What Is Shaping Clay?

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      Doug Greenberg and Samantha Bane

Shaping Clay is a community-building network focused on making Clay County, Florida a better place to live, work, learn, and play.

During 2016 we are poised to venture into some new territory. We want to explore how our nonprofits can collaborate with a variety of other stakeholders in Clay County. Some of these other groups / topics previously identified during our 2015 meetings include: Libraries, Agriculture, Emergency Planning, Education, Legislators, Government, Speaker’s Bureau, Storytelling, Volunteer Directory, Event Directory, and Resource Directory.

We meet the last Friday of each month. Check back on the website to find out the next meeting’s topic, confirm our meeting location or scroll down to review notes from our previous meetings.

Also feel free to contact one of us with questions or suggestions relative to past or upcoming meetings.

Peace and Joy  

From your Shaping Clay Team 

Karen Wintress          Samantha Bane             Doug Greenberg
609-933-2666           904-881-6697                904-272-5988

 

 

June 2016 – Going Forward

Shaping Clay May 27, 2016 Meeting

Our May meeting was scheduled at the beginning of a holiday weekend, so we decided rather than meet at St. Vincent’s, we’d send out 3 activities (a virtual meeting). The challenge is for everyone who attends Shaping Clay meetings to do these activities before our June 24th meeting. These should not take long, but be of benefit to your organization and others in the community. Here they are…

  • Go to the Reinhold Foundation website (http://reinhold.net/, find your directory listing and update it if necessary. Make sure that you review and update these items.

a). Name, email, phone number for primary contact person.

b). Short description (one or two sentences) of what your organization does, your mission.

c). Categories or keywords that people would use in searching for your organization.

d). Website address.

e). Address – both physical and mailing, if different.

  • Locate the list of 2016 Celebrate Clay award winners on the Reinhold Foundation website. Identify one of the award-winning organizations that you would benefit from knowing more about. Call them to congratulate them and schedule a one-on-one meeting. Find out more about what they do and if there are opportunities to collaborate. See if you can identify ways that your organization can be a 2017 Celebrate Clay award winner. Tips for a one-on-one meeting can be found at https://shapingclay.org/nonprofit-tools/
  • Check out the University of Florida IFAS Extension website: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ It is a treasure trove of publications and is largely unknown as a resource. Information could be used for curriculum, handouts for your clients, background for your website or Facebook page, etc. Topics include: agriculture, community development, environment, families and consumers, 4-H youth development, and lawn and garden. Everyone should be able to identify at least 2 resources that would be of benefit to your organization and share them with someone.

We’d love to hear your results at our next meeting.  We’ll further explore  how Maslow’s  Hierarchy fits into Clay County’s nonprofits.

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Shaping Clay June 24, 2016 Meeting

Come join us at our June 24th meeting at St. Vincent’s from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Our focus will be Shaping Clay – Moving Forward. Shaping Clay has been evolving and based on a prior meeting we agreed to stay connected to, but not duplicate the work of the Clay SafetyNet Alliance (formerly called the Mercy Network). The Clay SafetyNet Alliance’s focus is on providing social service support for those with chronic or one-time needs in our community.

Shaping Clay’s goal is to connect and enhance the efforts of the nonprofits that provide enrichment support for the community. We are also focused on creating linkages between all nonprofits and other stakeholders such as libraries, schools, government agencies, legislators, for profit businesses, and the faith-based community.

At our June 24th meeting, we want to reflect on what’s been accomplished and where we should focus our efforts going forward. Then how do we prioritize what we want to accomplish before the end of the year and beyond.  Topics that have been mentioned at prior meetings that may be of interest include:

  • Create a profile of the impact that nonprofits have in Clay County and use it to meet with and seek support from our legislators.
  • Make widely available a directory of volunteer opportunities for those who want to volunteer. There are a couple directories already in place that we should review and potentially use, rather than reinvent the wheel.
  • Develop a speaker’s bureau that would provide visibility and education opportunities for our nonprofits to connect with the community.
  • Identify a way to solve the continuing challenge of ‘how do we get the word out?’ Where could a resource directory be created and maintained?
  • Get an update of how the councils which focus on select groups are doing and how can Shaping Clay help them advance – mental health, seniors, and veterans?

We need your input on June 24 to determine the focus for our remaining 2016 meetings. Your ‘hot button’ topic may not be on the above list, and we’d like to add it. The success of Shaping Clay is based on the collaborative ideas and efforts from all our nonprofits. We’d like everyone who attends to leave with some concrete suggestions about how we can share resources – volunteers, donations, office space, equipment, etc.  Also if we form teams to work on a couple of the prioritized efforts, each of us could select a team to join.

We’re looking forward to seeing everyone on June 24 at Saint Vincent’s at 8:30 a.m.

April 2016 – Agriculture in Clay County

Come join us for our April 29 meeting from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. at St. Vincent’s in Middleburg. We scheduled this right after the Agricultural Fair to learn of any things that we could do to build upon on this great community event. We want to highlight organizations, resources, and best practices in getting food from the farm to the table, ways to eliminate food deserts and support our local growers, explore school and community gardens, and provide continuing support to our food banks.

We will have a roundtable discussion about the role and impact of agriculture in Clay County. We are reaching out to all stakeholders, some may regularly work together, others may never have actually sat down together. We want to explore what each organization does in this arena, any challenges that we face, and how through knowing about and supporting each other we can leverage our impact. Examples of groups that we’d like to see represented include: farmers, master gardeners, community / school gardens, 4-H, food (pantries, rescue, deserts), food curriculum (e.g. high school academies), the Clay Agricultural Fair, Amazing Grace Crop Maze, UF/IFAS Extension, the faith-based community, any others who’d like to join us, and of course regular Shaping Clay attendees.

Clay County will continue to grow as the Expressway is finished and new people and businesses move in. Are there things we should consider to support our farms and other agriculturally-related businesses? How do we reduce the amount of people who are hungry? Is there existing curriculum about nutrition and food options that could be shared more broadly so that we all can make healthier choices? What opportunities are there for young people (K-college) to learn more about our incredible agricultural resources? What role do the churches and other nonprofits have in this arena? For those who can’t attend, send information via email ahead of time to Karen Wintress kkwintress@yahoo.com, and we’ll share it with the group.
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Mar 2016 – Libraries and Nonprofits Working Together

We went into our meeting with the following intent – to explore how the libraries and nonprofits in Clay County can support each other’s missions, goals, and projects. What services or facilities can the libraries offer to our organizations or clients? Are there any new programs that the libraries would like to sponsor or co-sponsor with any of the nonprofits? How can the nonprofits help support our libraries? Does the library see any role in assisting with county-wide projects such as a Resource Directory or Speakers Bureau?

And following are the notes from a very lively discussion between our Clay Library professionals representing the Fleming Island, Green Cove Springs, and Orange Park branches, Friends of the Library, and the Library Board of Trustees, and Shaping Clay nonprofits.

It became apparent almost immediately that a common refrain echoed throughout our entire discussion – how to get the word out. While it was expressed in different ways, the challenge we all face is having people know what we do, how they can access us, and for some, even that we exist.

Our libraries shared these comments. They are expected to do more with less as some of their funding has been reduced by 60% over the last 5 years. Not only do they need to add books and other information resources, but also need to expand computer labs and Wi-Fi service, and are faced with some of the facilities that are aging and need updates.

In terms of providing resources for the community, among the library’s many initiatives, three major ones are 1) to get teens into the library, 2) to work with the schools and families to engage students in summer reading programs to prevent the ‘summer slide’ or drop off of grades, 3) and to support a love of life-long learning throughout the community. The libraries hold many events throughout each month, but not everyone who could benefit from these programs hears about them.

The libraries have meeting rooms which are used, but often are underutilized. On April 7, Saint Leo University is presenting a five-hour Compassion Fatigue Training Seminar held at the Orange Park Library. Saint Leo expressed an interest in further exploring the use of the library’s meeting rooms, since their space on the St. Johns River State College campus is tight

Clay County Literacy Coalition wants to expand throughout all of Clay County and will explore working even more closely with the libraries. Presently 80 volunteers are working with 100 adult students who are learning English or getting their GED. However, most efforts have been in the Orange Park area, and they are now prepared to reach out throughout all of Clay County.

The Shepherd Center expressed frustration that people still don’t know who they are or what they do. This nonprofit has been in Orange Park for 22 years. It strives to improve the quality of life for adults over 55 with educational programming focused on health and wellness.

Molina Healthcare too offers many services that are not well known. As part of their commitment to serving the community they are compiling a resource guide of services that are provided which will be distributed throughout the state. Contact france.maestas@molinahealthcare.com if you want to find out more and be represented in their Resource Guide.

The Florida Department of Health / Clay County’s major emphasis is on driving improvements for overall population health in Clay County. Of course the health of each individual adds up to our community’s overall health. This organization too is continually exploring ways to get the word out about healthy choices, behaviors, and lifestyles.

Community Hospice does a lot of outreach in the community, but many people still don’t understand hospice care and the level of support they provide to the entire family, including children’s programs. They are yet another example of getting the word out. Mercy Support Services is fairly well known in the community and the call center connects requests for assistance to service providers throughout Clay County.

We then brainstormed a variety of ideas about how to help us all get the word out throughout Clay County.

  1. It was noted several times that the Reinhold Foundation has an excellent directory of nonprofits, but organizations need to regularly update their information.
  2. Explore with Clay Electric and Clay Utility Authority whether messages can be included with their bills or in the newsletters they send out to residents and businesses.
  3. Make it a goal to participate in the next Clay County Agricultural Fair by having a table or booth. One way to accomplish this is to join the Clay County Chamber and participate with their table.
  4. Hold community nonprofit and/or volunteer fairs. These could be held in conjunction with the community’s Farmers’ Markets. They would have to be held in several locations in order to reach everyone – Orange Park, Keystone Heights, Green Cove Springs, Fleming Island, and Middleburg.
  5. Coordinate a speaker’s bureau, an idea which has been raised several times at Shaping Clay meetings. We believe that we could start small and approach this as a joint-venture between the libraries, Shaping Clay, and seek involvement of the Clay Chamber, as well as other stakeholders. The library would consider hosting lunch and learn programs in their meeting rooms as a start. It was clearly stated that these would be informational programs and not sales pitches. It was further discussed how these could evolve into more in-depth panel discussions.
  6. There are great events sponsored by various organizations, but there is no one place to find out about them. If you are not on a specific email list, then it’s unlikely you’ll hear about them. Here are a few examples of events and their sponsors within a couple week period.
  • Clay Florida 5 Year Plan Presentation – Clay Economic Development Corporation
  • Clay County Water Summit – Clay County Chamber
  • Non-Profit Appreciation Event – Clay County Chamber
  • Clay Safety-Net Alliance Meeting – Formerly Mercy Network
  • Clay County CHIP Release Meeting – Florida Department of Health / Clay County
  • Rotary 501 Run, Expo, and Car Show – Orange Park Rotary
  • Compassion Fatigue Training Seminar – Saint Leo University
  • Business and Educator Networking Social – Clay County Chamber

We will explore if there is one place that all of the events from various organizations can be posted. And better yet, if summary slides or notes are released after an event, to add them to the event directory. Challenges will include how to navigate through a large collection of events if you are only interested in specific topics. The libraries are updating their website and agreed to explore if they could serve as the central ‘online place’ to post these events. We also discussed how to define ways that we can post each other’s events when appropriate.

There were 6 great ideas floated at our meeting. To all those who attended, and to those who weren’t able to join us, we need volunteers to step up and join us if we are to move any or all of these forward. Please contact Doug Greenberg at dougclaylit@aol.com or Karen Wintress at kkwintress@yahoo.com to let us know what initiative you’d like to contribute to. Also, if any key points were missed in these notes, please let us know.

While we didn’t discuss this at our meeting, here’s a great website that we should be aware of: http://www.fun4clayandbradfordkids.com. It includes hundreds of activities for families and kids in Clay and Bradford counties. Katy Hall would love to hear from anyone who has activities to add to her site at katy@fun4clayandbradfordkids.com, and it costs nothing to add them. I’ll make sure that she is checking out the library website for activities.

Please plan to join us for our next meeting on April 29, 8:30 – 10:30 back at St. Vincent’s in Middleburg. We are going to celebrate our Clay Agricultural Fair by finding out more about agriculture, food (recovery, pantries, deserts), school or other curriculum about nutrition, and ways that the nonprofits, agriculture, and other stakeholders can work together to support this very important sector of Clay County.

Feb 2016 – Where Should Shaping Clay Grow?

At our February 26th meeting we discussed what role should Shaping Clay play in 2016? How can we as a group make a difference in Clay County? It was a far ranging discussion, with these notes capturing the high points.

Observations

From the outset there was consensus that we don’t want to rehash discussions being held at other groups. We all attend different meetings but somehow they all focus on the same themes, so it becomes repetitive.  As an organization we are not looking to reinvent the wheel, rather provide support and make connections for ongoing efforts and seek ways to expand the impact of Clay County’s nonprofits.

The importance of separating the focus of Shaping Clay and The Mercy Network meetings so that there is less repetition led to a discussion of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. If you missed it in school, here it is:

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The group around the table felt that it made sense that the Mercy Network focus on the first 2 levels, the social service needs of the community. Shaping Clay could then focus on the top 3 levels, those areas that nurture and enrich the well-being of the whole community, not just those faced with a need for support.  The image of two circles, one inside the other better captured what the group was trying to express. The Mercy Network was the core, the center circle. Shaping Clay would encircle it and would focus on enrichment for the entire community, including those within the core.

Circles Inside Another grid

During 2016 Shaping Clay is poised to venture into some new territory. We want to explore how the nonprofits can collaborate with a variety of other stakeholders in Clay County. Some of these other groups / topics previously identified during our 2015 meetings include: Libraries, Agriculture, Emergency Planning, Education, Legislators, Government, Speaker’s Bureau, Storytelling, Volunteer Directory, and Resource Directory.

Suggestions For 2016 And Beyond

  1. Invite nonprofits which provide a vital role in the community’s well-being, but are not presently attending Shaping Clay meetings. Those mentioned included schools, arts, history, and youth athletic groups. It was also recommended that Shaping Clay as a network of nonprofits we encourage action and collaboration among the nonprofits on selected projects by adopting a Plan Do Act Check model.
  2. Have key note speakers, such as Bill Garrison from the Economic Development Corporation share his vision and future plans for Clay County.  If we know how and where Clay County is going, then we can identify ways that the nonprofits and businesses can work together.
  3. Adopt and support one of the CHIP (Clay Health Improvement Plan) Lifestyles / Behaviors workgroup projects once finalized.
  4. Find a champion to update an existing or create a new Resource Directory. The Resource Directory is to be accessible to anyone in Clay County (especially new residents and businesses), to include as many resources as possible, not just social services, and be kept up-to-date. Ideally it should include eligibility requirements and documentation needed to obtain a social service.
  5. Develop a Communication Plan and spearhead a promotional campaign which communicates the full impact of nonprofits in Clay County – number of employees, nature and value of services provided, etc. Create a story about the impact that a disaster would have if our nonprofits couldn’t respond for a week or longer. The currency which we bring to the community is so much more than $, it includes quality of life, compassion, health, and other positive attributes.
  6. Sponsor a panel discussion on a topic that would bring together and be of interest to both the Mercy Network and Shaping Clay participants. Two such topics come to mind – Agriculture or Emergency Management Services.
  7. Explore how Shaping Clay can provide support to organizations such as Saint Leo and the Clay County libraries. How can they help support the nonprofits? Organizations such as these have great ideas, untapped resources such as students, professors, volunteers, and media. It’s likely that by sharing our respective missions and goals with these and other stakeholders we will build some connections that are beneficial to all. Saint Leo would like to engage students more and be a sponsor of public forums. Presently Saint Leo is sponsoring a ‘Compassion Fatigue Seminar’ on April 7th from 8:30 to 3:00 at the Orange Park Library. Please share the attached flyer with those who could benefit from attending.
  8. Identify, make connections, and help get the word out about innovative programs such as Reverend Bill Randall’s (Saint Simon Missionary Baptist Church) transportation project. It was noted that he’s tackling transportation needs similar to how Clay Habitat is working with housing needs.

Bottomline: As a community, it is very important, that we work together to accomplish our shared vision and mission for the betterment of Clay County!

In light of the foregoing discussion Doug and Karen got the ball rolling by identifying the topics for our next 3 meetings. Details to follow and suggestions are welcome for these topics and the balance of the year.

March 25 Libraries. This meeting will be held at the Orange Park Library from 8:30 – 10:30.

April 29 Agriculture. This meeting will be held at St. Vincent’s Middleburg from 8:30 – 10:30.

May 27 Speakers Bureau and Resource Directory. This meeting- will be held at St. Vincent’s Middleburg from 8:30 – 10:30

Jan 2016 – Clay Health Improvement Plan (CHIP)

At our January 29 meeting the focus was on health initiatives and resources in Clay County. We reviewed the CHIP (Clay Health Improvement Plan) implementation plan introduced earlier in January.

According to the 2016 County Health Rankings Report for Florida released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, out of 67 counties in Florida, here’s where Clay County ranks.

Clay County Health Rankings

Here’s a link to read the full report.http://www.countyhealthrankings.org/app/florida/2016/overview

Here’s a link to Clay County: http://www.countyhealthrankings.org/app/florida/2016/rankings/clay/county/outcomes/overall/snapshot

Workgroups have been formed for each health issue that was identified as high priority in Clay County:

  • Mental Health,
  • Unhealthy Lifestyle/Prevention,
  • Healthcare Access.

Anyone who would like to contribute to these efforts is welcome to participate. In order to find out more about each group – who’s participating, what has already been discussed, and when each group will meet next, contact Emily Suter of the Health Planning Council of Northeast Florida at emily_suter@hpcnef.org or Jose Morales of the Florida Department of Health / Clay County at jose.morales@flhealth.gov.

In order to read the full CHIP report – copy this link into your browser:

http://clay.floridahealth.gov/programs-and-services/community-health-planning-and-statistics/_documents/clay-county-2015%20-community-health-assessment.pdf

Copies of the newly released Clay County Quality of Life Report were handed out at our meeting. Check it out at: http://www.claytodayonline.com/stories/clay-county-quality-of-life-progress-report,357. You can obtain a hard copy of the report at the Clay Chamber office. This 2015 Second Edition updates the initial report published in 2008 and is a guide for building a better community. Everyone is encouraged to read it as it provides a high-level review of where we stand in the 10 areas of: Arts & Culture, Economy, Education, Health, Public Safety, Recreation, Environment, Governance, Social Well-Being, and Transportation.

Samantha of ILRC (Independent Living Resource Center) led our discussion by noting that her agency is challenged because while it serves people with disabilities, they represent a broad spectrum of income brackets and age ranges. Consequently there is not a one-size fits all response, rather they must be able to match the appropriate resources for each individual.

Teresa head of the Penney Retirement Community (PRC) shared that she has brought a physician into the community and is looking for ways to connect this resource to the broader community. While the residents at PRC are retired and need health care, many come from professional fields, are very active, and volunteer in many ways in the community.

Joseph, a student at Saint Leo and active member of the Navy based at Mayport told us of an innovative program that is looking to provide ‘tiny houses’ for our veterans.

Sandy a Board of Trustee member of the Clay County Library reminds us that we should remember when delivering services and seeking ways to make connections in the community, the library is a caring and supportive environment. It is a place where people feel safe to come and gives those without access to the Internet a place to do so.

Mitzi from Community Hospice which provides palliative care for patients and their families noted that health care access is impacted in her organization due to a shortage of nurses. Also they are challenged in letting people know about the availability and benefit of using their services.

Leteja from the Northeast Florida Community Action Agency works to develop self-sufficiency in its customers by providing guidance in education, work, and financial resources. Their intake interview process is only about 15 minutes and they are challenged when working with someone that has a mental health issue. There is a stigma that comes with mental health issues.

Christy from the Quigley House let us know that they too find that some are still not aware of the services they provide for domestic abuse and sexual assault victims. They conduct in the workplace presentations to get the word out. In terms of providing services they are presently challenged because of having only one counselor on staff.

Anna from the Council on Aging, which serves people age 60 and above or disabled has 4 senior centers and through Clay Transit provides transportation throughout the county for everyone. They provide in-home health services, adult day care, companion and respite care, meals-on-wheels, and energy assistance and are a referring agency for groups sitting around the table. See notes at the end about the Clay County Senior Services Coalition which formed from our July 2015 Shaping Clay meeting on seniors.

Emily and Vultheara from the Health Planning Council of Northeast Florida gave us an update on the CHIP meeting that has already taken place and what’s upcoming. There are three initiatives that were identified by the Unhealthy Lifestyle / Prevention Group.

  1. Focusing on healthy weight for children and adults.
  2. Looking at health in the built environment, such as walkability.
  3. Implementing health policies in schools such as distributing candy as a reward should be replaced and taking away recess and phys ed are not helpful in reinforcing a healthy lifestyle.

Heather, head of the Florida Department of Health / Clay County observed that being new to Clay County there is no one source for information about available resources. She suggests that such a resource directory include what is being provided, who’s providing it, and the eligibility requirements. It was noted that accessibility doesn’t mean that it’s not available; it may mean that eligibility requirements are not being met. Jose also from the Department noted that access to mental health services, especially pediatric are limited, resulting in long waiting times.

Anna from the Way Free Medical Clinic reiterated that while they serve many in the community, there are people who need their services, but can’t get there due to lack of transportation.

Rachelle from Baptist Health would like to see us support mental health the way we do cancer. At one time cancer was stigmatized, but has come to the forefront and receives lots of support. Why not the same for mental health?

Allie from Big Brothers / Big Sisters noted that many of the children they connect with mentors are from single parent families. The problems that we see with children are reflective of what’s going on with the parents at home.

Doug from the Clay County Literacy Coalition reminded us of the importance of literacy in maintaining health. For example if you can’t read your prescription this can cause problems. Literacy is an important first step in being healthy.

Karen from Utility Bill Checkup shared about Creation Health, an exciting holistic health program that is being held Tuesday nights at the Barco-Newton Family YMCA in Fleming Island from 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. It costs $25 to register and classes are free. The eight sessions include choice, rest, environment, activity, trust, interpersonal relationships, outlook, and nutrition and one can join at any time. Andre Van Heerden is the coordinator and we are looking for more facilitators and additional locations to hold this program in Clay County.

Open discussion resulted in the following suggestions / comments.

  1. The need for a resource directory is high priority, but one of the challenges is keeping it updated. Adding eligibility requirements would make it much more useful.
  2. How can we use grocery stores, CVS, Walgreens and other pharmacies to help spread the word about healthy choices and behaviors?
  3. The CDC’s Worksite Health ScoreCard can be very useful to employers. From the website it explains that “this tool is designed to help employers assess whether they have implemented science-based health promotion and protection interventions in their worksites to prevent heart disease, stroke, and related health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, and obesity.” Go here to check it out: http://www.cdc.gov/healthscorecard/index.html
  4. We need to be more politically active, to generate awareness and support from our elected officials.
  5. We need to find ways to make a difference and the earlier the better.

Here is an update to what’s going on at the Clay County Senior Services Coalition. Anyone interested in working on these or other senior issues is encouraged to contact Shereen Snare at the Council on Aging shereens@claycoa.org who is coordinating this group.

This group is dedicated to identifying and working on hard issues that affect senior aged adults in Clay County. In September of 2015, the group identified the following 4 items as priority issues facing seniors in Clay County:

  1. Housing
  2. Food Insecurity
  3. Transportation
  4. Lack of Knowledge of Services that ARE available

The group began a conversation about the need to expand ways to reach seniors and their families for those that are not always plugged into traditional forms of media or advertising. This included:

  • Community –wide Outreach
  • The faith community, inclusive of church leadership, and pastors
  • The Medical Board
  • Addressing those 40+ that are seeing their parents ‘age out’”

 

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 volunteerclaycounty.com, (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 http://claytodayonline.com/stories/many-face-volunteer-challenges,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.