Still We Rise

In the midst of a harrowing global pandemic that has brought loss, uncertainty, heartache, impossibly tough decisions and fear stands one of the most endearing, empowering and comforting facets of our society: humanity. For months, as chaos often swirled around us, there were those among us shining light on the good, going above and beyond for others, working hard towards a sense of normalcy and simply making the world a better place for others. The economic shutdown brought about by COVID-19 has brought many businesses to their knees as they fought to survive and none felt it more than those in the non-profit sector who often serve those who need the most help. During these trying months organizations across the city have shown up, served and refused to shut their doors while continually working to ensure they’re meeting the needs of the community even through the most uncertain times. Frisco is made up of unbelievable people who have made serving others their mission, and even a pandemic couldn’t stop our very own non-profits from rising to the occasion and shining brightly for those in our community.

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Collin County, an organization that gives children a safe place to learn and grow during the vulnerable hours between school and home, was hit especially hard as many facets of their organization suffered. Chief Executive Officer Marianne Radley explains, “In light of the pandemic, nearly all special events had to be canceled, resulting in a decrease in our incoming funds by close to 60 percent. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Collin County is one of the few Boys & Girls Clubs organizations that does not have an endowment, so every year the operating budget starts at zero dollars, and we rely heavily on grants, donations and special events to fund the operation of our clubs and the critical programs we provide to the youth of Collin County. We have had to furlough a lot of our club and administrative staff, so that’s putting more work and responsibility on those staff members who are still on board. It has been a struggle to say the least, but the work we do and the service we provide is absolutely critical to the families that depend on us.” 

Safety for all remained at the forefront for these non-profits as they navigated the unknown despite monetary losses. Nicole Bursey, executive director of Frisco Family Services, a non-profit that assists members of the Frisco and Frisco ISD community during their times of greatest need shares, “Like many non-profits, we have felt the impact of the pandemic on every level of our organization. In March, in an effort to keep our staff and supporters safe, we cancelled our gala which is our largest fundraiser of the year. Shortly thereafter, we closed the retail side of Frisco Resale and it remained closed for several months. This was pretty significant for us because the resale store provides close to forty percent of operating revenue that supports our programs and services.”

Gary Schneider, Founder/CEO of Every Orphan’s Hope, a non-profit that creates widow-headed homes for orphaned children in Zambia adds, “We have faced the same challenges most Frisco organizations have faced. We navigated the closing of our offices for several months, working virtually and accommodating the needs of our team members to support their families through the pandemic. Flexibility, faith and prayer helped us to continue with uninterrupted care for the widows, orphans and the vulnerable children we serve.” 

While the pandemic and economic shut down forced many to cancel events and close doors, others were able to use it as an opportunity to restructure and reframe. Frisco Arts Foundation Board Chair Tammy Meinershagen explains, “As the pandemic forced us to cancel many events, we began to discuss what the greatest needs were in the arts community, as well as how we could make the biggest impact. What we saw was an opportunity to make a strategic change in our model and move from a membership-based association that was very event-heavy, to an arts foundation whose focus was sustaining the arts sector through greater grantmaking, capacity building and investment in our youth.”

Essential workers were vital in fighting against the spread of COVID-19 as well as in keeping others safe, which is why Frisco’s LifeTalk, a pregnancy care center that offers free services to those in our area who are economically challenged, fared well. Melissa Weber, executive director of LifeTalk shares, “We have thrived during the pandemic. Being considered essential, our doors were only closed two weeks in March in order to rewrite protocols and order PPEs. We were able to reopen with limited volunteers and staff and serve clients that had nowhere else to go for services due to other pregnancy centers remaining closed.” 

The pandemic and shut down also gave some non-profits an opportunity to strengthen relationships with partners in the community while providing vital necessities to families around the city. Heather Canterbury, executive director of Frisco FastPacs, a Frisco non-profit that ensures that no child goes hungry when school is not in session explains, “During the pandemic, Frisco FastPacs was fortunate to strengthen our existing relationship with Frisco ISD. We partnered with the district to provide meals to students in need through a grab-and-go drive through system at six middle schools. This was a new way of distributing our meals to students, but Frisco ISD made it a seamless transition through their leadership. Frisco FastPacs was able to provide desperately-needed meals to all students through this new system.”

Though the City of Frisco has experienced exponential growth in recent years, there’s long been a sense of community and “home” in our sweet city. Frisco has always taken pride in being a big city with a small town heart that takes care of its own, which is why it’s no surprise that, in the midst of such a monumental event, our community has stepped up and has risen to the challenge in regards to helping, giving time and supporting our local non-profits in so many ways in recent months. During the toughest times the community showed up and gave what they could. Ms. Canterbury says that during the pandemic the Frisco community was so giving, as always, during a time of such great need. She continues, “With the food shortages, a few of the items we use on a weekly basis were out of stock throughout our distribution channels. When sharing our Amazon wish list and advertising it as a contactless way of volunteering, the community rallied to shop and ship those items directly to Frisco FastPacs. Also, those who gave monetary donations kept us going during the pandemic as food prices began to rise. Without these donations, it would have been hard to sustain our program at the level our clients are accustomed to. In addition, the volunteers who gave their time, day and night, since March are the real heroes. Every time we ask, they show up! FastPacs volunteers were continuing to assemble our weekend meal packs, sort through all of the donations from our generous community and were on the front lines distributing meals to families, rain or shine, every week from March through July.” 

Admittedly, for many, it’s easy to focus on the negative during such trying times that have resulted in incredible loss, but, like most times, the positive shines through. While the pandemic brought with it much sadness and uncertainty, it also gave people the incredible opportunity to be there for each other, which provided amazing memories for many of the non-profits during such hard times. Ms. Bursey of Frisco Family Services recalls, “A truly memorable moment was reading a thank you card from a client whose kids participated in our summer lunch program. She shared that her husband had lost his job due to COVID-19 and as a result had used up their savings. She shared that because of our summer lunch program, she never had to worry about how she would feed her children. It was a reminder for me and my team of the importance of what we do for our community.” 

Ms. Radley of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Collin County admits she’s the one that’s been inspired by the positivity and creativity of the team with which she works. She shares, “As challenging as the pandemic has been on our organization, I have been so inspired and uplifted by the perseverance of the team. Our club directors and staff work directly with the families of the community, and in seeing how these families were struggling as the school year was about to start as virtual learning, our club directors came to us and said, “We need to do something to help.” They were willing to adopt a new operation model for the fall where we open all day, starting at 7:30am, to offer a Virtual Support Program for kids to do their virtual schooling. This eased the burden that was placed on so many parents’ shoulders when they were having to make the tough decision of having to go to work leaving their child home alone without adult supervision. It also allowed those families who do not have adequate IT infrastructure at their homes to have a place for their children to get the support and resources they need. The team really stepped up in providing a safe and nurturing place that delivers a positive learning environment for the kids.” 

With a 60-year history of serving North Dallas with its banking and financial needs, North Dallas Bank & Trust Co. (NDBT) has witnessed a wide range of approaches and philosophies when it comes to banks investing in and giving back to the community. One way that NDBT gives back is by volunteering their time and giving financially to Frisco Family Services. “At NDBT, we often say ‘we’re not in the banking business; we’re in the people business,’” states Gary Carley, Community Liaison for NDBT. “Immediately after we opened NDBT’s Frisco branch in 1999, we made a corporate commitment to support the local Frisco community, both financially and with volunteer hours. A great example of this is our relationship with Frisco Family Services. Every year, NDBT serves as one of the top sponsors of Frisco Family Service’s two annual fundraising events – the “ONE” Gala and the Mayor’s Golf Classic. In early 2019, Frisco Family Service’s announced a capital campaign to build a new, much larger Client Services building so that they could meet the increased demand for services from the ever-growing Frisco population. To show our support, we provided a capital campaign-specific monetary donation and also committed to finance the building by providing their construction loan. We are proud of the fact that Frisco Family Services was able to break ground on the new Client Services building in January 2020 and completion is slated for December 2020.”

So, the biggest question of all … how can we help going forward to ensure that these incredible organizations are able to continue to meet the needs of those in our community? Whether it’s in-person events, online contributions and donations, or simply giving of one’s time, there are so many ways we can help! Ms. Radley of The Boys and Girls Clubs of Collin County admits that financial support through charitable donations is their greatest need. “I cannot stress enough how the need has never been greater,” she says. “We have our upcoming Boys & Girls Clubs of Collin County Gala. With the pandemic, we have made the decision to host a Virtual Gala on October 17, but I am excited to announce that Lady A (the band formerly known as Lady Antebellum) has been gracious enough to be part of our virtual gala this year! We also have a silent auction and a live auction with some terrific items. One hundred percent of the proceeds go directly to programming support and scholarships for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Collin County.” 

Time and time and time again Frisco has shown up, and these incredible organizations will continue to need our help, donations, assistance, time and support now more than ever as we continue to traverse the unknown. The non-profits that serve our city and surrounding communities are some of the best in the state, if not the country, and a global pandemic couldn’t stop them from working fervently to serve those that need it most in times of such uncertainty. NDBT sets a stellar example of how local businesses can support our fundamental non-profits, year-round, not just during a pandemic. Thank you to these extraordinary organizations and to you, Frisco, for always showing up and shining your light on and for those in need. 

To learn more about these local nonprofits, visit www.friscofastpacs.org; www.bgccc.org; www.friscoarts.org; www.friscofamilyservices.org.

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