BCFS Education Services Awarded for Work in New Braunfels

Jo Ann Rodriguez (left) and Rebecca Wieland hold the “Stand Up for Texas Public Schools” award.

The New Braunfels Independent School District recognized BCFS Education Services with the “Stand Up for Texas Public Schools” Award, presented by New Braunfels ISD Superintendent of Schools, Randy Moczygemba. The ceremony and award presentation took place during a board meeting on June 24.

Rebecca Wieland and Jo Ann Rodriguez, both of whom serve as Family Coaches in the Texas counties of Comal and Guadalupe, accepted the award on behalf of Sonia Zigmond, Program Director at BCFS Education Services.

“I was so honored when I received the letter stating we would be recognized for our partnership with the district,” said Sonia. “This is a partnership built on trust, transparency, and a shared dedication to early childhood and to the children and families in this wonderful community.”

In an email, Randy described BCFS Education Services as “an example of what establishing strong relationships with the business community and supporting our schools can do to help build a stronger and better New Braunfels.” 

BCFS Education Services and the New Braunfels ISD have been working together for six years and counting. Because of their work in the area to improve early education, BCFS Education Services is now featured in the Texas Association of School Boards’ list of recognized businesses for the 2018-2019 school year.

“With a 6A district, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes that we don’t see,” Superintendent Moczygemba said to a crowd of around 50 people at the board meeting on Monday evening. “This award is a way to celebrate these community partners that do such great work.”

Learn more about how the BCFS System is equalizing education for young children in 18 Texas counties.

Photos inside the New Braunfels ISD Education Center, where Monday’s board meeting was held, show the history of the site and of education in New Braunfels.

BCFS-San Antonio Participants Honored With Day of Rest and Relaxation

Thanks to the Salon Professional Academy, a select group from BCFS Health and Human Services-San Antonio enjoyed a relaxing day free of charge on May 28. Those in attendance chose from a range of services, including manicures, pedicures, and hair styling and washing.

For a few hours, the young women were able to relax and unwind while seated in black leather chairs, laid back while they were pampered and attended to by the staff at The Salon Professional Academy on the north side of San Antonio, Texas.

“Some of our youth don’t always come from a background where they’re able to spend time and money on themselves. With something like this, they can forget for just a moment about the troubles of daily life and treat themselves,” said Raquel Escobar, Lead Case Manager in the Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) program at BCFS-San Antonio.

Youth from BCFS-San Antonio receive manicures from the staff and students at The Salon Professional Academy.

While the ladies enjoyed their time, Suzette Thomas, Admissions Director at The Salon Professional Academy, took the BCFS-San Antonio staff on a tour of the facility and walked them through the details of how they train their students to become professionals in cosmetology and esthetics, either of which can take up to 1,500 hours to master.

Eventually the day was done and it was time to pack up and head out, but not before the ladies received a small gift bag from BCFS-San Antonio with some cosmetic and bath items, bringing a bit of the pampering back home with them.

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Thanks to The Salon Professional Academy for their service and gracious hospitality of BCFS-San Antonio’s beneficiaries and staff.

New Texas Law Supports BVT’s Work and Expansion

Texas is blessed by strong leaders who guide an effective state government. Breckenridge Village of Tyler (BVT) witnessed this first-hand during the recently concluded 86th session of the Texas Legislature, where Tyler-area lawmakers Matt Schaefer and Bryan Hughes sponsored and passed an important bill helping BVT and the vulnerable population which the organization serves. 

Breckenridge Village of Tyler is a residential community for adults with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities, such as Down syndrome or autism. The nonprofit’s programs and activities are designed to help residents develop the skills they need to achieve their God-given potential with a special brand of care unique to BVT.

To meet a growing need, BVT recently built three new homes that can house up to 18 residents. However, with that expansion came a roadblock: years ago, the Texas government stopped issuing new licenses to intermediate care facilities like BVT. Existing licenses had to be sold and transferred, while new licenses could not be created.  

With a limited supply and an increasing need for individuals with disabilities, the cost of licenses for intermediate care facilities came to exceed $40,000 each. For a non-profit like BVT, paying nearly $1 million for additional state licenses would take away necessary funds meant to serve the Breckenridge Village community and the needs of its residents.

That’s where Rep. Schaefer and Sen. Hughes stepped in with House Bill 3117, which Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law on June 14. The bill allows the state’s Health and Human Services Commission to periodically review active facility licenses while reallocating suspended licenses to facilities where those residents can be given a home, such as BVT.

We are fortunate that in Tyler, leaders like Matt Schaefer, Bryan Hughes and Greg Abbott demonstrate that government can be effective and compassionate. We applaud their work to change state law to improve the status and care of those with intellectual and developmental disabilities and to inspire the best from our communities and neighbors. Thanks to House Bill 3117, more families are given hope and more individuals are offered a place to call home.

View coverage on House Bill 3117 from local news outlets:
Tyler Morning Telegraph | CBS Channel 19 | ABC Channel 7

Breckenridge Village Opens 3 New Residences

Breckenridge Village of Tyler (BVT) celebrated the grand opening of three new residences on its campus, offering a long-term home to adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

Bill Pigott speaks about his personal relationship of more than 20 years with Breckenridge Village of Tyler.

At the celebration on Friday, May 17, around 500 guests witnessed the official opening of the homes, including Les O’Farrell, BCFS Board of Trustees Chairman, and Dr. David Dykes, Pastor of Green Acres Baptist Church.

This phase of the BVT campus construction, which began in 2017, is the culmination of work from diligent BVT staff, support from generous donors, and help from countless volunteers – including contractors, builders, and suppliers – coming together to create something that will last for generations of residents to come. A notable and stable source of assistance throughout the building process has been the Texas Baptist Men (TBM), led by Bill Pigott, who was a member of the TBM 22 years ago when they built the first six homes and the Robert M. Rogers Chapel in 1997.

Pigott and his family were present for the grand opening, where one of the three homes was dedicated and named in his honor. The other two homes were posthumously dedicated and named to Pierre de Wet and Paul Powell, whose families were both present at the dedication to take part in the ribbon cutting at the homes that bear their names.   

“It was amazing to see how this community came together to commemorate this important moment in our history. For the presence we feel from donors, supporters, and family to be fully realized and to have everyone here with us,” said Steven Campbell, Executive Director of BVT, “we simply could not be more proud and grateful.”

Guests enjoy lunch in the shade. (photo credit: SP7 Studios)

In addition to the ribbon cutting at each residence, butterflies were released at the homes. After the residences were officially opened, guests were able to tour each at their leisure before attending an outdoor lunch on the BVT campus.

“I stood here alongside Jean Breckenridge and Jimmy 21 years ago when we first broke ground,” said Kevin Dinnin, President and CEO of the BCFS System. “I know she would be as proud of this accomplishment as I am, and prouder still that we are answering the question she had so long ago – ‘What will happen to my child when I am gone?’ – for so many other families.”

Learn more about how Breckenridge Village of Tyler provides a loving home for so many in East Texas.

The family of Paul Powell stands in front of the home named posthumously in Powell’s honor.
The family of Pierre de Wet cut the ribbon in front of the home named in his memory.
Jimmy Breckenridge (left) and Kevin Dinnin discuss the latest.
Guests tour one of the newly opened homes.
Beverly Flynn, BVT's Special Events Coordinator, stands next to Grace Community School's Cougarettes from Tyler, Texas.
The kitchens in the new residences have the latest appliances and a healthy amount of space.
Attendants of the grand opening enjoy the day. (credit: SP7 Studios)
Each of the homes is outfitted with unique furniture in shared spaces, while the bedrooms are left for resident's to decorate as they wish.
Tammy (left), a BVT resident, delivers a message to a crowd of around 500 while standing next to Steven Campbell. Tammy has been a day-program participant for years but will now be able to live at BVT permanently thanks to the new homes. (credit: SP7 Studios)
Outdoor dining areas on the back side of each residence offer seating for up to eight and a wonderful view. (credit: SP7 Studios)
Dr. David Dykes, pastor of Green Acres Baptist Church, remembers riding around the empty lot that would become BVT with Kevin Dinnin in a small Nissan car. The two men met in the late '90s.
BVT residents had a front row seat at the celebration.
A trombone quartet plays while attendants enjoy lunch. (credit: SP7 Studios)
Roughly 500 guests came out to witness the grand opening of the new homes at BVT.

United in Prayer

On May 1 and 2, the BCFS System hosted breakfast events honoring the National Day of Prayer across five regions of Texas: Kerrville, Del Rio, Abilene, Corpus Christi, and the Rio Grande Valley. At each event, local leaders and prominent members of the community joined together in prayer, offering gratitude, hope for the future, and requests for guidance in matters ranging from local to international importance.

More than 1,000 people attended the events in total, where at least 80 community leaders, law enforcement officials, government representatives, members of the military, pastors, business leaders, educators, and administrators offered prayer specific to their home town.

In Kerrville, attendants gathered in the fellowship hall of First United Methodist Church early in the morning, coffee in hand, while a six-man band played acoustic jazz. Small conversations gave the room a friendly Hill Country ambiance before the morning’s festivities began in full with the posting of the colors by the Tivy High School Air Force Junior ROTC.  

The band at Kerrville’s breakfast plays before the start of the event.

Joshua Rodriguez, a young resident from Our House operated by BCFS Health and Human Services-Kerrville, offered a prayer for the nation’s youth. Through tears, Joshua asked for a spirit of repentance for himself and his generation, a transition out of rebellion and into growth, and a willingness to come to God and depend on Him alone.

Many others offered prayer with the uniting factor of each being a hopeful spirit of humility and a desire for togetherness.

Corpus Christi’s inaugural event was held at a local church with beautiful stain glass accents and a waterfront view.

BCFS Health and Human Services-McAllen and BCFS Health and Human Services-Harlingen teamed up to host the event in the Rio Grande Valley, where over 300 guests enjoyed a plentiful breakfast that included baskets of pan dulce at each table.

Corpus Christ hosted their event at a waterfront venue, First United Methodist Church, where attendees were blessed with a view of the sunrise on the gulf coast and treated to the sounds of classical guitar as played by Zachary Muñoz. This event, the first prayer breakfast for Corpus Christi, included prayers from members of the United States Navy based in the port city, and a distinguished list of local officials.

In Del Rio, the mayor pro tem, Liz Elizalde de Calderon, offered prayer for her city in the presence of more than 100 community members while Asennet Segura, the BCFS System’s EVP/COO of Community, International and Residential Services, offered the welcome prayer.

The annual National Day of Prayer events are underwritten by the BCFS System under the direction of Kevin Dinnin, the organization’s President and CEO. The events offer a brief reprieve from the demands of everyday life and a focus on matters of eternity, uniting all with a common cause of unity and fellowship.

Kevin Dinnin speaks at First United Methodist Church in Kerrville

In Kerrville, Kevin explained the personal significance of the annual services before he offered his closing prayer: “Since our inaugural prayer breakfasts launched in 2017, I have maintained how important these events are and how they truly have the power to bring communities together,” Kevin said. “I promise, for as long as I am president of this organization, we will continue to hold this event every year.”

Read coverage of prayer events in Abilene and Kerrville, or learn more about how the BCFS System is helping others.

Corpus Christi
The Rio Grande Valley
Del Rio

Presidential Grant Meets Transportation Need Abroad

Helping children find families to call their own is what Children’s Emergency Relief International (CERI) does best. However, the barriers to giving orphaned children from around the world the services and resources that they need are not always the obstacles that are the most obvious. Sometimes, solving the little things can make a big difference in the overall outcomes for children. 

Since CERI began services in the locations they operate today – Moldova, India, and Sri Lanka – infrastructure has consistently shown up high on the list of underappreciated barriers when serving kids without families.  

“If one of our case workers takes public transportation, they’re going to leave at 9 a.m., make one home visit, and barely get back to the office by the end of the work day,” said Connie Belciug, Executive Director of CERI. “But if they use a car, they can make three or four home visits in a single day.”

Knowing that better transportation can mean greater service to children in need, President and CEO of the BCFS System, Kevin C. Dinnin, contributed a non-refundable grant for the purchase and implementation of two new vehicles, one in Sri Lanka and the other in Moldova.

The vehicles will not only help staff to more readily respond to the needs of their service population, they will also help transport clients to local service projects, deliver groceries, and even take families to their medical appointments on time.

With each of CERI’s international case managers responsible for roughly 35 children, getting CERI staff where they need to be in a timely and reliable way is very important to ensuring that more children can take advantage of the quality programs which the nonprofit has to offer.

“We have very intense requirements for [our case managers] to meet, and we wouldn’t be able to increase their case load unless we decreased those requirements for contact,” said Connie. With these new safe and dependable vehicles adding to or replacing others that are 10 years old or more, CERI can be sure that its capabilities grow in a healthy direction, serving more children more effectively.

Learn more about how CERI helps orphans and other children facing troubled circumstances in locations around the world.

Daffy Davenport Begins Journey to Retirement

For nearly a decade, William Davenport – better known as Daffy – has taken part in the rapid expansion and increased capability of BCFS Health and Human Services’ Emergency Management Division (EMD). 

Daffy was born on the south side of San Antonio, Texas, in the Highland Park area. He graduated from Highlands High School before joining the San Antonio Fire Department (SAFD), where he served for 35 years.

Daffy’s career path demanded a broad range of expertise and an appetite for variety. Daffy’s work with the fire department led him to video production with SAFD, where he would haul a video camera inside burning buildings to film San Antonio’s first responders at work. The video he captured would then be used to train new recruits or to instruct current department members on what to do differently.

Daffy’s next adventure would be with San Antonio’s channel 4 news, WOAI-TV (which between 1974 and 2002 had the KMOL-TV call sign). Daffy was behind the camera during some important moments for the city. “I was a live truck operator, I did spot news at night, I did live shots and city hall; I covered the Pope,” said Daffy, referring to Pope John Paul II’s 1987 visit to San Antonio.

The sum of Daffy’s work put him at an intersection somewhere between emergency management, communication, video, and pure gadgetry. Kevin Dinnin, President and CEO of the BCFS System, often refers to Daffy as the real-life MacGyver, the fictional character known for diffusing bombs with little more than a paper clip and a rubber band. Daffy never had to diffuse any actual bombs during his time with EMD (with rubber bands or otherwise), but when it came to making sure all equipment was in top notch and ready to deploy at a moment’s notice, he held an outstanding, never-quit attitude!

Daffy accepting an award at his farewell dinner

Joining EMD in 2010, Daffy remembers the smaller size of the team and the limited resources they had to work with at the time, recalling a fleet of fewer than 10 vehicles and a handful of communication devices like radios, phones, and repeaters. Today, EMD’s logistics section has grown to include fire trucks, ambulances, tractor trailers, generators, RV trailers, mobile command platforms, box trucks, trailers for laundry and bathing, field hospitals, and many more vital pieces of equipment. With his guidance and vision the EMD section has and is still growing in all areas.

Now, as Daffy begins his transition to retirement and works with EMD as a PRN (pro re nata) personnel, he sees the growth that has taken place over the course of his tenure. EMD currently has a fleet of more than 100 vehicles, many of them highly specialized, and the organization has hundreds of communication devices designed to increase collaboration and decrease response times. The staff has grown from a humble team of six to more than 2,000 personnel.

In retirement, Daffy plans to spend his free time at his house in North Padre Island on the bay side, enjoying the view from his water front property where he says it’s always 5 o’clock!

Learn more about how EMD works to better the lives of those in the wake of disaster.

Fashioning a Future for Youth in San Antonio

Youth from BCFS Health and Human Services-San Antonio’s Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) program took part in a fashion show promoting personal style and professionalism at the Granberry Hills Event Facility on the northeast side of San Antonio, Texas.

“We have held this event for several years now and think it’s very important for the professional development of the young people we serve. The students always show a lot of confidence, and it is such a joy watching them blossom and taking ownership when it comes to their future success.,” said Celeste Garcia, Executive Director of BCFS Health and Human Services’ Community Services Division.

Sofia Gayou delivers message on professionalism and building impressions

Sofia Gayou, a Learning Development Professional and the speaker for the evening, offered tips on first impressions and professionalism in action. “When I walked up here, it only took you seven seconds to make a judgement about me,” said Sofia. Her advice was aimed at making an impact on a future employer that would last well after the interview was done.

Sofia reminded attendants that the vast majority of communication is nonverbal. Just as dressing professionally is important for making a great impression, equally important are your tone, posture, and gestures.

Sofia then asked youth to write down a list of attributes they felt described them – the attributes that they wanted to define their professional lives – and challenged the youth to put energy into making that list a real representation of who they are and how they present themselves.

Volunteers from Alamo City Barber College provide fresh cuts for the young men participating in the fashion show

After hours of getting dressed, made up, and running through dress rehearsal, it was time to begin the show. Outside, the sun passed behind the horizon. The lights in the main hall dimmed down and the music hit a rhythm worth walking to. A pair of spotlights centered on the small, curtained entrance at the back end of the room. The walkway in the center was waxed, flanked by the audience on both sides; ready for the night’s participants to display their best professional attire.

The youth went through two rounds of showcase, the first casual and the second formal wear. Between the two rounds, a few local celebrities made guest appearances on the runway, including Miss San Antonio, Miss Black Texas, and Toddler Miss BRP USA.

At the end of the show, each of the youth were handed a bouquet of red roses. Several of the dresses and suits worn by the youth were donated to them to take home, adding to the box of professional tools from which they can fashion their future.

Learn more about BCFS-San Antonio’s work with youth in foster care, or stay up to date with BCFS Health and Human Services on Facebook

For the donation of their time, finances, resources, knowledge, and encouragement, BCFS-San Antonio thanks the following sponsors:

  • Granberry Hills
  • Brava Events
  • H-E-B
  • Walmart
  • Hair & Makeup by Ana
  • Alamo City Barber College
  • Unique Creations Plus
  • San Antonio Threads
  • Galdina’s Dresses
  • Rex Formal Wear
  • Monte Carlo Studio & Bridal
  • Vega’s DJ Services
  • Pretty Petals Floral Boutique
  • Chaunice Holley, Ms. Black Texas

PEAKS Camp Starts Spring Right

Since 1984, the PEAKS (Physical and Environmental Activities for Knowledge and Skills) camp has offered an outdoor adventure focused on life skills, relationship building, and relaxation to youth from foster care working to overcome extraordinary circumstances in their lives.

In 2018, when Texas Network of Youth Services (TNOYS) discovered that funding for PEAKS camp would not be available for the following year, the BCFS System awarded TNOYS a $25,000 grant to help reach the funding necessary to ensure the camp continued to provide this unique opportunity to deserving youth.

“We recognize the importance of a program like TNOYS and make a concerted effort to give back to causes we know are worth the investment in our community,” said Kevin Dinnin, President and CEO of the BCFS System.

Combined with additional donations from the Rothell Charitable Foundation and the Supreme Court of the Texas Children’s Commission, as well as internal funds TNOYS was able to allocate to the camp, PEAKS 2019 went from an uncertainty to a reality.

For four days in March, 50 youth from foster care and 25 adult sponsors enjoyed life outdoors while engaging in activities focused on team building, social skills, and leadership – each venture peppered with a dash of innovative fun.

Shannon Bloesch, Camp Director for the PEAKS program, expressed how the financial and logistic hurdles of setting aside multiple days and potentially hundreds of dollars for a camp similar to PEAKS can turn an enjoyable experience into a near impossibility for youth in foster care. TNOYS is able to help ease or erase some of those disadvantages with the PEAKS program.

“When kids are forced to grow up so fast, they don’t have time to be kids,” said Shannon. “When you have to pay your own bills as a teenager or step in as the parent for your younger siblings, there isn’t always the chance to do something like this.”   

While at camp, the youth take part in various courses ranging from low ropes to rock walls, from archery to canoeing. They have nights set aside for special events including a talent show, yoga, and a campfire. However, the most significant part of the camp that youth take with them is the relationship-building that happens with peers and, importantly, with trustworthy adults. Good role models serve as partners in communication and shareholders in success.

Youth in foster care between the ages of 15 and 19 can learn more about participating in the PEAKS program by emailing peaks@tnoys.org. To find out how BCFS Health and Human Services is making differences for youth facing extraordinary circumstances, click here.

A suspension bridge leads to a small tree-house overlooking Cypress Creek.
Longtime PEAKS coordinator Frank Eckles (left) leads one of the mid-morning breakout groups.
Archery lessons take place on the north end of the camp grounds.
The low ropes course challenges participants to come together in order to solve problems.
A group activity emphasizes leadership, communication, and improvisation.