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Children At Heart Ministries Newsletter Vol. 7, No. 1 - Jan/Feb 2013

The Best Gift Inside:

n A Corps Ingredient

- Page 4

n Prayed For By Name

- Page 5

n Consistent, Positive HOPE - Page 6

Our success stories are made possible by your donations.

The Year & What Lies Ahead


here has the past year gone? If you are like me, I’ve blinked and it passed by. As we look back, the Children At Heart family celebrates another year of record service to children and families through Texas Baptist Children’s Home, STARRY, Miracle Farm and Gracewood. As we look ahead to 2013, both as a family of ministries and individually, we may wonder what lies ahead in the year to come. There will be high points, low points and everything in between. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for wellbeing and not for trouble, to give you a future and a hope.” (NLT). God cares every bit as much about each of us and our days as He did about Jeremiah and the people of his day. Even when we can’t see the path and wonder about the day or the week or the month ahead, we can find assurance in knowing that God has a plan for each of us with the promise of a future and hope. As 2013 begins to unfold, how can you help the ministries of Children At Heart? Pray for us and the children and families

that we will serve in the year ahead. Your prayer support is critical. Give, as you can, to support the Annual Fund. It’s not a fancy name, but the Annual Fund financially undergirds all that we do daily through each campus of ministry – from food and clothes, to electricity, housing and staff, as well as transportation, just to name a few. Be involved as your time will permit. Come and see us; you can be a blessing in the life of a young child, a young man, a single mom, a cottage or a campus. Lastly, a big opportunity where we need the help of several one-time donations has presented itself at Texas Baptist Children’s Home. The Christ Is Our Salvation Foundation (CIOS) has given a $100,000 matching grant towards the construction of a new Family Care cottage on the Round Rock campus. We need to match this gift soon to construct the new cottage. If you or others you know have the resources and ability to give above and beyond regular annual fund support, we hope you will be encouraged to do so. Find out more about the cottage, the moms and children it will help, and how you can make a donation by visiting Thank you for sharing in the blessings of Children At Heart Ministries this past year, and may the year ahead be one of great hope and a future!

TurningPoints Published for friends of

1301 N Mays Round Rock TX 78664 (512) 255-3668 Todd L. Roberson, President/CEO

“We are a family of Christian ministries that exists to honor God and build a better world by serving children and strengthening families.”


Todd L. Roberson President/CEO Gracewood Don Forrester, President Debbie Rippstein, Executive Director 1617 Elmview Houston TX 77080 (713) 988-9757

Vol. 7, No. 1 – Jan/Feb 2013

Children At Heart Ministries

A Letter From Our President

Bill Martin Director of Communications Danna Reeves Graphic Designer Ginger Swann Communications Coordinator Contributing Writers: Haley Smith Miranda Bradley

On the cover: Sean and Ellen Briscombe with their daughter Kaitlynn. (Photo by Miranda Bradley.)

Miracle Farm Don Forrester, President Alex Hamilton, Executive Director 10802 FM 2621 Brenham TX 77833 (979) 836-0901 STARRY Don Forrester, President Richard Singleton, Executive Director 1300 N Mays Round Rock TX 78664 (512) 246-4288 Texas Baptist Children’s Home Don Forrester, President Keith Dyer, Executive Director 1101 N Mays Round Rock TX 78664 (512) 255-3682 ©2013 Layout/Design by Danna Reeves

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Printing by Sunset Press, Inc.

The Best Gift



ive-year-old Kaitlynn might have a different perspective on Christmas than most kids. She knows that the best gifts can’t be wrapped. For a child who was rescued from a motel room methamphetamine lab when she was 3 years old, her greatest treasures are security, love and trust with a forever family. Her adoptive parents, Sean and Ellen Briscombe, have encouraged their daughter to talk about her past when she wants to, just as they accept her silence when she doesn’t. “She’s a unique little girl,” says Sean. “She’s 5 going on 25. I tell people that she has seen more of life than most adults I know.” Kaitlynn is very matter-of-fact when she talks of her past. “It was scary,” she says, brushing her curly brown hair away from her big eyes. “It was dark and lonely. I had to sleep by myself a lot. I didn’t like it.” Born in prison, Kaitlynn was sent to live with her grandmother and grandfather. When her grandmother died, she bounced around from one caretaker to another. Even after her mother was released from prison, many times she was living in seedy motel rooms and rarely saw her. “All the women in her life abandoned her,” said Ellen. “So, when she came to us, she already had put up a lot of boundaries when it came to mother figures.” In fact, it took over a year before Kaitlynn finally came around to trusting Ellen. “She used to whisper Kaitlynn, Ellen and Sean will celebrate the happiest of Christmases. to me, ‘Let’s leave Mommy,’” Sean says. “She didn’t understand that Ellen was here to stay.” custody. Thankfully, they were able to move forward with the And stay she did. Unable to have biological children, Ellen adoption and, on the same day it was finalized, Sean and Ellen fought to earn Kaitlynn’s trust. closed on the family’s new home. “It was very hard. I cried a lot,” said Ellen. “But, I knew I had to “We wanted Kaitlynn in our lives for good,” Ellen said. “God just show her I wasn’t going anywhere. I had to demonstrate that I say worked everything out so beautifully.” what I mean and I mean what I say.” This year when they put up their Christmas tree, they were At the time Kaitlynn came into their lives, Sean and Ellen were doing it in their own home; a year ago they were decorating at selling their home and Ellen’s mom’s house. “Last year, Kaitlynn didn’t think any of the preparing to move in gifts were for her. She thought they were all for her cousins,” said with Ellen’s mother, The Sean. “We had to convince her it was okay.” thought of becoming The past year has marked a lot of “firsts” for Kaitlynn. Her first foster parents was just Christmas tree. Her first Christmas presents. Her first birthday one more challenge to party. overcome. But the most important “first” was that, for the first time, she “We weren’t even sure had a real family to share it with. This year they will be relishing if we should go through in the fact that this isn’t the first, but the second of many more with it, but we knew it was blessed holidays to come. “It isn’t even that we have changed her what God wanted us to life so much,” Ellen said. “It’s that she’s changed ours.” do,” Ellen said. So say what you will about boxes and bows, packages big and They were fostering small. Kaitlynn through STARRY The Briscombe family has a different take: the best gifts are and had started the those that can’t be contained. They’re the ones that unfold over adoption process, but time and give back more than you ever thought possible. then found out that one — Miranda Bradley of her distant relatives was trying to gain Jan/Feb 2013 | Turning Points


A Corps Ingredient

Miracle Farm


ometimes, becoming a responsible young man of integrity and character takes more than patient instruction and a good teacher – it takes a role model. That’s what Andrew Piland, a fifth-year senior at Texas A&M University, provided for the boys as he spent this past summer living with them, although he might modestly disagree. “I really had the opportunity to bond with the boys, and I’m convinced that I was more impacted by them than they were by me,” said Andrew. “Miracle Farm gives kids the opportunity to let their goodness out and it’s an amazing thing to witness.” Still, the impact on the boys was unmistakable. Colin, who loved to go on runs with the young man he calls a mentor, was really impacted by the things Andrew taught him about leadership. “I have a tendency to get impatient with others when I feel like they’re not working as hard or as fast as me,” said the 16-year-old resident. “Andrew taught me that being a good leader is putting others’ needs before my own.” Eighteen-year-old Troy was struck by Andrew’s

Colin, left, and Andrew ready to saddle up.

Andrew, left, teaches small engine repair to Colin and Joshua.

humility. Even though he was older, Andrew was always right there working hard alongside the boys, no matter how dirty the task. “Regardless of how hard we were working on a project he always made it seem like fun,” said Troy. “He taught me that even when I’m at my weakest moment and I have nothing left to give, to push harder and finish strong.” The teenage boys of Miracle Farm are constantly surrounded by a dedicated staff, but Andrew’s involvement gave them a different perspective. Andrew was first introduced to Miracle Farm in the fall of 2011 by one of his buddies in the A&M Corps of Cadets whose mother is a counselor at the Farm. “I loved the mission of the ministry, turning boys into men,” said Andrew. “It fit so well with what the A&M Corps of Cadets is all about. The purpose of the Corps of Cadets and Miracle Farm is essentially the same, to show boys what ‘right’ looks like so they can make something of their lives.” Shortly after hearing about Miracle Farm, Andrew set up a

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meeting with Executive Director Alex Hamilton to discuss ways he could get involved. “Andrew was such a godsend. He jumped right in and worked hard, doing whatever was needed,” said Alex. “His approach to God, church, friendship, family, school and work was an amazing example of Christian leadership for our boys.” Andrew got his feet wet at Miracle Farm in the spring of 2012 when he coordinated a service project for members of the Corps to clear brush in a wooded area in order to create a spot for a new outdoor wilderness chapel. “It was a great opportunity for both members of the Corps and the boys of Miracle Farm to work together, side by side, doing hard physical labor,” said Andrew. Soon Andrew began coming out regularly to ride and rope with the boys and quickly fell in love with the place. When his summer plans fell through at the last minute, he quickly signed himself up to serve on the Miracle Farm campus for the summer. Andrew worked on his online classes in the mornings while the boys were in school and spent his afternoons and evenings doing whatever the boys were doing, including working on projects, roping, fishing, watching movies, talking and simply hanging out. He also taught a small engine repair class for the boys. Miracle Farm House Mom Cheri Baker was particularly impressed by a conversation Andrew had with the boys when they were teasing him as he prepared for a date one evening. Feeling that their comments were derogatory towards women, Andrew sat the boys down and addressed the proper way to view young ladies with respect. “It was so great. If anybody else had tried to have the same conversation, it would have gone in one ear and out the other. But because it was Andrew, they really listened,” said Cheri. Andrew’s commitment to the Farm was more than a summer adventure. Even after returning to life as a full-time student, Andrew continues to make it out to the Farm regularly to spend time with the boys who call Miracle Farm their home. — Haley Smith

Prayed For By Name



or single moms at Gracewood, time set aside for spiritual growth is when their shared work on counseling, financial management, career and parenting programs all come together. “Bible study at Gracewood teaches us to address physical problems with a spiritual perspective,” said Martha, a mom at Gracewood’s Wanda Lane campus, who joins with moms Silvia, Tonia, Milinda and others for regular spiritual studies. “I have found that my spiritual growth is directly tied to the lifestyle change I’m trying to make,” added Silvia. “My relationship with God is where I feel loved and where I find my self-esteem. I perceive relationships differently when I learn to view them through His eyes.” Gracewood Executive Director Debbie Rippstein agreed that a scriptural basis for change is vital to the single moms. “We know that even the most determined of our moms cannot make sustainable life change without the power of God working in their lives,” said Debbie Rippstein, Gracewood’s Executive Director. For this reason, the moms meet together every other Thursday night for a time of Bible study and encouragement. Bible study is also a time where the moms come together to encourage one another and hold each another accountable. “I am learning for the first time to be a working mom and a single parent, trying to enforce rules all by myself, and I feel lost a lot of the time,” said Martha. “Bible study is a time where we can encourage one another in our parenting, jobs and relationships.” A recent Bible study about the woman at the well from John 4 spurred a discussion among the Gracewood moms about past sin and feeling undeserving of God’s forgiveness. The study was based on “The Women in Jesus’ Life” by Mindy Ferguson. “Knowing God’s forgiveness helps me to know who God is and accepting it allows me to move forward, which is one thing I’ve leaned how to do during my time here,” said Tonia.

Family Life Coordinator Brandi Hobratschk, right, and Tonia, a Gracewood mom, review study materials.

It’s the generosity of volunteers and donors which makes Bible study and spiritual growth possible at Gracewood. Fruitful Word Ministries sponsored the current Bible study and donated study materials and notebooks. The author of the study even came to Gracewood to introduce the material and lead the women. Fruitful Word brought dinner for the ladies and recruited prayer partners for each mom. On the first night of the study, each mom was presented with a personalized gift bag that included the Bible study materials, a CD player, CDs, pens and more. The moms learned that each sponsor who had prepared her gift bag had been praying for her by name. Laura Wilcox, author of “Capture My Heart Lord” generously offered to sponsor Gracewood’s next Bible Study. Bayou City Fellowship includes Gracewood moms and staff in uplifting quarterly Bible Studies lead by Beth Moore. Bible study allows Gracewood moms to form a common bond in what they’ve been through and to develop closer relationships with each other and with God. “I feel strengthened when I leave Bible study time,” said Milinda. “There’s peace found in sharing and carrying each other’s burdens.” Tonia agrees: “I felt defeated before the women at Gracewood came along to encourage me. For the first time, I was given a voice to share my heart and talk through things with other believers. God has definitely placed an anointing on Gracewood and this time together to study His word.” — Haley Smith

Gracewood moms Martha and Milinda listen during discussion at “The Women in Jesus’ Life” Bible study. Jan/Feb 2013 | Turning Points


Consistent, Positive HOPE

Texas Baptist Children’s Home


n a typical Thursday afternoon after school at The Townhomes at Double Creek in Round Rock, the clubhouse is full of high-pitched laughter and conversations about everything from cute boys to glittery nail polish. However, on this particular day, a dozen young girls have quieted their giggles and all eyes are on Michael Harrison, supervisor of TBCH’s HOPE program, as he leads them in a Bible study. In the corner, 15-year-old Erica Shannon listens intently, nodding her head and following along in her own Bible. She’s been involved in the HOPE program since its inception nearly eight years ago and can testify to the impact it’s had on her life and the lives of her friends. “HOPE has completely changed my life,” she says. “It’s truly given me hope when I needed it most.” The HOPE program (Healthy Opportunities That Protect and Empower) serves children and families Leanna, left, and Kara when they first started through apartment participating in the HOPE program. ministries in the Round Rock community, establishing and building positive, nurturing relationships with the children who attend. Made up of a “Kids Club” for elementary-age children and “Youth Leadership” for middle and high school students, HOPE does more than just occupy bored kids who are looking for something to do after school. It provides a consistent, positive influence in the lives of the kids and works with their parents to help improve family dynamics. “We do all kinds of fun things and activities with the kids,” says Community Outreach Coordinator Stephanie Moon. “Anything from having Christmas parties at the clubhouse to taking them to church. They love going to church.” Erica began coming to weekly HOPE activities with a friend when she was 8 years old. “I just knew there was something different about coming here. The leaders really cared about me and my family,” she says. “I knew I mattered to someone here and started to learn that I mattered to Jesus, too.” As Erica grew older, she began to encounter difficult circumstances at school. In the fifth grade, she was bullied for being different and began to fall into a deep depression. “I had thoughts of suicide every day and was just so depressed. I just didn’t really care to live anymore,” Erica confesses. It was during that time that she attended a local church service with other kids and staff and heard a sermon about hope. It helped her to realize that she did have something to live for and that the Lord was in control. “I’m really thankful for the leaders who care about us enough to take us to church,” she said. “HOPE literally saved my life.”

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Leanna, Kara and Erica, l-to-r, have a deep appreciation for the HOPE ministry at TBCH.

Two of Erica’s closest friends in the program, sisters Kara and Leanna Barfield, also testify to the ways that HOPE has enriched their lives. “It’s a lot like a family,” says Kara. “Miss Stephanie is like a big sister that I can go to about anything. During the summers, we get to know everyone on a deeper level. By the end it’s really like we’ve known them for years.” Leanna agrees. “I love the one-on-one time we get with the leaders. They really want to know us and what’s going on in our lives,” she says. “Mr. Michael and Miss Stephanie walk through life with us and are there for us when we need them.” In the times when their families haven’t had enough food or have needed help with their finances, the HOPE program has been able to meet the needs of the kids and families it serves. But the generosity hasn’t been lost on Erica. “I know HOPE has helped me and my family when we’ve needed it, but I don’t want it to end there. I want to serve others in the same way,” Erica says. When she outgrows clothes or when her family has more than enough food in the pantry, they donate back to the program. “My hope is that other kids will be impacted in return.” As Erica looks to the future, she dreams of graduating and going to college nearby. “I want to stick around and continue helping out with HOPE, even when I graduate,” she says. “Seeing the younger kids who come, I want to help make an impact in their lives so they know there really is hope and someone cares.” — Ginger Swann

Erica with TBCH HOPE Community Outreach Coordinator Stephanie Moon, right.

Legacy League

Children At Heart Foundation

If you have made provision to continue your support for Children At Heart Ministries through your will or estate plan, we invite you to become a member of the Legacy League. Too often, we don’t find out that donors have made a legacy gift to Children At Heart until it is too late to thank them personally. The Legacy League gives us an opportunity to express our appreciation. Legacy League members receive a special recognition Bible and their names, with their permission, are printed here and in a special registry in the lobby of the Children At Heart Ministries building on the Round Rock campus. We are grateful for everyone who is making an eternal difference in the lives of children and families. For information about how you can include Children At Heart in your estate plan, visit or contact Director of Gift Planning Don Cramer at (512) 246-4225 or If you have already designated Children At Heart or one of our ministries in your estate plan, please let us know so we can thank you for making a perpetual difference for future generations. Harry & Eda Montandon Austin, Texas Grady & Anna Bailey Belton, Texas Jerry & Anita Moore Georgetown, Texas Charles & Carol Baker Round Rock, Texas Frances Osborne Lampasas, Texas Tim & Marinell Bartlett Austin, Texas Dora Owens Sunnyvale, Texas Jerry & Linda Bradley Round Rock, Texas Don & Pat Pool Meridian, Texas Annette Brown Waxahachie, Texas Johnnie Mae Proctor San Antonio, Texas Joyce Cavett Andrews, Texas Steve & Debbie Rippstein Houston, Texas John & Barbara Chambers Georgetown, Texas Glen Rogers Henderson, Texas Harry Chance Montgomery, Texas Jareen Schmidt Fort Worth, Texas Dawson & Leanne Clark Round Rock, Texas Mr. & Mrs. Lesley V. Sims Cypress, Texas Don & Judy Cramer Georgetown, Texas Evelyn Sorenson Cranfills Gap, Texas Ed & Virginia Day Brownwood, Texas Lee & Shannon Spilman Austin, Texas JoAn Musick Dillard Belton, Texas Margie Stancil Longview, Texas Mrs. Jessie E. Dyer Tulsa, Oklahoma Lucille Stobaugh Austin, Texas Virginia Elkins Temple, Texas Max & Lillian Stracener Richardson, Texas Matt & Jennie Free Sunnyvale, Texas Elvis & Glenda Thomas Montgomery, Texas Bob & Doris Gilley Tyler, Texas Joe & Sharon Thornhill Leander, Texas Mike & Marsha Hammack Abilene, Texas Gwen Waldrop Luling, Texas Bill & Margo Harrison Eagle Lake, Texas Jimmy & Katherine Wallin Round Rock, Texas Jesse & Dorothy Hauptrief New Braunfels, Texas James & Ruth Watson Austin, Texas Becky Horner Kemp, Texas Dr. Shelby Watson Austin, Texas Joe & Sherry Hornsby Georgetown, Texas Mrs. Roscoe Wentworth, Jr. Leander, Texas Patricia Howard Georgetown, Texas Russell & Doris White Georgetown, Texas Gaylord & Vickie LaLonde Jacksonville, Texas Donald Earl Williams Palestine, Texas Frank & Bethany Leffingwell Round Rock, Texas Elizabeth Warren Wilson Baton Rouge, Louisiana Ted & Joan Levander Fredericksburg, Virginia Rogers & Sandra Wilson Austin, Texas Joe W. & Margaret Lewis Austin, Texas John & Linda Winder College Station, Texas David & Elaine Lykes Georgetown, Texas Charles & Mary Wright El Paso, Texas John A. Malm Memphis, Tennessee Mike & Linda Wright McDade, Texas Dial & Eva Martin Bryan, Texas Margaret Young Temple, Texas Bart & Joan Meharg Belton, Texas A.A. & Leola Melton College Station, Texas

Year-End Giving, Year-Round Blessing! When you think about your end-of-year gifts, please remember the children and families you help at Children At Heart Ministries. Your gift may have tax benefits, of course. But we hope you will remember the direct impact you will have on children, single mothers and families who come to our ministries for help. A few minutes of your time today makes an everyday difference for the people you help. To get started, just visit any of our ministry home pages on the web and click on the “Donate” button. Jan/Feb 2013 | Turning Points


Hope Over Uncertainty


s this issue of Turning Points is being readied for printing, there’s much talk in the media, around the workplace and even at many kitchen tables about the economic uncertainty facing our nation. Perhaps by the time this article is published, our nation’s leaders will have addressed the socalled “Fiscal Cliff.” Or they may have once again agreed to a temporary Band-Aid and delayed ultimate resolution for a later time. Uncertainty. Within the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition for uncertainty, one word stands out. And that word is Doubt! However, regardless of our doubt or uncertainty about the strength of our economy, we do have Hope in our Lord and His good plans for us! “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for well-being and not for trouble, to give you a future and a hope.” These words from the book of Jeremiah serve to encourage us even during these times of worldly uncertainty. God’s good plans are being carried out every day at Texas Baptist Children’s Home, STARRY, Miracle Farm and Gracewood. As you read this, hundreds of children, youths, single moms, and entire families are receiving hope and encouragement through the provision you have made in funding our ministries. Those who meet the needs of children and families as ministry partners for Children At Heart are typically driven to do so out of a sincere faith commitment. And while many enjoy significant tax advantages through their giving, we trust the Lord will continue to provide for those we serve regardless of possible changes to the Federal tax code.

Children At Heart Foundation

Even so, as changes are contemplated in Washington, there are some potential short-term opportunities for donors to help their church or the nonprofit of their choice. Our staff is available to offer guidance. Of course, you should also speak with your attorney or tax counsel for specific advice. As you contemplate your financial circumstances at the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013, here is a list of potential opportunities to do the most good while also taking advantage of evolving tax laws. ■ If capital gains tax rates are increased, donors who are holding appreciated assets such as stocks or real property may benefit from harvesting those gains while the rates are lower. Historically, many donors have offset capital gains by donating a portion of their appreciated assets to charity. ■ If the estate tax exemption is lowered from the current $5 million level, many individuals may find themselves holding a taxable estate. There are many planned giving strategies that can be employed, based on the goals of an individual, to minimize tax impact while still making provision for family and/ or charity ■ There is some probability that Congress may reinstate the IRA Charitable Rollover provision at the end of 2012. If this occurs, donors can make tax-free gifts up to $100,000 to a charity direct from their IRA Administrator. Most distributions from an IRA are typically taxable, so this provides a unique opportunity to distribute IRA assets with no tax implication. If you have questions about these issues, please contact us at your convenience. We’ll be very happy to answer your questions and can refer you to a qualified legal or tax professional who can help you accomplish your goals. One easy way to keep up with the latest Washington news related to estates and taxes is by subscribing to our free Gift Legacy newsletter. Visit newsletters to sign up. Dawson Clark, CFRE, is Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Children At Heart Foundation. You can reach him at (512) 246-4221 or email him at

Under The Tree Giving Children and Families the Gift of Hope 8 Turning Points | Jan/Feb 2013

2013 Turning Points Jan - Feb  
2013 Turning Points Jan - Feb  

Children At Heart Ministries Newsletter