When people think of Project Transformation North Texas, many will imagine one of the several church sites in Dallas. This summer, though, the name of North Texas extends to Gainesville- a city 30 minutes north of Denton. It’s not the first time PTNT has had a remote site location, but it’s the first time in many years and certainly since COVID-19.
Above: Children laugh as PTNT Corps Member, TJ Cash, wraps them in toilet paper during a game at the June Family Fun Night.
Executive Director, Kirsten Brandt James, remembers that Pastor Martha Smith first called her in December 2020 to express her desire to bring Project Transformation to Whaley UMC in Gainesville. “I had several calls with her and her leadership team. The PTNT Board of Directors then formed a Satellite Expansion Task Force and after considering all of the resources in place and the need in the community, we decided to commit to having a program at Whaley UMC! With the support of First Gainesville UMC, the Gainesville Kiwanis club and Whaley UMC, it has truly been a collaborative effort to serve the children and families of the community.”
So why Whaley UMC? According to Cooke County United Way, “from kindergarten to 3rd-grade children are learning to read. Beginning in the 4th grade, children read to learn. Therefore, it is important that we engage the entire community [of Gainesville] to help our children acquire the skills to be successful students.”
Above: Susan Beall, Remote Program Manager, alongside Raquel, TJ, and Sydney who are serving as PTNT Corps Members this summer on Team Whaley.
Since the 2023 Summer Program began on June 6, the team of 3 PTNT Corps Members has provided camp to over 26 elementary children, and about 10 volunteers from surrounding churches have come every day to read one-on-one with children in Bookworm Buddies. One volunteer, Skylyn Rosson shares about her time being involved in Project Transformation’s Reading Program.
“For me, being a Bookworm Buddy has been so rewarding. I’ll admit I wasn’t sure it was something I wanted to do. The first day I made a connection with a young lady. We took a few minutes getting to know each other. She is a great reader (even though she said she really doesn’t like to read out loud). Several days later I noticed that her older brother, who is also a super reader, didn’t have a consistent buddy to read with. We had more kids than reading buddies that day and I asked if he would come with us and read with me also. He came along but didn’t talk to me at all, just responded when I specifically asked him to read to me. The next day, I asked him if he would come read with me again, and he seemed more willing but still didn’t speak much. By the third day he was much more open and chatty with me. It has been a blessing reading and connecting with these children!”
Above: Skylyn with one of her Bookworm Buddies.
Skylyn initially came to volunteer because her 12-year-old daughter was intent on helping Project Transformation North Texas in whatever way she could.
“My daughter had been looking forward to helping out around the church this summer. Having completed confirmation this spring, she really wanted to help out. She has really stepped up this summer and helped the PT Corps Members and Pastor anyway that she can. It has been so wonderful watching her grow and learn how serving can be so rewarding. She has connected with so many of the young ones attending the program. I am very proud of her giving heart.”
To Susan Beall, Remote Program Manager for the Whaley UMC site, PTNT being in Gainesville hits close to home in a very real way.
“I’ve grown up here at Whaley. I’ve been here since I was four years old and I’ve worked in churches since 1986 so I saw the beginning of PT because I was always active in Annual Conference things and so I’ve always admired PT and what PT did. When I heard that PT had the opportunity to come to Gainesville, it really excited me because I love this community. Obviously I’ve been here all my life and I haven’t left and so I love seeing programs like this. We have so much need for this kind of thing, where kids just need to know that they’re loved and know that they’re supported. So the fact that PT came to Gainesville and came to Whaley UMC, to my home church, is a very exciting thing and then that I got to jump in and be a part of the beginning just really makes it all very special!”