Community Spotlight: Shelley Barineau from Missionary Village Apartments

by Shelley Barineau, Managing Owner of Missionary Village Apartments

When my husband and I took over managing ownership of Missionary Village Apartments, we aspired to create a new sense of community.  We wanted to improve the physical plant and facilities, and also reinvent the community as a place our residents would feel proud to live.  Often residents in low-income housing view these complexes as a place to stay - rather than a home.  We really desire to change that mindset.  In our opinion, the best way to reach the hearts of those in our community is through the children.  Most people at Missionary Village Apartments are motivated to help make a difference for the children who live there.

Literacy is a critical issue for the children, as most are either reading well below grade level or fighting functional illiteracy. So, we started looking for literacy programs.  After throwing a bunch of hooks in the water, and evaluating many programs, we were thrilled to learn about the Harris County Library’s Mobile Curiosity Cruiser.  It was perfect for an apartment community.  The Curiosity Cruiser is self-sustaining, and has a solid infrastructure including staff, supplies and a very cheerfully painted bus!  It is incredibly inviting, and the minute the bus drives onto the property it lifts spirits and escalates the expectations of our community.   

We were overwhelmed by the response to the first visit of the Curiosity Cruiser.  So many children wanted to participate and the first day was quite overwhelming.  We realized that we had recognized a need, but we had a lot to learn.  The first few weeks were pretty fluid with over 40 children of all ages pouring into our community room.  The interest was terrific – but needed to be contained. 

That’s when we learned of the professionalism of the Curiosity Cruiser staff.  They pulled in the resources they needed to make our program a success.  They brought volunteers from an affiliated organization that wanted to serve the community.  They increased their consistency and raised the expectation of the children.  Now, we have an established routine.  The children come in, sit down, enjoy the lesson and gain a hands-on substantive STEM learning activity.  We have built electric circuits, aluminum robots and engineered cool contraptions.

After the lesson, the group goes out to the Curiosity Cruiser bus to read and check out a book.  I love that old-fashioned library experience of physically browsing, selecting and checking out books.  Personally, that is a warm and fuzzy moment thinking back to my own childhood library experience.  It is a big deal for these children to have an opportunity to choose a book, and the responsibility to bring it back.  For our population, it’s a bigger deal for them be able to have something of their own and keep it at home. The change in the feeling around the property when the Curiosity Cruiser comes is tangible and happy – simply extraordinary.

One boy comes to mind when I think of the Curiosity Cruiser’s impact.  He always walks around the property in a sweatshirt with the hood pulled up.  One of the first weeks he came to the community center and just watched – never taking off his hoodie.  Several weeks after that, he participated but did not take off his hoodie.  Last week I saw his face for the first time, hoodie off, smiling and talking to a younger child while they were working on the lesson.  It was magical!

What we have learned is that the value of this program is not just about reading.  The Curiosity Cruiser is consistent and stable. The same people show up each week and truly invest in the children, modeling proper behaviors and school room etiquette. It provides the kids an opportunity to connect with another person who cares about them learning.  However, probably most importantly, the Curiosity Cruiser’s greatest value is that they have committed to our community for 12 weeks.  The children rely on the Curiosity Cruiser.  They ask about it.  They are excited for the activities and engagement. They are enthusiastic and eager to participate. The Curiosity Cruiser has developed a serious following!

The entire community depends on the programming. It’s building and elevating our expectations for the community, young and old.  In fact, a woman who has lived in the complex for over 30 years stopped by the other day to donate books. That’s terrific!

What the Curiosity Cruiser is doing is truly important!  We are so grateful for the professionalism, structure and consistency.  It is something special!

Jungle Book Gala raises nearly $300,000 for childhood literacy initiatives

The Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation’s Young Professionals Group hosted its 4th annual black-tie Jungle Book Gala on November 9, 2018. This year’s event was held at one of Houston’s newest venues – The Revaire. The event, chaired by Amy and Kyle McCully, Morgan Stautzenberger and Cameron Stubbs, was attended by a record breaking 400 guests.

The event raised nearly $300,000. All proceeds benefit the childhood literacy initiatives led by the Young Professionals Group in support of the Foundation’s mission. YPG seeks to engage young professionals in Houston’s ongoing literacy crisis by creating opportunities for members to read, lead and serve our next generation.

Shop for a Cause

Black Friday. Cyber Monday._0.png

GivingTuesday is a global day of giving that harnesses the collective power of individuals, communities and organizations to encourage philanthropy and to celebrate generosity worldwide. Following Thanksgiving and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday, this year’s #GivingTuesday will take place on November 27 and will kick off the giving season by inspiring people to collaborate and give back. Stay tuned for more information!

shop for a cause2.jpg

In the meantime, you can shop for a cause year-round through our partnerships with Amazon Smile, iGive.com, Kroger Community Rewards Programs and Randall’s Good Neighbor Program. The Foundation receives a portion of the proceeds from purchases at participating stores. Learn how you can support us with every-day purchases: https://www.bushhoustonliteracy.org/shopforacause/

Share your story

Read Houston Read Photo with Mimi - HISD.jpg

We would love for you to share your story with us! Like so many others that have appeared on our blog, we think your story is worth hearing. Tell us about your passion for service and literacy, how literacy has impacted your life and how you are now making a difference in the community through the power of literacy. Please share below!

Name *
Name

Bubbles & Books

Ladies for Literacy Guild members and invited guests gathered for the group’s fall Membership Drive at River Oaks Book Store hosted by Ginger Blanton and Pam Sengelmann, co-vice presidents of membership. Upon arrival, guests were greeted by the Curiosity Cruiser, a one-of-a-kind mobile library that travels to low-income Houston neighborhoods providing books to children in need. During the event, attendees learned more about the impactful work being done by the Guild, while shopping the store and enjoying light bites and champagne. Attendees had an opportunity to join the Ladies for Literacy Guild. In addition, author Julie Manier and her son Grant, eco-artist and illustrator of the book Grant the Jigsaw Giraffe, were on hand with a selection of his artwork, books and Giraffe products. Guests also had the chance to purchase limited-edition aprons that had strands of pearls printed around the neck, a staple in Barbara Bush’s wardrobe, and featured one of her most famous quotes: “The most important things in life are faith, family and friends.” It was a fun event with guests surrounded by books and sharing the power of reading and service to others.

10 Ways to Foster Family Literacy

NFLMonth-logo.jpg

For nearly 30 years, our beloved Barbara Bush was a champion for family literacy across our nation because she believed reading learning to read begins in the home and that parents are a child’s first and most important teacher. November is National Family Literacy Awareness Month, so we wish to spotlight the importance of family literacy and provide you with ways to foster a literacy-rich environment in your own home.

Family Literacy is a type of literacy education that emphasizes bringing reading and writing into the home and making it a family activity. Research presented by the National Center for Education Statistics has proven that family engagement is one of the most important factors of literacy development, and that children enter kindergarten at a higher reading level when they have a positive learning environment at home. When literary success is highly encouraged and supported by the family, children are more likely to want to read, enjoy reading, and excel academically in all subjects.

The best things you can do for your children for academic success are also the simplest and most natural. Below are ways to foster family literacy in your home.

1.    Let your child see you reading.

2.    Read more than books together -- read road signs, food labels, etc.

3.    Let your child pick out the books you read together.

4.    Visit the library together.

5.    Ask your child questions about the books or pictures.

6.    Find ways to relate the stories to your child’s life.

7.    Create and tell your own stories.

8.    Sing songs and rhymes together with your child.

9.    Write notes to each other and to others.

10.  Create a special place for books and reading time.

“You know, sit with your arm around a little kid. It not only teaches them to read, but it keeps the family strong.” Barbara Bush

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Ponies Up for Literacy

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™ doesn’t clown around when it comes to giving back to the community. In fact, since the Show began in 1932, more than $475 million has been awarded in college scholarships, youth exhibitor awards, graduate assistantships and educational program grants. They also round up a stampede of more than 34,000 cowboys and cowgirls who volunteer their time and talent year-round in making the Rodeo one of the largest events in the nation. They are true points of light in the community, valuing volunteerism and service to others and making investments in the future prosperity of youth and our community.

HLSR_3C_Full.png

Our hats are off to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo for awarding the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation a $100,000 grant to enable us to expand volunteer-based reading programs in HISD schools and help us corral more Houstonians to serve as reading mentors through our volunteer platform, called Connect4Literacy.org. This generous gift is on the spurs of a three-year, $300,000 grant to expand volunteer engagement in Read Houston Read, My Home Library, and our two auxiliary groups – Ladies for Literacy Guild and Young Professionals Group—as well as underwrite access to and support for Connect4Literacy.org for literacy partners across our city. Because of their support, we are creating a literacy movement across our city, and thousands are stepping forward to give of their time and talent.

Next time you don your hat and boots and head off to watch the Rodeo, enjoy the exhibits or sink your teeth into that deep-fried Oreo™ at the carnival, you can feel guilt-free knowing that you are making a difference in the lives of Texans.

Hess distributes My Home Library to Gallegos Elementary students

Hess Logo.jpg

Thanks to HESS Corporation and its employees, nearly 2,000 children on Houston’s East End received brand new books of their choice. Just last weekend, employees volunteered to assemble the home libraries according to wish lists created by the children, before distributing the bags of books to each child at school. In return, children gave them hugs and smiles and quickly began reading. Clearly, a priceless return on their investment.

“My Home Library means a lot to our kids,” said Dr. Alejando Gonzalez, Principal of Gallegos Elementary to the HESS volunteers. “They don’t get to take a lot of things home or really have a lot of things to read. I want to thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for volunteering to make this happen. This means more than you know. “


One volunteer from Hess, Kyle Bondy, shared his experience at the book distribution:

“Today’s book distribution was an opportunity to see the excitement of less privileged kids getting books to take home as their own. The students were so excited by the fact that they’re not having to check them out from the library and then return them, that these books are now theirs. It was real excitement for them to select and receive six brand new books. I really liked how engaged the students were when we were reading too. I definitely want to volunteer again. In fact, all the volunteers were just talking about how our faces were hurting because we’re smiling so much and because it felt so good to be a part of such an awesome, impactful event.”

IMG_0848.jpeg

Promoting corporate and nonprofit connections to address pressing societal issues

LPN.jpg

On Halloween, members of our team dressed in costumes of books characters, such as Ninja on the Farm, Coco and If You Give A Mouse a Cookie and hosted the fourth quarterly Literacy Partner Network meeting at the Children’s Museum of Houston. The meeting focused on ‘Corporate Connections’ aimed at assisting literacy partners in strengthening existing or cultivating new partnerships with businesses to advance their goals.

Deloitte kicked of the program by presenting data from a recent, annual survey they conducted of their corporate clients across the country on citizenship and social impact in the social enterprise. Findings from the Deloitte study showed to following:

· 88% of millennials believe that employers should play a vital role in alleviating societal issues

· 67% of employees prefer to work for socially responsible companies

· 55% of consumers will pay extra for products sold by companies committee to positive social impact

· Purpose-focused companies out-performed their S&P 500 peers by a factor of eight

These findings support the value of corporate and nonprofit partnerships to address pressing issues in our community, including low literacy rates, and demonstrate that corporations are becoming more socially conscious and investing in communities – through investments of time, talent and treasures—where their clients and employees live and work.

Leaders from Cheniere Energy, Deloitte, Marathon Oil, Phillips 66 and Reliant then engaged in a panel discussion to share their corporate citizenship priorities and how they partner with and support nonprofits through charitable giving, volunteerism and pro-bono programs. Strategies ranged from matching gift and nonprofit grant-making programs to dedicated volunteer hours for every employee and flexibility of company managers to engage in team-based volunteerism. Each panelist emphasized the desire for fostering long-term partnerships with nonprofits, making both financial and volunteer investments, and supporting causes whose goals are aligned with corporate citizenship strategies.

It was a real treat spending part of Halloween with such an amazing group of leaders who care about our community and give so freely of their resources to make a meaningful impact.