The next step: Strengthening family services
by Jeff Mortensen
Special to Thisweek Newspapers
360 Communities has previously shared the exciting results from the University of Minnesota Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement evaluation of our Partners For Success program: 88 percent of students in the evaluation met, exceeded or made progress toward their reading goals. Nearly half of those kids exceeded those goals, several by 200 percent. In addition to validating strong service results, the CAREI study also provided constructive feedback regarding organizational areas for improvement.
Adaptability is an essential part of any organization’s continued growth and viability and 360 Communities is a learning organization. Over the past couple of months, we have opened up new conversations externally with partners and internally with staff and volunteers. We have found that while there is much to celebrate about 360 Communities, there is also important feedback to act on now to improve and strengthen services that directly support families.
Informed by staff and volunteers closest to the work, community partners and the CAREI evaluation, we promptly implemented improvements that both strengthen our direct services and increase our volunteer capacity.
We’ve added 40 frontline staff hours to the 360 Communities Burnsville Resource Center. These hours are shared by employees from our Partners For Success, Dakota Healthy Families and 360 Communities Lewis House service areas. The result is experienced full-time staff coverage Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at this critical location that supports many of our other service areas throughout Dakota County. This immediately provides more direct service to families, greater support to volunteers and allows us to be more responsive to community needs through our (952) 985-5300 hotline and in-person intakes.
In addition, 360 Communities added a position that is responsible for the recruitment, support and retention of volunteers … a community source of strength! In the past four weeks, this addition has already made an impact: 10 new volunteers are now providing direct service to families, another 15 are in the on-boarding process and active volunteers have gained increased support.
Our services are now more accessible at a time when they couldn’t be more needed. According to the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey, there was a 126 percent jump in poverty in Dakota County between 2000 and 2010. We are confident our recent changes will help us connect with families in new and better ways, paving the way for a successful future for all of us.
360 Communities is adapting to the changing needs of its staff, its volunteers and its communities. We are grateful to the more than 1,000 volunteers who generously give 360 Communities their time and talent annually to strengthen their communities.
Drop by and you’ll notice a fresh influx of energy and excitement around 360 Communities. If you are interested in volunteering, contact Kathryn Archambault at (952) 985-4017. Your community and 360 Communities need you.
Jeff Mortensen is interim president and CEO of 360 Communities, a nonprofit devoted to preventing violence in our homes and communities, stabilizing families in crisis, and ensuring that kids succeed in school. Columns reflect the opinion of the author.