Stacy Pacholick thrills at receiving a coveted “GRACEY” award from Melissa Simpkins.

A special “First Wednesday” meeting of GRACE staff launched Fiscal Year 2022 in a very festive way! Chief Executive Officer Shonda Schaefer and Melissa Simpkins, director of administration and executive assistant to the CEO, treated the staff to a “Happy New (fiscal) Year” celebration in the Community Rooms of the GRACE Main offices.

The 2021 fiscal year officially came to a close on August 31. Just like with much of FY20, the year was marked by a continuing struggle with the coronavirus pandemic, and the impact the pandemic has had on staffing, volunteerism, and funding.

More than anything, the year was blemished by the impact COVID-19 and its variants have had on those GRACE serves, especially those from the local hospitality industry that is still struggling to recover.

Still, FY21 had its share of highlights! End-of-year statistics included “best evers” for the GRACE Community Clinic, the GRACE Food Pantry, and the total number of services provided. The year saw more families moving into Transitional Housing than ever before.  And the value of donated in-kind good and services reached an all-time high.

In addition to the “best evers”, an assortment of “most uniques” also made the year notable. The year began with the GRACE Gala going completely virtual, with a small gathering of “guests” joining by Zoom.

At Christmastime, the number of toy donations sent through Amazon flooded Christmas Cottage with a “100 gazillion” cardboard boxes, all filled with toys for the children of GRACE families unable to provide Christmas on their own.

And, at long last, after postponements and cancellations, the first-ever Designer Bags & Bingo event sold out, and exceeded all funding and entertainment expectations.

Wednesday’s festivities included another rousing edition of “GRACE Jeopardy” emceed by Shonda giving the answers, and staff members offering the questions. Example: Answer: 83%. Question: The percentage of GRACE staff members vaccinated against coronavirus. Answer: $350,650. Question: What was the value of presents delivered through Christmas Cottage.

The greatest hilarity came when Shonda and Melissa presented the first-ever “GRACEY” awards for achievement by staff members. Some of the achievements were real and very special, such as the “Person Who Embodies the Values of GRACE” award presented to the Community Clinic’s Nurse Shirley Roberts, and the “Best Customer Service” award to Kelly Prond, manager of the GRACEful Buys shopping center in Euless.

Others were tongue-in-cheek like the “Sophisticated Words Award” given to Chief Development Officer Mark Woolverton, which he found pleasantly gratifying.

One of the most touching moments of the celebration was a tribute honoring Melissa Simpkins. Melissa was recognized for her exemplary work throughout the pandemic years. She has kept communications strong among all GRACE departments while uplifting the spirits and enthusiasm of GRACE staff members, and others. She was given a standing ovation for her inspiring leadership.

With the new fiscal year just underway, Shonda offered some highlights coming up, including  the opening of the new Donation Station on Texan Trail, and a planning retreat with board and staff members to review and update goals.

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