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Rising Stars: Meet Virginia Hinkle, John Lemkey, Lauren Barrett, Justin Ward Corie Brown, Vamsi Alla

Today we’d like to introduce you to Virginia Hinkle, John Lemkey, Lauren Barrett, Justin Ward, Corie Brown, Vamsi Alla, Kavya Yalamanchili, & Katherine Fisher.

Hi Virginia, John, Lauren, Justin, Corie, Vamsi, Kavya, & Katherine, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.

Dragon’s Care’s journey began in the midst of the pandemic’s peak in 2020, a time when we, as a community, extended a helping hand to a family grappling with the challenges of COVID-19. This act of compassion ignited a profound desire within our founder, Virginia Hinkle, and nine other parents in the district to continue supporting those affected by illness, including the dedicated staff of our local public school. As 2021 brought an unexpected freeze, leaving several staff members with flooded homes, the group had grown and rose to the occasion by providing essential aid in the form of groceries and financial assistance. By the autumn of 2021, the focus had evolved to concentrate predominantly on the staff at a single elementary school, offering assistance during times of illness, injury, or family tragedy. Throughout that year, parents had the privilege of aiding 29 staff members, and Dragons Care’s reputation spread across the district, prompting calls for support from various campuses. The turning point arrived in the fall of 2022 when the core executive team of Dragons Care was established. Comprising parents within the Carroll Independent School District, each parent volunteer contributed a distinct skill set to the cause. Over the ensuing months, they collaboratively shaped the foundation of Dragons Care, presenting the vision to the Superintendent, Assistant Superintendents, and Director of Human Resources. The enthusiasm that the administration of Carroll ISD displayed for Dragons Care’s mission was both inspiring and affirming as they pledged their support for the non-profit forward movement. Drawing on the dedication of those in the community who had already devoted themselves to the mission over the preceding two years, the executive team sought their assistance in securing vital resources. Their remarkable generosity enabled the excutive team to engage legal expertise and cover the initial expenses essential to our launching Dragons Care district-wide. With collective determination, the team fulfilled their objectives, consulting a lawyer and filing the necessary paperwork with both the State of Texas and the IRS. Throughout the following spring, they meticulously finalized plans, including the creation of a self-designed website, marketing strategy, graphics, logos, events, etc.. Their efforts culminated in the launch of the non-profit on May 1st, which will now encompass the entire district; all 11 school campuses, the administration building, the Elise Cerami Aquatics Center, and Transportation Department. At its core, Dragons Care stands as a pillar of support for the educators, staff, and School Resource Officers within Carroll ISD, offering solace during personal adversities stemming from illness, injury, or family tragedy. Our mission is underscored by a commitment to serve, bolster, and nurture our staff during their times of need, as they, in turn, care for our children on a daily basis. Beyond this, our aspiration is to fortify the bond between parents and staff, fostering increased unity within the school district and conveying the profound value our community places on their dedicated efforts.

Furthermore, we envision that the community’s involvement and support for the Carroll ISD staff will contribute to heightened staff retention and recruitment, a pivotal element in delivering a top-tier educational experience for our students. As we continue to journey forward, we remain steadfast in our dedication to making a lasting impact on the lives of those who shape the future of our community.

I’m sure it wasn’t obstacle-free, but would you say the journey has been fairly smooth so far? Our journey began organically, stemming from our desire to help just one person initially. As time passed, our reach extended to encompass more and more individuals in need. The rapid growth prompted us to establish robust processes and systems and assemble a larger team to effectively manage the expanding scope of our mission.

In the early stages, a significant challenge lay in shaping our unique corporation. Dragons Care stands as an unprecedented non-profit, offering support to Carroll ISD staff members, teachers, and School Resource Officers during their times of need. Consequently, crafting a solid foundation for our organization required collaborative efforts and legal guidance. We worked tirelessly to ensure our non-profit was built on stable footing.

A persistent hurdle we continue to face is differentiating ourselves within the community and spreading awareness of our presence. Unlike other non-profits, we operate strictly on volunteer support with an unwavering commitment to minimizing operating expenses. We forego spending on advertisements and extensive marketing materials to focus on channeling resources towards assisting staff members. We firmly believe that these efforts are well-placed, aligning with our goal of prioritizing the staff’s needs over extravagant expenses, but as a result, we have to get creative on how to get the word out about Dragons Care and work that much harder.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do? We take immense pride in the fact that our organization is entirely run by dedicated volunteer parents. This not only showcases our commitment to the community but also ensures that the vast majority of our funds are directed towards enriching the school community. What truly sets us apart is the unwavering trust our community places in us, knowing that their support directly translates into meaningful contributions.

Dragons Care goes beyond traditional community organizations. We extend our support to the school staff during their personal challenges, offering them a lifeline during tough times when they are ill, injured or walk through a family tragedy. This is our way of expressing gratitude for their invaluable contributions to our children and families. The heartwarming stories of how our nonprofit has become a beacon of hope and reassurance to the remarkable staff at Carroll ISD fills us with pride.

Seeing Dragons Care transform into a source of positivity and support for the staff affirms that we are on the right path. It’s a tangible representation of the community’s steadfast backing. With each step we take, we’re making a genuine difference, infusing their lives with care and positivity. We truly believe that our efforts are improving their lives and that our dedication is steering us towards meaningful impact.

We’d love to hear about how you think about risk-taking. In this incredible journey, we’re embracing the thrill of building a non-profit corporation unlike any before. Every single step along the way has been an opportunity for us to blaze a trail of our own, crafting a unique narrative as we lay the foundation for a corporation that truly uplifts the needs of our public school staff. With unwavering dedication, we’re shaping an environment that radiates positivity—one where they can find solace in the knowledge that parents and the community are steadfastly by their side, especially during their most crucial moments. Together, we’re shaping a future of support, innovation, and togetherness.

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