Oh Baby!

More than a dozen excited mothers and fathers attended a baby shower hosted by BCFS Health and Human Services-San Antonio on Sept. 26 to celebrate early parenthood. The festive and informational event, complete with pink and blue balloons and two cream-colored cakes, was an invite-only affair for soon-to-be parents and parents of newborn children in San Antonio, Texas.

Janie Quinonez answers questions from participants.

Janie Quinonez, a registered nurse from Methodist Women’s Services, gave a presentation on young-adult childbirth, after which attendees were given time to discuss questions they had with the speaker as well as any of several other community partners at the event.

“Janie was really honest with participants about what they could expect,” said Victoria Martinez, PAL1 Training Lead at BCFS-San Antonio. “Because of that honesty, I think they were more open and vulnerable with their questions.”

Like any traditional baby shower, Thursday’s event came complete with party favors, baby-themed games, confessed worries of new parents, and friends to lean on when support is needed most.

Every family who attended received diaper bags and other baby supplies, and six lucky winners took home a new stroller with a car seat. One of the winners decided to give her stroller and car seat away to a soon-to-be father. The mother said she was fortunate to already have one and, seeing a greater need, felt it was the right thing to do.

This was the first time BCFS-San Antonio hosted a baby shower for parents in their programs. The clients that the organization works with – typically youth in their late teens and early 20s with inconsistent support from older role-models – have the chance to receive invaluable benefits from events like this one.

“I think childcare education is probably the most important to them right now: how to burp your baby, how to breastfeed,” said Victoria, “simple things that you aren’t sure parents need until you give them a safe place to ask.”

To learn more about BCFS-San Antonio’s work with youth, click here.

BCFS-San Antonio thanks the following sponsors for their contributions to this event:

1 Preparation for Adult Living

Professionalism and Fun Collide at Local Event Center

About 30 youth from BCFS Health and Human Services-San Antonio’s Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) program were invited to Main Event on Sept. 12 to enjoy pizza and recreation at no cost to them. The event melded work and play by providing youth from the PAL program with information about job opportunities at Main Event.

Mark Koenig, general manager at Main Event and the speaker for the day, said that after he became aware of the PAL program a few weeks ago, he invited the organization to come out and enjoy the venue as well as experience what a day in the life of an employee might look like.

Mark Koenig delivers a message to youth from BCFS-San Antonio’s PAL program

“This is a fun place to work and we want them to have a good time while also learning about the opportunities we have available,” Mark said.

The youth were treated to an afternoon of bowling, arcade games, pizza, drinks, laser tag, and a brief presentation on employment at Main Event. Mark said that Main Event, which has two locations in San Antonio, employs more than 100 people at each site.

“We get a lot of first-time job seekers here and that is OK,” Mark told the youth. “You have to start somewhere. If you did extracurricular activities at school, were in team sports, or just like to work with people, those are the things that help us to connect you to the right job. There is a fit for everyone.”

Mark said he has a great time in his career and feels it is important for people to find work that they enjoy doing.

“Find someplace where you can grow and learn and work your way up,” he advised. “Learn as much as you can about the company before you interview. See if they have a mission statement and what their values are.”

This event, the first of its kind for BCFS-San Antonio, is one of many that the organization offers to clients throughout the year, such as the recent health and back-to-school fair and tour of UTSA.

Preparation for Adult Living provides services to youth aging out of the foster care system to expand their skills and knowledge, strengthen their self-confidence, create healthy community relationships, and learn self-guidance. The program aims to prepare young adults for their independence.

Learn more about how the PAL program is helping youth from six Texas cities establish their futures.  

BCFS-San Antonio Helps Families Start the School Year Right

On Saturday, August 10, local families were invited to a fair put on by BCFS Health and Human Services-San Antonio at the Sunset Station, located in the historic St. Paul’s Square of downtown San Antonio, Texas. The fair, which wove together healthy habits with back-to-school preparation, was an opportunity for featured community organizations to engage with families in the Alamo City.  

Partner organizations set up booths where they offered information directly to attendants about what they could provide them and their families. At the Methodist Healthcare Ministries table, nurses Eydie and Rose focused on the health consequences of consuming soda and other sugary drinks. The Texas Diaper Bank shared information on classes and resources they have for families with small children. Meanwhile, San Antonio Threads chatted with guests and answered questions about their mission to give new clothes to youth in need.

As part of the event, the RK Group served lunch with healthy options like assorted vegetables, pasta salad, and cold-cut sandwiches. The light and tasty meal was a cool refresher to the hot day.

Throughout the event, guests were invited to participate in health-focused activities appropriate for all age groups. Chris Winstead of Onsite Youth Training led courses in “ninja training” that combined flexibility and creativity to keep everyone limber. A team of trainers from Camp Gladiator challenged participants to a workout session that was half race and half aerobics. Cynthia Calzada Medellin led children and adults in a Zumba dance that challenged their rhythm as much as their heart rate.

When it was time for something a bit less demanding, guests enjoyed taking photos with local celebrities such as The Batman of San Antonio, Sparky the Fire Dog, H-E-Buddy, and McGruff the Crime Dog. Many other local heroes attended the event, including first responders from the San Antonio Fire Department and San Antonio Police Department, medical technicians from Acadian Ambulance Service of Texas, local volunteers, and staff from BCFS Health and Human Services-San Antonio, who work every day to better the lives of families in their community.

BCFS-San Antonio held a raffle and gave away prizes to a few lucky attendees. All the children and families who attended went home with a free backpack, school supplies, and a hygiene kit. In total, BCFS-San Antonio prepared 158 backpacks ready for distribution.

Saturday’s fair showed what is possible when communities unite in an exercise of faith, supporting and promoting one another in beneficial ways; strengthening ties and deepening trust.

Discover more of the BCFS System’s work with health and education initiatives around Texas.

Cynthia Calzada Medellin dances Zumba with attendants, keeping things groovy.
Local heroes line up in Sunset Station's Arcadian Room.
Members of the San Antonio Fire Department pose next to Engine 3, which was available for tour.
Sam Fuller twists balloons and stays busy.
First responders from Acadian Ambulance Service of Texas stand with an emergency-response vehicle.
BCFS-San Antonio prepared 158 backpacks for distribution.
Methodist Healthcare Ministries had visual representations that revealed the surprising amount of sugar in popular drinks.
Sparky the Fire Dog (right) and Sparky's human (left).
Staff from BCFS-San Antonio stand in the foreground alongside the San Antonio Police Department, including McGruff the Crime Dog.
A trainer from Camp Gladiator leads one of several exercise routines during the event.
BCFS' Mayra Carter (center) stands with members of the San Antonio Fire Department.

BCFS Health and Human Services-San Antonio thanks the following organizations and individuals for taking time to make this event so special for so many:

Youth Visit UTSA for Independence Day Conference

BCFS Health and Human Services-San Antonio’s Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) program, in partnership with the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), hosted the annual Independence Day Conference this year on July 23 at UTSA’s main campus, where approximately 100 prospective students from PAL and similar programs came together to learn more about the details involved in a college career.

The Independence Day Conference allows teens and young adults who are currently or were formerly in foster care to dialogue with college representatives about what they can expect from higher education and what higher education will expect from them. Experiences like these offer vital opportunities for young people from foster care, statistically at a disadvantage when it comes to education, to thoughtfully engage with their futures and think critically alongside partners who can offer realistic answers to their most pressing questions.

Youth take a tour of UTSA’s main campus in San Antonio, Texas

“We owe these young people a better future. We can do so much better and I believe higher education is the best path forward in doing so,” Peggy Eighmy said in coverage from UTSA Today. Mrs. Eighmy, the first lady of UTSA, was one of several speakers scheduled to offer encouragement and advice to students throughout the day. President Taylor Eighmy, Coach Frank Wilson, and Judge Charles Montemayor also addressed the group.

Frank Wilson, the head football coach for UTSA, shared how he focuses on who and where he wants to be eight years from now as a measure of personal success. “Every time you set a standard, you raise the bar yet again, and yet again. If ever in life you feel ‘I’ve arrived; I’ve made it,’ that’s when things go down,” the coach said.

After the morning’s speakers, attendants were treated to a campus tour, complimentary lunch, and workshops focusing on subjects from engineering to social work. In the afternoon, Dr. Megan Piel led a student panel where attendants were invited to discuss the college experience with peers who have lived through and know that experience. The final hour of the day was spent at UTSA’s Recreation Center, where youth were invited to play basketball and boardgames, or to climb the facility’s rock wall.

The PAL Independence Day Conference, held now for at least three years, continues to prove its importance as a guiding tool for prospective students from foster care looking to make a positive difference in their own lives and the lives of those around them. Sharing the advantages of higher education and the importance of a college degree lets students build a stable plan to achieve the goals they set for themselves.

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 Spend Day of 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.

Follow BCFS Health and Human Services on Facebook.

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 and 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.