by Bob Bowker
Hill Country Community Ministries
by Bob Bowker
What HCCM is . . .
Hill Country Community Ministries is a nonprofit organization founded in 1983 by a coalition of local churches, including Cedar Park First UMC, with a vision to help meet basic human needs in the community. Pooling their resources, the organization set out to provide food, clothing and other assistance for people in crisis and those living in poverty, and to serve them with dignity and compassion in an atmosphere of neighbor helping neighbor.
Today HCCM is supported by 50 area churches and numerous businesses, civic organizations, schools and caring individuals. The organization serves ten ZIP Code areas in southwest Williamson and northwest Travis counties. HCCM is operated by a small paid staff and depends on the service of more than 250 dedicated volunteers to fulfill its mission.
Who HCCM helps . . .
HCCM’s clients are families and individuals facing hardship and crisis due to unemployment, family disruption, disability, chronic illness, aging or other emergency situations. While many suffer temporary or short-term financial difficulty, others are unemployable, and many are under employed, the working poor whose capabilities, despite hard work, cannot produce a living wage. HCCM provides assistance to eligible individuals living in our service area without regard to race, color, disability, religion, sex, national origin or age.
What HCCM does . . .
HCCM operates a Food Pantry, Voucher Service, Referral Service and now a new Thrift Store in Leander. Cedar Park First UMC is focused on both of these missions. The Food Pantry stocks non-perishable food and essential personal items donated by churches, businesses, organizations, schools and individuals. The former HCCM Clothes Closet, as everyone knew it, has now been replaced by the new Thrift Store. The Clothes Closet provided specific quantities of clothing, at no charge, to HCCM registered and verified as needing assistance persons. The new Thrift Store will continue that policy for those that are previously identified and registered. In addition, the Thrift Store will sell items to the general public, at very favorable pricing, as a means to generate revenue to offset operating costs. The Food Pantry is supplemented by food purchased from Central Texas Food Bank, the Dollar Store and H-E-B. Last year HCCM filled 4,200 family food orders, distributing more than 235 tons of food. That’s 391,000 meals! In addition, HCCM provides Hams for Hope at Easter and holiday turkey meals.
Serve with us . . .
If you would like to participate with us in this vital community ministry, you can
Quick pre-opening tour of the new HCCM Thrift Store (34 seconds).
Drive a Senior Northwest
Drive a Senior Northwest provides services that enhance the independence and quality of life for seniors in Cedar Park, Leander and northwest Austin. There are opportunities to be a driver, telephone a lonely elderly person, work in the office or volunteer at Senior Day Out. As a driver, you have the opportunity to select when, where and/or who to drive. Volunteer to drive when you can and don’t worry about it when you can’t. Children and grandchildren are welcome. Some trips are round trips and others are one-way. The seniors always appreciate a ride. To find out more information, go to the Drive a Senior Northwest website. To sign up call 512-250-5021 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, 10633 Lake Creek Parkway, Austin, TX 78750. Cedar Park First United Methodist Church members have participated in this ministry since the 1990s.
by Jane Howard
One of my lifetime goals after retirement was to help children learn to read. This church fills that need for me through the Hill Country Ministries. Once you register through their Literacy Connection, they do a background check and give you three hours of training. That surprised me because I thought I already knew how to read. I have attended the training session five times now and each time I attend, I learn something new.
Our church has adopted Whitestone Elementary, where we providing mentoring, reading partners and backpacks of food for the weekend. But all the Leander Independent Schools now have a Literacy Program, so if you want to volunteer at a school in your neighborhood, pick from the long list of schools seeking readers.
The program starts in late October and goes to mid-May. The students are selected by the reading team at school. These are not remedial readers, they are just in the lower tier at their grade level and need attention and practice to leap up to confident grade level reading. You wouldn’t think the fifteen minutes per child time would make a difference, but it does.
Each student brings a reading assignment from class and will read to you, then halfway through you switch and read to them. Perennial favorites I bring are Pout Pout Fish, Room on the Broom, I Don’t Want to Be a Frog, Who is the Beast and Three Little Pigs (Wiesner’s version). Literacy Partners have access to the school library – just register with your contact information and you can check out school books.
The program motto is “every child reading by third grade”. The longer version is “Learn to read grades one through three; Read to learn grades four and more”.
One boy was so excited about reading he would read along with me as I read the book and he always wanted to know “what grade level is this book?” For one little girl, finally reaching the level to read a “book with chapters” was sublime. I usually bring several books and let the students choose which to read that day. Many choose the same one week after week. The surprise I got this year was in January when my student freshly back from Christmas break said, “you read the father and I will read the frog.” The book was rated grade level 2-3 and she was just half way through kindergarten!
You can truly can make a difference. Email Karen Packard using the blue button below to learn more about volunteering.