Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Clay Commons hosts Open House

Clay Commons, the latest addition to Methodist Children’s Home, opened its doors to staff to showcase the exciting new opportunity for young adults. The off-campus apartment complex is part of the Independent Living program which provides MCH graduates with help as they transition to adulthood.

“The open house was a huge success,” said Jeff Creel, associate administrator.  “We were happy to have staff from many different departments on campus to tour the apartments.  We are proud to share how our young adults are enjoying a higher level of independence.”

Residents moved in to Clay Commons apartments beginning in August 2015. Through the program, former MCH residents and foster children are able to pay a monthly fee based on their income to live in a furnished apartment as they work or attend school. It is designed to be a next step after the on-campus Independent Living program offering more independence and less supervision while still providing a supportive environment.

Clay Commons has the capacity for 16 residents who live in two-bedroom apartments with a roommate. There are two resident advisors on staff who manage the property and are there to assist residents with questions regarding every day issues. Residents also work with a case manager to develop a plan of service.

“Staff attending were excited and proud of the facilities and the opportunity for our young adults,” Creel said. “We hope they can share that excitement with our youth and encourage them to take advantage of all that MCH offers them to better prepare them for independence and give them hope for the future.”

Friday, December 18, 2015

Bike tradition continues at MCH

The Grapevine Bike tradition started in the late 1980s. The picture on the left shows
FUMC Grapevine members Stan Hinson and Ray Lusk delivering bikes in 1992.
In the late 1980s, First United Methodist Church of Grapevine began a legacy of giving to Methodist Children’s Home. Each year the church makes sure every child at MCH that wants one will get a bicycle for Christmas.

The tradition began when a few members of the church who were involved with MCH noticed there was a need for bicycles for the children. They decided to organize a donation and the tradition has continued and grown throughout the years.

The process starts back in October when the church contacts MCH to determine the number of bicycles needed. They then negotiate pricing with local stores to purchase the bikes. On the Friday evening before they plan to make the trip to Waco for delivery, church members gather to put the bicycles together and load them onto a truck for transporting.

This year, FUMC Grapevine provided 79 bikes and helmets children in the Dallas and Waco family outreach offices, as well as for residents at the Waco campus and Boys Ranch. Two bikes were also provided for the children of a former resident who is participating in the Transition Services program.

More than 20 church members from Grapevine traveled to the Waco campus on Saturday, Dec. 12 to deliver the bikes and tour the Perkins Heritage Home. They were welcomed by MCH staff and residents who helped them unload the bicycles.

“This is one of our longest standing traditions at MCH,” said Trey Oakley, vice president for development at MCH. “What makes it so special is the church not only does this every year, but they make it a church-wide event. It is a great example of how passionate people are about our ministry.”

Thursday, December 17, 2015

MCH Core Value Award for Growth - John Warren

Methodist Children’s Home recognizes staff annually who have exemplified our core values. Staff members are nominated by their peers and recognized at the All-Staff meeting.

Core Values for MCH are:
Christian Principles

John Warren, training director, received the 2015 Core Award for Growth at the all-staff meeting in October. The recipient of the Core Award for Growth is someone who provides opportunities for spiritual, emotional, physical, and intellectual development.
According to Warren’s nomination: “John has led the Training Department through a period of significant expansion. John has been working diligently to make sure the department is fully prepared to face the new challenges that arise through this process. John’s flexibility and dependability have proven to be valuable assets to the Training Department. He has hosted several new trainings this year, including sexual harassment, suicide prevention, and an impromptu snake awareness training this summer at the Boys Ranch. Through this dedication to educating our staff and making sure that our organization meets compliance standards, this agency overall has been making steady improvements in training compliance.”

“I am humbled and honored to have received the Core Award for Growth,” said Warren. “I really enjoy getting to see folks in trainings have that ‘ah-ha moment’ when a concept or the key to a skill really hits home for them. Hearing stories about how training helps people in their professional life and personal life reminds me of how important the Training Department’s work is. I have a fantastic group of people to work with and I love their passion for helping our agency do the best work possible. I am grateful to be honored this way from an agency that has facilitated my professional growth over the last 10 years.”

Bryan Mize, vice president of quality improvement and Warren’s supervisor had this to share, “I appreciate John’s leadership and enthusiasm as MCH moves forward with the agency-wide training program, an important goal in our strategic plan. John is committed to ensuring employee training needs are met, and he empowers the training staff to use their gifts, skills and knowledge to make significant contributions to our ministry. John is passionate about helping MCH fulfill its mission through his training and other areas of service.”

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Houston family honored for opening their hearts to foster children

It takes a special family to foster children. It is beautiful and it can also be heartbreaking. Methodist Children’s Home is blessed to have many special families who have opened their homes to children who need a safe, loving place to go as their family deals with difficult situations. Foster care is offered through MCH Family Outreach offices in Abilene, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Tyler.

On Nov. 14 in Houston, couples were honored for their dedication and service to foster children during a conference at Woodsedge Community Church in Spring, Texas. Matthew and Tonya Torkelson received an award from Orphan Care Solutions and the Texas Department of Family and Children Services for their outstanding service to children with Methodist Children’s Home.

The Torkelsons were licensed with MCH in September 2011 and received their first foster child in February 2012. Since then, they have fostered 10 children ranging in age from newborn to 14 months old. They have five children of their own: two grown sons ages 31 and 28, a 22-year old daughter in college and two younger girls, ages 9 and 11, they adopted from China.

Tonya said she had felt led to foster for years but her husband did not feel the same way. After attending a Christian music concert, Matt said he wanted to adopt children from China. They adopted two girls but Tonya still felt the calling to foster. She talked to her husband again, and he agreed to pray about it. A few months later they decided it was time to become foster parents and contacted MCH to start the process.

“It has been a pleasure working with the Torkelson family since they became licensed,” said Ramonia Ross, case manager for MCH Family Outreach in Houston. “They are so real and so genuine and the love they have for the children placed in their home is shown through the nurture and care they give to them. One of the things I admire about the Torkelsons is the respect they give to the birth parents, their nonjudgmental attitude, and their willingness to help children have a smooth transition back home, no matter how hard it is to let them go. And most importantly, I admire how Mr. and Mrs. Torkelson are so supportive of one another.” 

The Torkelsons’ children have supported their parents and Tonya said the younger girls love having the babies in their home, “as they are living dolls,” she joked. They are required to attend training annually which Tonya said she enjoys.

“I’m always into learning new things and even being retaught things already learned,” she said. “I love going to the trainings as we get to be with other foster families. It’s so nice to learn and speak with others in the same boat as you. The lessons are taught by the staff so we get all that time with them as well.”

She said Ross is there to support them with whatever they need, whether it is helping them deal with insurance issues, offering them advice or just providing a listening ear.  

“MCH likes to listen to you brag about the kids,” Tonya said. “They make sure we have everything we need to be the best foster parent for these babies. They answer our questions when needed. They are a shoulder to cry on when that is needed as well.”

Through foster care at MCH, family reunification is the goal when possible. Foster parents open their homes and work with the family as they work toward goals so the child can return to a safe, secure home. Tonya said the most challenging part of being a foster parent is when it is time to say goodbye.

“You can try to prepare, but it does not work,” she said. “As the seconds tick closer to the time they leave the more your heart aches. The more the world closes in. The tighter you cling. You just want to hold your little baby forever. But you can’t.

“I have adopted so I have no hang up about family needing to be blood,” Tonya added. “These little babies come into your home and you make them a part of you. They are ours for a short time. So when they go home it’s almost like a death. That’s kind of what it feels like. You will most likely never see them again and you don’t have any control over how they are being raised or how they are being loved. You just pray.” 

But even knowing they may face this heartache, the Torkelsons know that the time and love they give to these children has a tremendous positive impact on the children, the family and their own family. They are led by their faith and put their trust in God.

“We do it because we are called to do it,” she said. “We do it because we love the children. We do it because these babies need a safe place to go to. We do it because it teaches our kids to love others. We do it because we hope that we are helping even just a little. We do it to try to meet the parents and try to form some sort of bond with them. We do it for God.

“People always say to us ‘I could never foster. I would get too attached,’” she continued. “I tell them if you don’t get attached, if it does not break your heart when they leave, then you’re not doing it right. Fostering is about more than you. It’s about more than how you feel. It’s about giving kids a chance at a better life. It’s about giving parents the tools they need to give it to them. It’s about family and family is messy sometimes but so worth it.

“Fostering is about showing Jesus to kids and their families, maybe for the first time in their lives,” she said. “Fostering is about learning not to judge people, loving them where they are now not where you think they should be. Fostering is beautiful and we are so blessed to be a part of it.” 
To learn more about becoming a foster parent, click here and contact the nearest office in Abilene, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio or Tyler.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

MCH Core Value Award for Service - Dennis Tynes

Methodist Children’s Home annually recognize staff who exemplify our core values. Staff are nominated by their peers and recognized at an all-staff meeting.

Methodist Children’s Home Core Values are:
Christian Principles

Dennis Tynes, security officer, received the 2015 Core Award for Service at the all-staff meeting in October. The recipient for the Core Award for Service is someone who shows compassion through generosity and care.

According to Tynes’s nomination, “Dennis has worked for MCH for 31 years and has been vigilant about keeping the MCH campus safe. He takes pride in his job performance and work ethic.  When unexpected duties arise he is always willing to ‘step up’ and take them on. Dennis has an excellent rapport with staff and youth. He is calm when interacting with youth and makes well thought out decisions concerning the best course of action to take and immediately takes the proper action needed. Dennis has always been a leader, not only for MCH but for the City of Waco. He is well respected by other officers and staff, and has been a positive role model for our youth.”

“I was very humbled to receive this award. MCH has been a wonderful place to work,” said Tynes.

Gary Freeman, director of security and Tynes supervisor had this to share, “Dennis has a sincere appreciation for the work being done at MCH. I know from working with him he is thankful for his time here at MCH and how well he personally has been treated. Dennis is devoted to his job and conducts himself in a professional Christian manner.”

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Ag Showmanship and Winter Festival 2015

On Dec. 2, Methodist Children’s Home staff and students came out to support Ag students and spend an afternoon in fellowship during the 2015 Ag Showmanship and Winter Festival at the MCH Boys Ranch.

Steve Kruse, Ag teacher at MCH School, gave his students an opportunity to show their animals in front of a crowd at the horse pavilion. He has 33 students in his Ag class who learn to take care of steers, sheep, goats and swine.

“I want the kids first of all to learn responsibility and then learn to show off the good points of their project and try to overcome the bad points,” Kruse said. “But most of all I want them to have fun and gain lifelong experience.” 

During the showmanship event, Kruse’s students presented their animals before a guest judge, Dr. Shane McLellan. McLellan is the McLennan County extension agent and has judged at several major livestock shows in Texas. He asked the youth questions about the care of their animal and gave them suggestions for improving their showing technique. He then chose a winner and presented them with a belt buckle. The winners were: Steer – Galen; Sheep – Jaelyne; Goat – Sheldon; and Swine – Marvin.

“I thought the event was a big success especially after visiting with the kids and hearing their questions and comments which told me they learned something,” Kruse said.

Directly following Ag Showmanship was the Winter Festival. The festival, organized by recreation staff from Boys Ranch and Waco campus, was originally scheduled for November but was postponed due to weather. Staff and youth ate lunch and enjoyed games, hay rides, horse rides, bounce houses, crafts and face painting. It was a great opportunity for fellowship and to enjoy the Ranch atmosphere.

Friday, December 4, 2015

MCH student receives coaching from Holly Tucker

Alyssa, a senior at MCH School, sang for Holly Tucker, local country singer and former contestant on the NBC reality show, “The Voice,” during a coaching session on Nov. 21.

The coaching workshop was part of an event held at Seventh and James Baptist Church in Waco sponsored by Therapy CenterStage Productions called “Finding Your Voice.” Therapy CenterStage Productions is a group that works to bring awareness to mental health issues through the creative and expressive arts. Only four students in the Waco area received this special opportunity to work with Tucker one-on-one. Alyssa was selected after she performed during an open mic session at the Waco Cultural Arts Fest in September.  

Alyssa said she always sang round the house as a child and would sing at recess in elementary school instead of playing. Then in middle school, she continued singing and began playing the piano. Her first performance was in seventh grade when she sang in front of an audience of 900 people during a Christmas performance. Since then, she has done a few performances, including small concerts in local churches with MCH spiritual development minister Ahmad Washington.

“I love music and playing the piano,” Alyssa said. “Now it’s a hobby. I like to sing for church. It’s a good distraction; a good coping skill.”

During coaching session with Tucker, Alyssa sang the song “I Won’t Let Go” by Rascal Flatts. Tucker gave her tips on breathing techniques and also sang along with her during the session.

“It was really nice,” Alyssa said. “She told me to never give up on singing and that I have a beautiful voice. It was a good experience. It was fun to have people watching and give me compliments.”  

Thursday, December 3, 2015

MCH Core Value Award for Christian Principles - Stephanie Lewis

Methodist Children’s Home annually recognizes staff who exemplify our core values. Staff are nominated by their peers and recognized at an all-staff meeting.

The Core Values of MCH are:
Christian Principles

Stephanie Lewis, spiritual development minister, received the 2015 Core Award for Christian Principles in October. The recipient of the Core Award for Christian Principles is someone who applies the principles of the Christian faith which serves as the foundation for this ministry.

According to Lewis’s nomination: “Stephanie has been a faithful part of this ministry since 2008, serving in the Development Department before joining the Spiritual Development Department earlier this year, where she specifically works with our seniors and college age youth. No matter what maelstrom may be swirling around her, Stephanie is an ever faithful rock for Christ, and an encouragement to all who are blessed to cross her path. Stephanie has a Christ like grace that is enviable, and it has already begun to work its way into the hearts of every youth she ministers. I look forward to the work that God will complete through her in this ministry.”

Kim Clark, director of spiritual development and Lewis’s supervisor had this to share, “God has gifted Stephanie with the ability to truly love and care for people. She has such a kind heart and sweet spirit. God’s joy is apparent in Stephanie when she is in relationship with His children. I am grateful to have her as a part of this ministry team.”