Table of Contents
The goal of this paper is to articulate my experience, my understanding of how the Revitalize South Dallas Coalition, a nonprofit community-based organization functions and my experience with a diverse client population. This paper will also tell about the makeup and history of the Revitalize South Dallas Coalition and it will summarize my assessment of the agency’s operations. This document will also provide information about the culture of the organization, including interaction with their client population and its volunteers. In addition, this paper will give an overview of the Revitalize South Dallas Coalition and a description of the agency’s or (mission, goals, objectives; target population; staff credentials & expertise; organizational challenges, funding sources). Through volunteering I learned that I could challenge myself to try something different, achieve goals, and practice using my skills while discovering my hidden talents. I am proud that I had an opportunity to volunteer at a community-based organization that supports a neighborhood that is often underserved.
The introduction to Human Services course has shown me via our various class discussion boards and assignments that there are various non-profit agencies and professionals that provide the responsive services aimed towards enriching the lives of others. In my opinion, the impact of a human services worker is where the rubber meets the road in how services are provided in today’s ever-changing world. Through my increased knowledge during the last ten weeks and through my volunteer services, I observed that community-based services within the Dallas community have improved greatly. However, I believe that there is still much work to be done. In addition, witnessing service up close and personal at my worksite allowed me to go beyond my assumptions of a human services provider and apply various techniques and critical thinking skills to solve various issues related to the client and field overall. The insight I gained that might assist me in my career choice, is that volunteerism, civic engagement and advocacy are the driving forces for creating change and making a positive impact in our community and society at large. (Woodside & McClam 2012).
I believe that the relationship of my service learning to understanding of civil engagement and social change, in my opinion is that sometimes it does not take a lot of people to get the job done, it may just need a dedicated few. I grew more as a person through my volunteer experience, because prior to my work at the Revitalize South Dallas Coalition, I always felt as though I did not have the extra time needed to provide service to my community and I was proven wrong by exceeding the required 30 hours needed for this course. Looking ahead, I believe that my career choice is to stay within community outreach and I believe that volunteerism, civic engagement and advocacy, as well as my experiences at the Revitalize South Dallas Coalition will impact my career choice by allowing me to see beyond my own world and into the world of others.
Service Learning Project Description
During my service learning at the Revitalize South Dallas Coalition, a non-profit alliance that champions economic development in South Dallas. (rsdc.us). I learned some very interesting information regarding the make-up, history and core values of the agency. The Revitalize South Dallas Coalition is an alliance of community groups, businesses, neighborhood associations, churches, and individuals that champion economic development and job creation in South Dallas/Fair Park through partnerships among public, private and community stakeholders. (rsdc.us). The mission of the Revitalize South Dallas Coalition is to mobilize stakeholders around a common vision for economic development and revitalization of South Dallas/Fair Park. (rsdc.us). What attracted me the most to the agency was its values including being: 1) Solution-oriented 2) Proactive 3) Self-sufficient 4) Cultural diversity 5) Excellence and 6) Integrity. (rsdc.us). The model of service delivery my service learning/internship site provided as found in our required text, An Introduction to Human Services, is that when there was an opportunity to problem solve, you should move forward to a process focused on the here and now. As found in the text Introduction to Human Services, the people and projects of the agency are clients of the human service system. Woodside & McClam 2012).
I found through reading the textbook, “that clients can include small groups such as families, larger geographic populations such as neighborhoods or communities, and populations that have problems in common such as the homeless and substance abusers.” (Woodside & McClam 2012). This is important because, the range of clients that are served by my service organization meant we were casting a wide net for people from every walk of life which may have issues that I had not normally encountered.
Some of the Revitalize South Dallas Coalition goals include: encouraging stakeholders to cohesively promote development and to make the community aware of development plans and projects and promote homegrown businesses. (rsdc.us). As well, the vision of The Revitalize South Dallas Coalition, is to market South Dallas as an attractive place to live, work and visit while ensuring communities remain strong and vibrant. (rsdc.us). In addition, the agency hopes to identify, secure, promote new and expanding business; embrace cultural, ethnic business diversity and encourage new alliances. (rsdc.us). The Geographic Boundaries of The Revitalize South Dallas Coalition represents the South Dallas/Fair Park area, generally the underserved neighborhoods south of downtown within the Madison and Lincoln High School feeder patterns. The boundaries are downtown to the north, Dolphin/Hatcher Streets to the east, Highway 175 to the south and South Lamar to the west. (rsdc.us). According to Ken Smith, the President of The Revitalize South Dallas Coalition, after working on a number of neighborhood-related initiatives, the committee of coalition recognized that economic development was an area needing greater attention and formed Revitalize South Dallas Coalition to address the vacuum. Revitalize South Dallas Coalition joined forces with Dallas Leadership Foundation, an experienced community development partner, that provides office space, administrative support, coaching, and planning expertise to help them reach their objectives. (rsdc.us).
Service Learning Project Evaluation
During my service learning, I interacted primarily with my service learning supervisor, Mr. Ken Smith, President of Revitalize South Dallas Coalition, when I asked Ken about his background, he indicated that he is a South Dallas native and current resident who owns a residential real estate investment and property management company. According to Ken, he also serves on the Board of Directors of the Dallas Housing Acquisition Development Corporation (City Land Bank); The Dallas Real Estate Council Foundation; and Get Healthy Dallas, a group endeavoring to bring urban agriculture to South Dallas/Fair Park to spur economic development. Although, I am very familiar with the South Dallas area, I was very unaware of the lack of basic services the people in the community often face until I sat in on a community meeting that was held at the Dallas Leadership Foundation which allowed residents to speak on some of the barriers that they were facing. “Students in the human services typically begin their training with hopes of helping other people lead more fulfilling lives. Unfortunately, these hopes are sometimes dampened by the realities of the outside world.
Although humanistic values do play an important role in present-day America, they must compete with other motives such as profit, power, and self-aggrandizement.” (Burger, 2018). This information related to my experiences at the Revitalize South Dallas Coalition because I started out very hopeful about making a difference in South Dallas, however, seeing some of the many challenges stacked up against a particular zip code via the testimonies of several residents during a community meeting, I became very infuriated and frustrated with their plight. In addition, during one of my office visits I was able to sit in on a phone conference from a staffer from Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson’s office to address some of the issues that he had been brought to the attention of Ken Smith, President of Revitalize South Dallas Coalition.
The primary issue raised during the meeting was that residents in the South Dallas area went from receiving a mailbox stuffed with ads, junk mail, and random solicitations for past tenants that didn’t change their address with the post office, to not receiving any mail for weeks at a time. As a result, older residents and the disadvantaged went without getting their social security checks and the money that they relied on by mail. We addressed that most of these individuals did not have direct deposit which meant that some residents, were missing up to two-three checks now and were still not even receiving their usual junk mail. As well, some residents had packages of items shipped by UPS and dropped off at the post office, and USPS says they delivered it ‘in/at mailbox’ and their mailbox was not large enough to fit a box in it. We concluded during the meeting that the mail postal worker(s) had failed to deliver mail consistently or not at all for months at a time. Furthermore, Ken stated that, “this was an example of the many discrepancies in basic services from North to South Dallas.” In their short history, RSDC has: become a valuable pipeline for positive development news related to South Dallas, a “go-to” liaison for persons wanting to do business in South Dallas. They have linked community stakeholders with needed resources; and, have promoted the assets and benefits of the South Dallas/Fair Park area. (rsdc.us).
The Revitalize South Dallas Coalition was also formed to support and promote worthy building projects underway or in development. For example, they have developed a community support campaign for Frazier Revitalization Inc.’s Hatcher Square project letter-writing, editorials, and testimony before a state board. (rsdc.us). Revitalize South Dallas Coalition aids the development/expansion of the Lincoln Culinary Arts Academy; is a founding member of the Fresh Food Alliance seeking to make South Dallas an urban agriculture center, aids the strengthening and development of South Dallas neighborhood associations; for example, they have helped one neighborhood association develop a statistical database. (rsdc.us).
During a community meeting held at the Dallas Leadership Foundation, I had an opportunity to listen to South Dallas residents speak about some of their problems with housing, community policing, and the issues of homelessness and think through strategic ways address their problems. Which led me to form an opinion, that the people of South Dallas have tenacity and a desire to live in a revitalized community. However, as discussed during the meeting they often don’t know where to go or what resources are available without agencies such as the Revitalize South Dallas Coalition. As found in the book, An Introduction to Human Services: Values, Methods, And Populations Served: General Systems theory goes beyond viewing behavior as belonging only to the individual. While Systems theory can also be used to inform the practice of human services workers by reminding us that people interact with their environments in powerful and complex ways, and that persons and environment can change each other. (Poindexter, Valentine, & Poindexter, 2007). Based on what I learned in this course, I identified theories both: general systems and services systems that my service location, Revitalize South Dallas Coalition can take to help build an even more effective network with other South Dallas non-profits and partners within the community.
Service Learning Reflection
In my final reflection and with an in-depth look at my experiences as a volunteer and human services provider at the Revitalize South Dallas Collation, I believe that when volunteering for a community in need, you come to realize that every person has a story – a story of who they are and how they came to be where they are. In my opinion, I learned more about my community and humanity once I stepped outside of my normal routine and hectic personal schedule. Based on the lectures provided by Professor Keilah Jacques, I see that with a little push from organizations, local nonprofits and passionate individuals, volunteerism and community, a change can start to take a front seat and become not just an opportunity, but also a priority in the lives of many underserved people and communities. Furthermore, I think that while it’s important to remember that each person has their own unique narrative, it’s just as important to respect, appreciate, and take the time to understand this narrative.
I also found that volunteering brings with it a deep appreciation of all that you have in life and helping those in need is a firm reminder of what really matters – like family and friends, I begin to see my own life in a different light after my service learning experience in South Dallas, and I have start taking notice of the small things or moments that bring me joy. Additionally, I was reminded while sitting in on community meetings that every family regardless of their zip code deserves a thriving community to call a home, a place to grow up, and a place to feel safe and comfortable. In my experience, volunteering in South Dallas meant that I went beyond just being a spectator and I became engaged in learning more about a community that is often discussed in a negative light whether via the local news, with colleagues or associates less familiar with the area. Through this service learning experience, I found out more about an organization, field, as well as the positive impact of such work and service by seeing the community come together through community gardening in South Dallas. While doing administrative services and tasks such as getting the agency organized and creating a functional website, may not seem like much to some people, though, in my opinion, they will have far-reaching implications. The relationship of my service experience to the big picture (societal changes) and with the advisement of my supervisor, Mr. Ken Smith, President of Revitalize South Dallas Coalition that “not only do we need to understand the issue or societal problem that many people face and are impacted by every day, but we need to meet and work alongside those whose daily realities are shaped by injustices, while not creating any divides or barriers in the process.”
I learned from my volunteer experiences by attending meetings, and workshops in South Dallas and hearing directly from the people from the South Dallas are that they are not powerless; in fact, they have a great deal of power and potential which is why the agency was created. As found in the book, An Overview of The Human Services, Successful human services workers must know a variety of psychological, biological, and sociological theories so they can understand the causes of human behavior and use a variety of strategies that take into consideration all models available. Putting the knowledge of these many and varies approaches to use can help human services workers successfully help their clients deal with their various problems. (Kanel & Mallers, 2016). Every day people in South Dallas are affected by the issues that organizations, such as Revitalize South Dallas Coalition, fight for or against, and once we realize how people-centered things like advocacy, outreach and service work, I believe that as human services professionals we can realize our call to action and our potential in our local landscapes to really affect change. Additionally, I learned that through the participation of and in weekly discussion boards amongst my fellow classmates that local nonprofit organizations have the potential to amplify their outreach to colleges, and people in general, through matching passions with skills.
In conclusion, working at the Revitalize South Dallas Coalition (RSDC) made me take on many challenges and an opportunity to problem solve. Through volunteering I learned that I could challenge myself to try something different, achieve goals, and practice using my skills while discovering my hidden talents. I am proud that I had an opportunity to volunteer at a community-based organization that supports a neighborhood that I am very familiar with and that needs the entire neighborhood’s support to make it thrive according to Ken Smith, President of Revitalize South Dallas Coalition. Their organization is 100% volunteer and they have no paid staff. (rsdc.com). Furthermore, I see the importance of the agency and I only hope that they could receive additional funding to help meet their strategic goals as according to Ken Smith, President of Revitalize South Dallas Coalition donations are only made by a few faithful few. My observation is that the Revitalize South Dallas Coalition could use additional funding and paid staff, because from point of view, it’s only so much time in the day and most of their volunteers have fulltime jobs that take up most of their time. According to Ken Smith, President of Revitalize South Dallas Coalition, additional donations could help them to continue to meet their strategic goals; because with budget restraints there are certain limitations that have been placed on their organization which holds them back from serving even more residents. Please note that The Revitalize South Dallas Coalition does not have its own building and is being housed as a part of the Dallas Leadership Foundation.
For instance, the Dallas Leadership Foundation would have meetings and visitors were coming in out of the building and no one would know that the Revitalize South Dallas Coalition was located there. With my experience in volunteering there, I would suggest that in order to improve brand awareness and hopefully address their limitations would be to create a logo and add signage so that others would know more about the organization and that they are located there too. Without its own presence in the building, the brand of the organization is buried and does not have its own identity which is why one of my recommendations for areas of improvements with volunteers, clients, and administration, based on my volunteer experience is to do a complete marketing campaign including: new logo, signage, social media, and collateral materials to add to the literature left in the foyer of the building.
The Revitalize South Dallas Coalition was lacking an online presence as well, which is one of the reasons that I worked tirelessly to create a new website for the organization to help bring more brand awareness and promotion to the agency. I have been in the outreach field for over ten years and my current skill set was a great match to help serve the organization and their mission to help the South Dallas community grow and reach its full potential. Going forward I hope that I help can help to create brand awareness for similar nonprofit organizations that are not well advertised or promoted.