Christopher Reeve once said, “Once you choose hope, anything's possible.”It’s fitting that a man who once played Superman made those remarks because for the last 10 years, there has been a lot of super men and women who have been beacons of hope - and where to find it - at the Center of Hope. On Fri., Nov. 1, Center of Hope will be celebrating its anniversary at the Doss Heritage and Culture Center, marking 10 years of service in Parker County.“Ten years for a non-profit that is still going strong is a big deal,” Chief Executive Officer Paula Robinson said. “So we want to thank God.”In the BeginningThe Center got its start in the early 90s but under a different name.“Terry Jones saw a need and got things rolling,” Robinson said. It wasn’t until later, in 1998, that it became incorporated, forming a 501(c)3 known then as The Provision Center.In 2002, Paula Fox, with the help of Janet Foster, took the Center to a new level. In fact, Foster was the board chairwoman for the next 10 years and just recently got off the board.In January 2003, Robinson, a volunteer at the time, was asked to come on board and help with the Center’s efforts and later that year, the name was officially changed to what it is today, Parker County Center of Hope, Inc.“Roger McCasland with ITM really had a vision from the Lord, I absolutely know it,” Robinson said. “It’s so clear because of where we are today.”She said McCasland came to Foster and the group and said he knew how they could make the ministry “better.”“We invited the Ministerial Slliance - the Christian businessmen and some pastors - and met in February and Roger shared his vision,” Robinson added. “He said that it could become a benevolence center for the church, and that all churches could support it with a staff that could do the work, like meals and teaching computer classes.”Seven months later, they moved into the building they are in today.Over the years, Center of Hope has expanded to the point that future plans may call for an even bigger facility.ResourcesIn the beginning, the Center helped struggling families that have fallen on hard times with paying utility bills, prescription medicine, meals and groceries but over the years it has become so much more.“We tried early on with computer classes but it was not until Claudia Bowden with Texas Workforce Solutions came in 2008 and said, ‘Paula we’ve got to have some computer classes,’” Robinson said. “So with the help of her and Julie Lundy, coordinator workforce and continuing education at Weatherford College, it became a reality.”She said the college provided the curriculum, the Center provided the volunteers and with a grant from United Way that provided for the computers, their first class formed.“This is a class we developed to teach skills needed in today's job market,” Lundy said. “Computer fundamentals, word, excel powerpoint and professionalism in the workplace - 136 hours total.”She said they receive a certificate, CEU's and have a transcript through the workforce and Continuing Education office at Weatherford college. “This is a Weatherford college class with a certified Weatherford college instructor, a satellite classroom really,” Lundy added. “This is a partnership that is good for the Center of Hope, the college and our community.”She added that some students use this as a first step toward their college career and others use the skills to apply for jobs. “Center of Hope has been a great partner and together we are blessed to be able to improve lives in our community,” Lundy said.Robinson, too, said its been one of the most successful programs they have ever done.The “Jobs for Life” program, however, is at the core of the Center’s ministry which helps those attending understand both the value and the blessing of work, as well as how to overcome obstacles as they journey toward a new beginning.“They get hope,” Robinson said.Camp Hope is another program where the Center’s mission is to feed children physically, emotionally and spiritually. Their three core elements to Camp Hope are: Bible Lessons, Cooking/Food Distribution and Reading/Home Library. “Camp Hope is held in various low-income neighborhoods around Parker County once a week for 2-3 hours from June through August,” Robinson said. “Volunteers read, play and teach children and food is provided for simple cooking activities to make lunch at Camp. In addition, groceries and home packets go home with the Campers for families to have food and activities during the week. Moving forwardThe Center’s numbers are staying consistent, Robinson said, serving between 400-450 families each month, about 75 of which are new.“The economy has forced a change in people who fit into a poverty description,” Robinson said. “Reduction in number of hours for people, car trouble, any kind of medical emergency, all spell disaster for those living paycheck to paycheck.”She added that for many, getting a second job is difficult – childcare, one car in the family, heath issues, etc...On the horizon, the Center recently received a grant where funds can be used to develop infrastructure and provide for staff development that will ensure the Center programs and services will continue to meet the needs of people. “I think that shows such wisdom,” Robinson said. “So the Center of Hope can help into the future.”
Celebrate the Center of Hope
A classy, casual dinner event at the Doss Heritage and Cultural Center
Nov. 1 at 6:30 p.m.
$50 per person. To register visit www.centerofhopetx.com