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The latest Buckner Today might look a little different than you’re used to seeing, but you will still find stories of the ways our Buckner families, staff and clients are finding ways to overcome, encourage and find hope in this season of uncertainty. Virtual adoptions, at-home schooling and celebrations of staff milestones are just some of the pieces you can enjoy in this issue!

In this issue you will read about:

Celebrating 30 years of consistency, excellence and prayer: JoAnn Cole leaves behind a legacy of service to Buckner

A Video Report: Buckner NGOs rise to meet coronavirus challenges internationally

Heroes on the Frontlines

Going Gold for Senior Living

PERSPECTIVES ON BUCKNER | ALBERT L. REYES

Pan-dem-ic: “An outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area and affects an exceptionally high proportion of the population.”

Some might say 2020 has seen two pandemics. In March, the global pandemic of COVID-19 hit with full force, changing all our lives. In late May and into June, we saw a recurrence of another kind of “disease that occurs over a wide geographic area,” racism.

I am proud of the way Buckner has responded to both pandemics. Our teams in Buckner Children and Family Services and Buckner Retirement Services have responded with creativity and perseverance as we have continued serving those who rely on Buckner. For a full update on our response to the coronavirus crisis, please watch this update I gave in June.

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc throughout the world and we are still a long way from fixing the problem with a vaccine.

Unfortunately, there is no vaccine for the other pandemic we’ve seen this year. Racism is a disease that has afflicted humanity for nearly as long as we have existed.

Beyond the biblical and theological issues presented by brutality and overt racism, I have personal experience with both law enforcement and racism. I grew up in a law enforcement home. My dad, who is now with the Lord, served as a U.S. Marine, a businessman and a peace officer. Dad was a deputy constable and deputy sheriff in Nueces County in South Texas. He also served in the U.S. Marshals Service for the federal court.

He taught my brothers and me to respect the rule of law, while at the same time respecting the rights and dignity of those who break the law. Dad demonstrated respect for every person he arrested or apprehended. He never saw himself as judge, jury, prosecutor or defense. And while my dad was far from perfect, he had a reputation at the jailhouse, courtroom and on his beat as someone who treated others with respect, regardless of their race or ethnicity.

I am deeply grieved by the numerous examples of blatant disrespect and lack of human dignity shown to people of color. Our country has a long and growing list of people who were victims of racial, systematic and institutional racism.

We need new laws, a new awareness and a new norm for what is acceptable treatment of people of color in the United States of America. Beyond legal changes, national police reform and social change, we need spiritual help too - the kind of transformation that leads us to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

The connectedness of our world today means issues that affect any of us affect all of us. We have seen evidence of that with the coronavirus pandemic, but in recent days it has been most evident with protests in our nation over racial injustice.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said it this way: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

Throughout most of Buckner’s history, we have worked quietly to end injustices, whether it is injustice done to an abused child or serving vulnerable families put in harm’s way by a system that does not recognize them. Buckner has always been and is today an action-oriented ministry, preferring to act more than advocate.

However, we cannot be silent about recent events. We have a biblical duty to speak against injustice, while acting to correct it. When you consider that many of those we serve are people of color and a large number of our employees are as well, we are expected to speak out and to speak up.

The death of George Floyd and the subsequent protests have shone a bright light on what for centuries has remained in the shadows of our great nation. If we as followers of Jesus are to be his light in the darkness, we will use that light to also look at ourselves, individually and as an organization. When we do, we will see we need to work together to change Buckner.

Please join me in seeking God’s strength and direction and with me, please hear again the words of Micah who tells us simply what is good and what God requires of us – “but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

I saw a meme on social media the other day of a spaceship hovering over a person on earth. Looking up at the ship from outer space, the earthling says, “I’ll literally pay you to take me.”

And while my initial thought was, “Good idea,” I came back down to earth and remembered it is for times like these – pandemics, inhumane treatment of humans, neglected children, hurting families and lonely senior adults – that God wants us to stay and make a difference. As the Apostle Paul once said to the Philippians, “To live is Christ, to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me” (Philippians 1:21-22a).

President John F. Kennedy once said, “For one true measure of a nation is its success in fulfilling the promise of a better life for each of its members. Let this be the measure of our nation.” He also said, “I want every American free to stand up for his rights, even if sometimes he has to sit down for them,” a recognition of the power of protest.

Over the past few weeks, we have watched as thousands of our fellow citizens have expressed their rights of free speech and of a better life, free to pursue liberty and happiness. Kneeling has become a powerful symbol of solidarity with George Floyd and with protesters. Law enforcement officers throughout the nation are kneeling with angry citizens.

I can think of no act more powerful for all of humanity than to kneel in humility before God and ask for forgiveness and restitution – to God and to each other.

Albert Reyes President and CEO Buckner International.

Visit my blog at AlbertLReyes.com

IN OTHER WORDS | SCOTT COLLINS

In 1895, the first Black professional baseball player, John “Bud” Foster, wrote about the discrimination he faced at not being able to join a team.

“My skin is against me,” Bud said. “If I had not been quite so black, I might have caught on as a Spaniard or something of that kind. The race prejudice is so strong that my black skin barred me. My skin is against me.”

I was 22 the first time I felt my skin. As a white person growing up in rural Missouri, I’d never thought about my skin, other than when I had a rash or a cut. But here I was, sitting in a soccer stadium with two white friends in Botswana, Africa, surrounded by thousands of Black faces. For the first time in my life I was conscious that I was white and I was in the minority. The difference between me and Bud Foster is that my skin was not against me.

Throughout the two years I lived in Southern Africa, I became increasingly aware of skin color. I would come to discover that about an hour south of where I was sitting that day was the most vile and evil form of racism humanity has ever known.

Apartheid. For decades, apartheid was the law of South Africa. It allowed a tiny minority of whites to systematically discriminate against non-whites politically, economically, socially, culturally and any way you can imagine. I saw it firsthand the minute I drove across the border into South Africa. And I felt it. The oppression was palpable. Even today, it’s hard to describe my feelings knowing apartheid benefited me as a white person.

I’ve been thinking about my skin a lot lately, in light of the death of George Floyd and the movement for racial and social justice.

At Buckner, we have had extraordinary conversations the past few weeks about justice and equality, or for some, injustice and inequality. Led by our President/CEO Albert Reyes, we have had open dialogue, including a Town Hall meeting for staff I had the honor to moderate. While numerous staff have commented about the issue, just as many have been thrilled and impressed that Buckner, as an organization, would not hide from it.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s. leadership led to laws being written and changed to align with our Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.”

As he changed America forever, so Nelson Mandela changed South Africa forever. Both men managed to change laws in their respective countries outlawing apartheid and segregation. And while laws have changed, unfortunately attitudes haven’t. Apartheid still exists in our world.

“A religion true to its nature must also be concerned about man’s social conditions. Religion deals with both earth and heaven, both time and eternity. Religion operates not only on the vertical plane but also on the horizontal. It seeks not only to integrate men with God, but to integrate men with men and each man with himself.” –Martin Luther King Jr.
Scott Collins is Vice President of Communications at Buckner International.

When COVID-19 required everyone to shelter in place, Buckner International did not abandon those we serve. From home offices around the state, staff found innovative ways to minister and help vulnerable families and children navigate new and sometimes scary experiences. From telehealth visits and food distributions, Bucker continues to shine hope during a pandemic.

"These are just a few of the ways Buckner is stepping in and stepping up in response to the storm of COVID-19," said Buckner President and CEO Albert Reyes. "God is protecting us through the storm and empowering us to shine hope or inspire happiness. When I think about the history of Buckner and the storms we've weathered the past 14 decades, I'm reminded of God's faithfulness."

Despite the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic, we have a lot of reasons to be excited about the continued services we're providing and how you're responding to the needs. Among those reasons are:

Continued support from donors like you. The Buckner Development team reports that giving has remained strong as donors have responded to the needs of those we serve. In addition, supporters like you have given more than $110,000 to Buckner for COVID-19 relief, with an additional $40,000 commitment. The Buckner Retirement Services fundraising campaign Above and Beyond: Helping Those Who Help, has raised $25,000 for the BRS Employee Assistance Fund.

Continued volunteer response. While many volunteer activities have been put on hold to observe social distancing measures, many volunteers have come up with innovative and creative ways to serve children, families and seniors, including: participation in the Adopt-a-Family initiative, which has brought food and other supplies to families in five communities; a letter-writing initiative to Buckner staff, foster families and senior living residents; and participating in virtual Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls® shoe drives through online ordering.

Continued service by our staff. Despite the challenges of social distancing and working remotely, we haven’t lost a day of service to children, families and senior adults. Buckner has adapted and continues to serve in new and innovative ways, including here in Texas, where our Family Hope Center coaches are meeting with families; Family Pathways parents' needs are still being met; and foster care provision and adoptions are still as strong as ever. Additionally, the Buckner senior living team – our frontline heroes – continues to form a virtual shield around each of our six senior living communities in Texas. Internationally, our NGOs are distributing food to families hardest hit financially (more than 34 million tons of food have been distributed so far) and Family Hope Centers are still actively ministering to families near them.

By Kayla Ivy

Day in and day out, frontline heroes are serving in the communities of the most vulnerable throughout the current pandemic. Within the walls of Buckner Retirement Services senior living communities, these heroes continue to keep the health, safety and happiness of residents and Members as their top priority.

Among the many staff members, Derone Martin, chef at Buckner Parkway Place in Houston, Texas, has been serving in the senior living industry for more than a decade. Derone adapted how he typically obtains products, as well as schedules and delivers meals to residents in these unprecedented times.

“I practice more patience in my position as the pandemic continues,” Derone said. “Menus are changing day to day, whereas we used to have a schedule of meals. We are having to think outside the box to obtain products that are not as easy to receive as they used to be because of the pandemic, and delivering meals to resident doors is a more tedious process now in order to mitigate risks.”

Derone is thankful for the support system he has at Parkway Place and is proud of his culinary team for their servant hearts and devotion to coworkers and residents.

“I am so proud of my team and the attitudes they have when they come into work every day. They are heroes, serving one of the most at-risk populations and their associates with a smile and pride in the job they do,” he said.

Also thankful for fellow associates keeping the positivity alive during hard times is Shannon Hohmann, certified nurse’s assistant at Baptist Retirement Community in San Angelo, Texas. Shannon started working as a CNA on March 16, right as the pandemic began, making for a memorable beginning to a new career.

Shannon works in memory care, helping residents work through the pandemic, as many of them do not understand daily why they are unable to see their family members.

“It is hard to watch them struggle to remember and understand,” she shared. “My job is to care for them and make sure they feel safe inside their home during a time that is so confusing and difficult for all of us. Their fears and anxieties about why their family members cannot come see them are real and I am trying to help them understand where those are coming from each day.”

Puzzles, bingo, singing and dancing are activities Shannon uses to bring residents out of a negative mindset and bring joy to their day.

“We have fun together and seeing the joy on their faces makes my job easier,” she said. “Making them happy makes me happy, and I cannot think of a better way to spend my workdays.”

In Dallas at Ventana by Buckner, Elizabeth Niksich serves as the health and wellness director. She is a source of encouragement and positivity for all Ventana Members during a time where maintaining a healthy fitness regimen is of utmost importance.

“Rejoicing in the success that the Members make in managing health conditions and improving the performance and quality of their lives is so important,” Elizabeth said.

From 20-mile bike rides alongside a Member, to simply helping another onto a bike, Elizabeth said watching her members stay healthy and reach goals keeps her smiling and motivated for work during these uncertain times.

Heroes walk the halls of all six Buckner Retirement Communities in Texas. They are working diligently and serving wholeheartedly to keep residents feeling safe, healthy and cared for. Inspiring happiness when times are scary make these workers COVID-19 pandemic frontline heroes. BT

by Kayla Ivy

On May 7, 2020, Members and associates of Ventana by Buckner, one of the six Buckner senior living communities in Texas, were able to look down from their windows to see the 12-story building surrounded by prayer warriors. People held up messages of encouragement on neon poster boards and family cars were decorated to show their support. They bowed their heads and asked God to protect those living inside the community.

While you can’t discount the importance of the early adoption of strict policies and procedures aimed at mitigating risk for Members and residents, the faith-based roots of Buckner communities mean the power of prayer is equally valued. First Thessalonians says to pray without ceasing, which is just what communities like Ventana are doing in order to keep their homes and loved ones in high spirits during the pandemic that has restricted visitation and outside contact.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

The global pandemic has brought stress, suffering and uncertainty to those most vulnerable. During this time the power of prayer cannot be underestimated.

National Day of Prayer offers people around the country the opportunity to reflect on the importance of prayer in their lives.

Church members from Park Cities Baptist Church, Wilshire Baptist Church and First Baptist Dallas rallied together and surrounded Ventana with signs and decorated cars, and bowed their heads in prayer for God to provide safety, health and well-being to those living and working in the community.

Their goal was nothing short of inspiring as they spent the day praying for those serving in the senior living community, senior adults as one of the most vulnerable populations, and the health care workers in Buckner Retirement Services.

In San Angelo, Texas, weekly prayer walks are also helping residents continue to feel hopeful as the pandemic restricts daily life. Women from Immanuel Baptist Church Sunday school visited Baptist Retirement Community to help lead prayer for the residents as they walked around the campus praying over each building.

These prayer walks also allow residents to be outdoors and see each other. Residents pray over their homes, dining halls and common areas, asking the Lord to keep everyone within the walls healthy and happy. Their caretakers walk with them and pray alongside the residents to help them feel encouraged, loved and safe.

While frontline heroes walk the halls of all six Buckner Retirement Services’ senior living communities, there are also warriors inside and outside praying for health and safety. Praying not only on May 7, but each and every day, these loved ones, volunteers and leaders inspire happiness in the lives of senior adults. BT

By Russ Dilday

When the coronavirus pandemic became global in scope, it affected not only Buckner International’s work in Texas, but in the six countries where Buckner provides ministry to children and families. As the pandemic’s reach spread to Guatemala, Kenya, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Honduras and Peru, Buckner personnel in those countries rose to meet the needs of their affected communities.

Often, those needs were desperate. Many countries where we work were affected by overburdened hospitals, hunger, lack of resources and large numbers of deaths. Watch as each Buckner country director reports from their countries with the current situation and what they are doing to meet the challenges COVID-19 presents.

Ministry update from the Dominican Republic:

Ministry update from Guatemala:

Ministry update from Honduras:

Ministry update from Mexico:

Ministry update from Peru:

Ministry update from Kenya:

by Emily Keller

Service didn't stop at the Buckner Center for Humanitarian Aid because of the coronavirus. In fact, many could say the way the staff are serving those in need has ramped up. Rather than shutting the doors due to the pandemic, the Center for Humanitarian Aid chose to quickly adapt and continue to answer the call in new ways.

Over the past three months, families have been able to count on Buckner for basic needs such as milk, eggs or hygiene products, as well as treats for their children.

Each week the distributions are held, families line up in their cars and the assembly line begins. Every measure to protect both the staff and those visiting the Center for Humanitarian Aid are taken – masks, gloves, families unload the carts into their own cars and social distancing. While people are six feet apart, it is clear every staff member takes the time to see and welcome each family as they come through the drive-thru line – even if the smiles happen behind a mask and a wave across the street. BT

By Emily Keller

At the forefront of everything JoAnn Cole does is her heart for Christ and for people. For over 30 years, vulnerable children, families and staff at Buckner have experienced JoAnn’s commitment to excellence and her ability to help others reach their fullest potential. Celebrating her journey into retirement is a bittersweet moment as she will go down in Buckner’s history as one of the many women who has impacted, transformed and empowered lives around her.

“She carries with her 30 years of experience, knowledge, expertise and energy," shared Dr. Albert Reyes, president and CEO of Buckner International. "Over the past 14 years, I’ve had the privilege of working with JoAnn Cole, a consummate professional in social services with a rare passion fueled by her own personal experiences."

JoAnn has served in many capacities including building the Buckner Foster Care and Adoption program internationally and is retiring as the vice president for domestic programs of Buckner Children and Family Services. But JoAnn began her journey with Buckner in 1990 as a case manager in the Pace program, which served juveniles long-term. This role was a perfect fit for her coming from working in Dallas County in a residential program for juveniles on probation.

Though new on staff, JoAnn came in standing on her personal principles. Staff knew if she asked for something to be done, she had no qualms about getting her hands dirty and doing it herself too.

Henry Jackson, senior vice president of Buckner Children and Family Services, has worked with JoAnn for 29 years, and this was one of the very first lessons he learned about her.

“Everybody who knows JoAnn knows she is very meticulously dressed, from her hair to her heels," Henry shared. "But what a lot of people don’t understand or realize is that while she’s meticulous, she still knows how to meet the people where they are."

JoAnn and Henry were working together in the Buckner Passport to Recovery drug and alcohol program and the state came out to do an inspection. They received a poor rating on the facility cleanliness.

“Because we had that report, JoAnn was doing the training feedback and not only told the staff where we fell short, but she demonstrated how to do it," he laughed. "Now you have JoAnn in her nice blue suit, in her nice heels, and she has the staff follow her into the restroom where she gets down on her hands and knees and demonstrates how to clean a toilet."

This experience and many to follow spoke volumes to Henry and to other staff who had the opportunity to work with JoAnn. There is a resounding agreement that JoAnn simply operates with excellence and gives it her best.

“I don’t think you should ask people to do things you’re not willing to do,” JoAnn explained. “If you say you value it, you have to be willing to mop.”

After just six months of employment with Buckner, she was placed in a supervision role. Working with children and families who are often struggling through tough times can be a heavy weight to bear. For JoAnn, each role she held taught her so much.

“It has built so much character. The challenges of managing people and situations and making tough decisions – all those things were tough. But going through those things taught me character in every way I can think of,” JoAnn shared. “Patience, determination, and after every tough situation, I always wanted to go back and reflect how I can make it better, do it differently. That always drove a passion and determination inside of me that had a quest for excellence.”

The drive and motivation within JoAnn has not only kept her going through her tenure with Buckner, but has motivated and challenged the children she worked with and the staff she mentored.

“People value and trust her for her wisdom," Henry said. "A lot of staff would go to her for things they’re going through personally or things they’re facing on the job. Even once people have left Buckner, because she had built relationships and that level of trust, she continues to provide wisdom and counsel to those that have crossed her path. She always speaks from a personal standpoint and when she’s not sure, she always points back to prayer."

Faith and prayer are essential to JoAnn. She believes God called her to Buckner and it was critical for her to be a good steward of what he had given her. “In order to do that, I think we always have to seek first the kingdom of God,” JoAnn said.

Through seeking God, she sought wisdom and knowledge to continue to find the strength to love and lead at Buckner. Because she depended on God and prayer, she knew she could lay it to rest in God’s hands and sleep at night. Over the years, her team found they could continue to depend on JoAnn’s consistency of prayer and would often pray together.

Since 1990, Buckner has changed and adapted, but JoAnn has seen the consistency in the foundation and values. Committed to Christian principles and serving the vulnerable, JoAnn sees that Buckner is the same as the day she started as a case manager.

But she has seen programs adapt and grow in big ways. Beginning at the residential program in Dallas as a case manager, she has seen the focus of Buckner programs grow far beyond those living on that Dallas campus.

“As time began to change and seeing the trends, we began to be more proactive than reactive," she said. "I watched Buckner get out into the community and in 1998, when I helped start the Buckner Family Hope Center at Wynnewood, that work started to get more preventative and to help keep children and families intact.”

JoAnn was the first Black female vice president in Buckner’s 140-year history and is proud to be a part of the changing and improvement of inclusivity of Buckner.

“In light of everything going on in the country right now, I am grateful to have been a part of Buckner becoming more inclusive of all staff populations and helping employees of color to become leaders,” JoAnn said.

The stories JoAnn shares are full of heart, laughter and compassion for the past 30 years with Buckner. Because of her faith and love of God and being able to work with people through ministry, she sees what a blessing it has been.

Her ability to pour into people won’t change moving into retirement. She continues encouraging those new to Buckner to take a page out of her book and expand their knowledge.

“I’ve done all different types of programs and I’ve been able to work in all the different parts of the state, as well as internationally," advised JoAnn. "If you take the time to expand your knowledge and get out of just your local area, you and your staff will understand the broader aspect of the organization and be even better at their role in their local area."

Recounting her tenure with Buckner, JoAnn knows God can continue to call you and challenge you within an organization.

“There’s a lot within this organization. You don’t have to go outside it to learn and grow and develop," she said. "Look at me. For 30 years, I’ve had all kinds of experiences within the organization.”

Easing into retirement for JoAnn looks like home projects and more quality time with her husband, LaVaughn. Her work to empower women to become stronger leaders will continue to be a pillar of her next season. She and her husband are also looking forward to more time supporting their church internally and in the community.

“So many people have sent me text messages, cards, emails and different things. But I look back at everything that they say, it still all goes back to thank you for pouring into me. Thank you for caring. Thank you for helping me be who I am today,” JoAnn shared.

For staff, families and clients across Texas and internationally, JoAnn will be missed but will always be celebrated as an example to strive for and a legacy at Buckner. BT

Bethany, Jeffrey and Avery were home from the minute they came into Jessica Sosa’s home.

Bethany, 5, and Jeffrey, 3, were Jessica’s first foster care placements – and a few months later, Avery, 2, joined them. Adopting a sibling group all under the age of 5 might seem like a big undertaking for some, but for Jessica, she couldn’t imagine not doing it.

“I saw the need in foster care when I was doing a lot of volunteering and had some friends who worked for CPS, and also a lot of friends who have fostered or adopted. I was always very aware of the need,” Jessica explained.

Once she was licensed for foster care in January 2018, it only took 24 hours for her to have her first placement – Bethany and Jeffrey. Avery, the youngest brother, was placed in another foster home in the area. The two families would do outings together, and it was apparent Bethany longed to see him more often. Over the next six months, they would visit frequently and then Avery’s foster family asked Jessica if she would take him too and keep the three siblings together.

“I think having them grow up together is really important," Jessica said. "As they get older, they’ll have this connection and they can look back and see ... I’ve seen so many cases where the siblings didn’t stay together.”

Fostering as a young single woman has brought many joys, but also many challenges. Jessica laughs as she shares how much she’s learned about patience and grace in the past year.

“We mess up, but that doesn’t define us,” she said. “I want the kids to learn that as they’re getting older.”

Once quiet and timid, the three siblings now love to play and laugh and exude so much joy. When Bethany first came home to Jessica, she didn’t even know her own name and now she’s excelling in school. Jeffrey arrived primarily nonverbal, with tantrums and the inability to really be around people, but now Jessica is experiencing how smart he is and slowly improving his ability to speak and be around new people. While Avery was just a baby when he came to Jessica’s home, he has grown into the loud, fun-loving boy who doesn’t stop playing.

Jessica encourages any who are looking to walk this journey to find their support.

“Find your circle,” she said. “We’ve had people show up with groceries – just for whatever reason. I always have someone there to support me and to support them.”

Jessica, Bethany, Jeffrey and Avery became a forever family when Jessica adopted the siblings through a virtual adoption ceremony in July.

Jessica never imagined her first foster placement would turn into an adoption case. But from the first time they stepped into her home, she opened her heart and loved them with all she had. BT

Visit buckner.org/foster-care-adoption to learn more about helping vulnerable children.

by Emily Keller

For children celebrating their new forever family, this season of uncertainty has marked a unique and special experience in their latest chapter of life.

While the state of Texas ceased many operations to a halt, Buckner Children and Family Services and others in the adoption process did all they could to make scheduled adoptions take place. Multiple adoptions were held all across the state through the help of technology. From Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Skype, children were still able to experience the joy of becoming a forever family – even if it was through video chat.

For many Buckner families, their unique adoption marked the first of their kind in their respective counties. Many of these adoptions also took place during National Foster Care Month, an exciting season continues to bring awareness and knowledge to the journey of foster care.

THE SANCHEZ FAMILY

The Sanchez family grew by one member on May 13. Two-year-old Jose joins a loving crew of two big brothers and a sister. Ivan and Jesus, Jose’s older brothers, were also adopted by Marcos and Veronica Sanchez. To read the encouraging story of a growing family despite the pandemic, click here.

THE PATTERSON FAMILY

After a long season of uncertainty and struggle for Lindsey and Taylor Patterson, William, 8, and Charles, 7, became their forever sons through a Microsoft Teams call on April 28. Celebrating with decorations and a drive-by car parade, the day was made special even in the challenging circumstances. Read more about their journey toward adoption here.

THE SPRINGER FAMILY

Shane and Lori Springer were able to celebrate Jefferson County’s first virtual adoption on April 22 with their 2-year-old son, Jacob. The Zoom call hosted Judge Randy Shelton, lawyers, family, friends and excited Buckner staff. Read more about Jacob and his journey to become a Springer here.

THE SMITH FAMILY

For Rusty and Whitney Smith, their first adoption will be one for the books. Khailynn, only 15 months old, joined the Smith family over Zoom – marking the first virtual adoption for Lubbock county. The Smith family excitement couldn’t be contained even if it was a video call, as the family all donned matching shirts. Read more here.

THE WHIPPLE FAMILY

Danny, 19-months-old, became a forever Whipple family member virtually in late May. His journey with the Whipple family has been full of laughs, brother adventures and more. To read his story, click here.

“COVID-19 did not stop adoption, we are so excited about that,” shared Debbie Sceroler, interim senior director of Buckner domestic foster care and adoption. “With everything going on, it is amazing those numbers are still continuing and families are still committed to this process.” BT

by Aimee Freston

When COVID-19 reached Texas, Buckner responded quickly to protect the families we serve. While sheltering in place was new, difficult and sometimes scary, families adjusted with the help offered by Buckner through virtual family coaching and counseling. While COVID-19 continues to be a concern, families persevered through the end of the school year and are continuing to adjust. As the crisis continues, Buckner is dedicated to finding new ways to work with families to keep them safe and successful during these times.

BY EMILY KELLER

In the face of many new protocols and safety precautions, Buckner was determined to continue offering the services we have always offered to vulnerable children, families and seniors. Without missing a day of service, Buckner staff across Texas and six international countries worked tirelessly to transition services such as counseling, coaching, trainings and meetings to digital platforms.

For our foster care and adoption families, the monthly informational meetings transitioned to virtual in March. Since that switch, the attendance rate has increased tremendously.

“These virtual interest meetings have been so successful. We now have close to 75 to 100 participants each month and families are able to attend from all across the state,” shared Debbie Sceroler, interim senior director of domestic foster care and adoption.

Buckner Family Hope Center coaches and staff sought ways to continue counseling and coaching their families – all from their own homes. With the help of engaging videos, Zoom calls and frequently calling to check in, coaches and families are staying connected even when the building is closed.

For Buckner Counseling Services, the transition to digital and remote felt a bit awkward at first, but rather than giving up, the team and other collaborators chose to adapt to the needs of participants and offer a variety of resources.

by Emily Keller

As the orders to stay sheltered at home and to social distance have continued for weeks, the services Buckner offers continue adapting to meet the needs of vulnerable families and children.

“How we deliver services has changed in light of ‘sheltering at home,’ requiring us to adapt to the needs of families,” explained Dr. Amy Curtis, director of counseling for Buckner International. “We are continually looking at what is happening within families, what the parents and children we work with are telling us, and the outcomes and trends that are occurring as a result.”

To offer digital help, Buckner Counseling collaborated with Dr. Brad Schwall, president and CEO of The Center for Integrative Counseling and Psychology, to create videos families and those in need can watch and engage with from the comfort and safety of their home.

Buckner and collaborators are offering videos in English and Spanish on caring for mental health, or helping families manage the challenges they are facing in this season. Videos feature topics such as communication and managing anxiety or depression. These digital resources offer skills and options to help families reduce stress and increase resilience, as well keep Buckner Family Hope Center coaches connected to families.

Amy recognizes that sheltering at home does not mean safety for many Buckner serves. At first, many counseling participants seemed uncomfortable with adapting to counseling virtually, and for some, they didn’t have the privacy at home to sit through a whole session. Offering videos created a way for participants to be comfortable and to stay connected.

“We noted many of our participants were unable to attend counseling during this time or did not feel comfortable with telehealth or virtual communication," Amy said. "Our participants have many responsibilities and telehealth counseling doesn’t always offer them the privacy to openly discuss their concerns or needs."

In addition to the videos, the Buckner counseling team, as well as the Center of Integrative Counseling and Psychology team, have been offering devotions, online sessions with individuals and recovery groups.

“The videos are just one way we are letting families know we are here and to remind them they are not alone,” she said.

The counseling teams are continuing to create new video content to support families and those in need during this time.

For more information or to view the videos, click here.

If you or your family are in need of support or help, please contact Dr. Amy Curtis at acurtis@buckner.org and she will connect you with the right resources.

Additional resources:

6 ways to (emotionally) make it through the pandemic

By Emily Keller

In 2000, Anna Rodriquez didn’t even know Buckner existed and when someone suggested she apply for a job in Midland, she drove by the annex building with no expectations.

“I lived in Odessa and went by the location, and it was a church. So I thought to myself, ‘Is Buckner a church?’ I decided I wasn’t even going to stop, I was just going to keep driving,” Anna said. “But wouldn’t you know it, someone opens the door and starts waving at me.”

The person waving at Anna was someone she knew from high school. Reflecting back on these early moments of introduction to Buckner and the beginning of her career, Anna knows God has blessed her beyond measure throughout this journey.

In August 2000, Anna was working in the school district with juveniles, but the grant she was working under was not renewed. She found herself unemployed. With trepidation of what was to come, she attempted to return to a previous job, but something didn’t sit right with her.

“The back of my mind was telling me that’s not what you need to do,” she shared. “I put in the application with Buckner and didn’t hear back for four weeks, and I told myself they’re not going to hire me.”

Anna called someone she used to work for, attempting to find a role with them, but the next day she received the call from Buckner, and she was hired Oct. 11, 2000.

“God did all of what he did. The purpose in his timing is everything," Anna said.

Anna began her chapter with Buckner in Midland as a family assessment worker. With a background working with juveniles and in the school district, she knew she had what it took to work with families. From that day in October to today, she has held countless roles throughout Buckner and continues to make an impact across Texas.

Her work with families has been transforming and empowering over the past 20 years. She moved her way up the ladder, becoming a reliable and creative leader and at one point running the Buckner Family Pathways program in Midland, Houston and Conroe.

“Anna is a prime example of what it means to show up to battle every day. She begins each day with prayer, then laces up her boots and goes to war on behalf of the children and families we serve,” shared Shawn Roy, senior executive director of Southeast Texas for Buckner Children and Family Services. “Like a true soldier, Anna doesn’t mind being in the trenches, where others are often afraid to go, in order to do all she can to advocate for our families, show them unconditional support and to encourage them along their journey.”

The passion and heart Anna displays on the job also follows her home.

Recently, three young adults immediately called Anna when they found themselves homeless during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While in Midland, Anna had a group foster home where these three siblings, aging from 4 to 7 years old, were in her care close to three years. Anna did not hear from them until March 2020, when they were hungry and had nowhere to go due to the coronavirus. All three had aged out of the foster care system in Houston, where Anna now runs the Family Pathways program.

“April called me and told me she was homeless, hungry and had nowhere to go. So I said, ‘I can put you up in a room.’ But the next day, everything’s closed. The whole city’s shut down,” Anna said.

Anna called locations she knew but found shelters weren’t taking anyone. She decided to break every rule she had made in the past and called the girls to let them know they could come stay at her and her husband’s home.

“I gave them a list of goals, things they needed to work on. We did Bible studies. Two of them got saved while they were here with us,” she shared.

The siblings stayed with Anna for nearly two months throughout the coronavirus pandemic. While in Anna's home, they were able to set goals for themselves and recently moved out to attend treatment, plug into a church and even work toward their driver’s license.

Stories of children who were once in the program during Anna’s tenure reconnecting with her are not uncommon. She creates an environment that shows them she cares and they can rely on her.

“I tell them the truth. I don’t sugar coat anything. I think they like that,” she laughed. “One little girl told me, ‘I don’t like all this. But I know I need it. I’ll let you.’”

The past 20 years with Buckner are cherished memories to Anna. She doesn’t deny there are tough days and situations, but the Buckner staff and community helps keep her going.

“My supervisor, Shawna Roy, listens. She really does care and she will let me vent,” Anna shared. “We all have times where we get tired, and the stories we hear are heart-wrenching – the things these families go through. But we have an awesome team and a therapist on board to help us process through these things.”

Staying with one organization for 20 years is an accomplishment few can relate to. Anna knows the journey she’s had with Buckner has been fruitful because she was called by God.

“This has been the ministry God has called me to, and to teach and help women in their walk. Most of these ladies have been victims of sexual abuse, domestic violence – there’s a bunch of hurt that they’ve had in their life for so long,” she said. “I’ve stayed because this is a ministry and I feel like I can lead them to the answer for that pain.”

Recently, Anna has been recognized for her work both in Midland and in Houston. In March, KMID honored her as the regional winner for the National Nexstar’s Remarkable Women in the Community award for her inspiring work with Family Pathways in Midland.

She also had the opportunity to virtually sit down with Great Day Houston host, Deborah Duncan, to discuss how Family Pathways is dedicated to protecting families in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through the storms of day-to-day life, to the unknowns of a pandemic, Anna Rodriquez has walked through many things throughout her tenure at Buckner. One thing that has never changed throughout the often-changing times is her commitment to her clients, families and other Buckner staff. If you know Anna, you know you always have someone you can call in a time of need. BT

by Chris Ruth

Despite the global pandemic changing the way Buckner operates across all of its ministries, the nonprofit continued to serve clients, and its stories of service continued to appear in local and national media outlets.

The following is a snapshot of Buckner in the media during the second quarter of 2020:

Heroes work here!

The Houston Chronicle came out to document a car parade around Parkway Place in Houston to show support for residents and staff. Click here for photos.

Buckner leads the way in virtual adoptions

As virtual adoptions became a national trend, Buckner teams led the way, helping families legally adopt children using platforms like Zoom and YouTube. Media in Beaumont, Lubbock, Amarillo, Midland and the Rio Grande Valley covered these special moments. Click here to watch NewsWest9’s story from the Permian Basin.

Serving single parents in Houston during the pandemic

Houston ranked as the hardest city for single parents to raise a family even before the global pandemic. Buckner Family Pathways of Houston Director Anna Rodriquez virtually appeared on “Great Day Houston” to discuss how she’s still serving. Click here to watch. NOTE: Our story begins at the 1:33 mark in the video.

300 people pack courtroom to see boy adopted after 1,553 days in foster care

Eight-year-old Nike’s story is still going viral. In February, his adoption was covered by “Good Morning America,” “NBC Nightly News,” Fox News and more. Click here to read.

Buckner CEO Dr. Albert Reyes op-ed

Dr. Albert Reyes penned an op-ed on child neglect and abuse prevention during the pandemic. His article was published by the Baptist Standard, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Beaumont Enterprise, Longview News-Journal, and Amarillo Globe-News. Click here to read it in the Lufkin Daily News.

How the pandemic impacts foster children aging out of system

Young adults aging out of the foster care system are among society’s most vulnerable, whether it’s on a regular day or during the pandemic. Andi Harrison, the Rio Grande Valley’s regional director of foster care and adoption, explained why to KRGV. Click here to watch.

North Texas church groups pray outside Ventana by Buckner on National Day Of Prayer

Churches around Texas have rallied to support the residents and staff at Buckner senior living communities. CBS DFW reported on three churches that prayed outside Ventana on National Day of Prayer. Click here to watch.

Buckner launched Gold Ribbon campaign in support of senior living

By Chris Ruth

Buckner went gold for senior living in early May, and the movement quickly spread across the state of Texas.

In order to increase awareness of senior living residents and the frontline workers caring for them during the COVID-19 pandemic, Buckner Retirement Services launched a ribbon campaign titled Going Gold for Senior Living. Buckner has communities in Houston, Austin, Dallas, San Angelo, Longview and Beaumont, and residents of each city were encouraged to show their support of senior living communities by displaying a gold ribbon outside their homes during the months of May and June.

All six Buckner senior living communities across Texas hosted drive-thru ribbon pick-up events on May 11 for family members of residents and staff. Three to six-foot pieces of gold ribbon were distributed.

National campaigns such as Light it Blue have asked others to show support for health care workers on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic, but this is a broad category that includes hospitals, emergency responders, clinics and senior living communities.

By launching the Going Gold for Senior Living campaign, Buckner focused specifically on the senior living workers – from nurses to dining services, maintenance, administration and more. Each of these jobs is integral in mitigating risk for residents.

Charlie Wilson, senior vice president of Buckner Retirement Services, said he is proud of the work and service by his staff and thankful for the continuation of support from residents as social distancing measures continue.

“The health and safety of our staff and residents are of utmost importance to us,” Charlie said. “All of our associates are a shining example of what it means to be selfless and inspire happiness in the lives of senior adults. As one of the most vulnerable populations, our residents sacrifice family visits to help reduce risks for their neighbors. By displaying a gold ribbon outside your home, you can recognize the selfless actions and personal sacrifices made by senior living residents and staff.”

Early on in the campaign, Wilson expressed his desire to see other senior living communities and nursing facilities across Texas and the U.S. join in the gold ribbon campaign.

“We are committed to generating awareness through the Going Gold Ribbon campaign across the state of Texas and nationally," Charlie said. "Whether you have a family member or friend residing or working in a senior living community, or you just want to show your appreciation and support, we hope you’ll join us and go gold."

Wilson’s wish came true, as advocacy group LeadingAge Texas promoted the initiative to all of its senior living community members. Throughout the month, communities from San Antonio up through North Texas announced they too were going gold.

And while the campaign officially ended on June 30, the residents and staff of senior living communities could still use everyone’s love and support, whether by displaying a gold ribbon, sending a letter or posting something positive on social media. BT

By Arnie Adkison, Vice President & Chief Development Officer, Buckner International

Generosity is a learned skill. Just ask the parent of any 2-year-old.

Or ask the Apostle Paul. Those pesky Corinthians just didn’t seem to get excited about generosity, at least not like the Macedonians did.

It feels like forever since I’ve been in the Buckner offices. Due to some travel right before all the shutdowns started, my last time there was March 4. For three months I’ve worked from home, like much of the country.

But the work hasn’t slowed down - if anything, the pace has picked up.

And it’s because you, our Buckner family, have learned the skill of generosity.

Nonprofits around the United States have felt the impact of COVID-19, shutdowns, the price of oil going negative and (now officially) economic recession. Here are just a couple of statistics:

Compared to 2019, during the first quarter of 2020, nonprofits overall saw …

*According to a study done by the Fundraising Effectiveness Project for 1/1/2020-3/31/2020

But you tell a different story. During the first quarter, Buckner saw …

*According to Buckner International Development Reports 2020

Few markets have felt the pinch of the current crisis more than oil and gas. Many of our most generous friends are in that industry. But they continue to give — like the Macedonians, giving out of their “abundance of joy.”

Sue and Keith Courts are great examples in this. The Courts have been involved with Buckner for more than 20 years, and Sue is in her 16th year on the Buckner Board of Trustees. Their piping business is in the thick of the downturned economy in Midland, Texas. But in spite of the challenges, the Courts have pledged a matching gift for foster care in West Texas of $50,000!

“Buckner is life-changing for children and families, and I’m glad to be a part of this wonderful ministry,” Sue recently shared. To hear a word from Sue, watch this video.

As devastating as the crisis has been here in the U.S., some places have been hit even harder. The lack of similar health-related infrastructure in places like Peru have meant increased challenges for the families Buckner serves. They were already on the edge of extreme poverty, and the total lockdown in Peru meant not even the ability to work the meager day-labor that is sparse in good times.

Families in our Peru Family Hope Centers weren’t even sure they were going to be able to feed their children. But Vivian and Kelly Culberson were determined to find a way to help.

The Culbersons live in Florida and have made frequent trips with Buckner to Peru over the past decade. They reached out to Claudia Leon, the Executive Director of Buckner Peru, found out the number of families and meals that were needed and mobilized their Facebook family to give. So far more than $30,000 has been raised, enough to feed the families we serve in Peru for more than two months.

Buckner and The Rees-Jones Foundation have worked together on a number of key projects to care for children over the past decade. Working principally in North Texas, The Rees-Jones Foundation has generously supported our foster care work and specifically, the families who agree to foster children. Recently they went over and above their already generous commitment and provided an extra gift for kinship families struggling due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Jasper Family Ventures in East Texas knows their business was a blessing from God, and the faith of the family has created an amazing ethic of generosity. In 2018, they were looking to encourage giving to the Buckner Family Pathways programs around the state of Texas and offered a large matching grant to stimulate more giving. When Buckner donors met the first match long before the campaign was supposed to end, they agreed to double their original gift. By the end of the campaign, you had given another 50% above what that second match covered, and the family agreed to match every dollar given. This meant more than a half-million dollars for the Family Pathways program. Last year, the family extended their giving to Buckner Peru, and they are still looking for ways to support Buckner even in the current economic challenges. For an encouraging word from Carrie-Ann Jasper Yearty, watch this video.

I could tell you story after story about your generosity. Like Paul awed at the Macedonians, it humbles me that you are so generous, but it makes me proud to be a part of the Buckner family. Without your generosity, our staff could not deliver hope like they do, and the families we serve would not get the vital skills and assets they need sometimes just to survive.

Thank you for learning such a valuable skill.

Thank you Buckner supporters!

Buckner wishes to thank the following corporations, foundations and other organizations for their charitable contributions of $1,000 or more during the first quarter of 2020.

Abell-Hanger Foundation, Inc.

Acme Electric Company

Affordable Dewatering Service LLC

Alpha Testing, Inc.

Amarillo Bone & Joint Clinic, LLP

Amarillo National Bank

Archer Western Contractors, LLC

Atmos Energy

Baker Bros Plumbing

Barco Pump

Bartlett Cocke Industrial

Baxter Packaging

The Beaumont Foundation of America

Brasfield & Gorrie, L.L.C.

Brookshire Brothers Charitable Foundation

The Bullard Family Foundation

Burdett, Morgan, Williamson, & Boykin, LLP

The Leo S. and Emogene Burton Case Foundation

Capital for Kids

Caprock Cardiovascular Center, LLP

Cardinal's Sports Center

Carollo Engineers

CDM Smith

Chaney Yoder Partnership

Communities Foundation of Texas, Inc.

Community Bank of Texas

The Crain Foundation

CU Alliance

Cuna Mutual Group

D2 Architecture, LLC.

Bowen and Lale Diehl Gift Fund

DN Tanks

Echo Group

Facility Solutions Group

FiServ

Garrison Family Foundation

Gil and Brenda Gillam Charitable Fund

Good, Fulton & Farrell, Inc.

Greater Houston Community Foundation

Grimes Family Charitable Fund

The George and Claudette Hatfield Foundation, Inc.

The Wilton and Effie Mae Hebert Foundation

High Plains Christian Ministries Foundation

Iker Family Charitable Gift Fund

JIFCO Inc of Texas

Gary L. & Barbara G. Kott Charitable Fund

Ernest L. Kurth, Jr. Charitable Foundation

Kyle's Kwik Stop, Ltd.

Longview Regional Medical Center

Loring Cook Foundation

Mays Foundation

The Melchizedek Fund of Communities Foundation of Texas

Mid America Pipe Fabricating and Supply, LLC

Midwest Cooling Towers Services

Monty Miller Living Legacy Foundation

Ted and Barbara Moor Charitable Fund

The Winfred and Elizabeth Moore Foundation

Municipal Valve & Equipment Company

N & B Properties, Inc.

National Christian Foundation Texas

The Helen Patterson Fund

Paul and Rebecca Brochu Charitable Fund

Petroplex Pipe and Construction, Inc.

Pierce Pump Company

Prime Controls

Ed Rachal Foundation

R & K Distributors, Inc.

Redi-Mix Concrete

The Reynolds Company

Right Downwind, Inc.

Dora Roberts Foundation

Ronald McDonald House Charities of North Texas

William Runnels III Charitable Trust

The Seed of Hope Foundation

M.C. Shook Trust

Smith Pump Company, Inc.

South West Business Corporation

The Tartaglino Richards Family Foundation

Texas Baptist Offering for World Hunger

Texas Instruments Foundation

Theodore and Beulah Beasley Foundation, Inc.

T.L.L. Temple Foundation

Tolleson Wealth Management

Cheryl and Mark Travis Charitable Giving Fund

United Rentals

United Way of Amarillo & Canyon

USA Industries, Inc.

Vallen

Luda Belle Walker Foundation

Wells Fargo

Woolam Gin

Xcel Energy

Buckner wishes to thank the following donors for their charitable contributions of $5,000 or more who have continued to support Buckner throughout the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent economic challenges.

Anonymous (11)

Mr. and Mrs. R. Kyle Adams

Judge and Mrs. David L. Anderson

Mr. and Mrs. Robert G. Andrews

Mr. and Mrs. Steve Aylor

BBVA Compass

Mr. and Mrs. W. Kyle Bebee

Betenbough Homes Lubbock

Betenbough Homes Midland

Mr. and Mrs. Mark Blanks, Jr.

Ms. Jo Ellen Bogert

Mr. and Mrs. William H. Brian, Jr.

Mr. Keith E. Burtner

Chaney Yoder Partnership

Mr. and Mrs. Frank H. Chaney

Estate of Bobbye F. Collins

Communities Foundation of Texas, Inc.

Community Foundation of West Texas

Council for Life - Run for Life 5K Beneficiary Grant

The Crain Foundation

Mr. and Mrs. James Crain

Mr. and Mrs. Donald C. Crump

Mr. and Mrs. Kelly E. Culbertson

The Dallas Foundation COVID-19 Relief Fund

Del Papa Distributing Company, Inc.

Mr. and Mrs. Bowen Diehl

Dujay Charitable Foundation

East Aldine Management District

Ms. Jean Eaton

Mr. and Mrs. Randall R. Engstrom

The Fasken Foundation

First Baptist Church of Longview

First Presbyterian Church

Mr. and Mrs. Mark D. Gibson

Mr. and Mrs. J. I. Ginnings

The Helen Greathouse Charitable Trust

Mr. and Mrs. Lee N. Halford, Jr.

Dr. and Dr. Rodney L. Henry

Mr. and Mrs. Dwayne Herring

Ms. Karen Houston

Mr. and Mrs. T. Denny Iker

Independent Financial

James D and Barbara V Henry Living Trust

Johnson & Pace Incorporated

Mr. and Mrs. F. Wade Johnson

Mr. and Mrs. Joe Bob Joyce, Sr.

Kyle's Kwik Stop, Ltd.

Mr. and Mrs. Timothy K. Leveridge

Liberty Mutual Foundation

Lifepoint Baptist Church of Lubbock

Lubbock National Bank

Mr. and Mrs. Clarence E. Marak

Matthies Farm

McMahon, Vinson Hubbard, LLP

Meadowbrook Baptist Church

Memorial Baptist Church

Mr. and Mrs. David B. Miller

Mobberly Baptist Church

Wayne and JoAnn Moore Charitable Foundation

Mr. and Mrs. Michael Nemeth

Mrs. Helen P. Patterson

Philadelphia Insurance Companies

Mr. and Mrs. J. Rogers Pope, Sr.

Prosperity Bank

Mr. and Mrs. Barry T. Pryor

Redi-Mix Concrete

The Rees-Jones Foundation

Mr. and Mrs. George B. Reid

Mr. and Mrs. Richard L. Roadarmel

Ms. Lee V. Rose

San Angelo Area Foundation

Schwab Charitable Fund

The Seed of Hope Foundation

Mr. Jered C. Sellers

Mrs. Annette Simmons and Mr. Gerald W. Fronterhouse

Drs. Shayne T. and Cori E. Skarda

Frances C. & William P. Smallwood Foundation

South West Business Corporation

Mr. and Mrs. Craig W. Spaulding

Mr. Tom E. Stone, III

Texas Baptist Offering for World Hunger

Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation

Mr. and Mrs. William G. Threadgill

United Way of Amarillo & Canyon

United Way of Metropolitan Dallas

Luda Belle Walker Foundation

Mr. W. Edward Walts, II

Wells Fargo Foundation

Susan and Randy Wilhoit

Donna and Dennis Winborn

Mr. and Mrs. Grant C. Yaney, III

The Yarborough Foundation

Zonta Club of Longview