The Transylvania Times -

TRAIN Program Enters A Transitional Period-Brevard NC

 

Last updated 5/4/2020 at 2:27pm

After nine successful years, the TRAIN program (Transylvania Resource Access Information Net-work) has entered its final three months.

TRAIN has been a unique resource in Transylvania County since 2012, serving to connect and support public and private health and human service providers.

The Brevard Rotary Club and Pisgah Forest Rotary Club have provided funding for a transitional period for TRAIN, allowing time to “re-home” TRAIN’s programs with various community partners.

This critical three-month window, which concludes June 30, 2020, provides program stability and ensures successful tran-sitions.

Formalized in 2011, TRAIN’s roots in Transylvania County extend much deeper. Transylvania Public Health, Transylvania Christian Ministries (Sharing House), the Department of Social Services, and a host of local service agencies held monthly meetings to help coordinate their services since at least the 1990s.

When consensus developed that a more structured network would benefit the health and human services community, Land of Waterfalls Partnership for Health and United Way of Transylvania County (UW TC) provided momentum for a strategic approach.

More than 30 agencies and dozens of community volunteers participated in the planning process, steered in part by UWTC’s emerging 10-year plan focused on health, financial stability and education.

UWTC and Land of Waterfalls applied for Blue Cross Blue Shield grant funding to establish TRAIN in 2011.

Housed in Transylvania County’s Public Health Department, the program initially served individuals and connected agencies via CharityTracker software, measuring the health benefits of facilitating case management and connect-ivity with other public and nonprofit-provided services.

The program was an early champion of social determinants of health, recognizing the role that access to food, housing and other essential needs play in helping individuals and communities thrive.

When the grant funding ended, United Way of Transylvania County gave TRAIN a new home, providing staff and funding the program with support from the county for the first year. TRAIN was a unique model to Transylvania County as the first internal funded program for UWTC, something not seen in other small counties and United Ways. Within United Way, TRAIN’s program model shifted from serving individuals to serving agencies, providing programs and platforms that facilitated communication, information-sharing, and collaboration between health and human service agencies.

In addition to the Roundtable meeting, TRAIN grew to include CharityTracker, local support for NC 2-1-1, VolunteerTransylvania.org, an e-newsletter, and later, an educational series. TRAIN’s goal was to maximize the efficient use of resources available in Transylvania County by making this suite of programs available to service agencies.

These programs deve-loped into well-utilized resources. Across its multiple programs, TRAIN currently serves a network of more than 150 agencies and shares aggregated local and regional information with a mailing list of more than 300. TRAIN has provided a point of connection and communication for agencies who serve Transylvania County but may not have a physical presence here, such as the Asheville VA Center and the American Red Cross.

TRAIN has also served as the local coordinator for several annual events, including the Celebration of Volunteers (in partnership with the Transylvania County Library), the N.C. Governor’s Volunteer Service Awards, and the local MedAssist event, funded by Lake Toxaway Charities.

United Way of Transylvania County’s closure, announced in January of 2020, resulted in a loss of funding for many local programs. As an internal funded program, TRAIN was included in the closure. However, the community response to the potential loss of TRAIN’s programs has demonstrated once again how powerful the network of support is in Transylvania County.

Brevard Rotary contacted TRAIN to explore how they could assist after UWTC announced its impending closure. UWTC extended support for TRAIN through the end of March 2020, allowing programs to continue while an independent contract was developed with Brevard Rotary. After exploring a number of different models and consulting with local nonprofits, re-homing TRAIN’s individual programs with community partners emerged as the best option at this time. Thanks to support from Brevard Rotary and Pisgah Forest Rotary, transitioning these programs to their new community hosts will ensure continuity of services.

Sharing House will provide administration for CharityTracker, a secure, local database that allows for confidential service tracking, coordination and referrals between providers.

Introduced locally in 2011, CharityTracker has recorded $4,299,342 in nonprofit contributions and 220,068 “acts of kindness”, or services, to date. Sharing House, one of the primary network partners, relies solely on CharityTracker to document every act of service given through the ministry.

This shared resource helps numerous agencies with informed referrals and accurate details about types and amounts of services offered to individuals and as an agency.

Executive Director of Sharing House Shelly Webb said, “The data we can glean from CharityTracker is invaluable for documenting trends and service gaps for the greatest needs of our low-resourced neighbors. Sharing House could not function without this shared database, as we use it every day for every act of kindness generated on behalf of our community.”

The Transylvania County Library will be hosting the Roundtable, a monthly meeting of health and human service providers that uses real-time information exchange to coordinate across agencies and programs.

The Roundtable has served as the heart of TRAIN’s offerings, prov-iding practical and personal support for practitioners as well as a true sense of community.

As Nikki Parker, program coordinator for The Family Place, recently said, “When I was new to my job, my workplace oriented me to agency programs and policies, but TRAIN oriented me to the community and all that was going on, all the offerings from various agencies and organizations in Transylvania County.”

Proactive solutions and partnerships often emerge during the meeting, making the impact difficult to quantify but inspiring to witness. The library’s commitment to civic engagement, information sharing and enrichment for all county residents has positioned it as a critical partner to many health and human service organizations.

“The connections that come from the Roundtable are invaluable and help us all better serve the people of Transylvania County,” said Library Director Rishara Finsel.

Library support ensures that the Roundtable has a stable home and centralized space for a meeting that averages 35 people.

Pisgah Health Foundation will be the new home for http://www.Volunteer Transylvania.org, an online clearinghouse connecting organizations and volunteers.

The platform, which averages more than 4,500 hits per month, is a free resource for nonprofits, governmental agencies, faith or civic groups to specify their volunteer needs and manage their volunteer programs. The site currently lists 94 local agencies and more than 135 specific opportunities that can be sorted by date, interest, skill, age or geography.

Pisgah Health Found-ation will also serve as the local coordinator for the annual N.C. Governor’s Volunteer Service Awards program.

According to Lex Green, president of Pisgah Health Foundation, “Volunteerism is directly connected to the work that we do to promote social connectivity – a key element in healthy communities.”

TRAIN’s network of programs has been instrumental in connecting and supporting nonprofit, public and private health and human service providers in this county for over nine years. All of the partners mentioned above and many, many more have made these programs successful models for neighboring counties.

The community’s willingness to continue stewarding these programs is a testament to the strong bonds nurtured through years of intentionally collaborative work.

TRAIN Specialist Colin Kirkman said, “Three years of managing TRAIN offered a beautiful view of our supportive and connected community. I can’t count the times I’ve heard praise from neighboring counties and visitors who are astonished by the strong networks they see in Transylvania County. It’s been a joy to be part of that, and I’m grateful to the entities that are helping these programs move forward. I have great faith in our community’s commitment to collaboration – an asset we need more than ever in these challenging times.”

The spirit of collaboration and the dedication to service remains strong in Transylvania County. Area nonprofit directors know they need to work together to pool resources and provide comprehensive services. The recently formed Transylvania Nonprofit Alliance is emerging as a mutually supportive resource for nonprofit directors in Transylvania County.

Monthly meetings are now a pillar for these directors to communicate about everything from human resources issues to funding opportunities, as well as share struggles and successes.

“It’s great having a sounding board of peers," said Erin Drew, director of The Family Place.

“Life is hard and coming together with those who understand has made me a better director, and made my organization more efficient,” said Susan Huter, director of the Transylvania County Children’s Advocacy Center. “We are asking hard questions and coming up with creative solutions to better serve the whole county.”

The nonprofit alliance has now been meeting for about six months and is currently meeting virtually on a weekly basis to keep up with rapid changes caused by the COVID-19 crisis.

Nonprofit executive directors who are interested in participating are welcome to contact Susan Huter for more information.

 
 

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