If you’ve ever driven Route 79 in Round Rock, you can’t have missed this very large, pastoral campus and perhaps wondered what it’s all about.
Here are 112 acres, donated in 1950 by Louis & Billie Sue Henna of Round Rock to the Baptist General Convention of Texas, for the purpose of establishing Texas Baptist Children’s Home (TBCH). TBCH provides quality Christian care for abused and neglected children and single mothers in Central Texas.
What began as a archetypal orphanage has become a modern organization of programs that engage and support to make a difference in the lives of those who need a hand up. TBCH still provides homes and house parents for children, but they also have family housing for single mothers who are working hard to transition or return to independence.
In January of this year, Executive Director Debbie Rippstein opened the doors of TBCH to the public for tours; “We have found a lot of people in the community who know about us, but they may not know, accurately, everything that we do here so we’re sharing that story.”
The goal was to educate 200 people this year on the mission and vision. They surpassed that goal in early April and are on track for 1000 or more.
Rippstein has been involved with TBCH for more than 30 years. She felt God calling her to use her home for Him and she became a TBCH staff member, mentor and coach to the single mothers and children who lived in her onsite cottage.
TBCH’s mission is to embrace children and families in need in order to empower and equip them for a promising future. They incorporate a trauma-informed model of care that promotes healing by discovering and treating the root of the problem.
There are 145 children and single moms who live on the campus, and there is a long waiting list for these comfortable cottages and layered services. Director of Development Amanda Keeter says, “Being in a home with a kitchen and your own bathroom helps brings normalcy and dignity to the struggle, and people feel valued when we mind those details.”
TBCH is not an emergency shelter, but it does help women get out of difficult situations and once there, they receive counseling and are able to share their experiences with other moms to help them move forward.
At the end of the tour, Suzy, a resident, shared her story and her extreme gratitude for having found such a place. Afraid to leave an abusive marriage for fear of not being able to support her children, she was finally inspired by her son and a passage in the book of Luke to pack her car and drive three hours from south Texas to TBCH. After finding support and solace there, she says, “As far back as I can remember, my family was full of dysfunction and abuse, and all I wanted to do was break the chain.
“That turned out to be more difficult than I thought. I wasn’t able to do it by myself. I was at a loss. Here, I have wise counsel and mentors and the change in my life and in my kids’ lives has been exponential. I am now nearly finished with my Accounting degree and am pursuing becoming a CPA. My children are planning to go to college. I know now that nothing is impossible.”
Residents of all ages have a personalized plan of service and goals while they are there. Keeter adds, “I hear often from our moms and kids that this is the first time they are being asked to dream. What do they want for their future? TBCH empowers and equips our families in the areas of counseling, financial literacy, life skills and relational development, and even the ability to pursue education through scholarships to trade schools or college. So depending on those goals our moms are often able to get back on their feet and be productive in our communities in 9 to 18 months, depending often on their educational track.”
There are also group houses with a house mom and house dad to provide a normal family environment for children who need a home. This may be a temporary placement or they may grow up there. Top reasons why kids may come to TBCH could be grandparents who are unable to provide for grandchildren they have been given custody of or the result of an unsuccessful match in an adoptive home.
TBCH has many community partners and receives funding from a variety of sources, but they still raise more than 50 percent of their operating budget annually. More than 80 percent of their revenue goes directly to life on campus and family care, and they are hoping to host their first community fundraiser in the Fall of 2017.
Keeter says, “Volunteers and donors are always welcome. Many find they become part of the TBCH family. Our volunteers do everything from drives for everyday household items, deliver meals to cottages, and can even be birthday or Christmas sponsors. We equip our volunteers by posting a live feed of volunteer activities right on our website so they can give in ways that mean a great fit for them and their families.”
“The biggest way people can help us right now is to come to a tour, learn what we do, and then be an Ambassador for our kids and moms by hosting a tour and spreading our message of hope.”
TBCH is seeking volunteers with special skills to share; photography, carpentry or familiarity with computers and more. They are also planning to expand extracurricular activities to include STEM enrichment and career skills.
For more information or to schedule a tour, visit TBCH.org, and contact Amanda Keeter at (512)246-4286 or Amanda.Keeter@TBCH.org.