Community Conversation with Dawn Tongish: Meet Brandy Schimmel, executive director of North Texas SNAP a nonprofit organiziation providing a support network for adults (and their families) living with intellectual disabilities. Schimmel oversees the execution of the mission and expansion of the programs. SNAP serves more than 200 adults throughout North Texas.
Schimmel holds a Bachelors of General Studies from Texas Woman's University and completed her Masters of Management and Public Administration from the University of Phoenix. She has served on SNAP's board since 2012, most recently as vice president. Schimmel knew when she was first introduced to the program in 2008 that it was a positive force in the community that she wanted to help nurture. We wanted to know more about North Texas SNAP and Schimmel was kind enough to answer a few questions:
Dawn Tongish: Please begin by telling us about North Texas SNAP.
Brandy Schimmel: In 1999, a group of parents in Northeast Tarrant County were looking for opportunities for their children with intellectual disabilities as they graduated from high school and approached adulthood. They were frustrated by what appeared to be a fragmented social service system. Recognizing a need for more effective support, not only for their sons and daughters, but also for other families in a similar situation, the group began brainstorming ways they could make a difference in the lives of adult individuals living with intellectual disabilities.
Despite not having any experience in developing and managing a nonprofit organization, this small but courageous group of parents founded North Texas Special Needs Assistance Partners (SNAP), a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization serving individuals 17 and older (and their families) living with intellectual disabilities including: Downs Syndrome, Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, Williams Syndrome, Developmental Delays, Brain Injury and other cognitive challenges). Since inception, North Texas SNAP has expanded its small circle to serve approximately 200 intellectually disabled adults throughout North Texas. Our membership ranges in intellectual and developmental disabilities and is comprised of the intellectually disabled member, their families, business professionals and community members.
Like their peers without intellectual disabilities SNAP members have the same hopes and dreams; they want to have jobs, friends, relationships, and to feel they’re a part of their community and treated with the same respect. North Texas SNAP is committed to helping these individuals achieve their goals and has become a strong voice for change for our members. Our vision is to have a community where people with intellectual disabilities and their families have a network that supports independence, choice and personal success for generations to come.
DT: What are your duties at North Texas SNAP?
BS: As Executive Director, my job duties include overall strategic and operational responsibility for North Texas SNAP’s staff, programs, expansion, and execution of its mission. In addition, I facilitate the organizations fund development, marketing and public relations as well as event planning.
DT: How did you become involved with North Texas SNAP, and why are you so passionate about the work being done?
BS: In 2008, I met Rita Goodner, Board President through chamber networking events. For years, I was fascinated by the programs and services North Texas SNAP provided for individuals 17 and older living with intellectual disabilities. They creates an environment where their members could be themselves, education was key, their programs/services supported the needs of their members and everyone was accepted for who they are. In 2012, Mrs. Goodner invited me to join the Board of Directors. My background included fund development and event planning and I was excited to help take North Texas SNAP to the next level. I was confident that the organization had so many untapped possibilities. Being someone that does not have a child with intellectual disabilities, I wanted to be a part of an organization that helped those with disabilities live fulfilling lives. After serving on the board for 2 years, I was truly blessed in March 2014 when the board asked me to step in as Executive Director. Words cannot express how honored I was to accept that responsibility. Since that time, I have hit the ground running building awareness about the wonderful programs/services we provide for our members and building relationship that will help the organization increase revenue to help more individuals living with intellectual disabilities. My heart and passion for the organization lies in this, “SNAP members have the same hopes and dreams as their peers without intellectual disabilities; they want to have jobs, friendships, and healthy relationships as well as feel like a part of their community and be treated with respect. North Texas SNAP provides these opportunities and offers an environment where our members are visible in an invisible world.”
Our President, Rita Goodner said “I joined SNAP for my son who has a developmental disability. When he graduated from high school, even though he had a part-time job and support from family, he had no friends and was becoming more and more isolated. I have seen remarkable growth, not only for him but for many of our members. He now has many friends, participates in social activities, lives on his own and is living a full and happy life, all as a result of the support and programs of SNAP.”
Our Program Director, Paula Baker said, “I was teaching a transitional skills program for young adults with special challenges at Tarrant County College - NE Campus when parents of some of my students asked me to consider working for NTX SNAP to develop an independent living support program for members who would each live in their own dwelling with family support and weekly training and support from me. I loved the real world learning opportunity and quickly became inspired to help all our members in a variety of ways. My passion comes from seeing the great treasure that lies in each of our members and my desire to help them shine!”
DT: How can the people of North Texas and beyond help you meet your needs in 2015? What are your biggest needs?
BS: Our biggest need is funding. North Texas SNAP receives no federal or state funding, operating solely on benevolent gifts and event sponsorships/revenue. We are looking for caring individuals, businesses, organizations and foundations who have a heart for individuals 17 and older living with intellectual disabilities. These are the people who provide the support needed to keep North Texas SNAP strong. Our ultimate goal is to build relationships that create awareness and provide funding for our programs and services. We are not just looking for a hand out but a hand up, relationship and individuals who care enough to get involved both financially and with their time.
We have ventured out this year adding a golf classic to our list of fundraising activities to help increase revenue in our top three programs. Funds raised from the Cornerstone Wealth Strategies & North Texas SNAP Golf Classic (Monday, May 11, 2015 at Timarron Country Club) will support North Texas Special Needs Assistance Partners (SNAP) Greater Independent Living Program (GIL). This program includes the Transportation Program, Expanded Living Program and Project Neighbor Program and is vital to the organization’s mission to create and support a variety of programs that assist individuals 17 and older living with intellectual disabilities in achieving and sustaining full lives.
Cornerstone Wealth Strategies, a ﬁnancial planning organization, has joined in the efforts to help North Texas SNAP create choices for individuals 17 and older living with intellectual disabilities by joining us as Title Sponsor of the 2015 Cornerstone Wealth Strategies & North Texas SNAP Golf Classic. As the founder and principal of Cornerstone Wealth, Julie Bird is committed to both her clients and the community. Partnering with Julie is a great combination of business and community coming together to make a signiﬁcant difference in Northeast Tarrant County. Cornerstone Wealth Strategies and North Texas SNAP are asking individuals and business owners to partner with us to make this an event individuals, community members and business professionals won’t want to miss. The impact your partnership and participation will have on the individuals we serve will be very rewarding. In addition to the Golf Classic we will continue to have the annual gala, Boots & Bling Casino Night. As our biggest fundraising event we are honored to have Carolyn Sims (Chief of Staff for Commissioner Fickes) join us as Honorary Chairwoman.
This year’s Boots & Bling Casino Night is scheduled for Saturday, September 19, 2015 at the Hurst Conference Center. Attendance for 2014 was 265 and we are expecting tremendous growth for this year’s event. Our goal is to raise $65,000 at “Boots & Bling Casino Night” and again are looking for individuals and businesses to sponsors and attend. Funds from this event support North Texas SNAP’s programs and services, creating a community where people with intellectual disabilities and their families have a network that supports independence, choice and personal success.
More information can be found on our website at www.ntxsnap.org
DT: How do people with intellectual disabilities benefit from the kind of support system that SNAP provides?
BS: North Texas SNAP is dedicated to creating and supporting a variety of programs and services for individuals 17 and older living with intellectual disabilities. Our members’ unique needs and personal potential are guiding factors as we develop activities and programs to help them achieve the skills necessary to successfully succeed in society. Members have the opportunity to grow in a positive and caring environment where friendships are nurtured and life skills are developed. They enjoy an environment where they can grow in social and consumer skills, prepare for employment and gain work experience, build up confidence to try new things and speak up for themselves, develop friendships and receive continued support from volunteers and staff to sustain them for generations to come. In addition, they get the opportunity to prove to the community that they are able in so many ways to be productive and to give back to the communities where they live, work and play.
Families with individuals with special needs often do not have an extensive support system which can relate to their challenges. NTX SNAP families gain from the advice and encouragement of our staff as we team with the family to approach challenges in new ways and push boundaries of past limitations to new frontiers. The support and experience of other SNAP families is a priceless resource of information and encouragement as families can relate to the unique joys and difficulties special challenges can bring to a family.
Amber is a friendly and very helpful person. She just celebrated ten-years at a local grocery store in the customer service field. A few years back she decided she wanted to have her own place, to live on her own. Her mother turned to North Texas SNAP and our Project Neighbor- supported independent living program. With the support of her family and the training and support of SNAP’s creative approach to independent living, Amber has learned to take care of her own home and her own personal needs. She is a very active member of SNAP, participating in JOBS Club, Girls Night Out, Supper Club, Movie Night and every social event. Amber also serves on our Social Committee and is an Ambassador for NTX SNAP! Doing puzzles is a favorite past time and she cares for her grandmother who lives close by. Amber is always willing to help out her family and her friends and is a great example of our members’ positive attitude and, with a little support, great capabilities.
Randall is known for his warm and wonderful smile and his eagerness to participate and contribute. North Texas SNAP Men’s Club was an immediate hit with Randall. He enjoys the camaraderie among the guys and loves every activity, but Randall is not only interested in having fun, he has been an active and enthusiastic participant in our service projects, as well! When SNAP held a food drive he was an active participant, lending his muscle, as well as, his cheerful, friendliness to the project. When the Men’s Club took on the clean-up of an overgrown historic cemetery, Randall was right there cleaning up broken branches and taking down an old fence with his fellow SNAP members! Of course, his favorite SNAP activity is when we attend a Rangers game, a college basketball game or a good hockey game. Randall is also, very interested in finding a job so he has been regularly attending our JOBS Club- employment support group to hear about other members jobs, learn how to be the very best employee and work on his interviewing skills. He will make a dedicated and loyal employee for some lucky employer! Wanting to continue to learn and grow, Randall has attended many of SNAP’s independent living skills workshops. His eagerness to learn and be a part of an active community is one of the many rewards those who help him receive….AND, of course, that beaming smile!
“SNAP is a great way to be social and make new friends! Girls Night Out has helped me discover new things. The Expanded Living Program has helped me become more independent and helped me to prepare for when I move out on my own.”
“Before SNAP I didn’t have “a life”, now I have lots of friends and get to do a lot of fun activities like Men’s Club, Supper Club and Rangers’ games. And I get to learn how to be a better man.”
“I like Supper Club because I can meet new people and greet old friends!”
“I love SNAP. I have a lot of friends. I like bowling. I like to go to dances with my girlfriend. I like Men’s Club and all the different sports events and activities.
Project Neighbor helps me to live on my own. I was scared at first but I learned how to be safe, cook, clean and take care of myself.”
“My favorite thing about North Texas SNAP is it’s fun! I like the people. I like to help out my friends. I like going to the movies with my friends. I like learning about leadership in Men’s Club. I am so glad SNAP has helped me through Paul Baker to get a job and live on my own. I am learning how to do things like budgeting my money.”
DT: Not only do the clients benefit, but their families also get a support network as well. Why is that important?
BS: North Texas SNAP’s vision is to provide a community where individuals 17 and older living with intellectual disabilities and their families have a network that supports independence, choice and personal success. Having a child with a disability can be challenging and North Texas SNAP understands that, we want our members and their families to have a place that they belong and receive the support needed to succeed despite life’s challenges.
DT: What is your most memorable moment at North Texas SNAP?
BS: There are many memorable moments in this organization. The moments when you see a member open up to make new friends, become excited to learn to do new things on their own or shine with pride at getting a job. Program Director, Paula Baker said, “Specifically, one such moment that stands out to me was when one of our young ladies who has autism and struggled with relating to her peers but instead always gravitated to older adults who had more patience to listen to her share about her interests at length. After encouragement to join in our Girls Night Out program’s monthly meetings, with in just three months or so, her mother approached me with tears in her eyes to report that through these monthly get-togethers her daughter had blossomed in confidence among her peers, having fun sharing in activities and that this was the first time in her life that she had real friends that even began to connect to do things together outside of our meetings! This is one of the joys of working with and for the wonderfully special people of North Texas SNAP!”
If you'd like to nominate a local resident for a BubbleLife community profile, contact Dawn Tongish at firstname.lastname@example.org or find her on Twitter at @DawnTongish.