By Chase Carter
Weatherford-based Center of Hope is dedicated to offering services and resources to the impoverished of Parker County, hoping to break the cycle and do all they can to alleviate burdens.
Michelle Buchanan, the community projects director, recently spoke at the Springtown Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon about their mission.
“We are a Christ-centered ministry dedicated to helping others break the cycle of poverty through short-term assistance and long-term solutions,” states the mission on their website. “Our philosophy of offering a hand up, rather than a hand-out is helping people become more self-sufficient.”
For Buchanan, this lesson was learned the hard way.
For years, she told the luncheon attendees, she had worked with Center of Hope and numerous other groups to provide food, items and other tangible goods for the poor, impoverished and homeless.
“What I didn’t realize was I was perpetuating the very way of life we thought we were eliminating,” said Buchanan. “The children of the families we helped were learning that they could continue coming to us for hand-out and free aid instead of striving to provide for themselves.”
After that realization, Buchanan and her team of philanthropists set out to shift the paradigm of their service.
Now, their model of “short-term crisis assistance, long-term solutions” aims to lessen the burden on families while also teaching better habits and offering education to the younger generations.
“For over fifteen years, the ‘Help for Today” program has been helping hundreds of families each month,” said media manager Stacy Markwardt. “Groceries, limited financial assistance and meals served daily in the dining room are offered to help families experiencing a crisis.”
This is more in line with what Buchanan and her team used to offer, before they realized “we were doing more harm than good.”
She said that it’s still a service that needs to be offered to help pick struggling individuals and families back onto their feet, but they no longer stop there.
“Through faith, education and mentoring, we walk with clients towards a new beginning,” said Markwardt. “Our ‘Hope for Tomorrow’ program offers classes such as Jobs for Life, Computer Skills for Business, Financial Management and Adult Education, which gives students educational opportunities and empowers them to break the cycle of poverty.”
All of this goes on at their two centers, where they can keep track of clients and those they give aid to. This allows the Center to monitor progress while also discouraging abuse of their aid.
“It’s hard, but sometimes you have to turn people away if they start relying too much on the short term aid we give,” said Buchanan.
“I once had a man come in three consecutive months for prescription medication, and I knew he was abusing them. So I turned him away. It was one of the few times a client has become visibly upset and very angry with me, but I didn’t relent. Months later, he came to me and said that denial was the best thing someone has done for him in a long time. He was now cleaning up and improving every aspect of his life.”
Yet, Center of Hope does not just offer aid inside their walls. Camp Hope takes their teaching to the communities themselves to access a wider area of people.
“Camp Hope, currently celebrating its ninth year of operation, is a summer program for children in low-income neighborhoods throughout Parker County,” said Markwardt. “Each camper is taught simple cooking skills and is sent home with groceries and recipe packets to help with food and activities during the week.”
Additionally, the camp puts on an array of educational activities and provides donated books from their library for a summer reading program, which the children especially love.
“I was shocked to find out that, when asked, most of our campers’ favorite part was getting a book to take home with them,” said Buchanan. “The feel of owning that book, having it be their personal property, was empowering and inspiring to them.”
The Center of Hope is primarily funded by local churches and donations from community individuals. Ninety-two percent of every donation goes into the programs that help children and families in Parker County.
Visit their website at www.centerofhopetx.com or call 817-441-2442 for more information on aid or donations.