Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Youth utilize life skills during Escape Room challenge

Methodist Children’s Home residents are enjoying a new “escape room” activity challenge at the MCH Boys Ranch designed with clues that reinforce MCH Life Skills in an entertaining way.

Maegan Molnar, home life manager at the Boys Ranch, and Sarah Pitman, social work graduate intern from Baylor University, have been working since January to convert the Fern Cone building at the Ranch into the intricate escape room game consisting of Western props, activities and riddles that youth must work together to solve.

Escape rooms are popular team-building venues offering problem-solving challenges built around a story or a theme. Participants test their wits against challenging clues, puzzles and mysteries embedded in the room or series of rooms. Solving a challenge allows the participants to “escape” to the next challenge that progresses through the room. Molnar said she came up with the idea and wanted to put it together to give residents an experience where they could work on life skills as well as team building and problem solving.
“The kids we serve have such a wide range of interests; I really wanted to include a little something for everyone,” Molnar said. “There is an area where they have to be very observant and use critical thinking skills, an area where they go ‘fishing,’ an activity where they must use their hands and dig for a clue, and several opportunities to decode cheesy puns!”

MCH’s 10 Life Skills are: Use good words to communicate; be gentle and kind; show respect; listen and learn; understand who is in charge; accept decisions of authority; make good choices; focus and finish your work; negotiate and compromise; and build trusting relationships. Molnar said teams end up using these life skills during the challenge without even realizing it.

“The kids bounce ideas off of each other, root each other on, take turns reading clues aloud, build off each other’s notions, and essentially teach each other things,” Molnar said. “The kids are also inadvertently having a calming sensory experience so that they are not overstimulated while trying to solve puzzles. In each room there is ambient lighting, a cool fan, low background noise, and many opportunities to touch different textures through the clues and tasks they must complete.”

Participants are timed as they work to complete the escape room and discover the treasure. Molnar said it is open to Boys Ranch residents as well as MCH youth from the Waco campus. The teams from each campus with the fastest time are awarded a gift card to Sonic.

“We have set up a backdrop with props at the end of the game where participants can take their photo and add their time to the leaderboard,” she said. “We also invite any staff members from every team to participate! So far the adults have had just as much fun as the kids.”

Maegan Molnar (left) came up with the idea for the Escape Room challenge. She, along with
Sarah Pitman (right), graduate intern, created the escape room at the Boys Ranch.


Monday, March 4, 2019

February events at the MCH charter school

Throughout the month of February, students at the Methodist Children’s Home charter school celebrated Black History Month and participated in their first schoolwide fundraiser for cancer research.

Students were educated about famous African-American leaders, including civil rights activists, musicians, political figures, and authors, during homeroom announcements and circle discussions. During lunch periods, staff played music from famous musicians.

Some classrooms also focused lessons in honor of Black History Month. Ms. Alex Warnken’s ART I, II, and III students worked on a group project to create a mural of Martin Luther King, Jr., that was displayed in the cafeteria. English classes discussed African-American authors.
During the month, students also worked together as a school to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society through its Pennies for Patients program. The fundraising began during the first week of February, correlating to cancer awareness week.

“We felt it was a good cause to get involved in for our first school fundraiser,” said Michelle Arocha, principal of the school. “The kids did great!”

As a whole, the charter school collected $500 during the first three weeks of February. Each homeroom was challenged to collect and donate their change during homeroom with the winning class receiving a catered lunch from The Olive Garden. Ms. Warnken’s homeroom won by collecting $261.11. The middle school classes competed separately with Ms. Morghan Jones’ class winning a pizza party from Arocha.

Homeroom meets during fifth period to hear announcements, reminders and have group circle discussions about the week’s theme. Arocha said this semester, they have had challenges for homeroom classes in an effort to build a teamwork philosophy. Next month, students will have an attendance challenge.

“I think it builds cohesiveness and it gives kids something to look forward to in the middle of the day,” she said.

Friday, February 22, 2019

MCH Family Outreach offices get a new look

Staff from MCH Family Outreach in Houston are now settling into their renovated office space after construction was completed over the Christmas holiday. Their location recently incorporated a new design implemented to accommodate the growth of MCH Family Outreach programs.

The five-week renovation took place in sections of the office while staff shared spaces that were not under construction in order to maintain uninterrupted service to families. The office transitioned from separate offices to collaborative workspaces, a larger conference room and a secure entrance that includes remote locks, keypads and a reinforced door. Case managers, who spend the majority of their time in the field, now have workstations, and use “huddle rooms” as needed for private calls or visits with families. The Houston office also features a playroom for foster care visits.

“I think it is a great concept,” said Veronica Whalon-Peters, director of MCH Family Outreach in Houston. “Everyone is getting used to it and it is going well.”

“I like the flow of it,” said Nicole Washington, a Houston case manager. “I like that we are able to communicate with each other easily. So far it has been good.”

Whalon-Peters said they were able to donate several pieces of furniture to a school and daycare that was hit hard by Hurricane Harvey. They also gave several pieces to a client they were serving, a single mom who was starting over and had no furniture.

MCH Family Outreach offices in Houston and Albuquerque are the latest locations to incorporate a similar new office design. The Dallas outreach office is scheduled to receive renovations next year. Becky James, case manager at MCH Family Outreach in Albuquerque admits the transition has had its challenges, but that is also provided opportunities to learn and grow professionally.

“I have enjoyed and benefitted from hearing or witnessing how other people work,” James said. “This could be anything from the way in which they relate or encourage their families, or how they talk to other service providers. I have gained a deeper understanding of other’s talents which gives me a better appreciation for my team. With that I have gained insight into new effective and creative ways of doing things – I just love that.”

Traci Wagner, program administrator for the Eastern region of MCH Family Outreach, said developing this new concept took a lot of thoughtful consideration. Many locations were locked into leases; however, their workforce continued to grow to meet the needs of their communities. MCH leadership consulted with commercial floorplan experts, space planners and like-minded organizations and learned that collaborative workspaces would be the most cost-efficient option, allowing for more resources to be designated to clients and programs, while also offering many benefits to an office environment.

“The open office can foster collaboration, promote shared learning, and nurture a strong culture,” Wagner said. “For us, it also allowed us to create consistency among our 13 locations.”
Wagner said they have been able to tailor the plans to match each location since adopting the collaborative workspace in 2014. The concept was piloted first in the Corpus Christi office, and as leases have expired or offices have needed to relocate, the new model has been incorporated in other locations.
MCH Family Outreach offers foster care (in some locations) and family preservation services through its community services program. Offices are located in 13 cities across Texas and New Mexico. To find a location near you, visit our website at MCH.org.




Director's office

Huddle Room

Case managers' collaborative work space

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

McLennan County Junior Livestock Show 2019

Methodist Children’s Home charter school had 10 animal projects move on to the Sale of Champions and one student receive a scholarship for his ag mechanics project during the 2019 McLennan County Junior Livestock Show. Students from the agricultural sciences classes led by teachers Steve Kruse and Kevin Gibbs competed in the show at the Extraco Events Center from Jan. 29 through Feb. 1.
“In my entire tenure at MCH this is the most animals we have ever had make the sale,” Kruse said. “The kids that showed in the 2019 county fair seemed to be more competitive than the ones in the past.”

Kruse said the hog crew set a goal for themselves before the show to have six swine proceed to the Sale of Champions and exceeded their goal with seven.

“These kids worked together and had a true sense of what teamwork is all about,” he said. “They challenged me to learn more about pigs and with the help from some breeders and friends, we had a record year. The success can be attributed to the fact that the students, school, teachers, homes, and all MCH staff came together to make sure the animals got fed and were cared for properly.”

A total of 27 students participated in the show this year, with nine presenting swine, three goat, five steer, eight sheep. Several students who showed animals and an additional two students presented projects in the ag mechanics show.  Out of 12 schools who competed in the ag mechanics show, MCH charter school placed third in Sweepstakes. Below is a list of results from the show:

Livestock Show
Swine - York: Triston – 1st, Edric – 7th; BOPB:  Aniya – 3rd, John – 4th; Hampshire: Luis – 4th; Cross:  Jose – 5th, Tianna – 6th; WOPB:  Roger – 8th; Duroc: Malachi – participated
Steers - Class 1:  Juliana – 8th, Danny – 10th; Class 2:  Dathan – 6th; Class 3:  Lucas – 10th; Class 4:  Dustin – 9th
Goats – Class 1:  Alyssa – 5th; Class 3:  Bobby – participated, Faith – participated
Sheep - Hair Sheep – Class 1:  Lacy – 1st; Southdown Sheep – Class 1:  Brittany – 2nd, McKenzie – 3rd, Emma – 4th; Class 2:  D’Najia – 3rd, Daxie – 5th, Natavia – 7th; Class 3:  Abigail – 4th
10 animals went to Sale of Champions

Ag Mechanics Show
Livestock Division: Deer gate made by Roger – 2nd place gates; Pickup carrier made by Dustin – 2nd place equipment; Mineral feeder made by 8th grade students – 1st place feeders, Reserve Champion.
Electrical Division: Deer lamp made by KK – 2nd place indoor lamps; Boot nightstand made by Juliana – 3rd place indoor lamps; Clipper stand made by KK – 1st place shop electrical.
Furniture Division: Coffee table made by Juliana – 3rd place small indoor; Reclaimed bar made by Faith – 3rd place outside small; Swing made by Danny – 3rd place yard convinces.
Wildlife Division: Deer feeder made by Danny – 1st place feeder, Division Champion.
Out of 12 schools, MCH Ag Mechanics classes placed 3rd in Sweepstakes; Danny received $500 scholarship to Texas State Technical College for his Division Champion award.  

Congratulations to our Ag students on their great work this year!

Monday, January 28, 2019

Empowering caregivers through supportive groups

MCH Family Outreach brings caregivers from the community together for a time of support and connection during Caregiver Empowerment groups. Groups can consist of parents, grandparents, relatives or fictive kinship caregivers and are led by an MCH team member.

The groups are intended to provide support to all caregivers in their roles by enhancing their knowledge, helping them to build skill, providing them with access to community resources, and providing a space where they can receive support and encouragement from peers. Topics discussed in these groups include financial issues, legal matters, children’s behavior, caring for oneself, advocacy, family bonding and making a difference.

MCH Family Outreach in Waco currently facilitates a Caregiver Empowerment Group for Spanish-speaking families. The group has been running for over a year and meets twice a month.
“We started it because we felt Spanish speaking moms in our community could benefit from having a space where they could build friendship and share experiences, especially but not limited to parenting,” said Ana Chatham, case manager at the Waco office. “Late last year an agency here in town that used to serve Spanish speaking families closed down, and we thought we could help fill in the gap for a space such as this.”

Chatham leads the group along with fellow case manager Sara Beth Stoltzfus. They recently hosted a special meeting to celebrate Christmas where the participants brought their children together to play, sang holiday songs in Spanish, and shared a pot luck lunch. The suggestion of the party came from the participants themselves and provided an additional opportunity for bonding. They also suggested topics that have been discussed during group meetings such as sibling rivalry, online safety, communication and how to increase their family’s connection.

“Our main role is to hold the space, providing some structure, but the richness of the experience really comes from each woman opening up and sharing of themselves. As we asked the participants to reflect on what has been most impactful to them, several of them mentioned how they experience our time together as self-care, an opportunity to pause, even if it’s just for an hour every couple of weeks, and think about how they are going about both their parenting role as well as other areas of their life.”

Other examples of groups include a monthly group for adoptive parents in Waco, a long-standing group in Corpus Christi that has separate spaces for caregivers and children, and a group in a maternity home in Bryan for homeless women. Caregiver Empowerment Groups are open to any caregiver in the community, regardless of whether or not that caregiver is a client of MCH. Attendance is free of charge and all MCH Family Outreach offices are able to facilitate these groups. If you are interested in joining a Caregiver Empowerment Group, please visit MCH.org, click on the “Locations” tab, and contact the family outreach office nearest to you.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Bicycle giving tradition kicks off Christmas season at MCH

Thanks to the generosity of First United Methodist Church of Grapevine, children and youth at Methodist Children’s Home (MCH) were blessed once again with bicycles for Christmas. The annual donation of bicycles from FUMC Grapevine is a long-standing tradition at MCH, dating back to the late-1980s.

Whether they are served on the Waco campus, MCH Boys Ranch or through one of the 13 MCH Family Outreach offices, FUMC Grapevine makes sure every child that wants a bicycle will receive one in time for the holidays. This year 114 children received a bicycle and helmet.

This tradition began when FUMC Grapevine member Jim Kennebrew thought back and recalled his best Christmas as a child was when he received his first bicycle and decided he wanted to pass on that joy to the children at MCH. He approached his Sunday school class with the idea to refurbish bicycles and give them as gifts to MCH at Christmas, an idea that blossomed into a church-wide campaign.

The process begins each year in October when the church contacts MCH to determine a number of desired bicycles. FUMC Grapevine then negotiates costs with local retail stores and purchases the bicycles. On a Friday in early December, church members spend an evening putting together the bicycles by hand and loading them into a moving truck. The following morning several members drive to Waco to deliver the bicycles and are met by grateful MCH youth and staff for unloading.

“The arrival of new bicycles is one of the most joyous events of our year!” said Allison Crawford, director of benefactor relations at MCH. “Seeing the looks on our students’ faces as bikes are delivered is the very picture of Christmas joy. We are grateful to each person at First UMC Grapevine for carrying on this tradition for so many years.”

Friday, November 16, 2018

MCH Family Outreach in San Antonio shows support for its community during November events

Staff from MCH Family Outreach in San Antonio celebrated its community and families this month during events at local nonprofits.

On Nov. 7 MCH Family Outreach in San Antonio attended the grand opening of the new Texas Diaper Bank headquarters located at 1803 Grandstand Dr. Suite 150. The new facility is 30,000 square feet and will allow for the Texas Diaper Bank to continue offering diaper assistance to families in need in Bexar County.
MCH Family Outreach in San Antonio formed a partnership with Texas Diaper Bank which allows diaper assistance to families being served through Family Solutions and GAP programs. Participants of parent education classes are also provided diaper assistance for their infants and toddlers as an incentive for class participation.

“Families being served by MCH Family Outreach have been grateful for the diaper assistance made possible through our partnership with the Texas Diaper Bank,” said Melissa Arroyo, director of MCH Family Outreach in San Antonio.

On Nov.9, San Antonio staff members spent the morning giving back to their community by volunteering at The DoSeum, San Antonio’s Museum for Kids. The mission of The DoSeaum states, “Through joyful learning and discovery, The DoSeum grows minds, connects families, and transforms communities.”

MCH staff were assigned to separate exhibits throughout the museum and assisted San Antonio children in attendance from class field trips. Ages of children ranged from infants to school-aged. MCH staff assisted in Little Town, Spy Academy, and Dream Tomorrow Today exhibits.

“It was a great opportunity to give back to the San Antonio community and staff enjoyed sharing in the children’s time during their visit to The Doseum,” Arroyo said.