Last year, more than any other, has shown us the importance of adaptability. Through the dedicated support of our donors, staff, board and volunteers, SHAPE was able to remain open and continue serving the community. In October, we cautiously resumed some in-person services with our elders. Approximately fifteen visited the center for food, supplies, PPE, computer services, and the opportunity to safely socialize. Unfortunately, the coronavirus cases in our city resurged and we were not able to reestablish our regular programming for the Elder’s Institute of Wisdom. We made the necessary adjustments to ensure deliveries to the homes of those in need. Along with deliveries, we made regular phone calls to check on the well-being of 20-40 elders each week.
A modified version of our youth program continued to operate with a focus on children who struggled with online learning because of various barriers they faced at home. The enrollment fluctuated weekly from four to fifteen children between the ages of 5-15 years old. Assisting children through day school instead of our regular after-school program resulted in SHAPE increasing our internet services, upgrading virus software to the 20 computers in our computer lab, and adding additional services, such as Zoom. Since many of the families did not have adequate equipment at home, we also donated or loaned approximately 20 laptops.
Despite all of the event and program cancellations and other changes, we were still able to end the year with our annual celebration of Kwanzaa. It was our first virtual presentation, so we had to work out some kinks, but we will definitely continue the online presence even when we are able to resume in-person events. It was a challenging year, but we learned a lot… however, we still miss seeing all of you, and wish you the happiest new year.
Although Houston has re-opened many more businesses and public spaces since our last report, SHAPE continues to follow the most cautious guidelines, and we have only partially returned to our regular programs. During this time, SHAPE has also turned 51 years old!
As we plan for our “new normal,” we are engaging with community stakeholders either virtually or through small socially-distanced gatherings. Our first meeting included 5 stakeholders who focused on outlining our new organization structure and determining which programs and activities we can sustain. We will continue to meet every two weeks, or as needed, bringing in additional stakeholders to contribute to the process.
In the meantime, we have maintained meal deliveries to elders, averaging 20-30 meals that we deliver three days a week. We have also established community outreach that allows us to check in on those who are still primarily home-bound. In addition, we host “Grab & Go” events at least twice a month and provide groceries, cleaning supplies, youth items and other necessities. These mass distributions service 300-500 community members. Additionally, we distribute approximately 100 disposable or reusable masks each week, as supplies last.
Your generous donations are helping us to ensure that our communities feel safe and supported as we all work through creating some sense of normalcy out of the unknown. We are excited to continue working with you and our stakeholders to carry on a legacy of service.
SHAPE Community Center is so grateful for all of the support we have received during this time. As with the rest of the world, our operations came to an abrupt halt due to the coronavirus pandemic, but with help from your donations, we were able to quickly switch tracks and respond to those in need.
All of a sudden, we lost income from our events and event facility rentals, our onsite café and commercial kitchen rentals, our after-school program, and other donations; still we were so fortunate that contributions came in and allowed us to provide child care for essential workers, in addition to meals, transportation, masks, gloves, cleaning supplies, disinfectant, and reliable information to those in need.
It just so happens that we had recently purchased several hundred dollars’ worth of bottled water for our youth fundraiser, and we were able to repurpose that supply to deliver 1-2 cases of water and other necessities to approximately 30-50 elders and other vulnerable individuals each week since March. Along with those daily deliveries, we also hosted five “grab-n-go” food and supply giveaways, which serviced over 1,500 families and individuals.
As our country reopens, we continue to move forward with caution as we restore SHAPE’s regular programming in the safest manner possible. We wish you the best of health and happiness, and thank you again for all of your support.
Ms. Ida doesn’t want to start a movement, but she will if she has to. Ms. Ida suffered property damages due to Hurricane Harvey, and she is still fighting to recover. The 75-year old Houstonian had home-owners insurance at the time of the storm, along with policies for several contingencies… including typhoons! However, her insurance company has continued to deny her claim. Ms. Ida has filed a complaint with the Texas Department of Insurance and has sought mediation. She has been informed that her insurance company cannot be compelled to attend mediation and her only recourse is to take legal action.
Although Ms. Ida received a small amount of financial assistance from SHAPE and other avenues, it has not been close to what she needs to repair her home. She explained to us that she does not want money from taxpayers or from organizations where she may be taking assistance from others who were not insured. She feels that because of her age, her insurance company is defrauding her of money that she should be paid for a legitimate claim. Ms. Ida also believes that she is not the only elder who is suffering in this way.
As a retiree, Ms. Ida has been looking forward to starting her own non-profit organization focusing on early education, but she believes she will be forced to take a new path. This month, she will be meeting with SHAPE’s Elder Institute of Wisdom as well as other advocates for elders. It is our hope that through community support, Ms. Ida’s home will soon be restored and she can focus her retirement on helping children, just as she had planned before the storm.
On November 2, 2019, we had our 50th Anniversary Gala! Since our last report, we’ve been working diligently on having a successful event, which honored and celebrated the dedication and commitment of those who have made an impact through the last 50 years.
As we celebrated, we were also making strategic decisions to impact SHAPE’s programs and sustainability for the next 50 years and beyond. We have added two new board members and our succession and sustainability committee is pushing forward.
We have faced some challenges because we work from a small pool of people. Many of the people working on the committee also worked with gala preparations and work with our programs and administration. We believe that our additions to the board along with outreach through the gala and other recent events are helping to expand our pool of supporters.
Another challenge we faced was with Lee, the elder from Galena Park that we mentioned in our last report, who still needs home repairs from Hurricane Harvey. We were able to connect him to a program, but his application for assistance was denied because there was too much additional damage in his backyard. We have reached out to the program to get clarification on the reason he was denied and to find out how we may be able to help. In the meantime, we have assisted Lee in applying for another program. We’ll keep you posted on his progression!
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