by Kelly Musgrave (an 11-year Lake Highlands resident and Dallas native)
The minute I stepped foot into Pamper Lake Highlands, I realized it is exactly what Lake Highlands needs. There are over 11,000 children in Lake Highlands living in poverty. A recent article in the Dallas Morning News reported that about 38 percent of Dallas children live in poverty, with poverty being defined as a family of four that makes less than $24,000 annually. Dallas currently ranks worse than Philadelphia, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Chicago, which means that A LOT of Dallas residents are barely scraping by with no hope for financial security or planning for the future. Mayor Mike Rawlings has a poverty initiative in place, and our own City Councilman Adam McGough works tirelessly innovating and collaborating to impact poverty here in Lake Highlands.
Enter Pamper Lake Highlands.
THE BACK STORY
Caren Bright, the CEO and Founder of PLH, was in need of help. She survived homelessness and extreme poverty and feared life would stay that way. She and her children moved to a one-bedroom apartment in a low-income complex on Whitehurst Drive. This is where the Lake Highlands community stepped in, proving we aren’t a typical urban community that simply tolerates poverty. LH residents took Caren under their wings, helping her with parenting, counseling, education, addiction recovery and Bible study, spurring something incredible inside her heart. After Caren was lovingly empowered to lift her family out of poverty, she felt God calling her to help lift others out of the same oppression. Her first action step was simple yet effective. In 2014 Caren and her daughter Victoria collected diapers and baby supplies from friends and set up a “lemonade stand” on Whitehurst. But instead of selling lemonade, they handed out care packages to mothers in need. The message was direct: you are loved.
Caren then felt called to have a second, larger diaper event so she could do a community assessment, a way to determine if underprivileged families would participate in poverty intervention programs that would help them in the same way the LH community helped her. She shared her vision with our community, asking for help with diaper and hotdog donations. LH responded with gusto, resulting in a successful outreach event. The turnout proved that local families in need were indeed interested in the types of programs she envisioned.
Despite having a ninth-grade education, Caren leapt out of her comfort zone and began sharing her vision to start something innovative and effective. She signed up for a nonprofit management course and talked to other nonprofit organizations. Her supporters helped her financially and spiritually as she worked to file for a 501(c)(3) and form a board of directors. In the fall of 2015, Pamper Lake Highlands began ESL (English as a Second Language) classes, parenting classes and childcare, using free diapers as an incentive to attend. Lake Highlands United Methodist Church volunteers stepped in to give their time, energy and love to class participants. Soon classes for job and college readiness, financial literacy, and bible study began through volunteers and partnerships with other nonprofits. The women served by PLH were suddenly being loved in a dramatic, holistic way and their children were being taught and cared for by kind teachers while they gained confidence and self-esteem in class.
Here is where I came in.
As a former bilingual elementary school teacher, I can’t help but feel a twinge of guilt as I watch my own children grow up in the language-rich, educated, social environment that comes with having two college-educated parents. My children have an extreme advantage over the students I used to teach, and bridging that gap seems almost impossible. When I saw what Caren and her volunteers had created based on prayer and instinct, I knew that Pamper Lake Highlands was the answer. They are onto something, and its potential is astronomical. Lifting families up and giving them tools to end the vicious cycle of poverty is truly attainable with the PLH model. Because I want to see it succeed here in Lake Highlands, I began volunteering, joined the board and became a monthly financial partner.
CURRENT PLH PARTNERSHIPS
Currently Pamper Lake Highlands serves 80 women and 54 children ages 0-5, and it has active partnerships with these groups and organizations.
WHERE YOU COME IN
Even though PLH has been awarded a variety of community grants, including grants from 100 Women of Lake Highlands, the Lake Highlands Women’s League, the LHPID and the Exchange Club of Lake Highlands, its business side is extremely lean. Grant funds are typically restricted to operational costs and do not cover overhead costs (salaries, rent, insurance, donor management, development, etc.). To continue operating, we need our community to invest in the future of PLH.
PLH currently scrapes by with 12 recurring monthly donors. Their donations fund the portion of childcare costs not covered by grant money, the rent and Caren’s salary. (Caren is the only salaried employee for an organization the size of a preschool.) PLH is still a grassroots and nascent organization; it relies on monthly donors to fund operational and developmental costs as it seeks to strengthen its fundraising, marketing, publicity, and preparation of data for grant applications. I would like to increase the number of monthly donors tenfold so that PLH can better budget and plan for the future.
Monetary donations to PLH directly impact our community in a meaningful way. My monthly donation goes straight to a team of hard-working people dedicated to making Lake Highlands a stronger, more cohesive place to live. I am proud to support PLH as they strive to eradicate poverty from our neighbors’ family trees.
Please join me in becoming a monthly financial partner with Pamper Lake Highlands. Together we can make a difference in the lives of many.