It began as a pilot program, and for the past few years, Brenda Ulmer has helped numerous families “at the point of collapse” get back on stable footing.
Ulmer, of Mathiston, is a member of First Baptist Church of Eupora. A few years ago, she was looking for a retirement career that would allow her a change of pace. One Mother’s Day, Rev. Doyle Cummings spoke about The Baptist Children’s Village as part of their annual fund drive, and Ulmer felt lead to contact the organization to see if there was a need she could fill.
Children’s Village staff was in the process of developing a program to help the families of the children in their care, with the hopes of reuniting some of the children with their parents.
Ulmer became involved with the pilot program that has developed into the Dorcas In-Home Family Support Program of the Mississippi Baptist Children’s Village.
“We help them change the way they ‘do family’,” Ulmer said. “There are some desperate needs in many of these situations. There is some drug abuse in some of these families. We work to get to know the families, plugging them in to resources that can help parents get what they need to create a better home life.”
“Brenda Ulmer has a heart that wants children to know they are loved,” said Rev. Travis Gray of First Baptist Church of Eupora. “I haven’t had much of a chance to get to know her because she is on the go so much to make that happen. She is a valuable contact to have if you would like to be more involved in the needs of less fortunate children in Mississippi. The Mississippi Baptist Convention is blessed to have people like Mrs. Brenda serving all over our state to say, ‘we care about you.’ Because of her, come lives will never be the same.”
The Dorcas In-Home Family Support Program is “designed to aid families that are near the point of collapse…create homes that are safe and stable for children,” according to The Baptist Children’s Village.
This faith-based program is designed to:
- Help with parenting skills;
- Help with family relationship counseling;
- Help with budgeting skills;
- Help in building self-esteem;
- Help with transportation;
- Help with nutrition and meal preparation;
- Help with time management;
- Help with continuing education;
- Help to get children enrolled in daycare, head start and school;
- Work with local agencies and community resources on behalf of the families;
- Prioritize family dynamics;
- Help obtain information needed for services from other agencies;
- Help complete job applications;
- Help with interview skills for jobs;
- Help with appearance for a job interview;
- Help with housekeeping skills;
- Work with the family to secure safe housing.
Ulmer serves as a case manager and works with 16 families in the northern quarter of the state. Her area corresponds with the Department of Human Services (DHS) Regions. In many cases, the Dorcas Program works in conjunction with DHS and school counselor referrals, to help families who have not reached the point of foster care, but have enough issues going on to have received DHS reports about their family life.
“In many cases, they are moving all of the time, and we are constantly having to update records and finding items to help meet their needs,” Ulmer said. “I love getting to know the families and building a rapport with them. I hope they feel like they have a friend who is there to help.”
Ulmer said some of her main activities have been encouraging family time, by having supper together as a family, playing board games, etc.
“We want every one of our families to sit and eat meals together,” Ulmer said. “It is a way to get to know one another better, because in many cases, they do not have a clue what is going on in the lives of their family members.”
Her work also encourages family devotions and getting the children and/or the whole family involved in a local church.
“It is not easy,” Ulmer said. “It takes time to build a rapport with the family before they are interested in devotions or getting involved with a local church. It takes time.”
As part of her work, she encourages community donations to help families have a dining room table and chairs, dishes, pots and pans, etc. Ulmer said many of these families do not have the basic housekeeping items or furniture to create a livable environment for their children.
The Dorcas Program is constantly working to meet these needs. For more information, check the website at http://baptistchildrensvillage.com or call The Baptist Children’s Village at (601) 952-2422.
See this story in the March 31, 2016 edition of First Baptist Church of Eupora’s newsletter at BR Newsletter 3-31-16