Have you met John Stock? He was the Executive Director here at The Caring Place from May 2009 through September of 2013, and he still stays involved at The Caring Place in a number of ways! For example, last month he led an effort in his Sun City neighborhood of N9 to collect funds in a Little Blue Barrel! They raised over $1,400 for The Caring Place Food Pantry simply by collecting at a neighborhood party and swapping some emails! They definitely made it look easy!
As a former Executive Director here, John certainly has some inside knowledge of this organization and it led me to ask him a few questions about why The Caring Place is special. John has experience in a number of nonprofits, so why does he still support this one and encourage you to as well? Please enjoy this interview.
What was your favorite part of leading TCP during your tenure?
Prior to my arrival at The Caring Place, I had been with a nationally-based nonprofit for 24 years, having served in various roles within local, state, and regional (5-state) jurisdictions. For the last several years, I had been physically removed from where the real work of any nonprofit organization is accomplished - within the local community where local volunteers and employees provided programs and services to local families in need and made possible by local financial supporters. At TCP, I was most rewarded by the opportunity to return to the "roots" of a local, community-based nonprofit where you could actually see first hand every day the positive impact you made on the community. It had been several years since my position allowed me to interact with the customers, clients, donors, and volunteers - to be at "ground zero" where the magic happened every day.
What growth did you see then? And now?
From "Day 1", I was impressed by TCP's history of strategic thinking, and embracing a process for continual growth and expansion. This philosophy enabled TCP to honor its commitments to those in need in the community, while anticipating and planning for future growth and expansion. When we were in the midst of planning for the 2011 expansion of the 2000 Railroad Street building, I often shared in public venues that in its 26 year history, TCP had successfully kept up with the community's growth through at least 7 relocations or major expansions. Now, 10 years later, that number has probably doubled. This latest activity in the last few years includes the purchase and renovation of the "Annex" at 2001 Railroad, creation of the Second Helping retail store on Williams Drive, and now, the reconfiguration of the 2000 Railroad Avenue Administration building. This single, yet complex, innovation will profoundly impact - in the best possible way - the Food Pantry, supporting food handling and logistics. This 36 year history of planned growth, strategic thinking, and continued relevance is inspiring.
What do you think was the most impactful achievement at the time?
Two significant milestones occurred during my tenure at TCP: the 2011 renovation/expansion of the 2000 Railroad Avenue building, and the 2013 acquisition and renovation of the 2001 Railroad Avenue, "Annex". The two-story expansion of the main building set the stage for the relocation and enhancement of the Food Pantry, the creation of the food receiving, processing, sorting and storage warehouse, as well as the relocation of the administrative offices to the second floor. The simultaneous establishment of "The Shops at The Caring Place" (enclosing the Boutique, the creation of additional specialty departments, and bar-coding the store inventory) set the stage for a solid and continuing (until COVID) growth curve for retail store sales. We also enhanced our public relations/visibility/communications strategy to (in my words) "tell our story every day and in every way". Given the rapid and continued population growth of the community, we could no longer "assume" that everyone knew about us.
Why is The Caring Place still an important part of our community?
About a year following my arrival at TCP, we began planning for our 25th anniversary of service to the community. I had the privilege to interact with Yoli Branson, one of the founders of TCP over 36 years ago. I learned that during the initial efforts to organize and mobilize, the volunteers (there were no employees then) predicted that the needs within the community (exacerbated by the economic downturn in 1985) would be diminished within two years, and the organization could be disbanded at that time. However, the needs of a growing community did not diminish. Thanks to the volunteer and staff leadership and community support, The Caring Place remains positioned as one of the most relevant and mature community-based nonprofit organizations in Georgetown.
How are you still involved at TCP?
Partnering with the HR Manager, I conducted orientations for new volunteers (pre-covid), sharing the organization's history, current services, programming, accomplishments, and providing an introduction to the more than 30 volunteer jobs (at that time) in which volunteers could choose to serve. I am currently eagerly awaiting the time when the COVID safety guidelines again allow for new volunteers to be recruited.
Why do you still take part in TCP activities and stay up to date with TCP?
Being a volunteer or an employee at TCP gets in your blood. It's addictive - that's why we have so many tenured volunteers and staff committed to the mission. When I arrived at TCP, we had several volunteers who had been there since our founding in 1985. And even now, there are at least three senior staff members that were there prior to my arrival! It is a great place to work, whether you are paid or volunteer.
Why did you take part in the Little Blue Barrel campaign this year? What do your neighbors say about the campaign?
Neighborhood 9 is one of the largest neighborhoods within Sun City with over 200 homes, and had in past years conducted several successful food drives at Halloween. In 2020, and again this year, the food drive was not possible. I was excited to learn about the Little Blue Barrel program this year, and knew it would only be successful if someone championed it within their scope of influence. I was pleased that - by working within the communications channels for Neighborhood 9 - that we were able to get a customized flyer into the hands of every home in the neighborhood. While some residents chose not to give at this time, the information provided will reap additional support through online or mailed contributions throughout the holiday giving season.
What tips do you have for someone wanting to have a fundraiser for TCP?
Most of the work is already done for you, as the history, traditions, and reputation of The Caring Place has carefully been cultivated throughout the past 36 years. The success and longevity of The Caring Place is the greatest testimonial and case for giving that you could ever hope to have. Name recognition is very high, and TCP’s reputation is stellar. The staff has developed various promotional materials and tools available to help you, and they are also available to tell TCP's story in the community. Those awareness efforts are critical to ensure that TCP's message reaches all of the newcomers to Georgetown and the Northern Williamson County communities served.
Any other thoughts?
I am proud to support TCP, and marvel at how the organization continues to thrive as they thoughtfully and strategically expand their reach, influence, impact, credibility, and reputation within the nonprofit sector and the Georgetown and Northern Williamson County area. While I am proud to witness and support their continued success, my role was insignificant when compared to the hundreds of dedicated volunteers (including Board members), the employees, and the generous donors of money, food, and unwanted, gently-used items which constitute the inventory of our retail stores.
We greatly appreciate John’s continued involvement with The Caring Place. His history and knowledge here is a wonderful testimony in our community. He knows The Caring Place’s heart and does a wonderful job singing the praises of this organization.