Do you know Maria? Her family struggles to put food on the table. The whole family feels the stress. You can see the hurt in Maria’s eyes when she comes to school. She has to wear the same clothes repeatedly. Some nights she doesn’t have dinner. Maria’s family is representative of many in our area. What can we do to help?
First, we begin to understand where we are as a community. Are there families struggling like this in Hurst, Euless & Bedford? Simply put – yes.
The HEB ISD Family Support Services Office has identified approximately 720 “homeless children” and determined that 50% of families in the HEB ISD are economically disadvantaged. These are families living at or below 185% of the poverty level (The poverty levels is $22,050 annually for a family of four).
Next, we seek to understand from an empathetic perspective. Ellen LoBue, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, sees the need on a day-to-day basis and hears from the parents who are trying to find jobs or get better jobs. She said, “We don’t have a system that can be played based on the number of children a family has. Some states do. There is no traditional welfare in the state of Texas. If a family suddenly has no income due to the loss of a job or extended illness in the family, they go to the Department of Human Services and it takes approximately 3-4 months to receive any financial assistance. There is no financial support prior to that. And, only the children qualify for Medicaid.”
Mrs. LoBue sees 100 families each month in the Family Support Services Office. “The people who visit HEB Family Services are so grateful and appreciative. They are not trying to get more. They are trying to feed their children. We’re not giving them anything of financial value that they’ll go and sell. We are helping them provide necessities to their children,” she said.
Being aware of the need in the HEB community and being willing to understand that need from a personal perspective is a starting place toward improving the quality of life in our area. 6 Stones Mission Network is collaborating with HEB ISD officials, city and county officials, businesses, churches and social service agencies so that we can address community needs more efficiently.
Gene Buinger, superintendent of the HEB schools, said 6 Stones has been an asset to the schools because it has created a one-stop, non-profit organization that in one year has involved 20 to 30 churches to refer students and families. Buinger envisions a cadre of churches and community organizations working together to revitalize many of the 100,000 homes in the HEB area that were built in the 1950s and ‘60s.
“Our children cannot learn if they are hungry or if they are moving every 60 days if they get evicted,” remarked Buinger. “If we can keep this kind of involvement with our schools, we can produce a successful learning environment.”
Part of creating a successful learning environment is helping the children be prepared on the first day of school. You can be a part of helping these families by sponsoring a child at the HEB ISD Operation Back to School event on August 14. 6 Stones Mission Network is working to provide backpacks filled with school supplies for up to 6,400 children. The children will receive their backpacks at the West location, First Baptist Church in Hurst or at the East location, Campus West in Bedford, based on proximity to the schools.
“We’re providing backpacks and school supplies so at least the children can start school on the same footing as little Johnny who has new shoes and a full backpack,” Mrs. LoBue said.
6,400 backpacks filled with school supplies costs approximately $120,000. That’s a lot of backpacks, school supplies and money! “We all need to work together. Then it’s not a big deal for any of us,” said Pam Hernalsteen, HEB ISD Coordinator of Nurses.
As the community continues to work together, HEB will continue to be the best place to live in the metroplex. Click for information on how individuals, businesses, community groups and organizations can get involved. “We’re challenging the community to impact hearts and change lives,“ said Scott Sheppard, Executive Director of 6 Stones Mission Network.