Thursday, September 20, 2018

MCH Family Outreach in El Paso celebrates caregivers for Grandparents Day


Several El Paso caregivers received a special treat this month from MCH Family Outreach in El Paso in celebration of Grandparents Day.

During the monthly Caregiver Empowerment meeting on Sept. 11, staff members treated current and previous clients, who are grandparents or other relatives raising children, to breakfast and gifts as a way to recognize the job they do. Each caregiver received a yellow rose and a poem in honor of the sacrifices they make every day to ensure that the children are safe, healthy and happy.

Caregiver Empowerment Groups are support groups led by staff members that bring generational caregivers together to offer emotional support, educational opportunities and to give them the opportunity to share advice on ways to deal with common issues they face. Zahire Gonzalez-Villa, director of MCH Family Outreach in El Paso, said there was a diverse group of grandparents present who each had their own personal stories to share.

“The group laughed, cried and basked in each other’s successes,” Gonzalez-Villa said. “In the short time they spent together, they were able to provide each other with advice and community resources which might help them in their current situations. Because of the varying ages of the grandkids being raised, the grandparents were able to provide insight into what those grandparents with younger kids can do and expect in the future.”

Staff support families through the Gap Program by providing in-home assessments, case management services and support groups for caregivers. The Gap Program builds on the family’s strengths and works with all family members to find solutions to the challenges of raising children in today’s complex world.

For more information on services provided through MCH Family Outreach, visit MCH.org to find an office near you.


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

MCH students return to school


When the more than 100 students started back to school at the Methodist Children’s Home charter school this school year they were welcomed back into the classroom with new school initiatives, staff and technology.

The charter school, operated on the Waco campus in partnership with the University of Texas-University Charter School system, serves youth in grades 6 through 12 who live on the Waco campus and Boys Ranch, as well as a limited number of students from the community. The district theme this school year is “Framing the Future,” which is taken from a book on best teaching practices used by the charter school teachers called The Fundamental 5: The Formula for Quality Instruction by Sean Cain and Mike Laird. As part of the theme, school staff are challenged to think about how they are framing the future so students can be successful.

To follow the theme this academic year, students will receive “Bulldog bones” when they display good behaviors – symbols which will be displayed on the cafeteria wall. At the end of each six week grading period, staff will draw a name of one of the students who received a “Bulldog bone” and the winner will receive their picture on the wall as well as a gift card.

On Mondays and Fridays, students gather for “proactive circles” during homeroom where they are given a quote about a life skill during announcements. After the announcements, students and staff discuss that life skill. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, teachers use the “Why Try” curriculum, a resiliency program where teachers use graphics and art to explain an important life lesson.

Four new teachers were added to the charter school staff this year, along with three instructional aides who assist in classrooms. The building also received several new security cameras.

Sixty laptops will be used in classrooms for social studies, financial math, English and science classes, provided by the donor-funded Education Enrichment Fund. Students check out the laptop during class time to work on interactive lessons and web-based curriculum. The laptops are intended to help keep students engaged and focused on the lesson.

Monday, September 10, 2018

MCH Family Outreach back-to-school events

Staff in our MCH Family Outreach offices in 13 communities across Texas and New Mexico assist families each year as they prepare to return to school. As part of these efforts, many offices participate in community events serving families in need of school supplies or other services. Below are a few examples of back-to-school activities and events where MCH Family Outreach showed support for our local families.

Abilene:  On Aug. 17, Abilene Outreach participated in the Back-to-School Bash hosted by the Abilene Dream Center, a faith-based discipleship program that provides food, housing, education, and counseling completely free of charge. At the event, they distributed free school supplies to attendees. They also had food booths, games, door prizes, and community resource booths.

Abilene shared information during the Back-to-School Bash at Abilene Dream Center.

Albuquerque: This year, the Albuquerque office partnered once again with Help=Hope and collected backpacks stuffed with school supplies for all of the children served through their office.

Julia Burris, director of MCH Family Outreach in Albuquerque, said, “The volunteers at Help=Hope chose beautifully, and I believe many excited children and grateful caregivers will be the result of Help=Hope’s generosity. Several families have already been given backpacks, many with tears in their eyes, as providing school supplies has been an ongoing struggle for many of the families that we serve. New Mexico is, unfortunately, ranked nearly last in the country for education, due to many different factors. One factor, undeniably, is the poverty that so many of our families struggle with. How can children learn without the supplies they need? We are grateful here in Albuquerque for the generosity of agencies such as Help=Hope to help our children succeed, and are humbled to see the difference these efforts make.”

Children served through Albuquerque Outreach received backpacks
thanks to a partnership with Help=Hope.

Bryan/College Station: This year the Bryan/College Station office kept stocked backpacks in their office for current and former clients in need of school supplies or for anyone sent to them for assistance. They also have a list of area churches and organizations that host their own back-to-school events to provide families with the best fit for their family size, ages and location.

Corpus Christi: Staff in the Corpus Christi office and several of their community partners were able to receive a livestream training from Texas Christian University on Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) and trauma-informed classrooms in early August. After the training, staff discussed how MCH can be a resource for continued trauma-informed care information and TBRI support to the community.

Dallas: On Aug. 4, the Dallas office held a Summer Splash party at the West Irving Aquatic Center for families they serve. About 60 clients and their families attended and were treated to pizza and cupcakes, as well as 50 bags full of school supplies and drinks. Dallas director Amanda Whatley said some of the clients had never been to a waterpark of any kind and were thrilled to be a part of it.  She said several of her staff members traveled all over Dallas to transport clients who needed assistance with transportation to the event.

“The clients repeatedly thanked staff for the party and said how grateful they were to be able to experience it,” Whatley said. “No one left emptyhanded, whether it be with leftover pizza and cupcakes or extra schools supplies. The party was a huge success.”

Dallas families enjoyed the Summer Splash party.

Houston:  The Houston Outreach office participated in several Back-to-School and community fairs in August. On Aug. 4, staff attended the BakerRipley Back-to-School Health Fair as well as Spring ISD’s annual Family and Community Resource Expo. On Aug. 9, they participated in the Gulf Coast Community Services Association Health and Wellness Fair, and the Harris County Precinct 1 Constable’s Back-to-School Basketball Bash on Aug. 11. Finally on Aug. 17, staff joined other community resources at the Houston ISD Back-to-School Extravaganza.

Killeen: On Aug. 5 Killeen staff participated in Grace United Methodist Church’s Back-to-School Buzz. MCH facilitated activities for children and shared about MCH services. Also, FUMC Killeen supplied 20 backpacks filled with school supplies for some of our KISD families. Killeen staff also participated in Harker Heights UMC Back-to-School Giveaway on Wednesday, Aug. 22 by hosting a game and sharing information about services.

Killeen staff members shared information during local events.

Las Cruces:  Las Cruces staff hosted a backpack drive for their MCH families. Each of the children served through their office received a backpack full of school supplies for the new school year.
“By providing the children with these tools we are helping them succeed in school,” said Michelle Perez, Las Cruces Outreach director. “A big thank you to our volunteers that helped to make this a memorable event for our families.”

Children served through Las Cruces received backpacks with supplies.

Lubbock:  The Lubbock office was involved with two back-to-school events. The first was the annual Back-to-School Bash hosted by The Lubbock Dream Center. MCH Family Outreach was a sponsor of the event and had a resource table available for participants to visit and learn about services that are provided to the community. More than 1,000 backpacks filled with school supplies were given to children at the event. Free haircuts and vouchers for school uniforms were also provided, as well as games, activities, door prizes and food.

MCH Family Outreach Back-to-School Bash is an annual event for Gap and Family Solutions clients. Families in attendance were given a pair of shoes for each school-aged child. A meal was served and activities were provided. Children and their caregivers made stress balls, calm-down bottles and participated in parachute games.

Lubbock staff shared information to members of the community during local back-to-school events.

San Antonio: In July case managers hosted a family bingo event for families of the Prospera Housing Community Services which provides housing and support services for residents. They also partnered with the organization for a back-to-school potluck in August where children were provided with backpacks and school supplies. Residents were able to hear about services and meet with case managers during the events.

On July 21, San Antonio case managers attended the San Antonio Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Coalition’s first annual Picnic Day at San Pedro Springs. Approximately 150 people attended the event. On July 26 -27, MCH staff participated in the Annual Back-to-School event for grandparents raising their grandchildren hosted by Alamo Area Council of Governments. AACOG and other vendors provided vouchers for school clothes, backpacks and other school items for the grandchildren. MCH staff distributed around 150 bags containing school supplies such as notebooks, pencils, erasers, ruler, boxes of Kleenex, crayons, and other items for grandchildren. MCH staff provided the grandparents with information about the Gap Program and had several grandparents sign up for services.

On Aug. 14, MCH Family Outreach in San Antonio participated in the Coker United Methodist Church Backpack Give Away where 1,500 backpacks with school supplies were distributed to families in need. MCH Family Outreach distributed “Be You” pencils and watercolor bookmarks with inspiring words on them. Several participants signed up to receive additional information of services provided by MCH.

San Antonio staff reached out to grandparents and other caregivers raising children during a local event.

Tyler: The Tyler Outreach office participated in a back-to-school event held at Harvey Hall. MCH provided 300 bags of school supplies for the event. The Tyler Outreach office also participated in a back-to-school event in Athens where MCH provided 600 bottles of glue. Kristy George, director of MCH Family Outreach in Tyler, said, “Both events are a great help to the community for those in need of school supplies.”

Waco: On Aug. 14, Waco Outreach participated in Meet the Teacher night at Indian Springs Middle School to share information about programs.

Thank you to all organizations who partnered with us to support children headed back to school.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Connecting through a common interest


MCH encourages staff members to utilize their gifts and talents in serving youth. For school support staff member Michael Lewis, his interest in fitness enabled him to help a student make a positive transformation.

Lewis was approached by Bryce, a student at the charter school, in February 2018. Bryce, now a freshman, wanted to know how Lewis was able to maintain his muscular physique at age 61. Lewis gave him some tips on exercise and nutrition and Bryce took his advice and put it into action. Within only a couple of months, Lewis noticed that Bryce’s appearance was changing. Bryce said he lost around 30 pounds before the end of that school year.

“I started changing my diet and eating things that I knew were good for my body, beneficial,” he said. “Not just empty calories that you get from chips and sodas. It is to the point now that I don’t even like other foods anymore. I got used to eating fruits and vegetables and healthy foods that I know help with building muscle.”

Once the summer hit, Bryce and Lewis began meeting three or four days a week to work out at the gym on campus. Lewis said he is proud of the sacrifice and motivation Bryce has shown in continuing his good habits. Lewis said they spend their time in the gym not just working out, but also talking about life and have built a positive relationship.

“It is more than just working out,” Lewis said. “I’ve seen him become more responsible, grow mentally and sometimes I have to remind myself that he is only 14.”

Lewis said he hopes he is helping Bryce build a solid foundation for the future by living a healthy lifestyle now in order to prevent diseases such as diabetes or heart failure. He also hopes these efforts will inspire other students at MCH. 

“The physical body is something God wants us to take care of,” Lewis said. “How to eat is in His Word. The physical body has to be maintained just like the mental and spiritual.”

Bryce has now dropped around 50 pounds and said he has gained confidence and will continue working out with Lewis.

“I feel stronger since I’ve been in the weight room,” he said. “People have given me more respect because I’ve been willing to do this. It got me out of my comfort zone and I will feel better in the future.”  

Thursday, August 23, 2018

MCH youth gain perspective through summer trips

Nikkie attended a mission trip and Glen Lake camp this summer.

Each summer, MCH youth have a chance to rejuvenate and grow closer to God through summer mission trips and Christian camps.

This year, MCH youth had the option to travel with Spiritual Development staff to off-campus trips including Central Texas Conference Youth in Mission (CTCYM) in Lovington, New Mexico; Glen Lake Camp and Retreat Center in Glen Rose, Texas; and United Methodist Action Reach Out Mission by Youth (U.M. ARMY) in Longview, Texas, as part of a partnership with Kingwood United Methodist Church. For the final trip opportunity, students were led by recreation and other staff to the Shepherds of the Ozarks camp in August.

“We consider attending a Glen Lake Camp or a mission trip to be a privilege set aside for students who are seeking to grow in their relationship with Christ,” said Kim Clark, director of spiritual development. “We also take into consideration their level of responsibility and social and leadership skills. We take students who are able to take direction well, work hard, work with a team, are eager to deepen their relationship with Christ, and have a positive attitude.”

Eligible students fill out an application and must also have staff recommendations. They then must be approved by unit managers and administration with factors such as summer school, home visit schedules, and behavior being considered in the approval process.

Nikkie, age 15, attended the CTCYM trip as well as Glen Lake camp for the first time. She said she wanted to go on the mission trip because she likes to help others and felt it would be a good experience to spend some time away from campus. While on the trip, she worked with youth from different areas on three homes completing projects such as building wheelchair ramps, installing porch railings and making home repairs.

“When I came back I felt like a whole different person,” Nikkie said. “Something had changed in me. I felt like God was telling me to work hard to get something done and to believe in myself.”
During camp, Nikkie said she gained a fresh perspective and enjoyed her time with other MCH youth.

“At Glen Lake my favorite thing was getting closer to MCH kids,” she said. “I feel like Spiritual Development and these trips are helping me get closer to God and closer to everyone else. You learn on these trips that God is always here.”

MCH staff from different areas accompanied seven youth to Shepherds of the Ozarks, a Christian conference and retreat center in the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas. During the trip, youth were able to explore an underground cavern, hike up to a cave, and participate in a service project.

Clark said she has seen many positive transformations in the youth when they return from summer trips.

“I have had the pleasure of seeing lives changed, lives given to Christ and baptisms,” she said. “I have witnessed our kids being kids, laughing, having fun, and trying new things. I have seen relationships formed and others mended. I have witnessed students come back and be the catalyst for change in their homes and our community.”







Wednesday, August 1, 2018

MCH charter school hosts “Fish Camp”


Incoming freshmen for the charter school at Methodist Children’s Home received an introduction to high school during “Fish Day” on July 19. The two-hour event at the school, located on the Waco campus, served as freshman orientation to prepare students before the school year begins and introduce them to MCH and school staff who will be working with them.

During the orientation, freshman students listened to several presentations and toured the high school areas of the school where they will attend classes. Jeff Creel, program administrator for school and transition services, talked to students about expectations for each year of high school. Executive Principal Michelle Arocha introduced changes for the next school year such as new teachers, new district theme, and dress code, schedule and policy adjustments. Students also participated in an activity with MCH recreation staff.

Freshmen were also introduced to Transition Services, a program serving MCH students as they transition to independence. TS coordinators begin working with MCH students during their junior year of high school in creating post high school graduation plans. They assist students in preparations such as college visits, applications for financial aid and scholarships, and life skills training. TS coordinators shared information with the students about their role and gave specific information regarding tests they will encounter such as the Texas Success Initiative Assessment college readiness exam and the SAT/ACT standardized tests used to determine college admission and scholarships.

Presentations emphasized the importance of academic performance during high school with the intention of getting them off to a positive start.
   
“We want to make sure they stay focused and maintain their GPA because that is important when looking at college,” said Dorothy Phillips, director of educational services at MCH.

The MCH charter school is operated in partnership with the University of Texas-University Charter School system. The 2018-19 school year will begin on August 15.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Bryan mother finds financial stability with help of MCH Family Outreach

Kerrianna worked with MCH Family Outreach to become financially stable
and recently received a vehicle thanks to a partnership with OnRamp. 
Kerrianna is a single mother of six children, ages 3-16, and was doing her best to make ends meet working as a substitute teacher. However, with limited financial means and transportation, she could only accept substitute jobs at schools close to her home. As a necessary solution, she accepted full-time employment at a local pizza chain near her apartment so she could walk her younger girls to child care before going to work.

Kerrianna learned about MCH Family Outreach in Bryan/College Station through a local childcare and educational program and hoped they could help her find a solution to her challenges. She began working with MCH case manager Susan Hays in February 2018 as part of the Family Solutions program.

Through the program, Hays was able to assist Kerrianna with identifying her goals and developing strategies to meet those goals. Kerrianna desired financial stability and also wanted to increase healthy experiences for her family. Hays provided her with support and encouragement through her journey and connected her with resources in the area to assist her in gaining financial stability.

“I think the program was very helpful,” Kerrianna said. “Since starting the program I have developed a ton of self-worth.”

Hays knew that a reliable vehicle would be a crucial part of Kerrianna’s goals. She nominated her to a local nonprofit called OnRamp that assists hardworking families in need with vehicles. She learned about the organization through friends and thought Kerrianna would be a great candidate for the opportunity.

Through this partnership, Kerrianna received a 2005 Dodge Caravan in June that is able to accommodate her six children. She is now searching for full-time employment at College Station ISD and will no longer have to worry about limiting her search to schools within walking distance. Kerrianna said she has also seen improvements in her relationships with her children.

“It has helped us become closer,” she said. “It’s given me the strength to listen to my kids more and we go and do a lot more now. I’m feeling happy and overjoyed that my family and I are closer and we can now travel more.”

Hays said she has enjoyed working with Kerrianna and is impressed by her ambition to do whatever it takes to support her family.

“Kerrianna has persevered through a lot of stress and hardship,” Hays said. “I don’t know many people who would walk their kids to child care and then walk to a job they don’t like every day in hopes of providing a better future for their children. She continues to move forward and do the ‘next right thing.’”