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 DiscoverBCFS.net/Harlingen 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.

Project HOPES’ Spring Fling a Success

BCFS Health and Human Services-Abilene celebrates with families enrolled in the home-based training program for parents, Project HOPES

Photo: Father with his daughter

Every month, BCFS Health and Human Services-Abilene holds an event for the families enrolled in Project HOPES, a child abuse prevention program that helps parents with children 0 to 5 years old.

On March 16, Project HOPES hosted a Spring Fling in the Family Life Center at the First Baptist Church of Abilene, open to all enrolled families as well as the public. The event celebrated the successful completion of the HOPES parenting program for several families with free skating, bowling, pizza and drinks courtesy of BCFS-Abilene.

BCFS-Abilene Parent Educator Kelly Davis said the main goal of the event was to provide a stress-free environment to help facilitate bonding between parents and their children.

At every Project HOPES event, parents receive information or resources to help them overcome any obstacle that stands in the way of their family’s well-being. In March, Project HOPES provided informative packets to families on how to get their kids to eat healthier, tips on shopping for healthy foods, and included several delicious meal recipes.

Project HOPES hosts literacy event to celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday

Mayor Pro Tem Esmeralda Lozano read a Dr. Seuss book to the childrenLA FERIA – The BCFS Harlingen Family Services Center’s Project HOPES program hosted a literacy event for local children and families at La Feria Public Library to celebrate Dr. Seuss’s 111th birthday. Over 50 children attended, and each took home a Dr. Seuss book courtesy of the BCFS Harlingen Family Services Center.

The event, held March 28th in conjunction with the National Education Association’s Read Across America initiative, featured readings from several Dr. Seuss books in Spanish and English, plus a Truffula Tree-making class, face-painting, and gift bags for kids and parents.

Leaders from across the city attended the event in support of Project HOPES. La Feria Mayor Pro Tem Esmeralda Lozano read a book to the children, and Tabitha Outlaw, Special Event Coordinator for the City of La Feria, volunteered to help children make bookmarks. Commissioner Julian Guevara Jr. and Commissioner Olga Maldonado were also in attendance.

Photo: Children were given Dr. Seuss books and gift bags

“When a parent reads a book to their child, they’re not only helping them reach critical educational milestones, they’re strengthening the parent-child bond,” says BCFS Senior Program Director Jeff Wolpers. “Since the goal of Project HOPES is to help build healthy, stable families, we wanted to use the event to remind parents of creative, fun ways to build that bond, and also inspire a love of reading in children.”

Project HOPES is a community-based program for families with children five years old and younger that provides parenting education, support groups and counseling to help families overcome challenges. The program serves families in Cameron County and is funded by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

“We are grateful for the support of city leaders and the La Feria Public Library,” says Wolpers. “The whole community has embraced the BCFS Harlingen Family Services Center and been so welcoming to us. We are here to serve this community and touch as many lives as possible, so we treasure these opportunities to bring some light-hearted fun to families.”

Dr. Seuss was born Theodor Seuss Geisel on March 2, 1904, in Springfield, Massachusetts. His wildly imaginative stories have captivated young readers for decades, teaching values like responsibility, caring for the environment, and positive thinking. Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat in the Hat, and Horton Hears a Who are among his most popular works.

For more information about Project HOPES and the BCFS Harlingen Family Services Center, call (956) 230-3849 or visit DiscoverBCFS.net/HOPES.

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BCFS is a global system of health and human service non-profit organizations with locations and programs throughout the United States as well as Eastern Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa. The organization is a national leader in medical sheltering and emergency management and response, providing critical emergency support services to federal, state and local governments. BCFS also provides residential services and emergency shelters for children who are abused or neglected; assisted living services and vocational training for adults with intellectual disabilities; mental health services for children and families, foster care and adoption services; medical services; early education; transitional living services for youth who are at-risk and those in the juvenile justice system; residential camping and retreats for children and families; and international humanitarian aid for children living in impoverished conditions in developing countries.