When the Doors Close, but the Mission Continues
July 14, 2020
For nearly 70 years, Amarillo Community Wesley Center has been serving the most vulnerable people in the heart of the barrio. Since their start, their organization and services had expanded significantly, and their current facility was running at full capacity. If they wanted to serve more people, they would need space to grow, so they began to pray.
Months later, their prayers were answered in an unexpected way. A local church needed to pass the mantle onto the next generation and the church chose them. Kingwood UMC had been in decline for years, but they had excellent facilities in the south lawn area. They would close, but their building would live on with a new mission through Amarillo Community Wesley Center. Of course, it would need renovations to accommodate its new mission, but the facility was exactly what they needed to begin their next expansion of services.
But their expansion hit a snag.
As COVID-19 cases slowly moved their way from Seattle to New York City, many people did not expect the illness to have a significant impact on more rural areas of the United States. Even when the numbers started escalating, many organizations were caught off guard by the shutdowns that came en masse.
Amarillo Community Wesley Center was one of those organizations. Executive Director Liz Rascon knew there were supply shortages and urgent concerns in COVID hotspots, but she did not envision Amarillo having those same problems. Nevertheless, those problems came to Amarillo. Business and schools were shuttering and by April all of their children’s programming had to stop.
“We had to close our doors,” Liz said, grimly. “The financial losses have been great. We lost our major fundraiser for the year, because it was a golf tournament. Church and individual donations have slowed. Plus, we couldn’t continue charging our private paying parents for childcare. We thought we were going to have to lay off all 31 of our staff members, but the TMF grant filled a critical need at just the right moment. TMF funds helped build our capacity and helped us address the most pressing needs in our community. TMF was able to relieve some of the financial stress we were incurring with flexible dollars geared towards our COVID-Relief programs.”
Even though their children’s programs stopped for months, Amarillo Community Wesley Center was able to continue their work with seniors. They prepared meals. They made sure people could get to grocery stores and medical appointments.
They even made transitions so their bilingual mental health director’s work would proceed in a socially distanced manner. She would go to seniors’ homes and take a chair, so she could sit with them at a distance outside, talk, and share mental health kits with those who needed one.
The TMF grant helped this vital work continue, even as the pandemic was causing so many other things to go wrong. And now that the Amarillo Community Wesley Center has reopened their facilities for children’s programming, at a much-reduced level, the grant has been used to support that work as well. “The funding through TMF has been critical to our operations and makes a significant difference to families and individuals who need our services the most, especially during this pandemic that has left so much uncertainty in people’s lives,” Liz shared. “We are thankful TMF grants are available to organizations like ours, particularly right now.”