Q&A With Our Community Relations Manager

In 2017, Karen was the First Impressions Director at Klein United Methodist Church, and her husband was a volunteer caseworker at TEAM.  When Hurricane Harvey devastated our area, TEAM seemed the logical place for Karen to pitch in and help.  She sorted donated items that came into TEAM for hurricane victims and helped coordinate the transportation of supplies to those who were hardest hit.  A few months later, Karen was still volunteering.  By  the fall of 2017, TEAM's executive director recruited her for the newly created position of TBN Coordinator. 

We are thankful for the knowledge and enthusiasm that Karen brings to TEAM.  Take a moment and learn a bit more about her and see why she's so passionate about the work that TEAM is doing in the Tomball community.  

Since 2017 you’ve been working to build the Tomball Benevolence Network.  Can you explain what TBN is?

TBN is basically a hub of resources for the Tomball community. It is a network of churches, businesses, organizations and individuals who use their resources and expertise to help with complex issues faced by clients, such as car repairs, home repairs, budget counseling, mental health, etc.  When a skill or talent is offered, we call that person or company a ‘service provider.’ Services are usually provided pro bono or at a lesser cost with TEAM and/or the client paying for the parts/service.  A TEAM software system captures all the collected data on both clients and resources. This enables TEAM caseworkers to track each client’s need with the resource provided.  Only clients who are qualified through a TEAM caseworker can access TEAM service providers, and service providers let us know how many times a month, a quarter or a year they will offer their services. That way we stay within the service provider’s parameters and don’t ‘burn our bridges’ by overusing them. 

TBN has also created a Hand Up Ministry where special caseworkers are available to help clients with job resources.  Clients may never have had a job, need a job because they lost it for whatever reason, need a job with more hours, or higher paying job.  Also, group sessions will begin on July 24th for any client, family member or other community individuals who would like assistance with educational/certification opportunities, employment resources,  budget counseling, job interviewing, resume building, etc.  There will be 5 to 6 weekly sessions covering various topics, and then the sessions will be repeated.

TBN can only serve those people who reside within a Tomball zip code, or within the Tomball ISD school district, or be a member/regular attendee of a TEAM supporting church.

Would you give us an example of how TBN might help someone in our community?

One great example on how TBN works is through auto repair shops.  We have  auto repair shops who do pro bono work so that clients can get to their employment.  TEAM pays for the parts, and many times the client chips in, if possible, as its always best for a person to have skin in the game. 

What’s involved with joining the Tomball Benevolence Network? Are churches and businesses receptive to the idea of joining TBN?

Membership is free to join as a service provider.  There are no required long-term commitments, and the provider does it on his or her own schedule.  I also provide information to service providers on how to send a person in need to TEAM for assistance should they come across someone. 

As much as churches and businesses embrace the concept of TBN, it has been difficult to engage them in a meaningful way.  The car repair shops are the ones who have led the way and stepped up to the plate.  TEAM recognizes that churches especially have their own agendas and volunteer needs.  TBN is still in the infancy stage and it has come a long way since November 2017.  As I continue to work outside the walls of TEAM in the community, TBN is becoming better understood and slowly we are seeing a slow growth of volunteers and service providers. 

It seems like TBN offers the opportunity to make a significant difference in the lives of clients.  Do you have any success stories to share?

Again, many clients have been helped with auto repairs.  TEAM cannot afford to overhaul an engine but repairing brakes and other smaller jobs really helps clients maintain their ability to get to work.  When transportation issues arise in their life and they are struggling to make ends meet, it throws them a huge curve.  Many times, we hit the monthly quota for the service providers who can take on a client’s vehicle that month.   Out of all client needs, transportation is one of the most critical, and clients are very grateful when TEAM can assist.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?  And the most rewarding?

I would have to say that my schedule is the most challenging as I’m moving around the community all the time to visit businesses, churches and individuals.  Plus, there are many meetings as programs and ways to help clients are being put together. There’s not enough time in each day to accomplish all that I would like to do for TEAM and TBN. 

Having said that, I feel blessed to have met so many wonderful people in our community, to work with many of them in various ways, and to know that I am making a difference in the lives of our clients.  I’m just a small cog in the larger wheel, but it’s a joy and a privilege to share what skills I have in order to better our community through serving at TEAM.  I have a deep satisfaction that outweighs any paycheck.  I’ve earned way more than I would ever earn at TEAM dollar wise, but it isn’t money that motivates me.  Although I’m paid staff, I volunteer a lot of my time in addition because I find it personally rewarding and a joy to be a part of something lasting in Tomball.  And I have yet to read in the Bible where it’s okay to retire!

Besides your TBN role, you are involved in several other TEAM committees.  What are they?

TEAM underwent a transitioning of staff roles in the fall of 2018 and I was asked to take on additional oversight.  My title was changed to Community Relations Manager when I accepted responsibility to oversee the volunteers of fundraising, volunteer recruitment and donors.  Marketing has also been a sidebar in my responsibilities, although we now have a Marketing Manager.  I’m also involved in a local transportation committee with other community leaders to figure out a way to offer a transit system within Tomball that will help everyone, especially senior citizens, TOMAGWA patients, TEAM clients and Lone Star College students. 

You were very active in helping at TEAM after Hurricane Harvey.  What lessons did you learn from that experience?

First, I learned that the Tomball community is very, very generous as outpourings of donations flooded into the ministry.  Also, other communities not affected or out-of-state communities sent donations.  So much so that TEAM had to house the overflow in multiple churches.  Secondly, I realized that people emptied out their closets and cupboards and sent unnecessary items that overwhelmed TEAM and other nonprofits.  Donor intentions were great; however, only basic items like blankets, sheets, new pillows, clean socks and underwear, food, water, etc. were needed during that time.   Wedding and formal gowns, out of season clothing, bedspreads, comforters, soiled and torn clothing, games with missing pieces, etc. flooded the system and not enough volunteers were on hand to cull through it all so TEAM was swamped with an overflow for weeks.  You might say it was a blessing and a curse all at once.  Hopefully in the future the basic needs will be made known and people will adhere to the requested donations.  TEAM has developed a list of items that we will primarily take in emergency situations and not accept unnecessary items during that critical time period.  Lastly, its very important to work closely with the Local Emergency Planning Committee headed by Chief Randy Parr, as there are resources available oftentimes unknown to individual nonprofits.  A cohesive plan and effort is very critical so that everything runs as smoothly as possible without too many hiccups and the community resources easily reach those suffering during the aftermath.

And lastly, a fun question: At TEAM we all know you to be very organized, so what’s something you start but never seem to finish?

I’ve never been much of a sewer, but I do love embroidery.  Over the years I’ve collected multiple embroidery kits for Christmas stockings, Christmas tree skirts, pillowcases, even a large quilt, etc. There’s a huge tub of those items staring me in the face every time I walk into our closet.  Maybe someday I’ll get them all done … maybe.