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Meet Dee: Taking Action against Hunger at North Middle School

Sept. 18, 2015, 9:45 a.m. · 0 comments

September is Hunger Action month and we would like to salute one of our Oasis Insight heroes fighting hunger in her community. Meet Dee Nadjkovic, volunteer administrator at the North Middle School Food Pantry in Great Falls, Montana. Each week she helps between 10-20 students shop for food right there in the middle school before they hop on the bus to go home.

What started out as a simple way to be involved in her son’s school has turned into a passion for fighting childhood hunger. “Two years ago when my son went into middle school I was involved in the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA). Each parent joining PTA was asked to volunteer for a committee. The Food Pantry was on the list and for some reason I thought this sounded like fun and more interesting than counting box tops,” she says.

Dee has found that this volunteer role is a very direct way to help her son’s peers. She shares, “You can see a child with the same shoes and phone as all the other kids and think that he or she isn’t in need, but I’m learning that children are going to school without what they need. We can do something about hunger.”

Each week shopping is done at the local Food Bank and school food pantry volunteers sort and stock the shelves. Once a week they help students “shop” for nutritious foods so they can be more focused on their school work and less distracted by a growling stomach.

On special occasions, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, even more students visit the pantry and bigger boxes of food are distributed. “We don’t necessarily do these special boxes for the holiday, per se. We do it because of the extended time out of school for these kids,” says Dee. The boxes often include items for a holiday meal, but are also stuffed with additional lunch, breakfast and snack foods to help see the students through the breaks from school.

But what about summer break? That was a question Dee and fellow volunteers wondered about. Concerned for the well-being of the students they had been serving, Dee and friends set up a summer school-based food pantry as well. “Yes! We created a rather impromptu summer food pantry. We operated it with two to three volunteers at one of the middle schools weekly.”

Not only does Dee help with distribution year-round, she also keeps the records for the program, reporting back to the food bank and the program’s financial supporters, The Great Falls Public School Foundation and the North Middle School PTA. She makes sure they know the number of students served and the amount of food received.

Dee has been one of the first school-based food pantry volunteers to upgrade her record-keeping by using Oasis Insight’s technology solution for case management and reporting. “The paperwork was daunting to me and it used to take over an hour a week and two to three hours a month to create reports with my miscellaneous papers and excel spreadsheets. Using Oasis Insight has taken the chore feeling out of it and saved me a lot of time.”

While the school food pantry isn’t designed to be a primary food source for the children or families served, it is able to help families get by, or make it through to the end of the month. Nationwide, Feeding America’s School Pantry program serves more than 21 million meals to nearly 110,000 children. Dee shares, “This work is something that has become incredibly important to me in my life. I will always make sure that I am doing what I can to help children with food.”

Thank you, Dee, for taking action against hunger in your community! To learn more about Hunger Action Month and School Food Pantries visit www.feedingamerica.org. To learn more about bringing Oasis Insight to your community food pantry or local food bank, visit www.oasisinsight.net.

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WGNS Radio, September 17th, 2015

Sept. 17, 2015, noon · 0 comments

CharityTracker Information Sessions in Full Swing

September 17, 2015

Murfreesboro and Rutherford County, TN


The United Way of Rutherford and Cannon Counties is hosting free information sessions for CharityTracker, a shared case management and communications tool for local agencies in Rutherford and Cannon counties. The United Way has already hosted five information sessions for leaders in the nonprofit, faith-based, foundation, civic, academia, and government sectors to learn more about the free software.

CharityTracker can be used to gather and report statistical data for resource development, strategic planning, measuring outcomes, reducing duplication and disaster relief, as well as securely communicate needs directly to the organizations that have the resources to provide services. CharityTracker streamlines client intake and provides accurate records to assist agencies in serving clients more efficiently and effectively.

Josh Markham, Missions Director of First United Methodist Church, said, "Charity Tracker is a concept I and others that assist in the community have been wanting for years. What has been missing is a cohesive network to launch this program. United Way is providing that. Now agencies will be able to communicate effectively and work together. As more agencies use this tool, residents in our area will receive lasting help. Together we can accomplish so much more. United indeed."

Here's a link to the original article.

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The Sanford Herald, Sept. 16th, 2015

Sept. 16, 2015, 4:04 p.m. · 0 comments

Beginning at home:

Fall means start of United Way campaign

Sept. 15, 2015

Sanford, North Carolina

By Jan Hayes, Executive director, United Way of Lee County

Fall is here once again. Despite some sweltering temperatures, making it feel like summer may never end, all of the other telltale signs have arrived. Children finally have settled into their new classrooms. Football season has kicked off at area universities. And the annual United Way campaign has begun.

Granted, the annual United Way fundraising campaign doesn’t attract as much attention as “back-to-school” sales and tailgating. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not important. In fact, money raised by United Way of Lee County over the next few months will be used by about 18 Lee County nonprofits to help our friends and neighbors when they need it most.

That includes helping women escape domestic violence, providing essential medical care for low-income neighbors who can’t afford health insurance, allowing people with disabilities to experience some freedom and independence, caring for homeless families breaking away from poverty, helping youth develop strong study habits and important leadership skills — the list goes on.

Even better, money raised during the fall campaign doesn’t just help United Way partner agencies. It strengthens nonprofits across our entire community. Corporate contributions made during the annual campaign pay for community-wide projects like VolunteerLee.com and Charity Tracker.

VolunteerLee.com is a local website connecting volunteers with schools, churches and other nonprofits needing their help. Any organization can get involved by registering on the website and posting their needs. It’s quick and easy, and hundreds of people already have responded.

CharityTracker is a secure, online service allowing local groups to coordinate what they provide to people requesting help. It has been a godsend for local nonprofits. Now that local agencies can avoid giving the same food or financial assistance to the same people, even more families can be served. Thanks to CharityTracker, 70 more Lee County children had something to unwrap at Christmas — and that was just during the initial trial run.

But the success of any United Way campaign rests on individual donations — employees making a pledge during their workplace campaign and families making donations large and small.

And those smaller donations do matter. They matter a lot, because local nonprofits can tap into food banks, corporate matching programs and other special arrangements that stretch dollars further than you can imagine. Want some examples? About $50 dollars will purchase 275 pounds of food to feed struggling families, $36 dollars will send two books per month to an underprivileged child for the entire year and $25 will provide emergency communication between a military family and their deployed loved one.

At a time when every dollar counts, it’s important to contribute to groups that use donations wisely. When Forbes published a list of “five all-star charities” three years ago, United Way Worldwide made that select list. The magazine noted that United Way affiliates are governed by independent review boards, audits and limits on marketing tactics.

That’s exactly what happens here with United Way of Lee County. Every agency requesting financial assistance is thoroughly evaluated by community volunteers, and their recommendations are forwarded to a board with representatives from local governments, churches, companies and nonprofits. You probably know many of them; they’re listed as part of the leadership team on the United Way website.

So, as your children head out to school this week or you turn on the big game, don’t forget that there’s more happening this fall. The United Way annual campaign is happening all around, and this is your perfect opportunity to learn more about the great things happening in our community and to help struggling neighbors reach their goals.

Here's a link to the original article.

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Strengthening Collaboration and Innovation

Sept. 9, 2015, 12:41 p.m. · 0 comments

Simon Solutions Inc. is expanding our commitment to collaboration and innovation and would like to introduce you to our newest staff member, Krista Petty. Krista is serving in a newly developed role of Community Connector and Editor. She will be connecting with many of our networks and writing case studies and profiles. You might be hearing from her soon as she researches the great work Charity Tracker and Oasis Insight networks are doing in their communities.

Through these studies and profiles, we hope to glean principles and best practices that our various networks and community collaborations have in common. We also want to learn of the unique ways some of you are solving problems and collectively having impact. Our goal is to share what we learn as to strengthen the capacity of us all. We believe what we learn will also aid in the development and implementation of forming new collaborations for community benefit and transformation.

Krista is no stranger to our team. We have been collaborating with her on various special projects for several years. If your collaborative network is doing something groundbreaking, feel free to reach out and share your story. Contact Krista directly at krista@simonsolutions.com

"Collaboration is the backbone for innovation success."

-Sarah Miller Caldicott, great grandneice of Thomas Edison

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Celebrating 9 years!!!

May 29, 2015, 1:32 p.m. · 0 comments

The month of May marks the 9th year of business for Simon Solutions, Inc.

It’s hard to believe that our solutions, CharityTracker and Oasis Insight, are now helping people in 871 cities.

Our staff continues to grow as does our passion for the work that we do.

We would like to thank the many agencies and administrators who have guided our company in building better solutions.

We have big things in store for the future and we trust that you will be with us for the next 9 years. From the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU!!!!!!

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Congratulations to Jeffrey Allen!

May 18, 2015, 11:13 a.m. · 0 comments

Simon Solutions is proud to congratulate our intern, Jeffrey Allen, on his recent graduation from the University of North Alabama where he majored in computer science and minored in mathematics.

Originally from Orlando, FL, Jeffrey is pictured above with his wonderful mother, Hannah.

Jeffrey has been a part-time member of the our team for a year and a half and will now be joining us full-time.

He says that he appreciates the opportunity to work with people who care to make a difference in communities, and we certainly appreciate Jeffrey and his hard work.

Jeffrey is a bright young man with an even brighter future. We are lucky to have him!

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The Sanford Herald, Jan. 11th 2015

Jan. 11, 2015, noon · 0 comments

‘Serve more and serve better’

Charity Tracker to be rolled out at month’s end

Jan. 11, 2015 @ 05:01 AM

Sanford, North Carolina

Kathryn Trogdon

United Way of Lee County will roll out a new database later this month as a way to connect local nonprofits and churches to better assist those in need by keeping more detailed records on clients and eliminating redundancies.

United Way of Lee County will hold an information session about Charity Tracker, a database that connects local charities to maximize their efficiency, from 10:30-11:30 a.m. on Jan. 27 at Trinity Lutheran Church at 525 Carthage St. in Sanford. United Way Executive Director Jan Hayes said any Lee County nonprofit or church interested in the program is invited to attend, but she encouraged an RSVP to United Way at (919) 776-5823 beforehand.

“What we anticipate on this is that it will be just an incredible resource for our organization, because we know there is redundancies in services,” Hayes said. “The bottom line is serving as many people that we can in the community.”

As administrators of the site, United Way has been piloting Charity Tracker with two of its partner agencies, the Salvation Army of Lee County and Christians United Outreach Center, primarily testing the program during the holidays. Salvation Army, CUOC, N.C. Treasure Chest and Toys for Tots for Lee County tested the new system by making sure every family received toys for Christmas from only one of the organizations.

“It helps us to be better stewards of the donations that we get,” Christians United Outreach Center Executive Director Teresa Kelly said. “And making sure the families that we are helping are the ones that are most in need of the services.”

After the rollout of the program, Charity Tracker Basic would be available to local nonprofits and churches for $15 a month and Charity Tracker Plus would be available for $25 a month. New and interested persons or organizations would also be eligible for a 14 day free trial.

Charity Tracker Basic would provide organizations with basic information, including client data, bulletins and a directory of all the agencies in the network, while Charity Tracker Plus, includes requests, referrals and outcomes.

Kelly said Charity Tracker Plus would be useful to CUOC if someone came in for assistance but also needed help with a light bill. She said if the organization couldn’t help with the full amount, she could send a request to the Salvation Army to assist.

“It’s a way for nonprofits to communicate back and forth about the clients,” she said.

Charity Tracker Plus could also track the outcomes of clients, Kelly said. For example, if CUOC shared information about Job Seekers with a client that was unemployed, staff at the next agency that client visits will see that information and can ask the client if they followed up.

“It kind of just allows all the nonprofits to know what we’re communicating with the families,” she said.

Hayes said the database could also assist clients in other areas of their lives. For example, she said organizations would be able to suggest other services in the community that are available to the client like taking a financial management class or getting their GED, which could lead to getting a job.

“We’re hoping that because we share in these resources we’ll be able to identify other areas where [the clients] need help and provide that assistance as well,” she said. “This is a big picture.”

While she understood cost may be a factor for some organizations, Hayes said she would encourage every group involved to get Charity Tracker Plus.

“It would really be better if everyone involved got the plus so we could all share [information],” she said.

But organizations that get the basic version of Charity Tracker won’t be disconnected from the other agencies, Kelly said, because organizations with Charity Tracker Basic can see messages via the bulletin board.

“This enables member organizations to track their clients, the assistance they receive, where and when they receive it and what they receive,” Anri Flickinger, United Way project coordinator, said. “In turn, this creates transparency between agencies that enables them to serve more and serve better.”

Here's a link to the original article.

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From our family to yours....

Dec. 23, 2014, 1:52 p.m. · 0 comments

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Myrtle Beach Sun News, October 28, 2014

Oct. 28, 2014, noon · 0 comments

Conway Group Fights to Feed Those in Need


Strand Notebook, October 28, 2014

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

On Monday, 100 people in need went to the Churches Assisting People (CAP) offices in Conway for food. About midday Tuesday, Director Gail LaSalle said it appeared the number was going to be about the same for that day.

The economy may be better for some people, but for many others, it has not improved, she said.

CAP is struggling to keep enough food on the shelves to give to the hungry that come to them. “We desperately need food,” LaSalle said. “It comes in, and it goes right out.”

Who are the people going to CAP for help?

They are not people who go from charity to charity, trying to take advantage. Many charities, including CAP, use Charity Tracker on their computers, and they know if a person has been to another charity and what the person has gotten from another charity or from theirs.

LaSalle said they are people of all ages, including many seniors living on fixed incomes who are a little above the amount that would allow them to get food stamps or maybe have incomes low enough to get only about $15 worth. And the price of food is going up.

“That’s what’s happening. Food is expensive, especially meat,” LaSalle said.

Many seniors who worked most of their lives only get about $600 or $700 per month in Social Security to live on. “It’s a struggle,” LaSalle said.

CAP provides emergency food assistance of three meals per person, per day for three days. In October 2013, CAP provided food to 1,148 families. As of noon on Oct. 28, CAP already had assisted 1,000 households this month. That’s an estimated 2,800 people and about 24,000 to 25,000 meals.

This year, from January through August, a total of 7, 478 families received 165,645 meals.

CAP also helps in other ways, if possible, and in that same time period, it distributed $24,401 to 8,000 families to assist with electric bills, transportation, housing and other basic needs.

On Tuesday, LaSalle was trying to network to help a woman who has been given responsibility for three of someone else’s children and is having to rent beds for them because she can’t afford to buy beds.

“People need stuff, and it’s very hard,” LaSalle said. “She only gets $180 a month to feed all three of them. She can’t afford to go out and buy beds.”

In an effort to assist those in need more efficiently, CAP was started by the Conway Ministerial Association in late 1987 with seven participating churches and has grown to about 33 participating churches and organizations. It has a staff of three.

Without hard-working volunteers, it would be impossible to operate, LaSalle said.

In addition to the daily need of food and donations, CAP, a United Way agency, is working to provide Thanksgiving dinner to families in need.

CAP is at 206 Main St. in Conway. For more information about donating, hosting a food drive, volunteering or helping in other ways, call 488-2277 or visit www.capconway.org.

Here's a link to the original article.

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Springfield News-Leader Oct. 26, 2014

Oct. 26, 2014, 6 a.m. · 0 comments

Rollins: Tracking aid to the poor could change cynical minds

by Jess Rollins, 6 a.m. CDT October 26, 2014

Springfield, Missouri

Are poor people in Springfield just lazy?

Could they get a decent paying job but choose not to?

Are they taking advantage of welfare programs and charities — cashing in on the generosity and taxation of hard-working folks?

On these questions, a lot of people have already made up their minds.

But what if, on a case-by-case basis, there was a way to know what services each poor person in the city received?

What if the ones who needed help could get it?

What if so-called freeloaders wouldn't be able to game the system?

No need for the "what ifs." Such a tracking program exists and is being used, in a limited way, among some local charities. It's called Charity Tracker. For the few food pantries in the city that use it, the system creates a profile of each person or family that receives local services.

The profile can include a full account of services received by an individual, including participation in federal programs like food stamps.

The profile is shared in real time with other agencies on the network.

Mary Zumwalt, of Ozarks Food Harvest, the food bank that administrates the program, said it has been in use about a year. But only 19 charities spread throughout 28 counties have signed on. Only six of those are in Greene County.

The $15 monthly fee and equipment needed — a computer with Internet — have been obstacles for the charities that might like to participate.

Zumwalt said the program helps the charities coordinate and keep from duplicating services.

"What we are really wanting the program to do is make each other aware of the services they provide and to help the clients," Zumwalt said.

"It is a really great tool for everyone to work together and not drain each others' resources."

Zumwalt told me the system isn't really meant to catch fraud — mostly because the occurrence of it is actually very low — but it can.

And this, in a cold and calculating way, is valuable.

The ability to tell a cynical community that only the needy — and no one else — is getting help, could help change the conversation when talking about the plight of the poor.

The Springfield poverty commission, a group of business, government and community leaders working on a plan to help lift the city's poor out of poverty, could gain some much-needed community support if the commission members push for this system to be more widely used.

There is another benefit to the program that could aid the commission's work. The system would allow observers to track a poverty-stricken family's progress.

A caseworker could help chart a course for poor individuals and monitor their progress toward getting on their feet.

Each success story could provide a blueprint, an inspiration to others and a scorecard for the efficacy of the city's programs.

I agree, fighting fraud that doesn't really exist is a silly goal.

But if doing so reassures a community that is sometimes hostile toward the poor, the investment would be worth it.

Here's a link to the original article.

0 comments Categories: Press