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Buckner International expanding in Longview; $6 million campaign raising funds for new campus

Plans were announced Nov. 10 by Buckner International to build a new Buckner Family Place and Buckner Family Hope Center in Longview on property the faith-based organization purchased earlier this year.

At a news conference Nov. 10, officials unveiled details of the plans, which include building 17 new apartments for the Family Place ministry, a transitional housing program for single parents and their children. The new Family Hope Center replaces the current program in Longview located across from First Baptist Church. The new campus is at 1102 S. High Street on nearly four acres of land.

A group of Longview supporters is organizing to raise the $6 million needed to fund the project. At the news conference, it was announced that an initial gift of $2 million has been given by an anonymous donor. Longview residents Susan and Rodney Henry and Kellie and Rogers Pope Jr. were introduced as co-chairs of the “Shining Hope Longview Campaign.”

“When we have the opportunity to go out and talk to others about being a part of this effort with Family Place and the Family Hope Center, I think the one theme that resonates more than anything else is ‘transforming lives,’” said Rogers Pope Jr.

“We’ve all been involved in temporary fixes, in doing short-term activities that make someone’s life better for a short time,” added Susan Henry. “The difference here is that we’re really concentrating more on self-sufficiency and trying to get people to move forward in a more independent and self-sufficient pattern in their lives.”

The Buckner Family Hope Center in Longview currently assists vulnerable families through client assistance, life skills training, and sustainability services. Jane Ann Crowson, director of the center, said the goal is to “empower them (clients), not to enable them. We want to help the families we serve become self-sufficient and less dependent.” The new Family Hope Center is approximately 10,000 square feet and will include a computer lab, multi-purpose rooms, classrooms, and office space for Buckner Children and Family Services of Longview.

The Buckner Family Place program started in Lufkin, Texas, in 1997 and is designed to “empower single parents and their families to achieve self-sufficiency and preserve families by encouraging education.” The Longview program is working with Kilgore College, where the residents will attend classes. Services offered at Family Place include affordable housing, education support, case management, counseling, life skills classes, transportation, and spiritual development. The 17 apartments in Longview will include a combination of two- and three-bedroom units. Buckner currently operates Family Place programs in seven Texas cities.

David Ummel, executive director of Buckner Children and Family Services of East Texas, said the expansion of Buckner’s presence in Longview “is going to completely change the destination of families. People who are coming out of generational poverty are going to completely redirect their families.”

Ummel is confident Longview will step up to the fundraising challenge.

“This community means a lot to Buckner,” he said. “It is the base for our volunteers, and our adoptive and foster care parents. This is where our clients live. It is our home. We’ve been here for a long time and we’re here for the long run.”

Founded in Dallas in 1879 as Buckner Orphans Home, Buckner International is a global ministry today, operating across Texas and in eight countries. In addition to services for orphans, vulnerable children and families, Buckner also operates seven continuing care retirement communities in Texas, including Buckner Westminster Place, which opened in Longview in 1996, joining Buckner Children and Family Services, which began serving the Longview community in 1992. Albert Reyes is president/CEO of Buckner, succeeding the former pastor of First Baptist Church Longview Ken Hall, who retired as CEO of Buckner in 2012.

Information about the expansion plans and the “Shining Hope Longview Campaign” is available online at www.shininghopelongview.org. Longview resident Kim Wright is serving as campaign coordinator for the fundraising effort and can be reached at kwright@buckner.org or by phone at 903-757-9383. Click here to view the Shining Hope Longview video.


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