Mission Grant Recipients Share Insight from New Apartment Ministry

6/11/2015

Willie and Bernadette Blair are using their Texas Annual Conference mission grant to take the church to the children through the Southwest Glen Mission, a nonprofit they created in 2013.
 
Willie and Bernadette Blair are uniquely qualified for their most recent ministry adventure. Bernadette grew up with a dozen other siblings.  She brought Willie into this large family over 40 years ago so he slides easily into the ‘kid zone’ as the founder of an apartment based ministry to students age 4-18 in southwest Houston. Willie, guided by the Holy Spirit, decided to visit the manager at Winding Trails Apartment, and after hearing the needs, he and wife Bernadette, members of Covenant Glen UMC, Missouri City, formed a nonprofit called Southwest Glen Mission in 2013. “We now supply homework assistance, computer access, groceries, music therapy and Kids KLUB Bible studies in two locations,” says Bernadette, Executive Director. “This ministry continues to grow, and we are so thankful for the ministry grant from the Texas Annual Conference this year as well as for funding from the Moody Foundation, our home church and First UMC, Missouri City. With an average of 100 kids in one location and more than 75 in the second apartment complex, we are learning to stretch our dollars and collaborate with other community groups such as the Houston Children’s Charity.”
 
“We know that 85% of the people in this area don’t go to church, so we bring the church to them,” adds Willie, who serves as the Chief Operations Officer, “knowing when you change a household you change a community. Our prayer is to make a difference in the entire southwest area.” His organization provides children “mission bags” with groceries, bedding and school supplies on a regular basis, knowing the apartment residents are living on very little. “We have teachers and volunteers that will continue to provide challenging workbooks and activities through the summer to exercise their brains, as we reinforce rules, good behavior and how to recognize right from wrong,” adds Willie.
 
Retired teacher Karen LaBlanc is one of the mission's most enthusiastic fans. Shares Karen, "I review math concepts with the children, provide curriculum and help motivate them with prizes to enjoy learning. This apartment ministry is doing wonderful work which is obvious in the variety of age-appropriate strategies used on homework review and by the fact that their scores are increasing. This is a valuable ministry for these residents and a blessing for those involved."
 
The Empowerment Mission Model in Action
What makes this nonprofit different from most, is that it fosters two-way covenant relationships. “We are mentoring parents through parenting classes, and training them to be volunteers in this effort. We are empowering them for job opportunities and in language development so they can strengthen themselves and their families for the future,” adds Willie. Bernadette also teaches sewing twice a month to classes of girls, boys and adults. Additionally, the mission has sponsored several field trips -- a first for many of the children to attend a Dynamo soccer game or visit a local museum.
 

Success Stories Abound
“We call this mission our United Nations,” adds Willie, “because we have children who are Hispanic, African, Black American, Indian and most everything in between. The neighboring schools have reported increased school attendance, improved academic performance, and the community is coming together in a number of ways. This program is so popular that the apartment managers are experiencing 100% occupancy and a noticeable reduction in gang activity.” In fact, Willie is excited that the project has been so successful, the Blairs are receiving calls from other apartment managers to expand to their properties.
 
Next steps
“We would love nothing more than to widen the impact of Southwest Glen Mission,” adds Willie, “but that will require more volunteers and funding, which is our daily prayer request.” The Blairs are excited to have interns from local colleges and churches to help them host several special summer events, complete with puppet shows and nutritious snacks. Additional goals include conducting fundraising campaigns and awarding a scholarship to a child from the southwest community once resources can sustain the organization.
 
Everything is Bible based at Southwest Glen Mission, inspired to a large degree by Mission Arlington where Willie personally experienced a spiritual and personal rebirth many years ago. “It’s a great feeling to see the kids lined up at the apartment clubhouse waiting for you,” adds Bernadette.  “We give the glory to God and feel it is an honor and privilege to help these families – and even more of them someday -- in any way.”
 
To learn more, volunteer or donate, visit www.swglenmission.org.
Retired teacher Karen LaBlanc is one of the mission's most enthusiastic fans. Shares Karen, "I review math concepts with the children, provide curriculum and help motivate them with prizes to enjoy learning. This apartment ministry is doing wonderful work which is obvious in the variety of age-appropriate strategies used on homework review and by the fact that their scores are increasing. This is a valuable ministry for these residents and a blessing for those involved."