Graduation Ceremony Honors Boerne Head Start Students

Program Promotes Academic Achievement and School Readiness or Children Ages 3-5

Photo: Child graduation

Nearly 50 preschoolers, excited and giggly, donned white caps and gowns and contagious smiles for the graduation ceremony of the Head Start program operated by BCFS Education Services. Proud parents and family members had their camcorders and phones at the ready to capture the sweet memories and they cheered on the little graduates.

The BCFS Education Services Head Start program in Kendall County aims to propel students from disadvantaged backgrounds toward academic success and prosperity through the provision of educational, health, nutritional and social services. Head Start is a national program funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that promotes school readiness in children ages 3 to 5.

“Graduation is such an important milestone for Head Start students and their families,” said Rebecca Goodwyn, BCFS Education Services Program Director of Kendall County Head Start. “Children leave the program having acquired skills and confidence that set them up for success in kindergarten and hopefully throughout their academic career. We focus on building a strong foundation for future learning and growth.”

Each BCFS Education Services Head Start classroom focuses on individualized teaching and comprehensive support services, complete with field trips, meals and snacks, parent trainings, mental wellness, health services, dental exams, disability services and even free bus transportation. To learn more about BCFS Education Services Head Start program, visit www.DiscoverBCFS.net/HeadStart.

Dimas Named BCFS Health and Human Services’ Associate Executive Director

BCFS names Kenia Dimas associate executive director for the agency’s South Texas community-based operations. As associate executive director, she will be responsible for overseeing the growth and success of community-based programs that touch the lives of thousands.

BCFS Health and Human Services (BCFS HHS), a global non-profit organization headquartered in Texas with locations from coast-to-coast and on four continents, has named Kenia Dimas, of Corpus Christi, as associate executive director for the agency’s South Texas community-based operations.

“During a time when many organizations and business have struggled, BCFS HHS continues to grow thanks to strategic development and a strong commitment to always deliver what we promise,” said Terri Hipps, BCFS HHS Executive Director of the Community Services Division.

“Kenia has a track record of meeting challenging and sometimes unchartered programmatic and financial goals, while never wavering to put what is right for the youth we serve first. This commitment to getting the job done – and done right – is why I know that she will be a great asset for BCFS HHS as we continue to build our reach across the state.”

Dimas has been with BCFS HHS since 2008 and has more than 11 years of experience working with at-risk children and youth. As associate executive director, she will be responsible for overseeing the growth and success of community-based programs that touch the lives of thousands.

Non-profit Campus Set to Expand

The symbiotic relationship on Kerrville’s non-profit campus saves youth from homelessness, substance abuse, unemployment, crime and unplanned pregnancies. Thanks to the Ruby Stevens Foundation, Hal Peterson Foundation, Sterling-Turner Foundation, Cailloux Foundation and other organizations and individuals in the community, more than $1 million has been secured to expand the campus.

By Kathleen Maxwell-Rambie

In 2005, The Cailloux Foundation hosted a community meeting to find out what was going on with former foster youth in our community. Finding resources and accessing assistance is a difficult web to navigate, especially for young adults without parents or other strong support systems to help guide them. That’s when BCFS Health and Human Services’ (BCFS HHS) Terri Hipps – who lives in Kerrville – presented the idea of opening a transition center.

BCFS HHS helped establish Texas’ first youth transition center in San Antonio in 2000. In a single location, foster youth saw their case manager, received help with their FAFSA, engaged in life skills training, and more. If youth had to travel to different sites throughout the city to access these services, they would never get everything they needed. When providers are all located together, youth receive the comprehensive, coordinated – and non-duplicated – care they need to make the transition into adulthood.

The Kerrville community partners were interested in bringing this kind of “one stop” model to their town. To get started, the Cailloux Foundation provided grant money to the Community Foundation of the Texas Hill Country with the purpose of establishing a nonprofit campus for Kerrville. The Community Foundation in turn acquired two pieces of property two blocks east of the Kerr County Courthouse where Main and Broadway split. The property had a house (currently occupied by BCFS HHS’ Kerrville Transition Center), a cottage that is home to Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS), and a building now home to the Christian Women’s Job Corps of Kerr County (CWJC).

For six years now, the block at 1105 E. Main Street has served as a centralized location where non-profits work together to leverage their resources and better serve former foster youth and other clients. The symbiotic relationship among the agencies was effective in saving youth from homelessness, substance abuse, unemployment, crime and unplanned pregnancies. Each year, the Kerrville Transition Center helps thousands of teens and young adults. Yet, the growth of available services is now spilling out beyond the block and into buildings around town – negating the “one stop” ease that originally inspired the development.

Now, the Cailloux Foundation has again stepped up for foster youth. The organization has issued a $500,000 challenge grant to build a new “one stop” building. The transition center will not only house BCFS HHS, but also Art-2-Heart, Families & Literacy, and Partners In Ministry Vision Youth, and other human services organizations. CWJC and BBBS will also remain on the campus.

“Everyone at the Community Foundation is very excited about this next step in realizing the vision of the campus. The BCFS HHS Transition Center will certainly provide the impetus for fulfillment of our nonprofit campus dream,” said Paul Urban, Executive Director for the Community Foundation. “As a result of BCFS HHS’ efforts, it has given the foundation the opportunity to develop a master plan to attract other nonprofits too.”

Kristin Cook, Branch Coordinator for BBBS said, “I am very excited to see the nonprofit campus planning in its final stages because I strongly believe it will be a true asset to our community. It will enhance communication between these nonprofits which will ultimately benefit clients and the community. All of the resources someone could need will be at an arm’s length.”

Another campus partner stated, “CWJC can only see great benefits with this campus. Many people, regardless of their gender or severity of need, will be able to access the help, training, and aide they require to move forward in their lives. We look forward to having many non-profits easily accessible and working together for the good of the Kerrville community,” said Ann Buck, current CWJC Executive Director.

Thanks to the support of the Ruby Stevens Foundation, the Hal Peterson Foundation, the Sterling-Turner Foundation, the Cailloux Foundation and other organizations and individuals in the community, more than $1 million has been secured to build the new facility. The new 16,000 square foot Kerrville Transition Center will provide a robust place where compassion and help will be available for thousands in the Texas Hill Country.

“We support the Community Foundation of the Texas Hill Country and BCFS HHS in this capital project and urge others to support it as well,” said Sandy Cailloux Executive Director of the Cailloux Foundation. “Helping at-risk youth and young adults become more responsible and self-sufficient gives them a much better start in life and strengthens our entire community.”

For more information, contact Kathleen Maxwell-Rambie at (830) 928-9387.

BCFS Commits $225,000 Challenge Grant to Abilene’s “Our House”

Commitment is in addition to $250,000 in capital and construction costs BCFS has already invested in the transitional living home

Last December, BCFS Health and Human Services (BCFS HHS) celebrated the grand opening of its transitional living home for homeless teens and young adults, called “Our House.” Now, BCFS HHS’ parent company, BCFS, is committing a $225,000 challenge grant over three years to solidly plant the organization’s footprint and mission in Abilene for years to come. The grant must be matched by the community, and is in addition to the $250,000 in capital and construction costs BCFS has already invested in Our House, and the $194,000 contributed by the city and private donors.

“We are investing in the Our House program because we believe in its mission, its effectiveness, and its ability to make Abilene a better place for everyone who calls this city their home,” said Kevin C. Dinnin, BCFS President and CEO.

“With the support of community leaders, private funders, and our sister agencies, Hendrick Medical Center and Hardin-Simmons University, I know the Abilene community has the passion and motivation needed to get our youth off the streets and onto the path of stable, independent and successful lives. Our House is proud to be part of that mission.”

According to the Abilene Independent School District, an estimated 981 students were homeless at the end of the 2010-2011 academic year. Foster youth are especially vulnerable to homelessness. In fact, within 18 months of aging out of the state foster care system, 50 percent of youth struggle to put a roof over their heads.

Our House addresses the issue of homelessness head-on and provides a pipeline into BCFS HHS’ Abilene Transition Center, which houses a comprehensive network of community organizations, as well as private and government partners, that makes accessing resources simple for at-risk youth.

“Comprehensive services, like those coordinated through BCFS HHS’ Abilene Transition Center, are seen as lifesavers when you consider the overwhelming likelihood of foster youth and those in the juvenile justice system becoming homeless, addicted to drugs and alcohol, and involved in crime,” said Johnny Nguyen, Program Director for BCFS HHS’ Abilene Transition Center.

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

Today, Our House provides a safe haven for males between the ages of 18-23. The decision to serve young men exclusively was based on the higher demand for housing for young men than young women. Plus, there are currently more options available to young women.

“It is critical that these young and impressionable young men have a safe place just for them. Because of the struggles they’ve faced in foster care or as a result of other traumas, they are extraordinarily vulnerable to becoming victimized and influenced by older individuals who are also coping with the issues surrounding homelessness,” said Nguyen.

Some youth may need help from BCFS HHS’ Our House for a month, while another young adult may need to stay for a year. BCFS HHS designs each youth’s transition plan based on their specific strengths and needs. While young adults aren’t charged rent in the traditional sense, they are required to save money. This is put aside in a fund available to them when they leave to use toward a down payment for an apartment. Ultimately, this is just one of many ways BCFS HHS helps stabilize and develop youth toward becoming independent, law-abiding adults who aren’t reliant on government or social services.

BCFS Announces Leadership Changes and New “Community Services Division”

BCFS Health and Human Services’ new “Community Services Division” will lead programs that serve thousands of children, families and communities each year. Terri Hipps will serve as executive director, focusing on on developing best practice service models, and expanding programs and community support.

Effective April 1, BCFS Health and Human Services (BCFS HHS) will join together the Teen & Youth Services and Community-based Services Divisions to create one unified “Community Services Division.”

The new division will lead programs that serve thousands of children, families and communities each year. Terri Hipps, who has been with BCFS HHS for 10 years, will serve as executive director. In this role, she will focus on developing best practice service models, and expanding programs and community support. Under Hipps’ leadership, three associate executive directors will assist with the management of operations throughout the far-reaching division.

Cindi Garcia, who has been with BCFS HHS for 14 years, will make the transition from executive director to vice president of program operations support for BCFS Community and International Operations. In this role, she will lead the agency’s investments in quality assurance, professional development, systems improvement, research, and other special projects.

“Smart and strategic growth management has ensured the BCFS system has had fortitude needed to sustain and expand our work times of prosperity as well as times of challenge,” said Ben Delgado, BCFS Executive Vice President of Community and International Operations. “This new structure will support increased standardization of business processes and shared best practices.”

“Terri and Cindi’s longtime leadership as executive directors has played a key part in making BCFS HHS what it is today,” he continued. “In their new roles, I know they will continue to be strong forces in the development of who we will be in the future.”

Guadalupe Street Coffee Receives $50,000 from Rapier Foundation

“Growing up in a rough neighborhood shouldn’t sentence any child to a life of crime, poverty, poor health or other struggles,” said Catarina Velasquez, BCFS HHS Program Director for Guadalupe Street Coffee. “Thanks to investments made by organizations like the Rapier Foundation, Guadalupe Street Coffee will continue be a force on the West Side that increases school retention and enhances teens’ likelihood of graduation and future success.”

The Rapier Foundation announced a $50,000 investment into BCFS Health and Human Services’ (BCFS HHS) West Side community development project, Guadalupe Street Coffee.

Located in the heart of San Antonio’s West Side, the coffee shop provides a safe environment that fosters continued learning and educational opportunities for local students. Most students who come into the coffee shop attend school in the San Antonio Independent School District (SA ISD), which only has a 4 year on-time graduation rate of 60.5 percent. Only 56 percent of local residents older than 25 years of age graduated from high school or achieved a higher level of schooling, and 57.7 percent do not have a high school diploma.

“Growing up in a rough neighborhood shouldn’t sentence any child to a life of crime, poverty, poor health or other struggles,” said Catarina Velasquez, BCFS HHS Program Director for Guadalupe Street Coffee. “Thanks to investments made by organizations like the Rapier Foundation, Guadalupe Street Coffee will continue be a force on the West Side that increases school retention and enhances teens’ likelihood of graduation and future success.”

Guadalupe Street Coffee provides job training to teens and leads educational activities that promote healthy – and affordable – nutrition and daily living for local families. According to SA ISD, per capita income on the West Side in 2007 was $9,925. Within a 2 mile radius of Guadalupe Street Coffee, more than 52 percent of residents live below the poverty level.

Guadalupe Street Coffee has also become a hot spot for the West Side’s cultural scene, hosting poetry nights, movies and dance shows that introduced students to the arts and encouraged positive outlets for self-expression.

In six years, the project has served 10,000 school-age children and provided close to 9,000 hours of free services to at-risk youth, such as homework and financial aid assistance, job training, and lessons on nutritional eating and healthy living.

“We understand the importance of education and see BCFS’ Guadalupe Street Coffee as a viable way to mold the young generation of today toward prosperous futures tomorrow,” said Dr. George and Kym Rapier.

The Rapier Family Foundation was founded in 2006. The Rapier Family Foundation donated more than $1 million annually to various causes, including stay-in-school and youth initiatives, animals in need, seniors and children’s health programs from 2006 until 2010. Beginning in 2011, the Rapier Family Foundation has pledged nearly $30 million to San Antonio-area non-profit organizations. The Trust is named after Dr. Rapier’s late son, Blake.

BCFS’ YouthBuild Program Helps a New Class of Young Adults Gain Experience and Educational Success

Twenty-seven young adults have joined the current class for BCFS Health and Human Services’ (BCFS HHS) YouthBuild project. The full-time program helps young adults earn their GED or high school diploma while getting hands-on training to enter the workplace, start a career in construction, or begin college. The seventeen boys and ten girls in the current program hail from Ingram, Kerrville, Bandera, and surrounding communities.

“Dropping out of school is never a good idea. But making this choice – either because a teenager is rebelling or feels like they need to start working – should not be an irreversible decision that sentences them to struggling for the rest of their lives,” said Terri Hipps, executive director of BCFS HHS’ Community Services Division. “YouthBuild is a second chance for young adults who want to work hard and get back on track toward building a brighter, more prosperous future.”

In just a month’s time, participants have already received their OSHA 10, First Aid and CPR certifications. By the time they graduate in August, youth will also be certified in another valuable knowledge and vocational base: construction. BCFS HHS is working with Partners in Ministry’s Home Rehab program, providing home repairs for low-income families.

BCFS HHS’ YouthBuild program is part of the organization’s multifaceted Kerrville Transition Center offerings. The center, currently located at 1105 East Main, was founded in Kerrville five years ago as a “one stop” facility that offers counseling, case management, medical care, and emergency housing. The center also helps with life skills training, literacy training, educational support, and employment connections to former foster youth, youth in the juvenile justice system, high school drop outs and homeless young adults.

Because other non-profit organizations, government agencies, and community partners are working at the center with BCFS HHS, services are more easily accessed by youth and existing resources are not wastefully duplicated elsewhere. This methodology also boosts innovation through shared talents and stretches financial resources to support many missions.

Since opening, BCFS HHS’ Kerrville Transition Center has helped thousands of homeless and struggling youth find the resources they need to get their lives on track and grow into self-sufficient, law-abiding and employed adults. This year, the center is set to help more than 4,000 struggling young adults in our area.

One formidable achievement of the center is its ability to reduce and prevent crime. Among the youth served by BCFS HHS’ transition center who have gotten in trouble for gateway activities like truancy, or those who have actually served time, 87 percent did not reoffend at least one year after receiving help from BCFS HHS.

Due to an exponential increase in demand for services and growth of program offerings, the center’s operations now spill out into different locations – negating the effectiveness of the “one stop” model. This is one reason why the Cailloux Foundation put forward a $500,000 challenge grant to build a new 16,000 square foot center. To complete the project, BCFS HHS is leading a $1.9 million capital campaign, titled Step Up for Youth.

The organization has already surpassed the $1 million fundraising mark. Once complete, the center will house other non-profits like Art to Heart, Families in Literacy, and Partners in Ministry Vision Youth. This new center, which is located on a non-profit campus managed by the Community Foundation of the Texas Hill Country, will create a dynamic synergism among the agencies, increase their effectiveness, as well as cut down costs for all nonprofits. Ultimately, the center will be the most robust site for care and compassion for Hill Country youth.

BCFS Case Manager Named Statewide Healthy Start “Distinguished Practitioner of the Year”

The Texas Healthy Start Alliance has named BCFS Health and Human Services’ (BCFS HHS) Laura Echeverria “Distinguished Practitioner of the Year.” This honor recognizes individuals with exceptional professional achievement and leadership in maternal and child health, and who make selfless contributions to their community with the aim of improving the health of women, children and families.

“Laura approaches her work with such selflessness and compassion,” said Cindi Garcia, executive director of BCFS HHS’ Community-based Services Division. “Her own experience as an immigrant to this country allows her to make very special connections with our mothers, earning their trust so they allow us to provide them with critical medical care that ensures their babies are born healthy and strong.”

“We are proud of Laura and congratulate her on this award,” she continued.

Echeverria began her career as a registered nurse and certified promotora in Mexico. Thirty years ago she immigrated to the United States, yet found that her credentials would not be recognized. She therefore worked in hotel housekeeping for 18 years while she learned English and obtained the experience and credentials she needed to return to her life’s work. She has served with BCFS Health and Human Services for 12 years, and is presently a case manager for the organization’s Healthy Start Laredo program. During this time, Echeverria is credited with the healthy pregnancy and successful delivery of thousands of healthy new babies.

BCFS HHS’ Healthy Start Laredo program was established in 2001 in an effort to decrease disparities in access to maternal and child healthcare. Since transportation is limited or nonexistent for many families served by BCFS HHS, Healthy Start Laredo travels to clients, providing mobile medical care, case management, and other comprehensive services to Colonia residents along the U.S. border with Mexico. Thanks to the program, more women in Laredo now receive prenatal care than ever before.

Women who are pregnant or have a child/children younger than 2 years of age are eligible for free services. Services provided by BCFS HHS include:

  • Prenatal and postpartum care via mobile unit
  • Health education and parenting education
  • Pediatric services
  • Laboratory services
  • Pharmacy services
  • Mental health services
  • Outpatient case management services to address the medical, social, financial, educational, legal, housing, parenting and employment areas of the served families

“One Shop” Approach Touches the Lives of Thousands of Struggling Youth

By Kathleen Maxwell

No eighteen year old has it all together (or nineteen or twenty year old either for that matter). Navigating the confusing web of first time apartment leases, financial aid forms, and the spice aisle at the grocery store is enough to make any young adult’s head spin. Now, compound this overwhelming feeling onto aging out of foster care without a parent, grandparent, or other positive role model to bestow tips and tools. How are these youth supposed to make it on their own?

Enter: BCFS Health and Human Services’ (BCFS HHS) Kerrville Transition Center.
The youth center was founded in Kerrville five years ago, a “one stop” facility that offers counseling, case management, medical care, and emergency housing. The center also helps with life skills training, literacy training, educational support, and employment connections to former foster youth, youth in the juvenile justice system, high school drop outs and homeless young adults.
Because other non-profit organizations, government agencies, and community partners are housed and work at the center with BCFS HHS, services are more easily accessed by youth and existing resources are not wastefully duplicated elsewhere. This methodology also boosts innovation through shared talents and stretches financial resources to support many missions.
Since opening, BCFS HHS’ Kerrville Transition Center has helped thousands of homeless and struggling youth find the resources they need to get their lives on track and grow into self-sufficient, law-abiding and employed adults. This year, the center is set to help more than 4,000 struggling young adults in our area.
 “The benefits of the transition center reach beyond just the teens and youth we serve. It impacts the community through the prevention of crime, unemployment, teen pregnancy, homelessness, and drug and substance abuse,” said Terri Hipps, BCFS Executive Director for Teen & Youth Services. “When we leverage our talent, space, and resources in a smart and shared way, the results are lives that are more promising and a community that is more prosperous.”
Today, the demand for services has increased exponentially, causing the center’s programs to now spill out into different locations – negating the effectiveness of the “one stop” model. This is one reason why Sandy Cailloux and the Cailloux Foundation put forward a $500,000 challenge grant to build a new 16,000 square foot center.
To complete the project, BCFS HHS is leading a $1.9 million capital campaign, titled “Step Up for Youth.” Once complete, the center will house other non-profits like Art to Heart, Families in Literacy, and Partners in Ministry Vision Youth. This new center will create a dynamic synergism among the agencies, increase their effectiveness as well as cut down costs for all nonprofits. Ultimately, making the center will be the most robust site for care and compassion for Hill Country youth.
“BCFS is unique and invaluable to our community because [the organization] provides kids with no prospects ‘one-stop shopping’ that will give them an array of opportunities,” said Stacie Keeble, attorney and City Councilman. “At the new BCFS campus, kids will be able to finish high school or earn a GED, learn a trade, obtain a job, find encouragement, and even find a home.”
BCFS’ Kerrville Transition Center is presently located at 1105 East Main. To donate to the “Step Up for Youth” campaign, please visit www.BCFS.net or mail your tax deductible donation to: “BCFS – Step Up for Youth Campaign,” 550 Earl Garrett Suite 114, Kerrville, Texas 78028. For questions, contact Kathleen Maxwell at 830.928.9387 or at Kathleen.Maxwell@BCFS.net.

BCFS Names John Linstrom as National Deputy Director of Mitigation and Preparedness Services

BCFS Health and Human Services has named longtime and lauded first responder, John Linstrom, as National Deputy Director of Mitigation and Preparedness Services. Linstrom will establish and execute key partnerships with federal and state governments focused on bolstering emergency response readiness and capacity across the nation. Linstrom has more than 30 years of experience in emergency management.

Photo Above: John Linstrom leading a briefing during BCFS EMD’s response to Hurricane Alex. Linstrom is shown on the right wearing glasses

As published on Fire Engineering

SAN ANTONIO – BCFS Health and Human Services has named longtime and lauded first responder, John Linstrom, as National Deputy Director of Mitigation and Preparedness Services. In this role, Linstrom will establish and execute key partnerships with federal and state governments focused on bolstering emergency response readiness and capacity across the nation.

“John is a well-respected and extremely experienced emergency manager known for his knowledge, experience, instincts and poise under pressure,” said BCFS Executive Vice President of Emergency Management Kari Tatro. “He is a great fit for this position and we are glad to have him on our team.”

Linstrom has more than 30 years of experience in emergency management and has responded to thousands of  emergencies, including the 9/11 World Trade Center attack, Hurricane Katrina, Rita, Dolly, Ike and Gustav, the F5 tornado that struck Oklahoma City, and the Haiti Earthquake. A former fire fighter, paramedic and Task Force Leader for Texas Task Force 1, Linstrom has led national response teams for incident management, forensic mass fatality recovery, and urban search and rescue for nearly 15 years.

He has been a part of BCFS’ Emergency Management Division team since 2008 and will continue to serve as the federal Disaster Mortuary Response Team Commander for California, Arizona, Nevada and Hawaii. Linstrom holds the highest level of National Board Certification in Homeland Security, is a Member of the Institution of Fire Engineers, the International Association of Emergency Managers, as well as the International Association of Arson Investigators.

For more information on BCFS’ work in emergency management, please visit www.BCFS.net/EMD.