the computer is beyond what they want to learn. The younger volunteers are there for a short time before moving on. For their coordinator position someone needs to take a Health Department course. The Clinic does make sure to recognize its volunteers.

Allie from Big Brothers / Big Sisters conducts background checks and requires references. She noted that it’s important to know when to say ‘no’ to someone who would not be a good fit with what is expected of being a Big Brother or Big Sister. There are other ways that they can contribute within the organization such as manning a table or attending school volunteer fairs. BB/BS expects a one-year commitment because the students connect with their mentor and don’t get the full benefit of the program with multiple mentors during the year.

Doug of the Clay County Literacy Coalition noted that their volunteers complete an application and come in for an interview. Doug does the training which includes a focus on sensitivity. Many of their tutors are retired educators. They hold a holiday celebration and a pot luck dinner to recognize the contributions of their volunteers.

Samantha from the ILRC (Independent Living Resource Center) sent ahead a copy of their Volunteer Application, a Release of Liability form, and a Confidentiality Statement. For those volunteers working directly with people that have a disability, sensitivity training is very important.

Mike from Clay Today commented that people may romanticize about volunteering and may not have a realistic perspective of what’s involved. It’s important not to turn people away, but if an organization can’t use a volunteer we need a way to refer them to other organizations that they may wish to consider.

Some of the ideas we brainstormed included:

  • Hold a volunteer fair (April?)
  • Approach Clay Electric and Clay Utility Authority to include bill inserts which suggest ways to volunteer in Clay County
  • Find out if Kohl’s Cares For Kids is a resource that would be helpful for an organization. They provide 5 volunteers at a 4-hour event and give a $500 grant.
  • Connect with Hands On Jacksonville to see how they might be able to assist in Clay County
  • Create a process that connects students at our schools such as St. Johns River, Saint Leo University, and Fortis College who want to intern and volunteer with organizations in our community that need volunteers.
  • Do some online searches using different keywords about volunteering in Clay County to see what comes up. This may give us some ideas for how we can start making the connections between volunteers and organizations. Note: when I entered ‘volunteering in Clay County, Florida’ the first website that came up was, (Volunteer Network of Clay County, Iowa). We need to have a Clay County, Florida resource that comes up first.
  • Check out the Bright Futures program if you are not familiar with it – it may be a fit with your organization. It gives high school students a framework in which to volunteer and be recognized. While not paid monetarily, these students receive new skills, new contacts, valuable insights in learning more about themselves, personal satisfaction from helping others, and ultimately an edge in getting a paid job.

On December 17, 2015, Clay Today published an article by staff writer Mike Ford entitled “Many face volunteer challenges” After attending our Shaping Clay meeting, he interviewed people from the Way Free Medical Clinic, Friends of Clay County Animals, and Community Hospice to get their perspective on volunteers. Here’s a link to Mike Ford’s article,378. But first, if you missed this article because you don’t subscribe to Clay Today, please call them and sign up (904) 264-3200. It costs $34 per year, and in their weekly editions they cover great information about our schools, government, companies, environment, faith-based organizations, and nonprofits. It’s a must read to keep up with what’s going on in Clay County! You can start with five free weeks to try out Clay Today before paying.

October 2015 – Health

We came to our October 30th meeting ready to drill down into health.

IMG_7244adjThis is a topic which is relevant to every person and organization in Clay County. How healthy we are can depend on our genetics, the situations we find ourselves in, and also the choices we make. For example, the indoor air we breathe is usually less healthy than outdoor air. Are we nurturing interpersonal relationships to provide us support when we need it? A positive outlook can result in better health and reduce stress. And of course being active and making good nutritional choices are prescriptions for better health.

Karen lead the discussion by noting several health studies and reports that have been recently released which provide information and suggestions for how to move from data to action. Everyone is encouraged to check them out. Each contains information that you may be able to share with others who weren’t at the meeting.

1) The 2015 County Health Rankings report prepared in collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute can be found at: The report notes factors that contribute to our health which include: our physical environment, social and economic factors, clinical care, and health behaviors. In terms of health outcomes Clay County is ranked #11 out of Florida’s 67 counties. Our neighbors ranked – St. Johns #1, Nassau #24, Duval #43, and Baker #62.

2) This diversity in rankings in northeast Florida caught the attention of the Clinton Foundation and we are now one of a few areas in the U.S. that the group is working with. Among the questions being explored are there best practices or approaches that we can share within our region so that health outcomes can be improved for all counties? The report can be found here:

3) The Florida Department of Health Clay and the Health Planning Council of Northeast Florida just released a comprehensive county-wide health needs assessment. The report provides data to educate the community, develop priorities, obtain resources, and plan actions to improve health outcomes in Clay County. The report can be found here:

The report is a living document and will serve as the basis for discussion and actions over the next 5 years, but more on that later in the notes.

During our roundtable discussion many health related topics, concerns, and resources were discussed. One of the overarching topics which came up multiple times was finding ways to improve health literacy.

IMG_7239Stephanie at St. Leo University has students who utilize healthcare services. Also she is looking for internships for students in their health care program in areas like health information services.

Judy representing NAMI (National Association of Mental Illness) noted how difficult it can be for those with mental illness to get health care.

Frances from Mercy Support Services brought up the need to help those without insurance to get prescriptions. There is the St. Vincent’s Van and the Way Free Medical clinic, but not all those in need can avail themselves of these services. Transportation is one impediment.

Emily from the Health Planning Council of Northeast Florida noted that from report 3) above, the top 3 issues that will be focused on for the next 5 years will be mental health, health care access, and health lifestyle / behaviors. Before the end of 2015 the CHIP (Clay County Health Improvement Planning) group will convene and form subgroups of people who are interested in working on making improvements in these 3 areas.

Leigh from the Florida Department of Health / Clay reminded us that this time of year ways to remain healthy include staying prepared for a disaster and getting our flu shots.

IMG_7243adjRalph asked us if we knew anyone who had suffered from an adverse drug reaction. He represents medXPRIME a company which does pharmacogenetic testing, A simple test gives a doctor your specific DNA profile so that you get the medication that works best for you. Adverse drug reactions put 2 million people in the hospital each year.

Jose wears two hats – he’s the Accreditation & Quality Improvement Coordinator for the Florida Department of Health / Clay as well as on the Advisory Board for Tobacco Free. Reducing tobacco use behaviors would certainly improve health outcomes in Clay County.

Mitzi of Community Hospice reinforced that health education is one of our biggest challenges. She noted that we should be on the lookout for a conference in March ‘Caring For the Care Giver’.

IMG_7242adjSamantha found that with ILRC (Independent Living Resource Center) one of their biggest challenges is reaching people in remote areas.

Doug of the Clay County Literacy Coalition reiterated the importance of focusing on health literacy, not only for his clients, but for all residents within Clay County.

Faye shared with us a program that may be of interest to nonprofits in Clay County called MyDonors and can be found at It enables an organization to track its donors, promotional mailings, orders and products, and communication sent to donors.

Linda of Miriam’s Basket is a nonprofit which provides children who have been taken from their home with 5 sets of clothes and underwear, plus shoes, coats, pajamas and an age appropriate gift. They have now provided support to over 1,000 children and all through donations with no outside support. David would like to see the organization grow to provide similar support to children in schools.

Patrick head of Mercy Support Services is an organization which works with displaced families in Clay County. One of their challenges is preparing for upcoming changes in Clay County as we grow. Teaching families how to make better decisions relative to their health is a priority for them.

IMG_7248adjIrene head of Kids First of Florida told us that they are facing increasing demands as the number of kids in their care has doubled in the last 2 years, in large part due to substance abuse by adults. She is also charged with Clay Behavioral which provides services to 5,000 people per year.

Cindy oversees the nurses in the Florida Department of Health / Clay. Some of the nurses serve as consultants / advisors to the school nurses. Others serve the uninsured, Medicaid, and underinsured patients. She too feels that health literacy is something we must tackle. She mentioned that community specialists that serve as volunteers are going away and we must find ways to fill these needs.

Anna is a healthiest weight coach in the Florida Department of Health / Clay and noted that transportation is a big issue for her clients. They don’t attend regularly because they can’t get to the sessions.

IMG_7247adjSandy is on the Library Board of Trustees and is very committed to having our libraries in Clay become centers of information for many of the topics that Shaping Clay is working on. She mentioned that most people find libraries as safe havens and are more likely to come to them for information. For example, the St. Vincent’s van could stop at the libraries.

Gary from the Vietnam Veterans of Clay County is an organization with 130 members. He reminded us that Veterans Day is coming up on November 11. He also shared with us a brick adoption program to raise funds to build a permanent Clay County Fallen Warriors Monument to honor all past, current, and future in-theater casualties of military war.

IMG_7245adjJoseph is actively serving in the Navy based in Mayport, is a student at Saint Leo University, and attends most of the Shaping Clay meetings. He’ll be finished with his active service in the summer of 2016 and is already looking for ways to contribute to organizations within Clay County.

Carolyn from the American Cancer Society told us about some of their programs. The Road To Recovery provides transportation and group participants were interested in finding out more about the parameters for having patients use the transportation. She also mentioned the Look Good Feel Better program which helps women going through cancer treatments with wigs and makeup and their Relay For Life event.

The topic of dental care was also brought up. Catrine let us know that the Fleming Island Rotary Club and the Dental Society are providing free dental care in a dental clinic. Patients can’t make appointments and names of those needing care are drawn by lottery.

Someone thought that veterans could get a flu shot for free from Walgreens.

Everyone reading these notes, whether you attended the meeting or not, are encouraged to contact participants for any of the topics that you’d like to learn more about. The notes are distributed to encourage contact, communication, and collaboration within Clay County.


September 2015 – Mental Health

At our September 25th meeting we had a very far-ranging discussion about mental health needs, services, and shortfalls in meeting these needs within Clay County. Following are some of the comments and an exciting outcome from the meeting.

The finances and funding to support the mental health needs are inadequate and we need more resources.

Many children that are served by the Guardian ad Litem program have mental health issues.

We are servicing people on the back end, after they are in real need for services rather than at the front end where we could be providing preventative services. We need to focus on the front end where people can share their pain.

From the perspective of Clay Behavioral which deals with child welfare, children in schools, and drug intervention they are way underfunded.

One participant reminded us that often the families of those dealing with mental illness are overlooked and this is where NAMI (National Association of Mental Illness) provides support. She became very active in NAMI after her child was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

A participant shared with us her personal journey after being diagnosed with bipolar. She wants to give hope to others and reminds us that we should not label someone as being schizophrenic; rather they have been diagnosed with schizophrenia. She suggested that we explore ways to share the story of mental health issues with our legislators in order to get more support.

St. Leo University has students who are studying to go into the mental health field and also has students who have mental health problems.

Clay Behavioral is grateful that the County Commissioners restored some of their funding, but there are still many unmet challenges. Finances are stretched tight and every penny goes to services to support clients. Therefore pink walls and very outdated intake areas greet those coming in for services. At many of our meetings Lack of Transportation is mentioned as a limiting factor in getting clients to services, this meeting was no exception.

Mental Health issues can be generational and situational. A process called ‘gaslighting’, based on an old movie was explained where a partner can intentionally set someone up for thinking that they are crazy. Women coming into Quigley House can be very fragile as they have been victims of abuse and / or gaslighting.

We had a social worker who works with children 6 years old and under explain the challenges of working with these youngest patients. There aren’t many social workers who deal with such young children.

The Reinhold Foundation provides Awards to nonprofit organizations in Clay County, training in leadership, and is very supportive of the success of our nonprofits.

A meeting participant shared with us the she has had to deal with 2 children with mental health issues. She sought out mental health services for one of her children which were not effective. Now that the child is incarcerated, he is getting much better mental health services within the prison system.

We had a representative from the Library who wants the library to become a source of information for its patrons.

The Clay County Chamber of Commerce has a membership category for nonprofits and many have already become members of the Chamber. Finally Friday meetings are a great venue for making a wide variety people in the community aware of your organization’s needs. When excess funds are collected at Finally Friday meetings they are donated back to nonprofits.

We had 3 Americorp members join us – one is working with Clay Behavioral, one is a health coach, and the other is working at the Teen Center.

Another participant from Quigley House who is a social worker mentioned that a source of payment for services can come from the Victims Compensation fund.

An active service member from the Navy and St. Leo University student commented that he may be able to get a team together to paint over those pink walls. His groups do a lot of volunteer work in the community. He views the churches as a great way to connect with the community.

Two people attended from the Northeast Florida Community Action Agency which provides support to its customers in need of services to help them move toward self-sufficiency.

Someone represented Community Hospice, an organization which supports patients and families as they face end of life decisions and support services.

We had two pastors attend, who represent the faith-based community, a group that we’d really like to participate more in our sessions. It is our churches throughout the community that can direct their parishioners to resources that they may need and to opportunities for them to volunteer.

While we shared many diverse perspectives, through discussion we arrived at a shared view of next steps – how we’d like to move forward with tackling our community’s mental health challenges.

A common thread throughout the discussion was to find ways to break down the stigma of mental illness. The group responded to the suggestion that we forge a Mental Health Council and Karen Peyton of Clay Behavioral stepped forward to lead such an effort.

We identified specific targets for this group:

  • Conduct a survey of services needed, using the churches as one way to do this
  • Bring other groups into the council who were not at the meeting such as the Sheriff’s Department
  • Create a Directory of Mental Health Services
  • Formulate a process to communicate about mental health services through the media and other means
  • Prepare a statement of need and present it to our legislators
  • Hold a community seminar similar to the one recently held by Baptist Health in Duval County
  • Identify ways to move from back-end support to front-end or preventative support.

Please consider joining Karen of Clay Behavioral on the Mental Health Council, an incredible initiative to showcase how Clay County can step up and provide support to those stigmatized, overlooked, and in real need of our caring.

August 2015 – Youth Services

Aug 2015 MtgAt our August 28th Shaping Clay meeting we had an engaging discussion about youth services in Clay County. Out of the 196,399 people living in the county according to the U.S. Census Bureau 2013 statistics, about 24.6% (48,300) are young people (under 18).

As you read these meeting notes, you are encouraged to select a couple organizations that you’d like to learn more about and schedule a one-on-one meeting. If you are not familiar with these networking meetings, check out the ‘Nonprofit Tools’ tab at the top of this website for tips to get you started.

August 2015 MtgLinda Grabowski, David Grabowski, and Cary Sanders shared the story of their organization, Miriam’s Basket. Linda started this nonprofit in 2011, in conjunction with Child Protective Services, to help provide clothing to children who have been victims of abuse, neglect, or personal tragedy. To date, they have provided over 900 children in Clay County with clothing in brightly-colored bags with the child’s name on the bag. These bags include clothes, pajamas, shoes, socks, underwear, and coats, and an age-appropriate gift such as a bear.

Callan Bell of Take Stock In Children explained how her organization provides support to at risk students. Middle school and high school students are paired with mentors, and given the opportunity to receive college scholarships by maintaining a 2.5 or better GPA, and achieving certain attendance and behavior measures. Mentoring sessions are weekly, usually for about an hour, and at a school near the mentor’s home or workplace, during school hours. These sessions can change both the lives of the mentor and mentee.

Lea Rhoden of Tobacco Free Partnership of Clay County spoke about the outreach the organization is doing to encourage people to quit using tobacco products, or better yet not start. Presently there are 4 SWAT (Students Working Against Tobacco) programs in the schools, with a plan to grow to 10 and eventually 17. There are audits conducted by students and others to make sure that tobacco products are not sold to or easily accessible to youth.

August 2015 MtgCarolyn Kroll told us about the American Cancer Society’s outreach in Clay County. They conduct Relay For Life fundraisers to support the Hope Center at the Mayo Clinic. During the spring of 2015 there were Relay For Life events in Orange Park, Middleburg, Oakleaf, and Fleming Island. Individuals and teams run to raise money at these events.

Korey O’Neal of Career Source, is an organization committed to connecting people with jobs. His focus is on working with Youth Services to support those from 16 to 24 years old who have not been in school for 3 months or more. They work to get apprenticeships that are free to the employer, but they are not looking for low-level positions at McDonalds or Walmart. They want jobs that provide the apprentices with real-world experiences.

August 2015 MtgSandy Coffey represents the Orange Park Library System and as such wants to bring back information to the library staff and patrons about youth programs in Clay County. The Green Cove Springs branch has a Teen Advisory Group for tweens to teens, grades 7 to 12. Young people are encouraged to participate in order to make new friends, help your community, and get volunteer hours.

Joseph Barnes actively serves in the Navy and is attending Saint Leo University working toward a bachelor degree in Human Services. He completes his 20 years of military service in the spring of 2016. Before then he is looking for opportunities to volunteer and use his service skills and education so that he can eventually land a position with an organization where he can work with children, adults, or even families. He stepped up to join the Shaping Clay team and is helping us restructure our Facebook page. Let’s help this soon to be veteran find ways to make a difference in Clay County.

Sylvia Barton, has a website Sylvia Vision where she offers products that can be used for fundraising. Sylvia is always actively looking for ways to support a variety of community organizations. As a member of the Clay County Chamber of Commerce she strives to make connections between for profit and nonprofit organizations.

Debra Troupe shared how Clay Behavioral Health Center provides mental health and substance abuse case management services to children and teens. This gives them access to medical, social, educational, and other services. Case managers use a holistic approach and each child receives an individualized, comprehensive plan. Kids First Florida is the community-based agency providing child welfare and foster care services to Clay County. KFF stays with the kids 16 weeks after they have been removed from their home due to abuse or neglect.

August 2015 MtgThe PACE Center for Girls of Clay which works with the Dept of Juvenile Justice Services was represented by Chantell Miles. She told us how PACE helps girls that have lived through a variety of issues such as abuse, trauma, and neglect, heal and grow. But PACE depends on help from the community. For example, on the PACE Clay website, there is a tab called ‘Current Needs’.

Beth Vaughn of Reaching Milestones is a privately-owned organization which provides comprehensive behavioral treatment for special needs children. They provide research-based behavioral interventions, with autism treatment one of their areas of expertise. The treatment approach used is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) principles, a method recommended by the U.S. Surgeon General as an effective treatment for Autism.

August 2015 MtgSamantha Bane, of the ILRC (Indepdent Living Resource Center) shared information about their youth services program, among many others. This program serves children from birth to age 22, and provides resources to their family. Services include individualized assistance and advocacy in education, childhood development and parenting services. The program helps the family navigate through the complexities of the Individuals With Disabilities Act (IDEA) and the Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

Dana DeWeese represented the Clay County Chamber of Commerce, and told us of their mission to provide education, events, and networking opportunities that will connect and contribute to the success of Clay County companies, both for profit and nonprofit. She highlighted the value of membership and shared Clay Chamber Directories.

Karen Wintress of Utility Bill Checkup spoke about the service that she provides to nonprofit organizations. We audit a nonprofit’s bills for their use of electricity, gas, water, sewer, waste disposal, Internet, phone, and cable. Of the utility bills that we audit, more than 70% have overcharges, money that we recover for our clients, and that they can use to support their mission. We only get paid a percentage of what we recover, and only after our client receives the refund or credit from their utility provider.

Jackie Kujala of Guardian ad Litem explained that this organization uses trained volunteers who provide information about and advocate in the interests of abused and neglected children in the court system. Guardians gather facts about a child’s case, review reports, visit a child’s home, school or placement and provide the court with an unbiased recommendation on what is required to serve the best interests of the child. There are 300 children in Clay County that need an advocate.

Kiersten Patton from the Clay County Health Department’s Teen Health Center gave us an overview of their programs. The Center provides a safe and fun place for teens to participate in health services, activities, educational sessions, and networking with peers.  It is offered in Green Cove Springs (Ed Stansel Clinic) on Tuesdays from 2 – 5 and in Orange Park (Bear Run Clinic) on Wednesdays from 2 – 5. In the educational sessions, topics raised by the teens will be addressed including sex and HIV. Transportation is provided from the high schools (Clay High and Ridgeview) to the program and at the end of the program to the teen’s home.

August 2015 MtgJose Morales of the Clay County Health Department reinforced the value of the Teen Center. He also mentioned that we should be on the lookout for the soon-to-be-released Clay Health Assessment Report. It will give us some health data that we can use in developing health-related youth prevention and intervention programs.

Mike Ford, of Clay Today gave us very valuable advice on how to get the word out about our organizations. He emphasized that information in and of itself, is not transformative. In order to build community we need to strike a chord, to tell a compelling story that people will relate to. He encouraged us to capture and share stories of those we have helped. As nonprofits we don’t offer products like chairs. Rather we provide services that change lives. Clay Today is not there to promote us, but can help by sharing stories of those we’ve helped.

During the end of our meeting, we brainstormed about other ways to tell our stories, and get the word out about our organizations. Once suggestion was to have a speaker’s bureau, people that could provide educational and engaging information about our community’s needs and services. One avenue could be through lunch and learn programs. It was also recognized that our libraries can be invaluable sources of making connections with the community.


IMG_7186adjIMG_7184adjAugust 2015





July 2015 – Seniors

At our July 31st meeting we discussed the many services for seniors.

Mar 2015 MtgOut of the almost 200,000 people living in the county, according to the U.S. Census Bureau about 13.7% (27,400) are seniors, those 65 and above. We explored topics such as:  What do our seniors need in terms of support? Are these needs being met or are there gaps or overlaps in services? How can we better connect our seniors into the community – such as new ways for them to volunteer or become more involved? How can we improve communication to our seniors?

Before reading the minutes, please note this announcement from Shereen Snare of the Council On Aging. The Clay County Senior Services Coalition held its first meeting at the Council on Aging on August 25th from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Each organization was asked to come to the table with 5 of your top issues / gaps that you see in Senior Services in Clay County. If you’d like to connect with this initiative, please call Shereen at (904) 531-5021 to find out the outcome from the Senior Services Coalition first meeting.

Here’s a flavor our discussion on seniors. Please be aware as you read these notes that the overarching comment by almost every organization is that they are challenged trying to get the word out about what they do. Communication is a big challenge that we all identified.

Brad Burbaugh is the director of UF/IFAS (the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences) and is based in Green Cove Springs. One of their many programs is food safety. They have 900 trained volunteers including Master Gardeners and Master Food Volunteers. Samantha Bane from the ILRC (Independent Living Resource Center), is an organization which supports those with disabilities to live independently. They provide hearing assisted devices for telephones and lend out other medical devices, including wheel chairs and walkers.

On the health side, we had Jose Morales and Cynthia Jackman, the director of nursing from the Clay County Department of Health and Karen Petyon from the Clay Behavioral Health Center. Each of these organizations focus on providing both prevention and treatment resources and education. Jose told us about the Community Health Assessment which is going on right now. Karen mentioned that Medicare won’t pay for group mental health sessions, a need that is hard to meet.

Angela Turk from United Healthcare shared what her organization does with seniors. Bianca Speight from Guardian Ad Litem participated in the discussion because many of her program’s volunteers are seniors. Lea Rhoden from Tobacco Free Partnership of Clay County spoke about challenges that tobacco use can raise and said she’d be back to add her voice to our discussion on youth.

Carol Weisenburg wore two hats – BASCA (Building Abilities for Special Children and Adults) and the Shepherds Center. BASCA focuses on taking care of individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities, and has residential homes and adult day training. The Shepherd Center includes many programs for seniors with a focus on aging in place by design. Carol also brought up the issue of the need for more affordable housing for seniors.

Margo Hay representing Community Hospice, spoke to the need for end of life care, both for the patient and the family. A frustration is when doctors won’t prescribe this care. Richard Hackelton from the Clay County Sheriff’s Office let us know about 2 programs that may be of interest to those supporting seniors. One is called Elder Watch, where a senior that lives alone can request someone from the community to check in on them daily to make sure they are okay. There is also the VIPS (Volunteers in Police Services) program. Currently there are 288 unpaid adult volunteers who assist the police in many projects.

Kathy Berger and Rebecca Padgett joined us from the Penney Retirement Community. Rebecca highlighted their skilled nursing, memory, and respite care they provide and that PRC is more affordable and available than many think. Kathy mentioned the several hundred volunteers at PRC and how they love to have people from the community come join them with their PET (Personal Energy Transportation) project. Marina Mathews joined us from the Moosehaven Community, which is a continuing care retirement community for seniors 65 and older. She shared how Moosehaven provides 2 admission options, one the traditional retirement program for members of the Moose and Brandon Place. It was striking to hear how both of these communities provide a broad array of services and living accommodations for seniors, but there are many misconceptions outside of their communities that they must routinely counter.

Sheree Ellingson, the owner of Senior Helpers in Orange Park, is a for profit company that provides nonmedical support to seniors, filling short-term needs to longer term care. Janey Fox from Mercy Support Services reminded us of the incredible network of support services that are available to seniors that can be accessed through the Resource Center. Doug Greenberg, was our meeting facilitator, and is President of the Clay County Literacy Coalition.

Herb Stiegellman is the curator of the Military Museum of Northeast Florida, based in Green Cove Springs. It contains many memorabilia that are important to our seniors, and is a great place to visit. Sandy Coffey, from the Orange Park Library was with us to learn about the many services that she can share with her coworkers and library patrons. Our Clay County libraries give access to the AARP tax program, which is of great interest to seniors.

Jerry Carter from Career Source Northeast Florida spoke about a program Experience Works, helping people over 55 get jobs; veterans are given priority. These are usually low-income situations where individuals are placed in nonprofits for 18 to 20 hours per week and are taught job skills. Norrie Berlio from DCF / APS Adult Protective Services spoke her organization’s responsibility under Florida law to investigate reports of adults that are abused, neglected, or exploited. She spoke about a home care stipend for disabled adults, but funding is a challenge for her organization, especially to support the investigations.

The Council on Aging of Clay County (a nonprofit, not a governmental agency) was represented by its Executive Director Drew DeCandis and Marketing person Shereen Snare. Drew spoke about the Adult Day Care services that are offered at the Green Cove Springs Center and soon to be opened a second center in collaboration with Moosehaven on their campus. The Council on Aging offers many services for seniors but faces several challenges that Drew and his organization are working to address. They desperately want to complete a fully-functioning kitchen at the Green Cove Springs Center and build some affordable housing for seniors. They are looking for sponsors and community support for their upcoming fundraiser Old Karts & Arts on October 10 (see flyer below) to build that kitchen.

Peace and Joy

    From your Shaping Clay Team

Karen Wintress        Samantha Bane            Doug Greenberg         Jackie Kujala 609-933-2666           904-881-6697                904-272-5988             904-449-4957

June 2015 – Veteran Services

Our June 26th meeting was an incredible sharing of veteran support services. June 2015 Mtg

If you were not able to attend our June 26 meeting, you missed an exceptional interchange on veterans and services for them. Each of the 22 participants shared their experiences and perspectives. Some were veterans from Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan, and Joseph who is based at Mayport is still actively serving.

We heard from a variety of organizations that support veterans. Marianne from Hope Therapy uses equine exercises to help veterans who are dealing with PTSD. Chris, one of the veterans who has benefited from her program, now runs a nonprofit Under The Rainbow Ranch with a goal of helping veterans reintegrate into civilian life. Maureen who heads the Clay County Writers group told us about a 2-hour program that helps those dealing with stress to get relief by expressing their emotions in writing. June 2015 Mtg

Allie of Big Brothers/Big Sisters highlighted how veterans can be mentors to young people and how that interaction benefits both. David from the Penney Retirement Community shared how 100 out of 500 residents are veterans and the many things that the organization does to recognize them. Each veteran prepares a profile of their service which is added to a binder. Jennifer from the Arthritis Foundation spoke about her group’s assistance to veterans.

Art and Jenny of Heritage Guides invited us to join the Parade of Flags at the Penney Retirement Community on July 4th. Heritage Guides does tours, storytelling, and veteran tributes throughout Clay County. Callan from the YMCA’s Take Stock in Children program spoke about the affect of deployment on children and what they do to help. Dee has many family members in the military (wife, mother, grandmother) and does outreach to politicians in Washington D.C. on behalf of veterans. June 2015 Mtg

Paul from the Vietnam Veterans of America raised the issue of suicides among the military. He spoke about the rejection faced by the Vietnam Veterans when they returned home. He suggested that today we say to them “Thank you for your service, welcome home”, a welcome that they didn’t receive decades ago. Rose from Veterans Services highlighted the many services they provide including assistance in filing for educational benefits, VA home loan certificates, medical treatment, and service connected compensation. Mitzi of Community Hospice spoke about the services that they provide to veterans and others. June 2015 Mtg

Gary from Vietnam Veterans of America  spoke about working with veterans who have ended up in prison and getting them homes and job ready when they get out. Rescue dogs are trained by the prisoners to become therapy dogs for those in need outside the prison.

Jerry from Career Source spoke about the many career services that his organization provides to veterans. Herb was there from the Military Museum reminding us of the benefits of a visit to his museum. Sandy, a member of the Orange Park Friends of the Library was there to find out what veteran services were available in the county so she could share this information with others. Sylvia spoke about her gratitude as someone from Trinidad who has experienced the great works of the U.S. military. Carla who is running for Clay County School Board in 2016 and is an elementary school teacher shared her vision for providing support to students when their parents are deployed. Of course Doug, Samantha, and I were there to add to the discussion. June 2015 Mtg

There was a suggestion that Shaping Clay organize a speaker’s bureau of people who have stories to share in the community, not just about veterans, but about seniors, health, etc. This is an idea that the group will explore.

Doug suggested that we revisit the topic of veterans at the beginning of 2016. Of Clay County’s approximately 200,000 people, some 30,000 are veterans. Any suggestions for how we can keep connected to share resources and services for veterans before we meet again would be welcomed.

Peace and Joy

    From your Shaping Clay Team

Karen Wintress        Samantha Bane            Doug Greenberg         Jackie Kujala 609-933-2666           904-881-6697                904-272-5988             904-449-4957

May 2015 – Animal Support Services

At our May 29th meeting we took a road trip to CJ Acres Animal Rescue Farm.

For those that attended this meeting it was exciting and memorable.

May 2015 MtgLee Sackett, Executive Director and owner of the farm provided meeting space in his barn and shared about his organization’s ongoing efforts to rescue, rehabilitate, and reintroduce animals suffering from abuse, abandonment, neglect or catastrophic disasters. Some of the present residents include cows, horses, goats, pigs, turkeys, ducks and even a few cats. Lee gave the history of his farm as well as the stories of the animals who reside there, and he brought to our attention some of the obstacles that CJ Acres faces such as not being able to pick up food and supply donations. We toured the facility and had the privilege of interacting with the animals.

May 2015 MtgLinda Welzant, Executive Director of Clay Humane shared information about the many services that they provide.  A team of veterinaries staff a low cost clinic and provide free cat spay / neuter services, low cost vaccinations, and microchipping. In addition their education programs stress the prevention of cruelty to animals and annually sponsor a poster contest for all 5th grade students in the county with a theme of animal overpopulation. They also educate about disaster preparation to include your pet  and the benefits of adopting, not shopping, when looking for a pet. Their pet therapy volunteers visit nursing homes. Clay Humane also responds to wildlife issues and is a place to report animal cruelty.

Visit the websites and ‘like’ the Facebook pages for these 2 great Clay County nonprofit organizations.

 Peace and Joy

    From your Shaping Clay Team

Karen Wintress        Samantha Bane            Doug Greenberg         Jackie Kujala
609-933-2666           904-881-6697                904-272-5988             904-449-4957


April 2015 – Keys To Marketing

At our April 24th meeting, we shared effective marketing strategies and tactics.

Mar 2015 MtgAs you review the suggestions below, which approaches are you already using?  Are there one or two areas that you would like to work on incorporating within your organization? Are there things your organization is doing that you’d like to have us add to the list of suggestions?

First know your market and honestly evaluate what you are doing to reach that market. Make sure that you are offering a quality product or service that is supported by excellent customer service in a culture or way which is comfortable for your prospects / clients. By doing this, and following up, your efforts will generate referrals.

Ask for referrals from satisfied clients.

Get out in the community and cultivate relationships; don’t wait for people to come to you.

What is your online presence? When people come to your website or Facebook page can they figure out how you can help them in less than 7 seconds? They are not coming to watch a 10 minute video. People are searching because they have a question or want to solve a problem.

If your organization has multiple audiences, then you probably need multiple elevator pitches. Each elevator pitch should be appropriate for the target audience and should be easy to understand.

Create a jingle, song, or catch phrase to make your marketing more memorable.

Integrate humor and make your message lighthearted when appropriate.

Integrate multiple senses – auditory, visual, tactile, and / or olfactory.

Go where your target population hangs out which could be clothing stores, nail salons, or places for kids.

Have someone who has gone through your program return to share their success. Use these positive stories to build confidence with prospects.

Give past and present participants your cards to pass out.Mar 2015 Mtg

Prepare marketing flyers or other materials that you can hand out or leave behind after a meeting.

Gauge the different modes of reaching people to obtain the best results. Where will your marketing message resonate – at schools, churches, social media, at the mall? Can you best reach your audience via text, email, or phone?

Find ways to celebrate and salute accomplishments.

Follow through after events. One way could be by telling stories.

Don’t forget to market within your own agency, especially if you have multiple programs.

Peace and Joy

    From your Shaping Clay Team

Karen Wintress        Samantha Bane            Doug Greenberg         Jackie Kujala
609-933-2666           904-881-6697                904-272-5988             904-449-4957


March 2015 – Fundraising Tips

At our March 27th meeting we explored fundraising tips – do’s and don’ts.

Mar 2015 MtgEach member took a moment to share what they learned about another organization by having a one-on-one with other community leaders or Shaping Clay members since the last meeting. For those that didn’t have a one-on-one meeting during the month, he or she shared a surprising thing about his or her organization, something we may not know about.

The topic of fundraising had a stellar introduction from Lee Sacket with CJ Acres Animal Rescue Farm and Allie Munch with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Florida. Thank you to both of these community leaders for taking the time to share their wealth of knowledge with the group. Some general suggestions were to have everyone prepared before the fundraising effort and make it fun.

Know your organization, your story, and your organization’s needs.

  • What is your mission, vision, current goal(s)?
  • How did you start? What do you physically do? How do you impact the community? What are your successes?
  • What do you currently need (monetary and non-monetary)?

Who do you know? It’s important to continually nourish relationships.

  • Get your name AND face out there! You are part of your organization’s mobile branding.
  • Be involved, make connections, share resources, volunteer and serve.
  • In-person contact is invaluable! Set coffee dates, lunches, and after hours informal meetings.
  • Gain trust and confidence before making a big “ask”; Build friends before building funds.

Identify the ways we can connect with contributors, not everyone will give cash.

  • We all need more than just money!
  • Individuals can give money, time (volunteerism), skills, and services.
  • Small businesses can give in-kind donations, goods/services, small sponsorships.
  • Large corporations can give large scale donations and sponsorships, employee involvement, and publicity.
  • Make giving easy! Involve more people with fun and creative activities!

Mar 2015 MtgUse fundraising approaches such as “friendraising”. Have a planned small, 20 minute talk about your passion, and ask if the person knows anyone who you should meet or could help. They may even raise their hand to support your effort.

Don’t be boring or predictable. Have a signature event with flare that people can talk about and share. Make it special and exciting, something people really want to attend or support.

When asking for donations, follow up and follow through. Partner with the community and meet with people who have experience in event planning or fundraising.

Make sure that your event is consistent with your mission. In Lee’s case he wouldn’t serve meats (hamburgers / hot dogs) since he rescues cows and pigs at his farm.

Don’t say we “need”, rather look for support. Every word matters in the mission and vision statements, so stay simple and clear.

Mar 2015 MtgSomeone asked, “Is there a fundraising season?” It depends, there are key times to host an event such as with a holiday. Do not conflict with other major events which could limit turn out. Pick a date that can be anchored for longevity and give yourself ample time to plan the event.


Peace and Joy

    From your Shaping Clay Team

Karen Wintress        Samantha Bane            Doug Greenberg         Jackie Kujala
609-933-2666           904-881-6697                904-272-5988             904-449-4957



February 2015 – The Power Of Networking

The theme of our February 27th meeting was networking.

Feb 2015 MtgWe explored ways that each of our organizations network with their constituents and with other organizations in the community. Welcome to the several new people who joined us!

Each organization had an opportunity to share a success story representing the lives that his or her agency has touched. It gave us all a deeper look into the heart of our Clay County nonprofits and community.

One networking suggestion was to attend Clay County Chamber of Commerce events which are open to everyone. The Chamber sponsors many networking events throughout each month. If you haven’t already attended, try out Finally Friday meetings. Here you can get your message out to 60 – 90 attendees each week. No need to preregister; just come prepared with a 30-second statement including your name, organization, and what you are looking for.  The meeting starts promptly every Friday morning at 8:30am at Haven Hospice.

Another idea was for nonprofits to reach out to for profit companies. Many companies are looking for ways to contribute to the community. They may not be aware of your organization, who you are reaching, and what successes you are having. Find ways to get your story out and meet with representatives from companies that you’d like to have support you.

Build face-to-face relationships. Have one-to-one meetings over coffee with people from other organizations (profit and nonprofit). Find out more about what each other is doing and explore if there are ways to collaborate. Make sure to follow up and stay connected after an initial meeting, follow up is key to successful relationships.

Stay current with other events going on in the community. By doing this you may identify opportunities to support each other. When possible, attend events being held by other organizations.

Feb 2015 MtgIn building your board reach outside your normal boundaries to those who may not be directly related to the mission of your organization. You want people that through his or her network can make connections to individuals and groups that want to support what you are doing.

Connect our organizations via Facebook. The more active we are using social media, the more we will get our story out and get supported. Consider not just posting an upcoming event, but share photos and information about what happened during and after the event.

 Peace and Joy

    From your Shaping Clay Team

Karen Wintress        Samantha Bane            Doug Greenberg         Jackie Kujala
609-933-2666           904-881-6697                904-272-5988             904-449-4957