Wesley Mission Center: Empowering People on Their Journey to Self-Sufficiency & Wholeness
Marina Garcia, Financial Empowerment Coach, leading a workshop.
We were able to get in touch with Carmin MacMillan, Wesley Mission Center's Executive Director, and learn more about the amazing team and programs they have to offer.
Tell us a little about Wesley Mission Center. When and how did it get started?
Wesley Mission Center began in 1979 at First United Methodist Church in downtown Mansfield. Initially a thrift store, money was raised for community benevolence. As sales increased, other programs were added. The center separately incorporated and formed its own 501c.3 nonprofit in 2013. The new mission statement became: Empowering People on their Journey to Self-Sufficiency and Wholeness. This marked a transition from seeking simply ‘Band-Aid’ approaches to charity towards more transformational programs seeking longer-term outcomes for families.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What is your role there?
I joined Wesley Mission Center as the Executive Director in June 2015 after having lived & worked in Canada for more than 15 years. I hold a Masters Degree in Organizational Leadership from Eastern University in St. Davids, PA, and Executive Graduate Certificates in 'Nonprofit Management' from Trinity Western University and 'Developing Healthy Communities' from Tufts University.
Prior to moving to Mansfield I was the Regional Program Manager for World Vision Canada, where I built a regional network of community based organizations to address safety, health, education, and hope outcomes for families in poverty. I currently serve as an adjunct professor at University of Texas at Arlington, teaching in the Non Profit Management Certification program.
What are your goals for the Center and where do you see it heading? What sort of activities will you focus on?
The biggest obstacle facing many low-income families in our community is lack of access to credit or overcoming bad debt. Unfortunately, these are community members who often turn to 'payday' or auto title loans, often called predatory lenders. More than 12 million Americans use payday loans each year. These borrowers spend about $520 on interest on an average loan size of $375. It's tragic. We've seen hundreds of families over the years who have been prey to these institutions. Our Unity Lending program was developed to create an alternative, and to give families a way to get out of these traps.
We have audacious goals! At the Center, we have developed a philosophy of change and it's reflected in our program models: it takes both RESOURCES and RELATIONSHIPS to make a difference.
We serve a niche in the human services sector in South Tarrant County. Based on the success we've seen in our financial coaching and Unity Lending model, we are aiming towards a more integrated program delivery to make it easier for low-income families to obtain work & improve household income, ultimately enabling them to advance economically. This approach combines financial coaching, job search and placement, as well as emergency financial aid.
In 2017 we will also be a VITA site so that low-income families in our community can receive free tax help.
What is your personal favorite aspect of the group and your mission?
We have a phenomenal team of staff and volunteers! The best part of my job is the amazing, caring and dedicated people I get to work with everyday. We "have fun & get things done"!
What's one of your most memorable moments while working at Wesley Mission Center?
I talked with one of our clients not long ago who had recently left her husband after years of abuse. She was so brave... she has children to take care of and wasn't sure how she could support herself and them.
She moved in with a family member and needed furniture. She found out about our thrift store initially, but then asked about getting financial help. She's now meeting with one of our financial coaches to build credit in her own name so she can eventually rent an apartment. She also comes for help with her resume and is looking for full time work. She's amazing, she's strong, and it's humbling we get to be part of her journey in this new life she's creating for herself and her children.
Are there any recent or upcoming changes that people should know about when it comes to related legislation?
There has been a lot of movement in the last year concerning legislation limiting predatory lending practices. We encourage concerned community members to follow www.texasappleseed.org for recent updates in the sector.
How can someone get involved?
We are actively seeking new partnerships with local businesses, churches, community groups & individuals to be part of this work. The hundreds of lives we've touched is a result of the investment of many donors and volunteers. But, in order for us to meet the growing need in Mansfield we need new supporters to come alongside us and help us make growth possible.
The holiday season is when we experience the most need and for anyone considering how best to serve or make the most of your charitable gifts we'd love to work with you.