Tom Fox/Staff Photographer

Communities Foundation, United Way team up to tackle growing needs

by Charles Scudder | January 23, 2019

A new leadership development program hopes to address the evolving needs of rapidly growing Collin County. 

The program, a partnership between the Communities Foundation of Texas and the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, will bring together 12 Collin County nonprofits that address homelessness, hunger and affordable housing.

“There has been an appreciation for the social needs that have been growing as Collin County has been growing,” said Sarah Cotton Nelson, chief philanthropy officer for the Communities Foundation of Texas. “There’s the assumption that Collin County is all fine and dandy.”

Over the last year, Nelson said, the foundation and the United Way worked together to poll Collin County agencies about their needs and how the larger organizations could support their efforts. 

They heard about complicated problems of public transportation, lack of affordable housing, off-hours childcare and more. This new leadership program, which kicks off this month, hopes to bring agencies together not just to train them individually, but to brainstorm creative solutions to those shared problems.

“They understand their issue, but want to understand the broader set of challenges,” Cotton Nelson said. “Each agency is sort of touching a different part of the elephant.”

Take, for example, Plano-based Agape Resource and Assistance Center, one of the participating agencies. The organization helps find housing and jobs and provides other support for women and children in need. Founder and executive director Janet Collinsworth said simply finding a way to get to work or find childcare for a late-night shift can be challenging.

“How can we work together to come up with a creative way to have some kind of public transportation,” she said. “If Collin wants to continue to be one of the fastest-growing counties in America, it’s got to do some things differently.”

Ashley Brundage, senior vice president for community improvement at the United Way, said that about 40 agencies applied for the program but only 12 were selected. The cohort will receive training in leadership development, fundraising, marketing and branding, personnel and volunteer management, program delivery and board participation. 

It’s the first program of its kind in Collin County, Brundage and Cotton Nelson said.

“It was like a prescription for what we needed,” said Denise Kendrick, executive director of Embrace Texas, a McKinney nonprofit that works with at-risk children, foster homes and adoptive parents. “There isn’t one dusty corner of our county that isn’t touched by this.”

Kendrick said she hopes the program can help nonprofits like Embrace continue to better serve the county.

“We can’t be flash in the pan,” she said. “Families are counting on us.”

The 12 agencies

In addition to Agape Resource and Assistance Center, selected agencies are The Assistance Center of Collin County, Children & Community Health Clinic, CityHouse, Cornerstone Assistance Network, Embrace Texas, Habitat for Humanity of Collin County, The Samaritan Inn, Shiloh Place McKinney, Texas Muslim Women’s Foundation, The Turning Point and Veterans Center of Collin County.

This article was originally published by The Dallas Morning News and FWD>DFW had no influence on the content created.

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