Wesley Mission Center is on a Mission to Empower Self-Sufficiency
Apr 13, 2016 04:44PM
● By Nick A
You may be familiar with The Wesley Mission Center because of it’s popular thrift store and boutique serving the MISD community. What you may not know, however, is that it all started as a garage sale during a United Methodist Church fundraiser in 1979. At the conclusion of the sale, the United Methodist Women opened up a classroom dedicated to the “store” for the unsold items, according to the Wesley Mission Center website.
From those humble beginnings, the church eventually built a dedicated store. “For 35 years the primary purpose of the mission center was to provide financial aid to families in crisis. In 2013, the center separately incorporated and formed its own 501c.3 nonprofit,” says the center’s executive director, Carmin Macmillan. “The mission statement became: 'Empowering People on their Journey to Self-Sufficiency and Wholeness'.” In addition to the thrift store the Mission Center provides a host of programs and training for those in need ranging from job training to lending, to teaching food literacy.
We caught up with Carmin MacMillan to learn more about what they’re doing for the community.
Mansfield Magazine: Tell us a little about your organization?
MacMillanIn 2015 we served more than 4300 North Texas residents through our services & programs. Clients come from diverse backgrounds. There are 112 languages spoken other than English in MISD. In 2014, 39% of students accessed free or reduced lunch, demonstrating a high percentage of economically disadvantaged families in our region. It's these families we serve most often.
MM: What are your goals for the organization and where do you see it heading? What sort of activities do you focus on?
MacMillan: Today we offer financial coaching, jobs skills training and women’s empowerment workshops. Our goals are: improved financial health, increased housing stability, supportive social networks, access to education – and greater hope for the future.
Residents in Mansfield ISD are our primary focus. We do not discriminate against community members on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin or status, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or age.
Our services and programs are designed to help meet immediate needs for our community members, and develop plans towards goals for the future. When empowered, our clients and participants have the confidence and tools to move forward – as well as advocate for themselves and their family’s needs It is our vision to see the lives of 2,020 families by 2020.
MM: What's something people usually assume about what you do? What do people usually assume that's incorrect?
MacMillian: Often people think we only serve church members of First Methodist Church, or that we just help people with paying bills. We have a wide range of programs and services, and we want to support all of our MISD community in helping individuals and families achieve wholeness.
MM: What’s one of the most rewarding aspects of the group and your mission?
MacMillian: It's amazing to see people who have been through really tough situations...like leaving an abusive relationship, job loss, or serious illness who come to us feeling overwhelmed by life and we work them to help put pieces in place, which ultimately gives them a sense that the future is going to be better. When people share that they're lives are changed for the better, it's what motivates us every day.
MM: Are there any recent or upcoming changes that people should know about - resources, special events, related legislation, development etc.?
Macmillan: In 2015, we estimated up to 40% of our clients seeking financial aid were caught in a payday lending trap. Predatory lending practices are a huge problem in Tarrant County, one of the last that hasn't implemented legislation to restrict fees and interest rates.
It's heart breaking to hear stories from families who have re-paid 3 and 4 times more than the original loan amounts. To address the need for an alternative, we created the Unity Lending program to equip clients with resources and tools - to avoid predatory lending products and create longer-term financial stability. Unity Lending gives our community access to urgent financial help, and in some instances, a way to eliminate existing payday loans more quickly.
Clients meet with a financial coach who helps assess their situation holistically. After determining a loan amount & interest-free payment plan, the client sets monthly coaching meetings and receives practical tools for managing their finances.
We aim to cultivate savings behavior, and participants can also receive matched savings. We are exploring partnerships with Mansfield area banks to help clients with second chance banking products & reduced fees for new accounts.
In Unity Lending, clients recover a sense of dignity, self-efficacy and community belonging by knowing they’re paying back into a program to help a future neighbor in need.
We’re hoping to serve at least 250 different individuals this year (we've had 64 Unity Lending clients between Jan 1 - March 31, 2016). The average length of program participation is 4 months.
MM: Anything else we should know about the center & activities, how people can get involved etc?
MacMillan: The Mission Center purchased the Lee Center at Broad and Walnut Creek in February. We're excited to be moving later this year to a larger facility so that we can expand our services.
The new location is much more visible and a bit easier for clients to access. It's also just on the edge of Historic Downtown and we're excited to partner and look for ways to improve the 'curb appeal' along with participate in special events like Third Thursdays.
We're really excited about our 1st annual golf tournament happening April 28th! We've still got space for players and sponsorship opportunities. Anyone interested can contact Lindsey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 817-473-6650
Please visit our website for more details about various programs & services: www.wesleymissioncenter.org
Stay up to date with the Wesley Mission Center Like us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/wesleymissioncenter.org
By partnering with the Wesley Mission Center, you are helping our mission of empowering people on their journey to self-sufficiency and wholeness. Join us as we work towards our vision of... Read More »