Giving Hands and Grateful Hearts

Most anyone will tell you that November and December are two of the most magical months of the year – months that bring out the very best in individuals, community and humanity. Whether or not families celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas, the spirit of the holiday season brings forth stories of hope, love, belonging, help and faith. Giving to others, volunteering time and services and hope allow holiday season miracles to play out in the lives of so many. Unfortunately, at times, the holiday season can also bring hardship and stress for those who have fallen on hard times, are suffering from an illness or grieving the loss of a loved one. Due to different or unfortunate circumstances, sometimes local residents are no longer able to provide for their loved ones in ways they once could. Frisco Family Services (FFS), a Frisco-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is the miracle maker for so many in Frisco during the holiday season. When times are hard and hope is sparse, FFS is able to be the light for families in their hours of darkness. 

On a Mission

The mission of FFS is to help members of the Frisco and Frisco ISD communities who are facing hunger, homelessness and other urgent needs improve their quality of life and achieve self-sufficiency. Integrity, forward thinking, excellence, servant leadership and diversity are all core values under which the staff of FFS operate. 

FFS Executive Director Nicole Bursey is responsible for the budgetary oversight and administration of all aspects of FFS’ strategic direction. Of what the organization aims to accomplish, Ms. Bursey explains, “We serve as the only nonprofit social services agency in Frisco and operate the only community food pantry in Frisco. Our primary focus is to address the immediate crisis situations that families have when they come in to us. These crisis situations prevent them from being able to meet basic family needs. We partner with each family to address critical needs by providing a continuum of programs aimed at addressing hunger, homelessness and other urgent needs to help them get back on their feet. What we believe truly sets us apart is that we deliver services with a hug. We help lift up the arms of those who have hit a bump in the road, helping them transition from the major crisis they are experiencing back to self-sufficiency. We want families to know they do not have to go through a crisis alone. No one is immune from the challenges of life, and it is our job to help families realize that hard times are only temporary.”

While Frisco is largely-associated with affluence and so much attention has been focused on its now years-long economic boom, the affluence in Frisco is not as widely-spread as some may perceive. As the population booms, so too has a growing population of families experiencing a financial crisis, loss of employment, medical issues, death, divorce and many other contributing factors that have added to the rise of families needing assistance. During the 2018-2019 fiscal year, FFS was able to provide assistance to 3,785 individuals, more than $1.3 million in annual program support, more than 541,500 meals to individuals and families, vouchers for clothing and household goods at Frisco Resale, offer and provide adult life skills classes to more than 415 individuals, help provide back-to-school clothing, shoes and supplies for children, distribute Thanksgiving meals to families, provide children, parents and seniors with holiday gifts, and distribute meals to children at the Summer Lunch Program. None of these blessings could have happened without the support of those who donate their time and money. 

FFS case workers assist clients in identifying their essential needs and help with providing critical services and information. In order for Frisco residents to determine if they are eligible, they are welcome to visit the office located at 8780 Third Street to complete an application and schedule an appointment to meet with a case manager. During the appointment, a case manager will complete an assessment to determine eligibility and provide potential clients with an overview of programs and services. 

In addition to programs, FFS raises public awareness of community needs through outreach and media and provides information and resources to assist in each individual or family journey. FFS programs include food distribution allowing qualified families to shop in Frisco’s only food pantry, emergency financial assistance to qualified clients who are assisted in the form of one-time emergency financial assistance (might include rent/mortgage assistance, utility assistance, medication assistance or even gasoline cards), adult education, which allows adults to maintain self-sufficiency through Challenging Adult Minds for Personal Success (CHAMPS), which offers training in job readiness, nutritional education, parenting education, information on legal rights and seasonal programs that occur during special times of the year. 

FFS’s Back2School Fun Fair provides eligible FISD students grades K-12 with brand new backpacks filled with school supplies, clothes and shoes, and students are provided haircuts and vision screenings in order to help them get ready for a successful school year. While children qualify for free and reduced lunch while school is in session, FFS ensures they are taken care of during the summer months as part of the Summer Lunch Program and is located at five different locations throughout Frisco where kids are able to take part in physical activities, games, social time and reading. 

Ms. Bursey says, “Our Thanksgiving Meal Program provides families with all the ingredients they need to prepare their own Thanksgiving breakfast and dinner for their family, maintaining this tradition in a way that provides dignity. Families are able to get their food items and ingredients by going through a drive thru similar to that of a grocery pick up. We have volunteers and staff cheering them on and providing hugs. The Holiday Store Program, like our food pantry, is client choice. We set up a retail store-like environment where parents can come and select holiday gifts they know their children will enjoy. Recognizing that parents often forget about themselves as they navigate tough times, they are also allowed to pick up a gift or two for themselves. This program prevents parents from having to have difficult conversations with their little ones about there not being gifts, thus maintaining a sense of dignity and normalcy.” 

The Silver Bells Holiday Social and Celebration is for senior clients 62 years of age and older. It is designed to combat isolation that many seniors can feel as they age, and particularly during the holiday season. This program provides socialization, a nice breakfast and gifts to senior clients. “We care about them and we want them to know that. It is our way of letting seniors in our community know they are not forgotten. It also provides an opportunity for our team to engage with them in a group setting and learn of other needs they may have that were not mentioned when they came in for help as a result of a crisis.”


A Bright Future

As the community continues to grow, FFS excitedly looks to the future and is planning for all they will be able to do in the coming years. “As our community grows, so must we,” Ms. Bursey says. “We look forward to expanding our programs and services and being even more of what our community needs. We also look forward to gaining new friends and supporters to help us continue our legacy for years to come. Over the last 25 years, we have witnessed Frisco progress and develop so much. The growth we are seeing is just the beginning! We are committed to being forward-thinking as we address the needs of our community,” she explains. FFS is faced with the challenge of ensuring the size of their operation matches the size of their facilities, which is why the organization has announced that it is building a new Client Services building. 

This new Client Services building will allow the organization to keep up with Frisco’s growth and the increased demand that has accompanied it through the years. Ms. Bursey shares, “We are truly excited about all our new building will be able to provide and enable us to do. All of our agency staff except one person is housed in a small 4,200-square-foot building that is separated from our food pantry and resale store. Clients currently navigate multiple agency sites to access the services they need, which is not efficient or effective. This is particularly concerning as our senior population continues to grow, many of which have medical conditions making this type of navigating difficult. Our new building will be housed between the resale store and food pantry. It will provide clients with a ‘one-stop shop’ where they will be able to get all of their needs met in the same vicinity. It will address privacy concerns families now face in our smaller building, while also providing additional space to expand programming and staff.” 

With continued growth, Ms. Bursey believes the new Client Services building will provide more space and new opportunities that include expanded programs, on-site counseling, a learning lab, vocational training, simultaneous classes and multi-purpose flexible space for seasonal programs. “A centralized location means better client experiences through streamlined services, increased privacy and easy accessibility and visibility,” she adds. 

In an effort to raise needed funds to make the Client Services building a reality, FFS launched its Capital Campaign, giving community members the opportunity to help the organization continuously improve their programs and services by demonstrating their support. There are many ways to give, and gifts can be designated to show individual participation, honor loved ones or friends or even to reflect the participation of a business or organization. One opportunity is for a donation of $10,000+ for a name prominently displayed at the new location, name recognition in select publications and the website, invitations to exclusive events, the VIP reception at the ribbon cutting and access to information and plans for the new building. The $5,000+ donation includes a name listed at the new location, name recognition in select publications and the website, invitations to exclusive events and access to information and plans for the new building. And, donating $2,000+ gives donators a name listed at the new location, name recognition in select publications and the website and access to information and plans for the new building. $250+ demonstrates a donor’s commitment to building a stronger community. Anyone hoping to donate may take advantage of any or all giving opportunities, whether that is through a one-time gift or a recurring monthly gift. 


25 Years Strong

2019 has been a big year for FFS as they celebrate 25 years of service to Frisco. Ms. Bursey says, “We have gone from a small group of concerned residents providing clothing out of a garage to today, providing a continuum of programs and services for families.” Twenty-five years of commitment to the community has been the theme and drive for FFS this year, and they have experienced unwavering support from the community. “It is only through generous financial contributions, volunteer time and caring support from individuals, businesses, civic and social organizations, schools and faith-based partners that FFS is able to provide the assistance needed to ensure that individuals and families in crisis can meet their essential needs and are provided the tools and support needed to stabilize their household and become self-sufficient once again,” Ms. Bursey explains. 

Twenty-five years is a huge milestone and accomplishment, and the organization has celebrated throughout the year! “We began our celebration with a proclamation given by Mayor Jeff Cheney honoring the agency’s years of service. We also elevated our fundraising events and programs to honor our supporters and those we serve in special ways. As we wind out this special year, we also have the opportunity to further share with the community how their support and commitment has made possible all that we have accomplished,” Ms. Bursey shares.

 

A Grateful Heart

FFS has celebrated all year, and the twenty-fifth annual Gala ONE event held in the spring allowed the community to come together for one purpose, having one big impact to help prevent hunger and homelessness. Attendees were not only treated to amazing food, live speakers and musicians, award-winning entertainment and live and silent auctions, but they were also given the opportunity to hear the humble story of Ms. Darlene Jenkins, whose life was profoundly impacted through FFS. 

Of being able to share her journey, Ms. Jenkins cannot think or imagine a more celebratory way to pay forward to mankind the many blessings of her life than to share her story with others. She remains both humbled and honored to be able to share it with the community. 

Ms. Jenkins will be the first to admit that her efforts are always intentional, transparent, focused and impactful in her sharing of the profound effect FFS has had in her life. She is the widow of the late Reverend Dr. Berlin Jenkins and is the proud mother of five children and two grandchildren. “I am currently employed at the Ethan Allen Design Center Flagship Store of Frisco and a member of the Friendship Baptist Church of The Colony. I am a native of Gary, Ind., and have served as First Lady to congregations in Ind., La. and Calif. I am a motivational speaker and former home-stager. My passion is enhancing the lives of others. My life-long dream has always been to own a bed and breakfast. I love to make people feel special and provide supreme customer service!” Ms. Jenkins shares.

The late Reverend Dr. Jenkins was a third-generation pastor and served for 46 years. In February 2012, the desire to retire became his focus, and the family relocated from southern Calif. to the Frisco area. Ms. Jenkins became acquainted with FFS through a referral by a home health aide when, only six weeks after relocating to Frisco, the Jenkins family found themselves in the middle of the crisis of their lives. Ms. Jenkins remembers, “My husband was diagnosed with stage four inoperable, metastasized colon cancer. We were devastated to say the least. There had been no signs or warnings. I immediately began to seek the best medical care available. It only took a few months to exhaust all of our assets, as his treatment was beyond expensive and his health declined rapidly. We still had our baby daughter in college in her senior year at Purdue University in Lafayette, Ind. We were completely drained, both financially and emotionally. I had sold our car, liquidated all of our savings and solicited assistance from friends and relatives across the country – all of whom were beyond kind! I took the referral to FFS from the young lady and it changed our lives. Actually, impacted our lives so much, I am still committed to their cause!”

Ms. Jenkins remembers that when she first arrived at FFS she received far more than she ever could have expected. “We were treated with such kindness and respect. The volunteers and staff were beyond professional, compassionate and expeditious. They assessed our crisis and went quickly into meeting our needs. My husband and I had lived our lives in a position of servitude. Our many years of ministry were to serve others. Finding ourselves in a position of needing was extremely difficult for us. I have to admit, even more difficult was having to seek help from an agency. FFS, however, was not an agency. They made us feel like human beings, not a ‘case’ or a ‘charitable gesture,’” Ms. Jenkins shares. 

Reverend Dr. Jenkins lost his battle on May 18, 2013, just five days after he and Ms. Jenkins’ youngest daughter walked across the sage in her college commencement ceremony. While Ms. Jenkins was able to travel to Ind. to attend, Reverend Dr. Jenkins was able to watch the ceremony streamed from his nursing-rehab facility. Following his death, Ms. Jenkins says FFS did not abandon her. “When I returned from laying my husband to rest, FFS was right there! My case manager and the rest of the staff helped me restructure my life. They catered to me – the whole person – physically, emotionally, financially, spiritually, economically and more. My case manager set goals for me that were attainable – affordable housing, a job, grief counseling, clothes and holiday surprises (meals and gifts). I took classes on budgeting, cooking, resume building … everything that would empower me to live again. They provided access to the FFS food pantry which also provided household, hygienic and vitamin products. I needed everything and FFS provided it,” she shares. 

Ms. Jenkins thought her crisis was over after her husband’s death, but little did she realize it had only truly begun. Not only did the organization attend to her and her family’s material needs, but FFS provided valuable resources and referrals. “Someone like me who had counseled grieving families for years now needed counseling and they referred me to the Stonebriar Church Grief Share Program,” Ms. Jenkins says.

While her family members were profoundly impacted through the servant hearts and resources of FFS, Ms. Jenkins now seeks to share her story and help others understand the impact the organization has on everyday people. “I emphatically believe sharing my experience is the most impactful thing I can do to enhance the life of anyone in the Frisco area going through a crisis. My transparency and testimony to the assistance and respect I received allows me to encourage people not to suffer in silence, but to reach out,” Ms. Jenkins shares. She believes the rich history behind the organization, the efforts of their volunteers, donors and board is indicative of what the community of Frisco is made of. “The very thought of the Gala ONE committee inviting me to share my journey was beyond humbling. To be able to express my gratitude to so many was a pay-it-forward moment for me. If I were to express the best of FFS, I would say it is the hearts of the staff and volunteers – what they do, why they do it and when they do it, which is when you need it!” Ms. Jenkins says. 

In looking back on her time as a client of FFS, Ms. Jenkins most appreciates that the staff and organization allowed her to maintain her dignity while making her a priority in her time of need. “I was at ground zero of grief and they rebuilt me as a person. If you want to know the fruits of your donations, simply look at me,” Ms. Jenkins says.

How You Can Make a Difference

The holiday season is upon us, which means the giving spirit of the community and FFS will be alive and well in the coming days! Volunteers are critical to the continued success of the organization, and the group greatly appreciates any and all who would like to contribute. Those who may not have the time to volunteer still have the opportunity to donate financially. Volunteers can choose how often and in what capacity they serve. Volunteers must be 11-15 years old to volunteer with an adult who has completed orientation class and 16-17 to volunteer independently with a completed orientation and parental permission. FFS even has opportunities for children ages 4-10 to volunteer with an adult in roles created just for them. Volunteer opportunities include working in the resale store, food pantry, agency office, community garden, little hands, seasonal events or fundraising.

Frisco is an amazing community built of exceptional people who truly seek to lift others up. FFS not only helps others but serves as an example of how giving hands can make the most grateful hearts. The saying goes that “we rise by lifting others,” and through giving spirits and helpful hearts, we can each help FFS serve the community, lift those who need it most and enhance the pride we have for Frisco. For more information on FFS, including volunteering or donating, please visit friscofamilyservices.org.

Allie Spletter
Allie Spletter is a wannabe foodie and lover of all things pink and crafty.