BVT, Chick-Fil-A Celebrate Cow Appreciation Day

TYLER, TX —Wednesday, July 18, was a moooootastic day at Breckenridge Village of Tyler (BVT) when Chick-Fil-A franchise owners Jeff and Debra Johnston delivered Cow Appreciation Day to the residents and day-program participants!

For the day, BVT was festively adorned in Chick-Fil-A’s familiar black-white-and-red palette, complete with cow balloons, a large, free-standing cardboard cow, and billboards reading Chick-Fil-A’s “Eat Mor Chikin” slogan and “BVT loves Chick-Fil-A,” setting the backdrop for fun photos with BVT residents and staff. Lunch was provided and BVT residents and staff interacted with the Chick-Fil-A cow mascot.
Photo:Cow Appreciation Day
For the past four years, as part of their ardent support for BVT, the Johnstons have made it a point to visit the campus to celebrate this unique “holiday” with the residents.

The relationship between Chick-Fil-A and BVT began years ago with Ed and Sandy King,” says Associate Executive Director of Advancement at BVT Linda Taylor. “The Kings were the original owners of Chick-Fil-A in Tyler and had championed the BVT cause for more than 15 years, and have financially supported and promoted BVT within the East Texas community.

Taylor says that after Ed King passed away, Jeff and Debra purchased the South Broadway Chick-Fil-A.

“The Johnstons chose to pick up the BVT torch that the Kings started,” says Linda, “and carried on the BVT/Chick-Fil-A relationship.

“Sandy (King) is still faithfully involved at BVT,” she adds, “never missing a Cow Appreciation Day at the Village.” 

Chick-Fil-A has helped sponsor BVT’s annual events A Night to Remember and the Men’s Breakfast.

Photo:BVT Celebrates Cow Appreciation DayBreckenridge Village of Tyler is a caring residential community for adults with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities. BVT programs and activities are designed to help residents develop the skills they need to achieve their God-given potential.

For more pictures of Cow Appreciation Day at BVT, visit BVT’s Facebook page. For information about BVT’s work in Tyler, visit

Houghton Named Director of Property and Risk Management

The BCFS System has named Christina D. Houghton its Director of Property and Risk Management. As Director, Houghton will oversee the agency’s purchase of and enrollment in insurance programs, identify risk exposures, and recommend solutions.
Photo: Christina Houghton headshot
Houghton joined the BCFS System in 2015 as Executive Assistant to the BCFS System’s Office of the Executive Vice President of Community, International & Residential Operations. Soon after, she began supporting the Executive Vice President of Public Affairs & Communications, the Executive Vice President of Labor and Employment Law, and the Executive Director of Children’s Emergency Relief International (CERI).

“Christina has been a great asset to our agency,” said BCFS System Executive Vice President Kari Tatro. “Her promotion as a director will give her the opportunity to utilize more of her professional skill set and business expertise. We look forward to her continued contribution to our team and mission.”

Houghton earned a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Texas at San Antonio and is currently pursuing a Master of Business Administration degree from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. A native of Dallas, Texas, she enjoys travel and spending time with her partner, Rudy, and their two-year-old daughter, Sofia.

The BCFS System is a global system of health and human services non-profit organizations with locations throughout the United States, in Europe, Latin America, South Asia, and Africa with the goal of charting innovative paths to address critical unmet needs of communities affected by disaster and underprivileged individuals and families.

For information, visit

CERI Names Director of Marketing and Development


Eileen Purkeypile Named CERI Director of Marketing & Development 

Children’s Emergency Relief International (CERI) has named Eileen Neave Purkeypile as the new Director of Marketing and Development. In her position, Eileen will develop and implement all aspects of CERI’s annual development plan to augment revenue for child sponsorships, devise creative marketing strategies that promote CERI’s sponsorships and overall mission, and generate both internal- and external facing content to create meaningful connections for the agency.

Eileen joins CERI after serving as the agency’s part-time consultant, working to strengthen and expand CERI’s programs and services to youth and families in need around the world. Before joining CERI, Eileen contributed her expertise as Director of Global Child Development Operations for Feed the Children, an effort to provide nourishing meals to more than 260,000 children around the world.Photo: Eileen Purkeypile

Eileen’s passion for children and families was ignited in refugee camps in Yemen, where she met women and children fleeing conflict in the Horn of Africa. Their hope and determination motivated her to begin a career in service to humanity worldwide. Throughout her career, her work in children’s advocacy has taken her across borders to serve in Ukraine, the Philippines, and Honduras. She counts her work in Bolivia toward the protection and well-being of children through a child development program in suburban neighborhoods as a formative experience in her career.

Eileen has carved out a successful career dedicated to serving children and families,” says CERI Executive Director Connie Belciug “She has a proven track record as a leader with emphasis on developing infrastructure, strategies, and implementation. We are excited for her continued involvement.

A native of Eagle Pass, Texas, Eileen is fluent in English and Spanish, and holds a Master of  Public Administration in Nonprofit Management degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. In her free time, she enjoys exploring the culinary arts and spending time with her husband, Jarrod, and their two children, Noel and Amelia.

“I am excited to join such a passionate team and look forward to contributing toward the advocacy for children and families around the world.”

CERI is dedicated to serving the orphaned, oppressed, impoverished and abused children around the world who are disproportionately affected by poverty, war, famine, natural disasters, human trafficking, and other injustices. CERI’s work focuses on meeting the needs of the child, the empowerment of the family, the development of community, and creating a world where children are safe, well taken care of, and prepared for a successful adulthood.

For information on CERI’s work around the world, visit

The Youth Prepare for Success at Education and Career Fair


SAN ANTONIO, TX — Nearly 50 San Antonio-area youth attended BCFS Health and Human Services-San Antonio’s Mind At Work Education and Career Fair. The event, hosted by BCFS-San Antonio’s Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) program in collaboration with the BCFS-San Antonio’s Texas Workforce Commission onsite liaison, invited area agencies to educate youth from the foster care system of the resources available for a stable and successful adulthood.

“The goal was to have everyone walk away with their college paperwork done,” says BCFS-San Antonio’s Program Director Deyanira Garcia.

“From their financial aid and college entrance applications to their education and training vouchers, we wanted them prepared for the next step in their journey.”

Representatives from the Alamo Community College District, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, the University of Texas at San Antonio, Texas A&M-San Antonio, Gary Job Corps, Texas Workforce Solutions, and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services engaged with youth to explain the broad range of curricula, career paths, and financial aid available.

Jessica Lee Cawthorn, who aged out after six years in the foster care system, spoke to the youth in attendance about staying the education course and seeing the process through to graduation. Cawthorn recently graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington with a degree in University Studies. On her graduation announcement, she asked family and friends, in lieu of gifts, to provide backpacks and other school supplies that she then donated to the youth at the Mind At Work Fair.

Her message to the youth was one of perseverance toward graduation.

Education defeats the cycle that a lot of kids in foster care find themselves in,” she says, “which is homelessness. Statistics show that many of the youth who age out often end up homeless, or they end up having kids that also end up in the foster care system.


Education (and getting a degree) helps to end those cycles,” she continues. “It helps get kids out of multigenerational issues. That’s what education does, it opens doors for youth.

Cawthorn also reminded youth in attendance to be sure to access the resources available for youth in foster care, specifically the Education and Training Voucher (ETV) program, which offers youth in foster care various means of aid to pursue higher education or vocational training.

“Each year, we see a decline around this time when youth are not as engaged as other times of the year,” Garcia adds. “The fair worked to re-engage youth and encourage them to apply for their educational and vocational training benefits.”

For information about BCFS-San Antonio’s PAL program, visit, and visit for information about the Education and Training Voucher program.

Click here for photos from the Mind at Work Education and Career Fair.

Jeff Wolpers Wins ‘Patriotic Employer’ Award

It’s humbling to think that someone you work with would take the time to nominate you for an award.

HARLINGEN, TX — Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), A U.S. Department of Defense program, awarded BCFS Health and Human Services-Harlingen’s Community Services Director, Jeff Wolpers, the ESGR’s Patriotic Employer Award as an ally for his focus on hiring veterans and active reservists.

BCFS-Harlingen’s Parent Educator, Rocio Medina, in the Project HOPES (Health Outcomes through Prevention and Early Support) parenting education program and a U.S. Army Reservist nominated Jeff, who accepted the ESGR’s Statement of Support Certificate from Jesus A. Rodriguez, the ESGR’s Area 3-Texas Chairman.

It’s humbling to think that someone you work with would take the time to nominate you for an award,” Jeff says, adding that he shares the award with his team.

The BCFS System, as an overall agency, is very supportive of our armed forces,” he says, mentioning that Rocio’s Parent Educator position is ready for her after a yearlong U.S. Army Reserves deployment in Egypt that began in January.

“Regina (Woolridge, BCFS System Human Resources Director) and Elizabeth (Engelke, BCFS System Benefits Specialist) were very helpful in walking me through the steps needed to preserve Rocio’s job for when she returns.”

Jeff has worked at BCFS-Harlingen since 2014, overseeing Project HOPES and the Fatherhood EFFECT program, another parent education program focused on fathers and building strong families in the Harlingen community. Jeff was also recently spotted at a monthly reading event for the community, where Jeff led story time and he and the Project HOPES team took part in some superhero costume craft making. For photos, click here, and for photos of Jeff’s ESGR award ceremony, click here.

The Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) was established in 1972 by the Department of Defense to promote cooperation between U.S. military reserve members and their civilian employers to help resolve conflicts that arise from an employee’s military commitment.

Visit for details about BCFS-Harlingen’s work in south Texas.

Congratulations, Jeff, and thank you for your commitment to community.

BCFS Spotlights: Valerie for Community Involvement

HARLINGEN, TX — BCFS Health and Human Services-Harlingen Clinician Valerie Nelson has been presented with the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley’s (UTRGV) Dr. Emmette R. Hutto Outstanding Alumnus Award for her work in the community. Valerie is a recent UTRGV graduate who joined the BCFS Health and Human Services mission of service to others. Through BCFS-Harlingen’s Project HOPES parenting education program, she is building her community through her own education and experiences.

Project HOPES serves families who live in Cameron County who have children between the ages of 0-5. This year, HOPES has served 175 families through the SafeCare Curriculum, an evidence-based parent-training regimen and how-to guide focused on a child’s health and safety that is taught in the home. Since joining BCFS in 2016, Valerie has internalized the project.

Photo: Valerie Nelson

SafeCare is comprised of three separate modules — Parent-Child/Infant Interaction, Health, and Safety — that are each six sessions long. The goal (of HOPES) is to improve interaction between the parent and the child,” she says, “and to give information on ways to facilitate the bond between caregiver and child.

She continues, mentioning HOPES’ ancillary services like basic needs support, family assistance, and counseling that make the program more accessible in the community.

“Also, monthly, we do literacy events that incorporate face painting, and arts and crafts for the kids, and parents have the opportunity to pick up small but practical giveaways, like outlet covers and cabinet locks to make their home safer for their children.”

In addition to managing a six-member team of HOPES Parent Educators and Family Support Coordinators, and being designated a SafeCare coach who ensures fidelity to the curriculum, Valerie is one of two of HOPES’s Licensed Professional Counselors that provide family counseling when a family requests. “Our families face a number of stressors,” she says, “so it’s important that HOPES families have access to counseling professionals in the convenience and comfort of their homes.”

Paving the Way for Future Students

Valerie’s alma mater is the result of the University of Texas System’s decision to combine its UT-Brownsville, UT-Pan American and the UT Regional Academic Health Center-Harlingen campuses. During the retool, UTRGV’s counseling program would need to reapply for accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). Valerie helped the program succeed.

Part of the accreditation process includes information from the professors and the university, but a major component is the implementation of the program,” she explains. “I was interviewed as an alumnus and internship site supervisor. From those interviews with me and others, the CACREP panel was able to grant the accreditation to the program.

Even after earning her Master’s in counseling, Valerie stays engaged with her professors, crossing paths in a regional association of counseling professionals of which she is the treasurer. Her professors nominated her for the Hutto Award.

“Every two years, the association hosts a two-and-a-half day conference for professionals. They (professors) said they took note of the role I played in leading and organizing this year’s conference,” she says humbly. “I was completely surprised,” she adds about learning of her award. That Valerie has chosen a career path in the direct service of others grows from the example she has seen since she was young girl.
“My mother served in a political position for thirty years and my father was a paramedic,” she says. “At a young age, I was out in the community volunteering with local school organizations, church groups, and the Girl Scouts.“In college, I found counseling as a calling,” she says. “Helping individuals discover their own strengths and using those skills to improve the circumstances for themselves and their families…is indescribable.”

Congratulations, Valerie!

Visit HOPES for more information.

Graduates Celebrate at BCFS Health and Human Services-Kerrville

KERRVILLE, TX — BCFS Health and Human Services-Kerrville celebrated the recent high school graduations for three youth in foster care who achieved the academic milestone of a high school diploma. The intimate ceremony was organized by BCFS Health and Human Services’ Program Coordinator Deyanira Garcia and BCFS-Kerrville’s Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) Advocate Kamaria Woods.

Photo: Kerrville Graduation

Graduation is a big deal,” explained Garcia, and we wanted to show them that their success is important.”

Two of the graduates, Danyela and Adianna, have their sights set on joining the armed forces, while Nathaniel hopes to turn his passion for gaming into a career in video game design.

Community partners H-E-B, Target, WalMart, AceMart, the Giving Bee Hill Country Quilt Guild, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, and the Kerr County Child Services Board provided gifts for the graduates, and Kerrville’s Rails Café donated a meal for the ceremony.

Adianna told me that it means so much to her that we’re in her corner,” said Woods. It takes a village to raise a child.”

Congratulations to the graduates!

For pictures of the festivities, click here.

Visit for information about programs and services in the Texas Hill Country community

Breckenridge Village of Tyler’s April Lanier Earns Accolades

TYLER, TX — The BCFS System congratulates Breckenridge Village of Tyler’s Director of Residential Services April Lanier for her formal recognition by the Texas Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Public Policy Research Center (PPRC) for her dedication and collaboration in the field of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

As BVT’s Director of Residential Services since 2016, April manages the six homes on the BVT campus to ensure that residents’ needs are met and that BVT complies with state and federal guidelines for the Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with an Intellectual Disability (ICF-IID) programs.

Photo: April Lanier

Her work with the Public Policy Research Center involved gathering and sharing non-confidential information from observations and interviews with some of the BVT residents.

“The data we provided will be used by the Texas Department of Health and Human Services,” she says. “In the past, HHS has used similar data to improve the laws that govern the programs for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It has also been used to show a need for more state funding for IDD programs and services.”

April arrived at BVT with an already-developed relationship with the PPRC.

When I made the move to work at Breckenridge Village of Tyler, I sent my updated contact information to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services so that I could continue to advocate for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

While she considers her greatest reward the knowledge that she is providing the best care and advocacy for those we serve at BVT, she is sure to mention that she shares her success with her co-workers.

I could not do my job everyday if it were not for the residential team that stands by me,” she says. “I am so very thankful for their constant support and their devoted care of our residents here at BVT.

Congratulations, April, on the recognition, and for helping make BVT a leader in high-quality care for individuals living with intellectual and developmental challenges.

Visit for information about BVT.

Grant Awards for Healthy Start Laredo

LAREDO, TX — BCFS Health and Human Services’ Healthy Start Laredo (HSL) program earned grants from two philanthropic foundations for its work with mothers and mothers-to-be along the U.S.-Mexico border. The Enterprise Holdings Foundation and the March of Dimes have each awarded Healthy Start Laredo separate grants for specific initiatives in HSL’s array of programs and services.

The March of Dimes’ generous grant goes toward HSL’s impactful Becoming a Mom/Comenzando Bien program that provides free prenatal health education classes for expectant mothers to maintain and improve upon healthy pregnancies.

The March of Dimes is highly respected for its focus on maternal health and well-being,” says Araceli Flores, BCFS Health and Human Services-Laredo Associate Executive Director. “We acknowledge their teamwork and pledge to continue advocating for the cause of healthy mothers and their babies.

HSL will use the Enterprise Holdings Foundation’s grant to incentivize attendance to the Becoming a Mom program, providing cribs to the expectant mothers in the program that will help progress HSL’s safe sleep initiative.

“The initiative ensures that babies under the age of one year old have a safe sleep environment, being placed on a firm sleep surface by themselves and not sleeping in bed with others as many families are accustomed to due to lack of resources,” explains Flores. “Many of the families we serve in the colonias live entirely below the federal poverty level, and therefore do not have the means to purchase a crib.

The cribs will be given to those low-income families that have attended all nine sessions of the Becoming a Mom curriculum, received prenatal care in their first trimester, and attended all prenatal medical visits as indicated by the physician or practitioner.

Healthy Start is a nationally-recognized program of BCFS Health and Human Services that provides medical care and case management for women who are pregnant or raising a child under the age of two for the purpose of reducing infant mortality, preventing child abuse and assisting families in meeting basic health needs (nutrition, housing and psychosocial support).

Learn more about Healthy Start here.

BCFS-Abilene’s Project HOPES Sock Hops to Summer

ABILENE, TX — BCFS Health and Human Services-Abilene hosted families from the Project HOPES (Healthy Outcomes through Prevention and Early Support) parenting education program for its Sock Hop Summer Kick Off at the Grace Museum in Abilene.

The event welcomed the summer season at the Grace’s Rock n’ Roll Diner with root beer floats and nachos, and featured music from rock n’ roll’s 1950s heyday. Attendees also enjoyed the museum’s children’s arts and sciences-focused interactive space.

“We always have something fun going on,” BCFS-Abilene Program Director Stacy Lee smiles, adding that the museum’s focus on child engagement and learning complements HOPES’s own efforts toward building community through strengthening families.

Photo: Project HOPES

“The Grace Museum, with some of its interactive exhibits, is another great opportunity for parents and their children to learn in the same space,” she says. “It fits well with HOPES’s ideas of family and community.”

HOPES provides community-based programs for Big Country families with young children 0-5 years of age that help parents work through any barriers to a stable home environment. HOPES services include crisis intervention, parent support groups, basic needs support and transportation with flexible scheduling that allows families to attend regularly. HOPES promotes family and community through the concepts of early childhood education and child welfare and protection, and provides referrals to additional community family services like workforce assistance and financial literacy training.

At HOPES, we are engaging with families face to face to be able to get a glimpse of what they see daily,” Lee says. “We acknowledge that they want to be the best parents they can be for their children, and we‘re mutually thankful for the time we spend teaching and learning together.

Funding for BCFS Health and Human Services’ child abuse prevention programs is provided by the Prevention & Early Intervention Division of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. For more information, visit