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Community Center Serves Hispanic Immigrant Population; United Methodist Ministry Fills Needs

 


 
Jan. 23, 2004

EL PASO, Texas--For 110 years, a United Methodist-related ministry in this U.S.-Mexico border town has been providing social services to people among the least likely to succeed in life.

Houchen Community Center, which operates under the auspices of Vista Ysleta United Methodist Church, offers a helping hand to people from both sides of the border, all of whom are struggling to provide a good life for their families.

(The Houchen Community Center is featured in the UMTV video report “Ministry at U.S.-Mexico Border” the week of Jan. 21.)

Nohemy Ramirez, a single mother studying for a career in the medical field, can’t afford day care for her three children. So she came to Houchen, where care is provided at no cost so she can continue her studies.

“I have nobody else to take care of them,” Ramirez says. “They help me out a lot,” she says of the Houchen staff members.

Houchen requires that the adult is either working or going to school. “This type of requirement helps people get off welfare (and) out of the food stamp line,” says Elsie Connor, Houchen’s executive director. “Eventually, we try to help them become self-supporting.”

Houchen’s child development center is licensed to care for 200 children, and is handicap certified. Its after-school tutoring program provides math and reading help for 91 at-risk students. Like Ramirez’s children, 90 percent of the children served are from families of single mothers.

Other services include Los Duros (“The Tough Ones"), a program for teenage boys and young men that emphasizes goal setting, self-discipline and development of positive values, as well as a variety of sports, aerobics, movies, computer skills enhancement and Bible studies for youth.

Five generations of seniors living nearby have come to the center daily to sew and enjoy camaraderie, friendship and social interaction, and more than 350 people rely on Houchen’s food pantry.

Houchen was founded in 1893 as a “settlement house” to provide homes for young, single immigrant women. In 1912, Rose Gregory Houchen, a former Michigan schoolteacher, donated $1,000 to the effort later named for her.

In 1963, responding to changing social culture, the settlement house changed its name to Houchen Community Center. In 1969, it began its day care program for children of working mothers.

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