GRACE: More Than a Prayer Before Your Holiday Meal

holidaymealSchool may have just started, but we all know that the holidays will be here in the blink of an eye! This means traveling, family gatherings, cozy fires, holiday music, and of course, the all-too familiar food coma. For many local residents, however, this simply means another day worrying where the next meal, or dollar, is going to come from.

Each year, with the help of volunteers and donors, GRACE provides food baskets to individuals and families in need through the Holiday Food Distribution, a program designed to allow people a chance to prepare a typical holiday feast that they would otherwise go without. Baskets of food containing all of the items for a traditional Thanksgiving or Christmas meal, including a giant turkey or ham, are placed in client’s vehicles as they come through the drive at the GRACE Food Pantry.

You can help GRACE individuals and families enjoy a beautiful holiday meal in a variety of ways such as purchasing holiday food items while at the store, putting on a drive of your own for GRACE, or by simply donating online at GRACEGrapevine.org.

For questions about dates, ideas, and how you can help, please contact Volunteer Manager, Lara Sundell, at 817-305-4653 or email LSundell@GRACEGrapevine.org.

By: Lara Sundell

Food in a SNAP

childeatingOne in six children here in Tarrant County open the door to an empty cupboard. Many families in the GRACE community struggle with hunger on a daily basis. These families may be experiencing sudden loss of income due to hospital bills, unanticipated repair costs or job loss which could propel families into an emergency situation.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program helps nourish low-income or temporarily unemployed people with nutritious foods. The program is highly successful in reducing ‘food insecurity’ and thus increases the likelihood of steady employment, positive academic performance, and overall family stability.

Since these programs are consistent GRACE’s mission to spur families in need toward independence, our goal is to serve those who find themselves in a crisis but are unfamiliar with the application process. In partnership with SNAP and the Tarrant Area Food Bank, GRACE proudly welcomes Ida Rivera, Social Outreach Specialist, as our bilingual SNAP advocate to ensure our clients have food in a timely manner. Her expertise will expedite the paperwork process and keep GRACE well informed about the changing criterion for food assistance.

Ms. Rivera will be coming twice a month beginning September 5. Positive live skills can only be attained if a family’s basic human needs are met. A nourished body and mind sustains a bright future and in turn, families restored from the trials of hunger.

By: Heather Ortner

Why We Celebrate

IMG_6262GRACE GALA 2013When I accepted the position of Development Manager at GRACE last September, I had no idea that I would be instantly swept up into an elaborate and extraordinary preparation season that is the GRACE Gala.  From ordering hundreds of “blinky rings” and wine labels to mailing out thousands of invitations and shopping for the perfect ball gown – a floor length blush pink gown with a delicate black lace overlay – I felt a bit like I had stepped into a fairy tale.

The energy surrounding this event was palpable as it seemed the entire community was rallying together to make the 10th Gala season the most epic to date.  Who knew it was possible to run three quality auctions simultaneously?  And that I could support GRACE by entering a raffle for a car?!

I marvel at the generosity of this community to support our neighbors in need.  Aside from all the excitement surrounding the GRACE Gala and all the fun experienced that evening, our community seizes the opportunity to make sure every family in our community has food, clothing, shelter, and medical care, as well as the resources they need to build their own bright futures.  This is why we celebrate.  This is why we give.

By: Jennifer Jayroe

GRACE Fiscal Year Coming to a Close

retreatA secret “mandatory” meeting of GRACE staff launched Fiscal Year 2014 in a very festive way! Executive Director Shonda Schaefer and Executive Assistant Melissa Simpkins treated the staff to a “Happy New (Fiscal) Year” celebration.

Now that the fiscal year is coming to a close and another New Year’s celebration is planned (not so secret this year since the cat is out of the bag—but still very festive), a brief recap of FY14 is in order.

New Board President John Elieson welcomed Paul Bischler, Kevin Chase, Don Johnston, Karen Parrish, and Sean Shope to the Board.

The cooling breezes of October embraced the tenth annual GRACE Gala that posted “best evers” in funds raised-net and gross, auction revenues and attendance.

In November, Board Development Chair Cory Halliburton, President Elieson and the Board of Directors established the GRACE Endowment for donors wishing to see the good works of GRACE continue in perpetuity.

GRACE Christmas Cottage brought happy holidays to 1,682 children.

End-of-calendar-year statistics included “best evers” for the GRACE Clothing Room (2,675 people served), the GRACE Food Pantry (7,661 people served) and the total number of services provided (65,964). The value of donated in-kind goods and services topped $1.5 million for the first time.

The GRACE Community Park came into being in February and March, with a “Community Build” of more than 150 people who came together on March 2 to build a playground and meeting place for the neighborhoods surrounding GRACE Main Offices.

The warming winds of April carried the fifth annual Drive Into the Night event to top numbers in revenues net and gross. In May the Gala Gifting Party at Brio Tuscan Grille launched the 2014 Gala season.

In May, the GRACE staff convened for a retreat and came away with five core values that describe the ways in which GRACE serves those in need and all others involved with GRACE: with stewardship, respect, compassion, servant and excellence.

As June turned into July, we bid a fond farewell to Debbie Halley, GRACE Director of Resale, who retired after 21 years of service to GRACE. In August, we welcomed David Mowers as only the second Director of Resale in GRACE history.

Late August heard the announcement that Feed Our Kids served 38,128 lunches over the summer!

FY2014 ends on Sunday and we start FY15 with a holiday! It’s going to be a great new year!!

By: Mark Woolverton

Colors of Kindness

Scarves

In this feature, the colors of kindness are most vibrant from a woman who is legally blind. Maryann Waddell, GRACE’s Friends & Family Program Coordinator, arranged a house visit to meet a senior named Mary B. The purpose of the visit was to introduce Mary to her volunteer advocate, see how GRACE could meet her needs and simply get to know her better.

Upon arrival, Maryann and Mary’s advocate were greeted by a lively hostess likely in her 90’s who cheerfully welcomed them into her home. Eager to give to those less fortunate, Mary had bundles of hand-woven scarves were waiting for them. Despite Mary’s failing vision, her faithful fingers counted the hundreds of loops required for each scarf. The yarn is donated from the her local senior center, and although Mary admits she can only see hints of the hues she used to see, the vivid red and yellow yarn aptly reflect her jovial spirit.

“When you go expecting to serve and are given something instead, it is a tremendous blessing,” says Maryann.

The Friends & Family program is motivated by acts of kindness and companionship to improve the quality of life for senior adults in our community. For many in the same generation as Mary, the loss of loved ones could lead to social isolation, depression, and even poor health. Decreased mobility and income can make seemingly rudimentary errands a logistical obstacle.  GRACE coordinates resources to ensure area seniors’ basic and relational needs are met from commodity deliveries, appointment transportation, yard maintenance, light housekeeping and friendly visits to their home.

“Most of all, our seniors just want to be known and heard” continues Maryann, “It’s all about relationships.”

GRACE is always seeking volunteers to provide these vital services. If you have a heart for serving the senior population, there are various opportunities and levels of service needed.

Mary’s servant heart is a reminder that altruism is possible at every stage of life, in every condition, and to meet every need.  To learn more about volunteering with Friends & Family, contact Maryann Waddell, at 817-305-4631 or email MWaddell@GRACEGrapevine.org

By: Heather Ortner

“Cooking Matters” at GRACE

Cooking Matters

Nutrition courses at the GRACE Community Clinic take a competitive turn when graduation nears. Students in the 6-week course turned into Iron Chefs in a “Battle of Healthy and Delicious” last week.

Each team brought their superb skills, knowledge, teamwork and confidence in meal preparation into the Community Clinic Kitchen—all skills gained through the Cooking Matters for Adults course.

Each week of the course, Cooking Matters participants receive take-home groceries, which they can use at home to practice a recipe they learned in class. The course includes:

  • Participatory food preparation that provides cooking and food safety instruction
  • Engaging nutritional activities and discussions
  • Promotion of healthier eating habits
  • Practice with food budgeting
  • Workbook and 65 healthy, delicious recipes
  • Tips on grocery store visits or other food shopping experiences
  • Communal eating of the food made in class
  • Celebratory final class and graduation ceremony for participants who completed at least four of the six classes

 

Each of the Cooking Matters curricula use the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPyramid as the foundation for basic nutrition guidelines, then builds upon these ideas, using interactive lessons to teach cooking, food safety, and food resource management.

The Cooking Matters classes are locally sponsored by the Tarrant County Food Bank and nationally sponsored by ConAgra Foods Foundation and generously supported by the Walmart Foundation. Volunteers are provided through Tarrant County Food Bank.

The next 6 weeks’ Cooking Matters course begins on Wednesday, October 1 at GRACE Community Clinic, 837 East Walnut Street in Grapevine. Classes will be held each Wednesday from 6-8 p.m. through November 5.

For more information contact the GRACE Community Clinic, 817-488-7009, ext. 151.

By the way, the “Battle of Healthy and Delicious” ended in a wholesome, nutritious draw!
by Shirley Roberts, RN BAS CCM

Feed Our Kids Wraps Summer 2014

FOKThe last of the plastic folding picnic tables are making their way to storage. The smiling faces, the giggles and grateful “thanks” are memories to the hundreds of volunteers who braved both downpours and blistering heat the past few months.

The eighth season of GRACE Feed Our Kids ended today. Lori Stevens, GRACE Seasonal Programs Manager who oversees the Feed Our Kids activities, estimates over 37,000 lunches were served this year.

It is a bittersweet time for Lori, who begins work early in the spring to secure volunteer groups and then conducts training sessions for group leaders to manage their sites. The sadness of saying goodbye to the hundreds of volunteers—and to the neighborhoods of children—is tempered by knowing tens of thousands of lunches were given out this summer.

The longevity of Feed Our Kids is a testament to the volunteers who join the program early in the season with the promise of taking on a day, a week or more at one of the six Feed Our Kids sites.

Summer feeding programs were rare when Feed Our Kids started eight years ago. Children on the school’s free and reduced lunch program were left with very few options when summer started. Even now the other feeding programs require children to walk several blocks, many crossing busy streets, to get lunch.

Feed Our Kids volunteers go directly into their neighborhoods, set up tents and give out meals and goody bags. As simple as that concept sounds, the coordination, scheduling volunteer help, securing provisions, and managing site facilities is quite an undertaking.

The Feed Our Kids program, and the children who would go hungry without it, rely solely on the generosity, drive and commitment of its volunteers.

Congratulations to all who made Feed Our Kids a part of their lives this summer. On behalf of GRACE: Job well done!

On behalf of those you served: You may never know the extent of the good you’ve accomplished or the lives you’ve changed, but know that years from now, these kids—then grown—will remember this summer fondly—and the good times they had at Feed Our Kids.