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Northwest Community Center Celebrates First Year's Serving Refugee Families Living in Vickery Meadow

Date: Monday, February 27, 2017

This week Northwest Community Center (NCC), founded by Northwest Bible Church in Dallas, celebrates its one-year anniversary serving refugees in the densely-populated Vickery Meadow community. Since its grand opening on February 26, 2016, refugees have walked through the doors of the 15,000-sq.-ft. facility more than 22,000 times. Volunteers, primarily provided by Northwest Bible, have worked over 2,750 volunteer shifts in support of the Center's five primary programs: job training, English classes, Conversational Café, resource distribution and after-school tutoring.

In addition to opening the doors to a growing number of refugees in the community, the establishment of NCC has also inspired notable partnerships with other refugee care and resettlement organizations, both faith-based and secular agencies. Here are a few highlights from the inaugural year:

  • After-school tutoring programs, offered four days a week to K-8 students, average 70 students a day ... with recent numbers climbing to 100 per day.
  • 200+ families a month take advantage of the distribution of free baby and hygiene items, thanks to a partnership with Dallas nonprofit Hope Supply Co.
  • Vickery Trading Company is providing crucial employment to refugee women during school hours, allowing them to earn money and tend to their families.
  • Healing Hands Ministries' first satellite medical clinic has served thousands of families since it opened.
  • Most of the Northwest staff members who work at NCC continue to live in apartments located in the Vickery Meadow neighborhood, so they can better understand the issues refugees face and to make stronger connections.

ONE-YEAR UPDATE ON NORTHWEST COMMUNITY CENTER

"When we first opened Northwest Community Center, I commented on the importance of facilitating relationships for our refugees," said Neil Tomba, senior pastor at Northwest. "Refugees need to be able to integrate into society. This center has gone way beyond our initial vision as it has not just built relationships for the refugees, but it has significantly increased partnerships with other refugee organizations. Together, we can provide more comprehensive and effective programs to care for our refugee neighbors."

HISTORY OF REFUGEE CARE AT NORTHWEST BIBLE CHURCH. Northwest has served refugees in Vickery Meadow for over a decade. More than 50% of the church's 2,000 members have mentored newcomers who often speak little or no English and are unfamiliar with the food and customs, assisted them in setting up apartments with furniture and household supplies, and provided financial assistance. After dramatically increasing their investment in Vickery Meadow in 2011, due to the increased need for services, the church later opened a 1,000-square-foot temporary center in a Vickery Meadow strip shopping center – located just blocks from the current facility – that was hugely popular and instantly overcrowded. Approximately 3,000 refugees were served in 2015, including 92 adults who attended job-readiness training with an impressive 82% of them completing the program and getting placed in a job. Northwest leaders then launched an ambitious fundraising campaign for the development of NCC, which marked the largest financial and volunteer commitment ever made to a single ministry project by the church.

After years of searching for the right location for a larger facility, a realtor connected Northwest with Texas Health Resource (THR). THR owned a vacant building located in the middle of Vickery Meadow, and their officials embraced the alignment of the mission and vision for both organizations. "It sparked a wonderful partnership which we are immensely thankful for," said Brian Newby, outreach pastor at Northwest. "We've received amazing support from THR." Virginia Rose, Texas Health Resource vice president for community engagement adds, "The church's dedication to the community made it easy to reach an agreement. It seemed divinely inspired."

Open to the community six days a week, the Center has four full-time staff from Northwest who direct the programs and minister to the families representing more than 51 countries and 50 languages. Additionally, to better understand the issues refugees face and to make stronger connections, most of the staff members and their families live among the refugees in Vickery Meadow apartment complexes. "Refugees need to connect with the broader Dallas community; otherwise, they will always be hamstrung," added Newby. "We are here not simply to give refugees the skills to survive. We want to help them thrive."

PROGRAM GROWTH

AFTER-SCHOOL TUTORING. With new opportunities for expansion, after-school help and resource distribution programs have experienced rapid growth since the opening of NCC. After-school help offers tutoring assistance, primarily to grades K-8, Monday-Thursday. Averaging over 70 students each day, recent numbers have increased to almost 100 students per day. Last fall, NCC hosted Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins for a tour of NCC's refugee center and programs, specifically the after-school tutoring program. Judge Jenkins noted that, "Most kids are never this happy to have homework. But for refugee families and their children, some arriving in Dallas only weeks ago, the after-school program marks a new beginning."

RESOURCE DISTRIBUTION. Over 200 families visit NCC each month for resource distribution of necessary hygiene items and baby diapers provided by Hope Supply, a Dallas-based nonprofit organization committed to meeting critical needs of homeless and refugee children. The new NCC facility provides the storage space and operational capacity to sort and distribute a large quantity of items each month. "Through this free resource distribution, we are able to build trust in the refugee community while meeting immediate practical needs, like diapers, toiletries and other household items," said Newby.

PARTNERSHIPS IN REFUGEE CARE

In partnership with Texas Health Resources, the 15,000-sq.-ft. facility now houses Northwest programming, Healing Hands medical clinic, Vickery Trading Company and resource distribution provided by Hope Supply. NCC also hosts refugee care programs offered through International Rescue Committee (IRC), Refugee Services of Texas (RST), the Dallas Area Refugee Forum (DARF), Brighter Bites produce distribution through North Texas Food Bank, and Vickery Kids Club. NCC and Northwest together host worship services for four local refugee congregations in their respective languages – African Missionary Fellowship (AMF), Zotung Community Church, Eritrean Church, and starting this Sunday, February 26, a Burmese congregation – and NCC also serves as a venue for community informational meetings or classes and programs that keep alive cultures and traditions.

HONORS. On the heels of the grand opening of the first Healing Hands satellite clinic at NCC last June, D CEO magazine recognized the partnership of Healing Hands Ministries, Texas Health Resources and Northwest Bible Church with their Excellence in Healthcare Award for Achievement in Community Outreach. "Here's a challenge: offer coordinated healthcare services to a community that speaks more than 30 languages and often lacks insurance. Vickery Meadow is a three-mile swath of apartment complexes near Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. Geographically it's a stone's throw from Lake Highlands, but it might as well be a world away economically and culturally," states D CEO. "[At NCC] The community can take English classes, but they can also see a family physician. And so far, in the venture's first year, more than 5,000 have.

MEDICAL CLINIC. Healing Hands Ministries' medical and dental clinic features seven exam rooms and a lab. Future plans for the Vickery clinic include transportation for refugees to and from Healing Hands' main clinic two miles down the road where they can obtain dental care and behavioral health services. "We are three faith-based groups working together to make a collective impact," says Janna Gardner, president and CEO of Healing Hands Ministries. "This is about building a community and being the voice for people who don't have a voice and can't access health care appropriately. They need an advocate." Brandt Wright, executive pastor at Northwest, adds, "This unique opportunity to partner with Texas Health and Healing Hands has brought healing – spiritual, emotional and physical – to the heart of Vickery Meadow, where it is so desperately needed."

JOBS AND TRAINING FOR WOMEN. Founded by Northwest member, Stephanie Giddens, Vickery Trading Company children's clothing company occupies a portion of the second floor of NCC. Operating as a non-profit, self-sustaining social business, VTC renews hope in refugee women through hands-on job training, educational programs, mentoring, counseling and job placement services. "During the year-long training program, Vickery Trading Company associates learn to sew and work in a business environment as they earn fair wages for the clothing they produce," states Gibbens. "Associates also participate in personal development and cultural assimilation training to help them successfully integrate into their new lives in the US." Gibbens adds, "Our partnership with Northwest Community Center provides our associates access the Center's free childcare for small children and a computer lab for essential typing and computer literacy training. The Center plays a key role in the success of Vickery Trading's holistic approach to refugee assimilation."

FUTURE PARTNERSHIPS. "Our intent for Northwest Community Center is to partner with like-minded ministries and organizations to expand the scope of services that are available to the refugee community through the community center," states Wright. "Currently we are in discussions with Texas Health Resources regarding several prospective partners that would fill the remaining space in the community center and complement the wide array of social, spiritual and medical services currently provided."

REFUGEES & POLITICS

In response to numerous requests for comment on refugee care in the current political climate, Tomba shared, "We are going to love refugees and pray for our president. God clearly says in Scripture that He cares for refugees. Jesus calls us in this generation to love our neighbors, to feed and clothe those in need, to care for the sick and disenfranchised and to invite the stranger into an experience of new hope and real love (Matthew 25). God also clearly calls us to pray for our president and the leaders of our city, state and country. First Timothy 2:1-2 urges us to pray, through 'petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving' for all people, including 'kings and all those in authority,' so that we all might experience peace. With God's Word in the forefront of our minds, it is our deep desire to love the people of this world of whom God brings to our doorstep in Dallas. It is also our commitment to pray for our president to make decisions that are pleasing to God and good for people made in God's image."

Last Sunday (February 26), as part of our week-long focus on missions, Northwest Bible Church offered a breakout session on "Refugees & Politics." Dr. Darrel Bock (author, editor for Christianity Today, executive direction of cultural engagement and professor at Dallas Theological Seminary) led a discussion about how to think biblically and respond culturally to the global refugee crisis. You can view Part 1 & Part 2 of Dr. Bock's session in the "Messages" section of our website.