TRAIN Specialist Colin Kirkman (left) and United Way CEO Steve Pulliam prepare a presentation on health and human service networking for VISION Transylvania.
Letter from a Volunteer
United Way’s TRAIN May Be The Ultimate Cat Herder
By Paul Morgan, Special to the Times
We’ve all heard someone say, usually in frustration, “This is like herding cats!”
With some 200 different, sometimes overlapping, non-profit agencies and organizations in Transylvania County, it can be difficult to tell who the players are, much less who offers what services to whom.
This is true for both service providers and for those seeking services.
Enter TRAIN, an acronym for Transylvania Resource Access Information Network.
The TRAIN idea began as a device to offer direct services to individuals, but over time it has morphed into a connectivity mechanism providing a county-wide collaborative network for service providers. TRAIN suggests a holistic approach that encourages agencies to work together, and provides a database promoting more efficient use of resources.
“TRAIN is a spectacular resource that United Way provides,” said United Way TRAIN Specialist Colin Kirkman. “It is unique to Transylvania County.”
TRAIN is a sort of glue that connects the county’s many non-profit agencies and organizations. TRAIN also promotes and supports both telephone and website access to NC 2-1-1, holds monthly educational roundtable discussions, provides an on-line newsletter for more than 250 recipients, and hosts workshops under the auspices of the TRAIN Educational Series.
The database, available on a platform called CharityTracker, developed as a communication tool in response to Hurricane Katrina and is now used by hundreds of communities nationwide. It is a confidential, secure network allowing better coordination between agencies, and greatly increasing efficiency for both the service providers and the service recipients.
“Broader use of services benefits everyone,” Kirkman added. “Any helping agency, including churches and coalitions, can more easily track their areas of impact. Time, energy and money can be saved as communication is improved, service duplication eliminated, and service gaps are identified.”
TRAIN helps individuals locate available assistance to help meet their needs through NC 2-1-1, a statewide information and referral system that is available 24/7/365. Callers with questions or non-emergency health and human services needs can speak to a trained specialist. The system is free, multilingual and completely confidential.
The monthly networking roundtables for those involved in nonprofit health and human services activities, on-going for some 19 years, are one of TRAIN’S most robustly used vehicles. Each meeting features a guest speaker, as well as agency updates that help participants remain aware of the latest in available resources.
The roundtables also serve to connect regional and national organizations, like the American Red Cross and Land of Sky Regional Council, to the local scene.
“The roundtables are among the most popular of all of our activities,” Kirkman said. “Many new collaborative ventures come from conversations and brain-storming at these monthly sessions.”
The online newsletter allows agencies to send announcements to the wider nonprofit community. It goes out monthly, highlighting upcoming events and providing links to resources and information relevant to the county. Categories include legal, housing, health, food, employment, veteran’s policies and funding opportunities.
The TRAIN Educational Series, a new initiative in 2017, provides county-wide agencies with easily accessible training and information at low or no cost. Early examples of these popular workshops examined grant writing, marketing and communications via the media.
TRAIN is a bit like an iceberg. The casual viewer may only see its tip, depending on his or her needs or perspective. However, the mass of the iceberg, beneath the surface and largely unseen, provides a service to Transylvania County that has huge impact.
Perhaps local United Way CEO Steve Pulliam put it best. “TRAIN is the hub of our services to all non-profits, helping them accomplish even more than they imagined they might,” he said. “In addition to offering a wide variety of support to individual agencies, TRAIN facilitates collaboration among the agencies, ultimately enhancing our available resources. The TRAIN database enables key agencies to coordinate services to some 5,000 Transylvania County citizens every year.”
About United Way
Campaign contributions support initiatives including www.VolunteerTransylvania.org community-wide volunteer opportunity listings, the 2-1-1 information and referral service, TRAIN (Transylvania Resource Access and Information Network) non-profit support, Familywize and Coast2Coast prescription discount cards, the Tiny House Initiative for Brevard, and MyFreeTaxes.com free state and local tax preparation and filing assistance.
United Way of Transylvania County (UWTC) contributions also fund approximately $300,000 annually in grants to local health and human service non-profit programs and collaborative actions. UWTC funds actions providing early childhood education resources, after-school and summer youth programs, adult day care, health services, financial education and counseling, youth conflict resolution training, parenting education and resources, and programs preventing homelessness, abuse and neglect.
UWTC empowers people to improve their lives. Specific goals are for all residents to achieve their full academic potential, maintain a financially stable household, and live a healthy lifestyle.
To volunteer or financially support the United Way of Transylvania County, call 828-883-8822, visit the office at 101 W. Jordan Street, #4 (below PNC Bank in downtown Brevard), send US Mail to PO Box 53, Brevard, NC, 28712, or visit www.unitedwaytransylvania.org or https://www.facebook.com/UnitedwayTC.
GREAT things happen when we LIVE UNITED for our community!