Thermal Belt Outreach Ministry: Getting some essential feedback

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Last month, we talked about strategic planning, the key informants of poverty and some of the key determinants of poverty.

As this information is provided by individuals and agencies that work in social services, we thought it would be wise to glean some information directly from our clients. So, we asked them some questions to see if we should consider making adjustments to our policies going forward.

We recently instituted a mass texting program, which makes communication with our clients via bulk text messaging more effective. This has made it easier to impart and exchange information with our clients.

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Thanks to a Seasonal Assistance Fund grant at the Polk County Community Foundation, we were able to offer a “Text to Win” contest to our clients. The goal of this contest was to get more clients to sign up, and to collect some information about programs and services.

In return for answering some questions, we entered each client into a drawing to win several gift cards, a Valentine’s Day dinner basket and payment of a utility bill.

We asked our clients whether or not they would utilize Polk County Transportation services on evenings and/or Saturdays. Those who either had a car or had access to a car reported that they would not utilize any expanded service. Those that already used PCT replied that they would use the service to go to the grocery store, pharmacy or church.

We also asked which foods in our pantry they did or did not use, what foods they would like to see, and how long did our grocery supply last (we expect that the groceries should last one to two weeks).

More than half the respondents said the groceries lasted two or more weeks, and just over a third stated they lasted a week or less. Many stated that they would like to receive more fresh vegetables and refrigerated and frozen foods.

We finished by asking if families needed help with paying for programs and services for their children or grandchildren. The response here was positive, as many respondents would like to have their kids involved with tutoring, counseling, afterschool and summer programs, as well as band, sports and the arts.

While it was difficult to compile and assess data collected through open-ended questions via text message, we are very encouraged by our client’s willingness to share their thoughts and the chance to build trust between client and agency. Combing through the short responses provides our staff with some insight as to the challenges that our clients face on a daily basis, and how we can provide opportunities to help families avoid times of crisis.

Outreach is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide compassionate assistance to Polk County residents who are unable to provide for their basic life needs.  For more information on Outreach, please visit or call 828-894-2988.