Mission Midlothian assists single parents with free after school care

In a small, welcoming house next to J.R. Irvin, two volunteers peer out the door, waiting for the last bell of the day to release ten students to their care.

Mission Midlothian operates two free day care programs at The House near Irvin and the Briggs House near J.A. Vitovsky Elementary School for children of single parents in the Midlothian ISD. Currently, each house service students from kindergarten through fifth grade of the campus across the street from it, said Lynda Lott, who has volunteered for the program since it began 14 years ago. Each house can serve up to 10 children with two volunteers each afternoon, she said, and is operated entirely by volunteers.

"It started as a weekend ministry in the apartments," Lott said, "During that, we saw a need because there were little kids running around waiting for mom to come home from work."

"I never ever thought how we were going to do this financially," said Lynda Motley, who has also been volunteering since the beginning.

"It takes a lot of volunteers to have two volunteers, every day, five days a week," Lott added.

The children stream up to the front door, chattering pleasantly about their day. They leave their shoes in a basket by the front door, hang their backpacks on wall hooks and head to the kitchen for a snack. Breaking into two groups, they settle down at the tables with crackers, cookies and lemonade.

Manna House, the local food bank and support organization for families in need, is a big supporter of the mission providing snacks, extra furniture and craft supplies, the women said. But there are many other groups that chip in to make the Mission a success. The Mission rents the House to a tenant who lives there rent free but pays the utilities on the house. The Mission has sole access to the house from 2:45 p.m. until 6 p.m. each school day and the tenant lives there the rest of the time, Lott explained.

"We are very fortunate to get people who volunteer to do maintenance for us," said long-time volunteer Wynette Green who usually works at least one day a week at the Briggs House.

"We have volunteers from at least seven churches and we are in the budget of four churches," Lott explained.

Community members also help entertain the students before their parents pick them, the women explained, but the Mission is always looking for more volunteers to fill the daily schedule or who are willing to stop by for an hour and lead a craft or share their experiences with the children.

The daily schedule included time for snack, reading or homework, activities and free time.

"We have people that come in and tell Bible stories, do crafts. Every day is something different," Lott said. "Sometimes we have crafts, or visits from firefighters, the police department, city employees."

"We often have missionaries," Motley added.

The Mission is openly Christian, Lott clarifies, pointing to the scripture verse, Jeremiah 29:11 written on the wall in the living room.

"We want them to know God loves them and has a special plan for their lives," she said.

While the volunteers minister daily to the students with gentle guidance and care, the Mission also takes steps to reach their parents as well, Lott said.

"We have a once a month meeting with parents that is helpful info for parents, sometimes about financing, self-defense first aid or other topics," she said.

The one-hour-a-month meetings are required for the parent to attend, Lott said, which she considers a fair exchange for more that 60 hours of free care each month.

The meetings also give parents a chance to meet others parents at their children's school, Motley said.

"We would love for them to meet each other and help each other out," she said.

Through the Mission, families also have access to individual and group counseling as needed, she said, which can be a significant help to some of the students and their parents who are facing difficult times.

And that is the heart of the mission, the woman said, reaching out to families who need the support but may not know where to go.

"Two of my daughters were single parents with two kids each. Without us, I'm not sure what they would have done," Lott said.

The struggles are even more acute when the single parents, the program includes children of both single dads and moms, don't have family nearby, Motley said.

"If they don't have a family or a church family to call on, some of them feel so swamped and overwhelmed," she said.

But it is the children themselves who keep Green looking forward to her weekly rotation and volunteering to take on extra days as needed to staff the houses.

"I'm retired and don't work. I have a larger family and I help with them, but this gives me something to get up in the morning for," she said. "It gives me fulfillment in my life. You get to where you love the kids."

After 14 years, the volunteers have had plenty of their love returned, Lott said. Some former students return to the houses to volunteer with the younger students, she said.

"We had one boy who would ride his bike by to visit after school. He would say, 'I have so many good memories here, I don't want to leave,'" she remembered. "We are working on the next generation."

For more information about Mission Midlothian or to volunteer, call 972-723-8314 or 972-775-3037.

Contact Bethany Kurtz at 469-517-1450 or email bkurtz@waxahachietx.com. Follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BethanyKurtzMidloMirror or on Twitter @bethmidlomirror.