Why is it that non-profits don’t collaborate and work together for their common good? Often, non-profit organizations are not comfortable about even talking about partnering. However, this is not the case with Texana Center and Fort Bend Seniors – Meals on Wheels; a few weeks ago the two Fort Bend County non-profit organizations did exactly that and began, what they hope will be, a long-term partnership to benefit both agencies.
During a casual conversation at a breakfast meeting Susan Whitacre, Volunteer Manager at Fort Bend Seniors mentioned the challenge in recruiting volunteers to Kevin Barker, Texana Director of Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities Services. When Barker heard that Whitacre needed volunteers to clean the center where the Fort Bend Seniors meet and that they also needed help in packing meals, ready for delivery to the homebound seniors, he immediately knew Texana Center could provide the answer.
In May, Barker put Whitacre in touch with Manuel Lopez, Manager of the newly opened Texana Learning Center at Rosenberg. Soon the two realized there was a real opportunity for both agencies to benefit each other. Texana clients were already hired to provide janitorial services at Texana Center’s facilities in Rosenberg, so doing this at Fort Bend Seniors would be an easy transition. As far as the packing of the meals for the homebound seniors – the Texana clients already had a contract with Alcove Medical Inc. to assemble medical kits, so how hard could it be to pack lunch, as it turns out no problem at all?
The benefits of partnering soon became obvious -Texana’s clients would gain work experience by volunteering at Fort Bend Seniors, they would also develop a sense of pride, while also learning about giving back to the community. In turn, Fort Bend Seniors would benefit in having a clean facility, help in getting meals out at no extra cost, and both non-profits’ clients would also have an opportunity to socialize.
At the first formal meeting with Fort Bend Seniors’ staff there was some concern about the seniors interacting with Texana’s clients. So it was suggested that two non-profits have a joint social; Texana offered to bring the ‘Dream Team’ – a drill team made up of clients – to perform for the seniors, this would be followed by a meet and greet. The event was a great success and by early September Texana’s trainers and clients had been through the volunteer orientation program, were issued their name badges, and were ready to start.
In mid-September six Texana clients turned out for their first day of volunteering and reported to Mary Valdez, Site Manager at Fort Bend Seniors. They were soon put to work; packing meals, wiping down tables, sweeping. vacuuming, and cleaning windows. Valdez said, “I am very glad to have the help and I am looking forward to interaction between the seniors, who attend the center daily and the Texana volunteers. The seniors will enjoy meeting these young people and I am sure they can share lots of stories together”.
Although Texana and Fort Bend Seniors serve different populations they do have some similar needs and believe that with mutual respect, understanding and trust this collaboration will be a win-win for both. Perhaps the two non-profits are setting an example for Washington!