Cheering for Change

Date Posted: 8/22/2013

Rev. Mary Balagia left her cheerleading megaphone at school years ago, but continues cheering for special causes as a new member on the board of The Wesley Community Center in Houston's Near Northside community. 


Some things never change. Throughout junior high, high school and senior year of college Rev. Mary Balagia was a lively and animated cheerleader. As a new board member, she plans to cheer with much the same vigor and passion, but she’s rooting now for the youth – specifically those reached by the Wesley Community Center.


“Once a cheerleader, always a cheerleader, I guess,” says Mary, realizing she still loves to issue a rallying cry to anyone who will join her in helping to touch children’s lives and provide them a better future. “I am certainly still cheering for what is positive and produces fruit. I fell in love with the Wesley Community Center after hearing testimonies, seeing video stories and learning about the success of the programs in this ministry. When I drove through the neighborhoods around the Center recently, I was overwhelmed by the view of homes that appeared uninhabitable. Yet I knew that, living inside those dilapidated buildings, were human beings that need to know that they matter—particularly the children.” 


Mary says she has no desire to be a resume-building, check-writing kind of leader. “I love being on an active board that seeks to build a real legacy for these forgotten children. I hope by reaching out, and sharing my excitement, that others will be drawn to support this important ministry not just with their gifts but also with their presence. I plan to cheer our Wesley basketball team to victory and visit our scout troop as they form new leaders, and I want to spread the word about the many volunteer opportunities and fundraising events we have planned.”


Cheering for this cause has Mary enthusiastic about visioning, planning and moving forward, with a TAC ministry that has already made such a great impact in the Northside community. “I am so grateful for the women of First United Methodist Church who identified a need and started us down this path in 1904.”


Mary’s current mission is promoting the Wesley Center’s annual Spirit of Helping luncheon October 2 at the Junior League in Houston. The keynote speaker will be noted author Dr. Ruby K. Payne, speaking on “A Framework for Understanding Poverty.” Dr. Payne is a well-known expert in the field of education and poverty. Notes Mary, “We have all levels of table sponsorship and would love for teachers, youth directors, social workers and passionate Methodists to join us.” To celebrate the Wesley Center in this way, call Amanda Hampton (713-821-8932) or


Leadership on this board is not about time served in meetings, she adds. “It’s about a compassion that sees the need of another and draws you toward that person, then a passion and commitment to walk alongside them. Once you get involved, it doesn’t feel like work,” she says. “I just want others to learn about what we are doing, help us do more of it, and give these kiddos a better start in life.” She would really stand up and cheer if she could recruit a group of young adults to get involved in this work. "I just know that there are young professionals, possibly even those not connected to a church home, who are searching for a way to serve others." With early childhood education, senior services, food assistance and case management services to name a few... the Wesley House mission in action will touch your heart -- regardless of your age. Mary has fallen in love with the Wesley Community Center and hopes you do too.


In fact, rumor has it that Mary’s loved ones are about to celebrate her 60th birthday with festivities and gifts to the Wesley Center in her honor. Three cheers for that idea!