Tuesday, June 5, 2007

A little participation, Part II

We recently asked for some group participation. It's time for the answers! Not to worry, if you didn't get a chance to ask or you now have an additional question, please feel free to submit your question in the comment section.

Question: I have one for the medical social workers: did they do anything to particular to "specialize" in oncology or pediatrics, or did they do the general medical sw training and then by virtue of their job placement, work primarily with those families?

Answer: From our special social worker Cynthia Harney at Cook Children's of Ft. Worth--
"Each graduate school is set up differently, but most are set with generalized specialities such as medical, school, family services, gerontology, etc.

My first suggestion would be not to decide now tht hematology/oncology is the way you want to go. There are so many great opportunities out there in various medical settings that may be your niche. In graduate school at University of Houston I specialized in Medical Social Work. I did my fellowship at MD Anderson, when I left there, I was convinced that cancer and end of life was absolutely NOT my cup of tea. It had been a very trying and emotionally overwhelming experience for me. My first job was with MHMR - not my thing. My second job was at Texas Childrens in Houston and I liked it, a lot. I worked with kids with Rheumatology disorders. I then had a great opportunity to expand my horizons and became the Director of Social Services at a nursing facility for the elderly. I heard of an opportunity with Vitas hospice - my initial thought - "I can't do dying people." I took it and fell in love with it. I left there after six years and am now here at Cook's doing oncology. Something I never thought I would do is my love - its the weirdest thing.

I'm 10 years out of graduate school and it took me a while to find where I want to be. The other important thing in social work is to remember there is always work out there for us. We do what we do because we love helping people. More than ever be most aware of yourself, know your limits, know how to take care of yourself. Social work can be draining, you have to know your limits, you have to know when to make a change and not be afraid to make one. I like that you want to consider hem/onc as your speciality - I just would hate for you to miss out on another opportunity you may love greater. Just continue to love to care for people, care for yourself, and remain open-minded. Good luck."

Question: I'd like to know more about the background of Heroes and Handbags. How did this fundraiser idea come to be? How far in advance do you begin working on the event? Did you run into any problems getting pursues donated?

Answer: Heroes and Handbags came about from a brainstorming session. After a lunch introducing 100 Dallas women to HFC, twenty ladies came to the brainstorm session to determine our next step. The Dallas market is saturated with good charities working and competing for dollars for their mission. Luncheon, galas, golf tournaments, and races are throughout the community and the year. As a new charity, having a unique event was important. Then came Heroes and Handbags.

Work begins on the next year before the last year even ends! For example, before our March 29th event in Dallas, we had already selected our chair for the following year. Now, the 2008 date is set, additional committee members are being selected, and the location is being confirmed. The full committee of ladies will meet in September, and we will work heavily between September and April.

Handbags are all donated by local boutique stores, chain stores, and individuals. Most donations come in the spring, closer to the event. We had more than 175 bags in this year's auction and eight live auction items more valuable or priceless than the others.

Question: On average, how many applications for assistance does HFC receive in a week?

Answer: Depends on the week. The beginning and end of the month are the busiest given that is when most bills are due. An average of ten applications come in every week. Applications are handled each week--with checks mailed out once a week for financial assistance.

Question: What is the most common thing for families request assistance?

Answer: Rent and utilities make up more than 60% of all requests for families. In the summer, utility payments and the needs for emergency requests are our most requested.

Question: What is the most unusual thing HFC's ever been requested to assist with financially?

Answer: I don't know if it was the most unusual, but for me, it was one of our saddest. We had a request for a dying child. The parents wanted the grandparents to be able to say goodbye, but they lived in Mexico without the funds to bring them to Dallas. The parents were faced with a difficult choice--they had the funds to cover the expense of bringing the grandparents to say final goodbyes to their child OR they could save the money to pay for the child's funeral. What a difficult, devastating choice. Heroes for Children funded the grandparents flight to say their goodbyes.

Question: How do handle so many successful fundraisers? It is just Jenny, Larissa, and Cheryl as your office manager right?

Answer: Oh, that's a difficult question. Do we handle them all? I think I was sick for two weeks after Heroes and Handbags Houston! No, in all seriousness, it is through the dedication of commited volunteers who give their time to the fundraising events being planned. Each event has a volunteer chair steering the committee and working with our staff. The support of the Board of Directors and Advisory Board members assist the staff in keeping us on track.

Currently, there are few employees working for Heroes for Children. I work as the full time Executive Director and Larissa works three days in the office as the Director of Development. However, when it comes to major decisions about Heroes for Children and the direction of the organization, she and I both serve as Co-Founders. Cheryl Pellett is our Office Manager, our office goddess is more like it. Without Cheryl, most tasks would be left incomplete. We also have a Business Manager, Cricket, who works once a week. Financial responsibility and stability are vital in the life span of a nonprofit. Cricket handles our finances--reconciling our accounts, working with our auditors, writing checks for financial assistance to families. On average, she works about five hours a week.

Thanks everyone for your participation in this first Q&A. Again, if you have a question or if my answers have spurred on more questions, please feel free to ask!

1 comment:

Amanda said...

This spurred a question from me.

I would love to help out in something like HFC, but I don't live in Texas. How do I go about finding something like your great non profit to volunteer? If I lived in Texas, I would be there in a heartbeat!