“It was FUMCFW’s desire and passion for helping the community that started Fort Worth’s longest-running nonprofit over a century ago, and for that we thank you.”
— Celia Esparza, UCC President and CEO
Thanks to all of you who helped support Camperships through our Easter Offering, 50 children were given scholarships to attend this year’s 10-week Summer Education Enrichment Program (EEP) through United Community Centers (UCC). It’s not just a camp — students also benefit from educational programs offered during the school year to minimize learning loss and make a positive impact on each child’s summer.
The partnership between UCC and FUMCFW has played an important role in the success of the Summer EEP. UCC President and CEO Celia Esparza says that FUMCFW has given Camperships for as long as she can remember — and she’s been with UCC for 15 years. At one point in time, we even hosted summer camps at our own Lyle Lodge facility. “FUMCFW has always given us money for special donations and grants for Camperships,” Celia adds. “The money helps with staffing, arts and crafts, materials for summer, feeding the kids, and much more. We truly could not do our programming without all your volunteers and monetary donations.”
The EEP is unique in that it provides child care while working to improve student literacy skills. The program continues throughout summer with extended hours from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm. Research shows that students tend to fall behind academically while they are out of school, particularly children from low-income families and especially in reading skills, so the Summer EEP holds the key to continued learning. The program helps students maintain or improve literacy skills during summer. It even includes an intensive program for remedial students called the Leveled Literacy Intervention Program that is specifically designed for children more than two years behind in their appropriate reading grade level.
A study by Villanueva and Bybee found that low-income students lose more than two months in reading achievement during the summer months. “More than half of the achievement gap between lower and higher-income students can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities” (Villanueva 2013). The UCC Administration, Board of Directors, and frontline staff work very hard to make sure that the Summer EEP is not only educational but also enriching. With plenty of summertime activities like field trips and celebrations, UCC aims to make learning fun so the children are excited to walk through their doors every morning during the summer months. They also provide three hot meals and two snacks a day during the summer. “We have had great success with the program, with our results and scope of accomplishment increasing as the years roll on,” Celia adds. “This program truly is an investment in the education and lives of the children who are enrolled in it.”
FUMCFW has been with UCC every step of the way. “We could never have started without First United Methodist,” Celia says. “The church has always been involved, whether with children, shoebox ministry, baking cakes for Fiesta at the Wesley Center in May, Sunday School classes, UMW groups, and more.” FUMCFW and United Community Centers (UCC) go way back — to the very beginning more than 100 years ago. In fact, UCC was actually started by two of our very own United Methodist Women. These women had an inspiring vision for our community, and they were determined to bring it to life. First came the establishment of the City Mission Board at FUMCFW in 1908, which employed a missionary to conduct evangelism and relief programs. The Board was followed by the first center, the Wesley House, in 1909.
“The first center opened as a mission and ministry type of Sunday School class to serve and help the people of the community,” Celia explains. “They outgrew that facility within one year and started looking for other property.” Next up was a two-story facility that housed missionaries on the top floor and had activity rooms, a kitchen, and more for community use on the bottom floor. It ran the first literacy and pre-K programs for Fort Worth until the 1960s when Fort Worth Independent School District took over. Over time, this center has grown in meeting community needs. Today it provides hot meals to hundreds of families every day, along with several empowering programs, and has served as a model for two other neighborhood centers. Now more than a century later, UCC continues to carry out its mission as seen through the eyes of two United Methodist Women so many years ago: “Guided by Christian principles, we serve and empower those in need.”
UCC also partners with United Way of Tarrant County and other foundations and grantees. In addition to the Education Enrichment Program, UCC serves our community through their Client Assistance and Advocacy Program and Awareness Changes Tomorrow (focusing on self, family, and community), more commonly known as ACT III. UCC provides more than 70,000 meals to school-age children who participate in their after-school and summer Literacy Enrichment Program and ACT III. Their Holiday Baskets program provides food for more than 1,000 local families that would not have the financial means to celebrate otherwise. UCC serves approximately 14,800 clients a year, averaging more than 1,200 individuals per month.
According to Celia, they couldn’t do it without us. “The relationship UCC has with FUMCFW is one that I’m very proud of and appreciate tremendously,” Celia says. “Without your support of our children and programs, we could not exist.” Click here to learn more about United Community Centers, and thank you again for your continued support.