The Early Beginnings
In the 1980’s, St. Paul neighborhood was home to gangs, drugs and other criminal activity. The Tyler Police Department watched over the residents from the bell tower of the St. Paul United Methodist Church. Residents lived in fear and children didn’t play outdoors. They were held captive by the criminal activity.
One Sunday a little boy ventured out on his bicycle and stopped a member of the church as she was walking into services. He asked if he could go to church there and she replied, “Yes!” That one question led to the creation of a faith-based mission that has touched the lives of thousands of children and families in the Tyler community and far beyond.
At the time, little did this church member and boy know the impact that one conversation was about to have on the neighborhood.
A transformation was on the horizon.
In 1990, a program called, “Wonderful Wednesday” was started in the Boy Scout Cottage, a “safe haven” for the children to gather after school on Wednesday. Volunteers expected only a handful of children to attend the first meeting. They were stunned to see more than 50 to show up on the first day. This after-school program offered children’s Bible stories, snacks, activities, crafts and fellowship, all things many of the children had previously never known. Today, the program has more than 80 children. As Wonderful Wednesday grew, volunteers noticed other needs the neighborhood had — basic needs like food and clothing. In 1993, the Food Pantry and the Clothes Closet was started not as a handout, but a hand up to families. Demand for those services continues to grow each year.
Medical care comes to the neighborhood
As efforts to feed families continued to grow – a bigger need began to surface — one that can threaten any community’s livelihood – affordable and quality healthcare.
In 1994, a retired pediatrician initiated volunteer-driven medical care in the neighborhood where he and Northeast Texas Health District began to offer children’s immunizations once a month in the same cottage where the Wonderful Wednesday program was held. The demand for children’s healthcare continued to increase and those dedicated to the mission came forward and a pediatric medical clinic and dental clinic was built.
In 1996, St. Paul Children’s Services, a separate 501c3 was formed to oversee all of the programs. St. Paul Children’s Services has given true meaning to its purpose: to meet the physical, spiritual and healthcare needs of low-income residents. It has provided a safety net for children who would not otherwise have one.
Since then, several programs such as Santa’s Secret Workshop, Khakis for Kids and a summer program have been added along with a Social Worker to help meet the needs in our community.
St. Paul Children’s Services is committed to programs that positively impact children, recognizing the ultimate goal is to help families not just survive, but thrive through our programs.