Women Building Community Garden Party

Women Building Community announced Thursday the recipients of this years grant for organizations assisting women and children at the Lake Jackson Civic Center. Pictured, from left, are Cheri McBurnett of Women Building Community, Erika Longoria of The Gathering Place, Vicky Kirby of Refuge for Women, Barbara Franklin of the Brazoria County Community Foundation, Christy Frey of Brazosport Cares and Francine Shephard of Life Skills House.

LAKE JACKSON — The Women Building Community’s annual garden party wasn’t about growing plants, instead fostering relationships with five organizations through a heaping $17,000 worth of grants.

Women Building Community, now in its 16th year, works to support organizations that provide help to women and children. This year’s grant provided Brazosport Cares food pantry, Life Skills House, Refuge for Women and the Gathering Place each $4,250 in order to strengthen their programs.

Grant applications were reviewed by a committee and revealed Thursday at the organization’s Garden Party at the Lake Jackson Civic Center. The event marked an opportunity for members to meet and learn about the lucky organizations’ missions.

Brazosport Cares’ Hunger into Health program, which offers assistance and education to low-income families to ensure they have the resources they need to put healthy food on the table, will receive a boost from the 2019 grant.

Christy Frey, executive director for Brazosport Cares, said the program helps educate people, rather than just putting food on the table.

“We don’t think it’s very good if we’re trying to give individuals access to healthy food but we’re not really helping them know how that helps their health or how to prepare it,” Frey said.

The program includes meal planning, budgeting, healthy recipes, ways to prepare fresh vegetables and tips on addressing chronic health conditions through healthy eating habits.

The Life Skills House, a faith-based organization serving victims of domestic violence or sex trafficking, will use its portion of the grant to assist those who have been taken into the program and hopefully will help form a campus for housing, board member Francine Shephard said. This will allow the women to transition from the community home into their own apartment as they become more independent, she said.

The organization also provides budgeting classes, couponing classes, CPR lessons and Bible studies for affected women.

Refuge for Women’s goals line up similarly to those of the Life Skills House.

Its share will provide funds to support a planned 2020 opening of a safe home for trafficked and sexually exploited women, Refuge for Women Development Director Vicky Kirby said.

“It is such a vote of confidence, especially when we’re just starting,” she said. “Not only do the funds help us but the vote of confidence helps us and the people saying ‘yes, we support them.’”

The refuge will take in women who have escaped from trafficking or sexual exploitation to offer healing, counseling and life skills. The goal is to give the women the skills they need to support themselves and stand on their own, Kirby said.

The organization has entered into a contract to purchase a house and board members are excited they will be able to continue moving forward in the process of creating a major capital campaign for the house.

“These funds will be used to be the seeds for that campaign,” Kirby said. “I feel like these funds will make a huge difference in us being able to open our house in 2020.”

The Gathering Place Interfaith Ministries offers respite care for those who suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s, but it also offers educational resources to the community through its Brain Camp program.

The organization has hosted 38 Brain Camps in the past and had about 1,000 people attend the most recent session, Education Coordinator Erika Longoria said. Organizers plan to use the grant to help pay for supplies and books, allowing them to help more people and offer many more sessions, she said.

The camp offers an educational background to the community regarding lifestyle adaptations including diet, exercise and stress, encouraging the public to take care of mental health to prevent Alzheimer’s or dementia from forming.

Women Building Community uses an endowment to offer grants each year. It wants to encourage women in the community to consider adding to their investment by becoming a member and making a lasting effect for years to come.

Applications were accepted from April 1 through June 1 and reviewed in the lead up to the Garden Party.

For information about Women Building Community grant opportunities, go to cfbr.org/grants.

Miriam Jewell is a reporter for The Facts. Contact her at 979-237-0145.

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