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Buckner International plans $6M campus in Longview

By Richard Yeakley
Nov. 8, 2014 at 11 p.m.


Buckner International on Monday plans to announce construction of a $6 million campus for Buckner Family Place and Buckner Family Hope Center programs in Longview on property the organization purchased earlier this year.

The construction will include 17 apartments for the Family Place ministry, a transitional housing program new to Longview for single parents and their children and office space for the Family Hope Center program.

"I think everyone I have talked to has been extremely excited and supportive about it," said David Ummel, executive director of Buckner Children and Family Services of Northeast Texas. "How could you not be excited about this program? It is changing the lives of the people."

In February, Scott Collins, vice president of communications for Buckner International, confirmed that Longview was on a short list to be the eighth city to house the Buckner Family Place program, which began in 1997 in Lufkin.

Buckner International asked the city of Longview in August to rezone property at 1102 S. High St. that will be included in the nearly four-acre campus across from Ware Elementary School.

"We have been working on redevelopment of the older portions of our community, in particular in South Longview, for quite some time. This type of investment in that part of our community is essential in serving residents of that area," Longview Mayor Jay Dean said.

The Longview program is working with Kilgore College, where the residents will attend classes, officials said. Services offered at Family Place will include affordable housing, education support, case management, counseling, life skills classes, transportation and spiritual development. The 17 apartments in Longview will include a combination of two- and three-bedroom units.

The program also is offered in Amarillo, Conroe, Dallas, Houston, Lubbock, Lufkin and Midland.

"I think that we have had this program around long enough to where the first generation of Family Place moms, those kids are now out of high school. Of those kids, 94 percent of them are at post-high school education at some level," Ummel said. "You are taking families, many of whom are coming out of generational poverty, and you are changing the question. It is not if they will go to college, but where they will go to college."

The campus will also house the Family Hope Center, which now sits downtown across from First Baptist Church.

The new Family Hope Center will be about 10,000 square feet and will include a computer lab, multipurpose rooms, classrooms and office space for Buckner Children and Family Services of Longview, officials said.

The Buckner Family Hope Center works with vulnerable families in the community.

Jane Ann Crowson, director of the center, said the goal is to "empower (clients), not to enable them. We want to help the families we serve become self-sufficient and less dependent."

In Longview, Buckner offers Buckner Westminster Place, a retirement community, and Buckner Children and Family Services, which helps with foster care and adoption, community programs, counseling services and crisis relief.

This past year Buckner served about 10,000 people through foster and adoption programs, after-school programing, parenting education training, Jobs for Life, Niños de Promesa and the Family Hope Center.

According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, 34 percent of young children in Texas whose parents lack a college education live in poverty.

JoAnn Cole, senior director of campus and family ministries for Buckner Children and Family Services, said in an online post that breaking that cycle is the reason for the single-parent housing program.

"Our hope is that by bearing some of the burdens that make life incredibly difficult for single parents, and by facilitating parents' education and training, the family can then move forward to escape the cycle of poverty and live independently," she said.

District 2 Councilman Gary Smith said he is 100 percent supportive of it.

"It is a great idea. It gives the chance to move the city forward to provide a location to meet this need," Smith said.

Ummel said other details, such as when work will begin on the property and the timeline for completion, will likely be discussed at the news conference set for 11 a.m. Monday.

The nonprofit organization is not yet taking applications for the Family Place program, he said.

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