Mensaje del Presidente: Kevin C. Dinnin

mensaje-spanish

Together (Juntos)… el título de esta revista, pero aún mucho más que eso. BCFS, un sistema internacional de organizaciones sin fines de lucro proporciona programas que cambian vidas en todo el mundo y en las poblaciones históricamente más marginadas de este país. Juntos, con el apoyo de usted, nuestros depositarios y donantes, respondemos a las necesidades de millones de niños, adultos, familias y comunidades que se encuentran en circunstancias severas y enfrentando dificultades insuperables. BCFS asume esta responsabilidad, cuando ninguna otra organización lo hace. ¡Y lo hacemos juntos!

El 2016 marca mi trigésimo aniversario con BCFS, y no ha pasado ni un día en que no refleje sobre la visión y misión de esta organización, y cómo hemos ayudado a las millones de vidas que hemos tocado. Cuando fui llamado para servir como presidente, BCFS tenía solamente 30 miembros sirviendo como personal de toda la agencia, y contábamos con un presupuesto anual equivalente a sólo una fracción de lo que es hoy. Nuestro equipo ha crecido de manera exponencial, a tal grado de ahora incluir a más de 3,000 individuos dedicados, aunados a los innumerables individuos que se unen a nuestros esfuerzos de emergencia y tareas críticas.

Aunque muchas cosas han cambiado a través de los años, y a pesar de la amplia expansión y crecimiento que ha tenido la organización, lo que no ha cambiado son nuestros valores, nuestros principios fundamentales, y nuestra responsabilidad en el manejo de los fondos que han sido puestos a nuestro cuidado, y por sobre todas las cosas, el amor y compasión hacia los que han sido puestos a nuestro cuidado. Nuestra División de Servicios a la Comunidad y División de Servicios Residenciales continúan trayendo esperanza y sanación a los niños, jóvenes y familias de los Estados Unidos… Nuestra sede internacional, Children’s Emergency Relief International (CERI), recientemente celebró 15 años de cambiar vidas, proporcionando protección y seguridad a niños vulnerables engañados por traficantes de personas bajo una falsa promesa de dinero o comida… En nuestro recinto residencial, Breckenridge Village de Tyler, residentes con un rango de discapacidades intelectuales prosperan en un ambiente de amor donde su salud y bienestar son lo más importante.

Otro sector importante de nuestro sistema BCFS es nuestra División de Manejo de Emergencias (EMD por sus siglas en inglés). EMD es un líder reconocido a nivel nacional por su labor de manejo de emergencia, manejo de incidentes, respuesta durante desastres, salud pública y planificación para las poblaciones vulnerables. Cuando las inundaciones sin precedentes devastaron el área de Houston, el gobierno federal solicitó la ayuda de EMD para ayudar a las miles de víctimas en su recuperación, desplegando una operación de Manejo de Caso de Desastres Inmediata (IDCM, por sus siglas en inglés) para servir a 14 condados, impactando a las más de 36,000 personas que se registraron con FEMA como sobrevivientes de un desastre.

EMD también es un equipo muy solicitado por su competencia para su manejo de emergencias que salva vidas, ofreciendo entrenamientos a los primeros intervinientes y a los administradores de emergencias de cuidado masivo y planificación para la comunidad entera; el manejo masivo de víctimas fatales, planificación para evacuaciones, alojamiento médico, manejo del cuidado médico durante los eventos de armas de destrucción masiva, y más. Listo con recursos y suministros comprensivos, EMD está preparado para desplegar y responder en cualquier momento — sin tener en cuenta que tan grande o pequeña sea la labor.

Gracias por ser parte de esta jornada y recorrer este viaje, Together (juntos). Los invito a ver y leer las historias sinceras, memorables y significativas de aquellos a los que servimos, las cuales se revelan en las siguientes páginas. Sé que tocarán su corazón de la misma manera que han tocado el mío.

Christmastime at BCFS: Spreading Holiday Cheer

With Christmas quickly approaching, there is no better time of year to exercise goodwill or spread warmth and cheer. Christmastime can be an unwelcome reminder to those that lack a traditional family or support system, which is why offering a helping hand can go a long way. Here at BCFS, holiday events are in full force as we bring together families and support those in need.

Here are some of the holiday initiatives BCFS has hosted so far this holiday season. Merry Christmas!

Christmas in Candyland

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On Wednesday December 9, BCFS hosted its annual Christmas celebration for Abilene teens, youth and families in BCFS programs that provide life advice, temporary shelter, and parenting education. The group of 40 gathered to exchange gifts, play games, make gingerbread houses and even win prizes at the BCFS Health and Human Services Center in Abilene.

“Each of the folks in our programs received a gift package donated by our generous partners at Wylie Christian Church,” said Martin Pittman, program lead for the BCFS Abilene transition center. “Each package included journals and notepads, gloves, pens and pencils, a Christmas ornament, snacks, hygiene products, plus jewelry or scented soap for the gals, and a flashlight or portable radio for the guys.”

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The BCFS Center in Abilene is a safe haven for youth, including those in foster care and the juvenile justice system, or any youth struggling with the transition into adulthood and independence.

Christmas Masquerade Ball

On Thursday, December 17, BCFS transformed Sunset Station in San Antonio into a winter wonderland for its annual Christmas dinner for local youth from foster care. Donning formalwear kindly donated by the National Council of Jewish Women, about 250 youth attended the event. Also wearing colorful masquerade masks in celebration of this year’s theme, the young adults enjoyed delicious Christmas dinner and dessert.

The young adults — from BCFS’ Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) program — also received backpacks, gift cards, and stockings stuffed with small gifts, courtesy of Grace Point Church and the THRU project, a mentorship program for young people aging out of foster care.

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Dinner was catered by the RK Group, desserts donated by Gigi’s Cupcakes and Claire’s Sweet Treats. Attendees also enjoyed comedy sketches by Alamo City Improv and classic Christmas songs sung by the choir from Christian Family Church. Christian Family Church also donated stockings, gift cards, hygiene products and sweet treats. Christmas dinner was catered by the RK Group and desserts were donated by Gigi’s Cupcakes and Claire’s Sweet Treats.

“Christmas can be an emotional time for the youth we serve from foster care, many of whom are separated from their families,” explains Miriam Attra, BCFS Community Based Services Director. “The Christmas Masquerade Ball gives these youth a chance to celebrate with their BCFS ‘family’ and friends – giving them an unforgettable experience that would otherwise be out of reach.”

BVS Live Nativity

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Residents of Breckenridge Village of Tyler (BVT) presented a living nativity scene during the annual Christmas in the Village celebration. BVT is a caring residential community for adults with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities, part of the global system of BCFS health and human service non-profit organizations.

Every year, BVS’ Christmas in the Village provides live entertainment, Christmas shopping, delicious food, games and more to people of all ages. Even better, the event increases community awareness of its services to special needs individuals.

Head Start Christmas Celebrations

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On December 16, BCFS Education Services’ Head Start helped dozens of local children and families make merry this holiday season, with help from several organizations in the Johnson City-area.

The Christmas party, for children and families enrolled in the Johnson City Head Start program at the Settlement Event Center, came courtesy of the LBJ National Park Service. Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus made a special appearance at the party and spent quality time talking with each child, while parents enjoyed snapping photos of their children on Santa’s lap. Food and drinks were donated by several local markets.

The next morning, several Park Rangers from LBJ National Historic Ranch stopped by the center, armed with guitars and a whole lot of holiday spirit. Park Rangers Dave Schafer, Brian Perry, Kathleen Fry and Patrick Pelarski sang with the children, read Christmas stories and helped the children make ornaments.

“We have wonderful families and children in our program,” says Head Start Center Coordinator Karen Rogers. “We love working with every single one of them – it’s especially joyful to celebrate the holidays with them. We are so proud to be part of the education and social service initiatives started when Lyndon B. Johnson was president.”

Park Rangers visit Head Start classroom in Johnson City (L to R - Dave Schafer, Kathleen Fry, Patrick Pelarski and Brian Perry).jpg

Head Start aims to propel children ages 3 to 5 from disadvantaged backgrounds toward academic success and prosperity through the provision of educational, health, nutritional and social services.

Cookies with Santa

santabcfsOn December 17, foster and adoptive families in San Antonio received a special treat at BCFS’ Cookies with Santa event. The half-hour event, organized for kids and youth placed in homes by BCFS, was attended by more than 120 children and caregivers. Families mingled, enjoying pizza and cookies and photographs with Santa Claus.

During their meeting with Santa, each child received the gift they had asked Santa for prior to the event, with help from BCFS staff. Gifts included soccer balls, dolls, and everything in between. Old St. Nick was expertly portrayed by Efrén Alvarado, Training Coordinator for BCFS’ Foster Care and Adoption.

“Many of the children we place in foster and adoptive homes have experienced trauma and hardships in the past,” said Alvarado. “We connect them to loving, supportive homes, whether they are permanent or temporary. Christmastime is a wonderful opportunity to show each child they are special, they are treasured, in a way some of them have never experienced. I’ll never forget the joy on their faces when they opened their gifts.”

Legacy of Service: Retirees At Work

By Yvonne Paris Rhodes

“When you retire from your regular 40-hour-a- week job, you can’t just sit around and do nothing,” says Marjorie Lee, a cheerful, gracious woman who lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Marjorie shares this advice as she recalls happy memories of years spent in “retirement” with her late husband Frank Lee.

“Frank was doing that to begin with…and wearing out the carpet between the recliner and fridge. You’ve got to do something,” Marjorie says. “When you give to the Lord, you get back more than you give. You get the blessing, too.”

Their desire to stay active long into their golden years inspired Marjorie and Frank to take the path less traveled and join the Texas Baptist Men (TBM), serving in volunteer projects across the country. Frank and Marjorie joined their first TBM work crew in January of 1990.

“We were helping churches get new buildings nor additions, and other construction jobs. Doing that work helped us ‘old people’ too, because if we had to sit in our easy chairs and twiddle our thumbs the rest of our lives, it wouldn’t have helped and it wouldn’t have been as much fun. We got the benefit as much as the churches did. It was a two-way street,” says Marjorie.

For seven years, Frank and Marjorie joined every project they could with the Texas Baptist Men.

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 2.18.09 PM“Frank just loved it! We both loved it. I was still working as a nurse at the time, so he would go to job sites close to home so I could join him on the weekend. It was like a family reunion every month, and we all loved the experience and felt so blessed. The group came from all over the state, between 100 and 200 people. They ran three jobs each month and you’d choose which you wanted to do. About 30 people worked each job, and you never knew which people you’d run into,” Marjorie recalls.

In October of 1997, Frank and Marjorie and dozens of other volunteers drove a caravan of RVs into an open field in a small, east Texas town called Tyler. With the help of these selfless volunteers, lots of hard work, and of course divine intervention, this empty field would soon transform into Breckenridge Village of Tyler (BVT), a residential community where adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities receive loving care and support that helps them develop physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

“When we arrived in our campers and RVs, it was nothing but a huge empty pasture. There wasn’t a tree, bush or building,” says Marjorie.

“We were making our own road and set up our RVs all in a row. We had water and electricity. Then shortly after we arrived, they put up a huge circus tent with picnic tables where we ate our meals, worshipped on Sunday and had fellowship through the week.”

Frank and his crew were assigned Cottage #1 – the very first structure at the Village. While Frank worked hard on his cottage, Marjorie and the other women served meals and ran the first-aid tent.

“Frank was up in the rafters, helping set trusses and climbing on scaffolding, doing the tape and float on the drywall – loving every minute of it. We had a ball doing those things. By the time we left that job, the cottages were put together enough so we could see how it was going to be setup. The whole group was excited about it.”

Over the next several weeks, the crew erected six cottages, which now house adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. While Frank worked diligently, neither Frank nor Marjorie knew his health was rapidly deteriorating.

Sadly, Frank Lee passed away from cancer a few days after Christmas, with Marjorie and their three daughters by his side.

The very first cottage at Breckenridge Village had been Frank’s final project, after seven years of faithful service and countless lives touched working alongside his loving wife and the Texas Baptist Men.

For the years that followed, Marjorie felt drawn back to Breckenridge Village of Tyler and recognized it was a special place not only for her family, but for adults with disabilities and their families.

“We sensed right from the beginning what a marvelous concept BVT was,” says Marjorie. “And being in nursing myself, I knew there was nothing like this out there and I sometimes pondered, what do families do when they are getting too old and the caretakers won’t be around a long time?”

On a blustery spring day in 2015, Marjorie, her three daughters and other family members all gathered at Breckenridge Village for an interment ceremony honoring Mr. Frank Lee. A tree was planted in Frank’s honor and a plaque lovingly placed where Frank’s ashes were interred.

“I always wanted Frank to go to the Village and be interred there,” Marjorie says. “When BVT said they’d be pleased to do that, it just thrilled me. I’ve put this off for almost 18 years since he died.”

Today, Marjorie is still busy at work for the Lord. Occasionally she goes on short-term mission trips to use her nursing skills, but there are plenty of volunteer opportunities close to home in Colorado Springs. She created several libraries in churches across Texas and Colorado, including the church she now attends. She established a library in a facility for people with physical handicaps in central Texas, and she helps manage the library in the local county jail. Some of the groups she serves have affectionately dubbed her “the book lady.”

The Lee Family’s Legacy of Service:

Ever since Cottage #1 was erected by Frank and his crew in 1997, many adults with disabilities have called it home. Since then, BVT has expanded into a thriving, 70-acre campus complete with six homes, a chapel, a greenhouse, a vocational center, a pool, a health center, fishing pond, an activities pavilion, and a prayer garden.

BVT is a part of the global system of BCFS health and human service non-profit organizations

About Texas Baptist Men: The mission of Texas Baptist Men is to assist Texas Baptist Churches as they lead men into a “Love” relationship with Jesus Christ that will thrust them and their families into a lifestyle of missions and ministry that fulfills the Great Commission. Texas Baptist Men is a 501-c3 non-profit organization.

BCFS Kicks Off Holiday Season With Thanksgiving Events

PAL DFPS staff @ partners @ luncheon

BCFS Health and Human Services celebrated Thanksgiving the best way we know how: by helping children and families enjoy good food and fellowship — giving them experiences that would otherwise be out of reach. Our initiatives were a precursor to the holiday season, and as December progresses we plan to deliver even more joy to children and their families this Christmas.

Family events

Prior to Thanksgiving Day, BCFS Education Services Head Start invited children and families in Beeville, Fredericksburg and Johnson City to free family events on November 21st and 22nd.

More than 530 turkeys were given away to local families. About 2,000 free meals were served from gourmet food trucks. Plus, 400 backpacks were given out to children.

Kids enjoyed face painting and balloon artists, met superheroes and princesses, and got to check out a real fire truck, courtesy of local fire and police departments partnering with BCFS for the event.

The purpose of the event was to raise awareness about BCFS Education Services’ Head Start program, which provides free Pre-K and early education services to 3 and 4 year olds. BCFS Education Services is enrolling students now for their Head Start classrooms in Harper, Johnson City, Beeville, Skidmore, Refugio and George West.

Head Start is a national program that promotes school readiness by enhancing the social and cognitive development of children by providing educational, health, nutritional, social and other services to enrolled children and families.

Turkey & trimmings for Del Rio families

In Del Rio, more than 100 families received turkey and all the trimmings on the week of Thanksgiving. The meals were given to congratulate the families for completing the STAR program operated by BCFS Health and Human Services, which provides counseling, trainings and other services to unify and strengthen families.

Services To At Risk Youth (STAR) helps Del Rio families create stable, loving home environments by providing free counseling, training for youth and parents, and help reducing family conflict and delinquent behaviors in youth, like truancy and running away from home. The STAR program serves families with youth 17 years old and younger. This November, BCFS helped 160 children and youth and gave out 133 Thanksgiving meals.

“Many of the families we serve live paycheck to paycheck, or are struggling with unemployment, so putting a full Thanksgiving spread on the table is a burden, or completely out of reach,” says Interim Director, Delia Ramos. “We wanted to help families enjoy a holiday meal with loved ones, but also leave a more lasting mark on their lives through the STAR program.”

Thanksgiving luncheon for San Antonio youth

On November 24th, BCFS hosted a Thanksgiving luncheon in San Antonio for youth from foster care and their foster families. The luncheon brought together approximately 200 youth from foster care, foster families, and BCFS’ community partners including the Department of Family Protective Services (DFPS).

The event was complete with long, family-style banquet tables, games like giant outdoor Jenga, and a football game on projector screens. Youth played with BCFS staff members and mentors, and expressed their thanks for BCFS Health and Human Services’ PAL program, among other blessings.

The PAL program, or Preparation for Adult Living, helps youth from foster care prepare for life on their own by teaching life skills like budgeting, healthy relationships, and how to access critical resources.

What’s next?

December has begun in the same spirit as November with #givingtuesday, an international day of philanthropy, which fell on the first of the month. BCFS Health and Human Services encouraged supporters to sponsor a child through CERI (Children’s Emergency Relief International), and welcomed donations to our many community programs.

As the holiday season continues, stay tuned for more information on the annual BCFS program Christmas Dreams, which will give youth in the BCFS Lubbock Transition Center holiday meals, visits with Santa, and donated gifts. This year we will give gifts to 55 young adults and their 23 children.
BCFS’ Lubbock Transition Center is a one-stop-shop for youth in or aging out of foster care, those in the juvenile justice system, and others in need of a helping hand to make the transition into adulthood. The center provides case management, counseling, life skills training, and education and employment assistance.