BCFS Health & Human Services celebrates the opening of Our House

BCFS Health and Human Services today celebrated the opening of its new “Our House” program. BCFS’ Our House is a transitional living home for homeless males between the ages of 18-23, located at 202 Vine Street. The vision for Our House was sparked years ago by the Christian Community Development Coalition (CCDC)….

ABILENE – BCFS Health and Human Services today celebrated the opening of its new “Our House” program. BCFS’ Our House is a transitional living home for homeless males between the ages of 18-23, located at 202 Vine Street.

The vision for Our House was sparked years ago by the Christian Community Development Coalition (CCDC), whose board members included passionate community members like Randy Perkins and Nancy Capra. At CCDC’s request, BCFS took on the project of bringing Our House from a dream to reality.

“It’s hard to chase your dreams when you’re worried about where you’re going to sleep at night or get your next meal,” said Terri Hipps, BCFS Executive Director of Teen and Youth Services.

“Homelessness impacts much more than the individual, it has a compounding effect on the health and prosperity of the whole community,” she continued. “BCFS is proud to have had the strong support of community leaders like Mayor Norm Archibald and the City of Abilene, as well as partner agencies, as we worked to build and open Our House and begin answering this vital need.”

Thanks to funding from numerous private foundations, individual donors, and a community development block grant through the City of Abilene, BCFS’ Our House represents a nearly $345,000 investment in serving struggling Abilene youth. Prior to opening, BCFS ensured that it secured enough revenue to cover Our House’s operating expenses for at least the first year. This tactic was a powerful statement of BCFS’ commitment to be a sustainable, long-term resource for youth and the community.

Youth may stay at Our House for as long as needed, which may range from a few months to a year. The key strength of the project will be its connection with BCFS’ Abilene Transition Center, which opened in 2011 and provides counseling, case management, and education, housing assistance and employment connections to more than 400 youth each year.

Those assisted by the transition center include former foster youth, youth in the juvenile justice system, high school drop outs and homeless young adults. According to the Abilene Independent School District, an estimated 743 students in were homeless at the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year. Foster youth are especially vulnerable to homelessness. Within 18 months of aging out of the state foster care system, 50 percent of youth struggle to put a roof over their heads. BCFS’ transition center and Our House project address these issues head-on, providing an easily-accessible and comprehensive network that makes getting help simple for youth.

“We are thankful to the community leaders, the City of Abilene, and our sister agencies, Hendrick Medical Center  and Hardin-Simmons University, for their partnership and support,” said BCFS President and CEO Kevin C. Dinnin.

For more information about BCFS’ work with teen and youth around the world, please visit www.DiscoverBCFS.net.

 

Art Given From the Heart in Kerrville

Generous donation of artwork will be showcased in BCFS’ new transition center

Photo: Pictured left to right: Lynda Ables, 
Marilynn Branham, Betty Vernon, Kathleen Maxwell and Paul UrbanImage: Approximately 25 people, including Lynda Ables and Betty Vernon, attended an art reception hosted by BCFS honoring Branham. Pictured left to right: Lynda Ables, Marilynn Branham, Betty Vernon, Kathleen Maxwell and Paul Urban.

Local artist, Marilynn Branham, has donated 21 original paintings to BCFS Health and Human Services’ Kerrville Transition Center. The center, which is currently located at 1105 East Main, is leading a capital campaign to build a larger facility for local at-risk youth to access a myriad of services aimed at helping them transition into independent adults. Once complete, the 14,000 sq. ft. facility will proudly display Branham’s works of art for youth and all in the community to enjoy.

Five years ago, BCFS established the Kerrville Transition Center as a “one stop shop” for counseling, case management, medical care, emergency housing, life skills training, literacy training, educational support, and employment connections. Those served by the center include former foster youth, youth in the juvenile justice system, high school drop outs and homeless young adults.

Over the years, a 167% increase in demand for the center’s services and significant program expansion by BCFS has caused the center to spill out into different locations – negating the effectiveness of the “one stop” model. In order to bring resources back under one roof, BCFS has launched a $1.9 million capital campaign, titled “Step Up for Youth,” to build a larger transition center.

The Cailloux Foundation has already provided BCFS with a generous $500,000 challenge grant to build the new facility. Now, BCFS is looking toward area businesses, private foundations and individuals to also make an investment in this proven project by November 30th.

“BCFS is honored to have been chosen as the location where Marilynn’s beautiful artwork will be shared with the community,” said BCFS Development Officer Kathleen Maxwell. “We are grateful to her and all others who share our passion for inspiring young adults to follow their dreams.”

BVT Partners with Boys & Girls Club of East Texas

Each week, the residents of BVT attend a variety of activities at the Boys & Girls Club of East Texas. The residents are offered an assortment of recreational and educational activities that promote social skills, life skills, and even vocational skills. Most recently, the Boys & Girls Club of East Texas partnered with Aquaponics and Earth, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping make orphanages and children’s homes self-sustaining in underdeveloped or poverty stricken communities and countries.

The Tyler Rotary Club also partnered with the organizations to provide monetary support to build a small version of the Aquaponics system at the Boys & Girls Main Club facility in Tyler. The system is used as a pilot project and has caught the eye of several local and regional groups interested in building a system of their own.

The system is designed with various tanks full of tilapia; the waste from the tilapia serves as a rich fertilizer for plants, vegetables, crops, etc. The system carries water from the fish tanks, up to the garden for irrigation, and eventually drains back into the water tank. Rather than soil, the plants are grown in small pebbles making the system virtually maintenance-free. If desired, the plants can be pulled out of the system and planted elsewhere to provide additional growth and space for even more vegetation. The system produces plants at an accelerated rate, due to the rich fertilizer produced by the fish.

Mitch Erwin, Executive Director of Camp in the City at the Boys & Girls Club of East Texas, was thrilled to have the Aquaponics System at their facility. Several people from around the area have come to visit this ‘one of a kind’ system. Erwin said that he hopes one day to expand the system to a whole new level and possibly even develop a “mini-market” in which BVT residents could become involved in. Mr. Erwin stated that it was his intention for the BVT residents to take an active role in the system and to assist in the development and management of the growing and selling of crops.

For additional information regarding the Aquaponics System, you may contact Mitch at the Boys & Girls Club of East Texas.

BCFS’ Abilene Transition Center Celebrates with One Year Birthday Party

Hendrick Medical Center presents check for $8,935 to support the center’s work with at-risk youth

Joined by a large group of friends and community partners, BCFS Health and Human Services’ Abilene Transition Center threw a one year “birthday party” filled with hot dogs, games and – of course – birthday cake. Since opening last year, BCFS’ transition center has helped more than 200 former foster youth and other at-risk young adults apply for college and financial aid, secure safe and affordable housing, develop resumes, land jobs and navigate other resources that lead to independence and success. The organization expects to serve more than 300 youth in its second year.

“For too long, foster youth and other young people who were struggling here in the Big Country were told that they would have to find a way to get to a larger city, like San Antonio or Dallas, to access resources like case management and housing stipends. That was an impossible feat for youth who had little to no support network,” said Johnny Nguyen, BCFS Program Director who oversees the transition center. “Now, thanks to the transition center and the extraordinary partners who operate out of it, young adults are able to benefit from a comprehensive and coordinated system of services that will make them more independent and successful as they begin life on their own.”

BCFS’ Abilene Transition Center is a “one stop shop” that provides easy and efficient access to counseling, educational and employment assistance, life skills training and more. In addition to BCFS, the center houses other non-profits, government agencies, and advisors from local colleges and universities. This inclusive model of service delivery ensures comprehensive – yet non-duplicated – access to resources for youth. Ultimately, the center aims to lessen at-risk youth’s likelihood of dependence on government programs in the future.

During the celebration, Hendrick Medical Center presented BCFS with a check for $8,935, raised through their April “Walk for Our Youth” 5K. In addition, Hendrick has also supported BCFS’ youth by developing an intensive 8-week training curriculum for those seeking to work in the medical field as phlebotomists and certified nursing assistants. Since April, five young adults have been hired by Hendrick in the fields of clinical care, environmental services, admissions and information technology.

Within 18 months of aging out of the state foster care system, 50 percent of youth become homeless. Similarly, more than half the young adults returning home from juvenile justice institutions suffer from a mental health issue or substance abuse. BCFS’ transition center addresses these issues head-on, providing an easily-accessible and comprehensive network that makes getting help simple for at-risk youth.