Serve Within Highland's Restore Abilene Initiatives

   

Engage in Restore Abilene Initiatives - Overview

Highland leadership originally named four primary initiatives in the Restoration Vision pertaining to Restore Abilene. Here is a link to the descriptions: Vision And Mission.  In addition to the primary initiatives, Highland supports several other works to partner with God in the Restoration of Abilene. (Note that the Texas Dental Association is not currently planning another event and therefore, no service opportunities are related to this initiative.)

The following service opportunities promote the pillars of the Restoration Vision and are bundled on this webpage to reveal:

  • the connection of work which create Highland's collective effort to serve a couple of defined populations and, 
  • alignment with Restore the World initiatives. 

Welcome the Homeless in Abilene

Highland’s efforts to Welcome the Homeless in Abilene includes an emphasis on those affected by incarceration and addiction.  Imagine the image of a person standing outside of a warm home, looking in through a window at abundant life occurring inside.  Often, people affected by incarceration and addiction have a similar feeling and need a welcoming spirit to invite them to re-enter abundant life in the world.    

This emphasis begins with connections made inside prisons and jails during Bible studies and worship services and continues when an inmate gets released. The continuing relationship includes offering Sunday morning worship at Freedom, Wednesday night worship at Freedom and Grace, and a network of support provided both by Highland members and outside entities.  Follow this link to learn more about Freedom and Grace Fellowship. Freedom and Grace Fellowship

Please note that some of these opportunities will require a background check, special training or other requirements.    

Jail and Prison Ministries

Highland works with several local churches to share the love of God with inmates of the Taylor County Jail as well as those incarcerated in the French-Robertson and Middleton units.

Jail Ministry

The Taylor County Jail Ministry includes three primary aspects:

  • Worship services  - Every Thursday night, participating churches lead three worship services for inmates - two services for men, one for women.  Preaching, singing, praying, communion and baptisms are regular aspects of the services.  Hundreds of inmates are baptized each year.    
  • Discipleship Classes - Men and women who choose to be baptized during a Thursday night service are encouraged to attend discipleship classes on Tuesday nights from 6:30 - 8:30 pm.  These classes are taught by Joe Almanza, Highland minister.
  • Re-Entry Ministry - A coalition of community members meets once a month with the parole board to work toward assisting inmates being released from jail or prison as they re-enter society and become productive citizens.  This ministry works to connect newly released citizens find employment, transportation, housing and church - among other needs to be met.

Ministry in the Taylor County Jail is overseen by the Taylor County Jail Religious Advisory Board under the authority of the Sheriff and jail officials.  Highland member, Ben Thompson, is a member of the Advisory Board.  Volunteer training is held twice a year and special sessions are three times a year for updates regarding Taylor County.

Prison Ministries

Highland members work to offer hope and healing to men and women affected by incarceration in prison.  Ways this outreach occurs include:

  • French-Robertson Unit - Richard Beck and Herb Patterson lead a Monday night Bible class for about 50 inmates.  Bob Gomez started this work decades ago.  About 10 years ago, Herb joined Bob and about eight years ago, Richard joined the team when Bob retired.  Inmates stay long-term at the French-Robertson unit and so Richard and Herb are able to develop relationships
    • During the Christmas season, Highland members partner with Beltway to deliver gifts to inmates. 
  • Middleton Unit - Larry Mitchell has spent years conducting Bible studies within the Middleton Unit.  Since Covid started, he has moved to providing correspondence courses.  

COVID-19 restrictions have kept the Jail and Prison ministries from normal functioning.  Please contact Joe Almanza, Ben Thompson, Richard Beck or Larry Mitchell to learn how to serve within the Jail or Prisons. 


Kairos Outside

Nancy Patterson leads the local chapter of Kairos Outside which offers spiritual support for wives and mothers of inmates.  Nancy could use help in setting up for retreats that she organizes for these women. 


"Welcome Team"

Many men and women who get released from the Taylor Co Jail or local prisons exit the doors on foot with nobody to welcome them back to the world.  Many literally have nobody to pick them up, no home to return to and nobody to offer guidance and support for a hopeful life.  Members of this team, trained by Ben Thompson and Joe Almanza, will pick up men and women upon release and connect them to service providers during the first few days of freedom.  Contact Joe Almanza or Ben Thompson for more information. 


Cook a meal for Grandworks, 180 House, Men of Nehemiah, Phoenix House, Faithworks

These are the four main homes and also a job skills nonprofit that Highland has connection with.  They would appreciate a meal for their gatherings!  Contact Joe Almanza or Becky Almanza for more information.    


Participate in weekly Bible studies at Grandworks or 180 House

After covid, mentors will be allowed to re-join weekly Bible studies at these locations.  Contact Bryan Gibbs, Darrell Mauldin, Ben Thompson or Walt Pfeifer for more information.  


Freedom Fellowship Clean-out project

The building has accumulated some junk rooms through the years.  We would like to tidy the place up and also create some new spaces such as a library.  Contact Joe Almanza for more information. 


Research and develop a plan for opening Freedom and/or Grace on freezing nights

This idea will involve a visit to the Salvation Army and learning of the risks, security needs, etc. and creating a written proposal for elders.  Even though the proposal might not be approved, perhaps the experience will be helpful for a church they attend in the future.  Contact a minister to work with on this project.  


Collect bus passes, McDonalds gift cards, blankets and socks

These items are commonly given out at the Freedom and Grace locations.  Contact Joe Almanza or Ben Thompson. 


Serve on Wednesday nights at Freedom

Following are a few of the opportunities to serve at Freedom Fellowship on Wednesday nights.  Contact Terry St. Pierre, Darrell Mauldin, Joe Almanza or Darla Swaim for more information.

This location is still serving grab and go, with an option to eat at picnic tables outside.  Can use up to 3 volunteers on any given Wednesday night to help serve and clean-up. 

The Freedom Meal Team is needing help with deliveries of "to-go" meals on Wednesday evenings to approximately 6 - 9 families.  Meals will be ready for pick up at 5:00 pm at Freedom and delivered between 5 and 6:30.  (During covid)

Freedom Fellowship Van Driver


Serve in a variety of ways at Grace Fellowship 

Contact Dodd Roberts, Shannon Tippens or Ben Thompson for more information on the following opportunities:

Classroom Aide - assist the teacher in the older (10 years+) children's class on Wednesday nights, 5:45-7:15pm. Provide two deep coverage and help the teacher as needed.

Classroom Aide - assist the teacher in the younger (5-9 years) children's class on Wednesday nights, 5:45-7:15pm . Provide two deep coverage and help the teacher as needed.

Kitchen Worker (Day) - Assist with cooking and meal prep as needed. Wednesdays, noon-3pm

Kitchen Worker (Night) - Assist with final meal prep, serving and cleaning. Wednesdays 5:00-7:15pm

Van Driver - Use Highland van to pick up community members from various locations for Wednesday night service, attend service and take them home afterward. Wednesdays, 5:30-7:30pm.

Transportation - Use personal vehicle to pick up community members from various locations for Wednesday night service, attend service and take them home afterward. Wednesdays, 5:30-7:30pm.

Graphic Design - preparation of simple fliers, cards, and other communication for posting and distribution in the College Heights community. Includes creation of materials, not distribution. As needed, roughly 1-2 times per month.

Encourager/People Lover - come to Grace worship services and community events. Simply come be part of the Grace community. Hang out, fellowship and worship. Wednesdays 5:45-7:15pm. Special events approx 1-2 per quarter.

Worship leader - Co-lead and/or serve as back up leader when worship leader is not available.

Greeter - Greet people as they enter the Grace building for meals and/or worship. Wednesdays 5:30-7:15pm.

A/V Person - No experience needed! This person would run a very simple sound board and advance slides.

Prayer Team Member - Pray for requests from the community. Attend Wednesday services and pray with people if desired.

Laundry - Taking a small load of kitchen towels home every couple of weeks to wash and dry.

Kitchen Cleaner - Deep clean the kitchen once per month.


Serve at Highland Food Pantry

Volunteer times are:  Mondays 9:15 am - 12:15, Thursdays 9:30 am - 12:00, 5:45 pm - 7:15 pm, occasional Tuesdays 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm

Follow this link to learn more about the Highland Food Pantry and to sign up to volunteer.  Highland Food Pantry

  

BOBs

Breakfast on Beech Street (BOBs) is an ecumenical ministry, sponsored by Highland and four other downtown churches, that has battled hunger in Abilene since 1996 by serving a hot breakfast and a sack lunch to those in need.   There are about a dozen Highland members and usually ACU students who faithfully serve early each Friday morning.   In 2019, nearly 18,000 hot breakfasts and over 27,000 sandwiches were served to BOBs guests.   

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, “take out” sacks are currently being provided, and no inside dining service is provided.  Even though numbers are down somewhat, we are grateful that the meal service is continuing.  

BOBS is located downtown at 301 Beech Street.  Meals are served Monday through Friday from 6:30 am to 7:15 am, and the Highland team serves each Friday.  For more information on ways you can support BOBS or serve on Friday morning with BOBS, please contact the church office or email Terry Stremmel.


Demo, etc - studio home off of Sayles

Highland owns a small, one-bedroom home that needs to be demolished and remodeled in order to offer it as a place for someone in need of housing to live.  Contact Jim Etheredge for more information.


Grace and Freedom Gardens

The Grace and Freedom gardens may eventually become places for ex-offenders to serve.  However, it is important for these to be maintained currently.  The Grace garden provides almost 100% of the produce of the Highland Food Pantry and many of the neighbors at Freedom and Grace are given vegetables from the garden.  Contact Joe Almanza for more information. 


Mentorship role and social service network

Often, a person re-entering “life” needs a friend and mentor to walk alongside and help navigate needs such as obtaining documentation, finding work and finding a place to live.  Structures not yet developed in these ministries are mentorship roles and a social service referral network.   Consider working with Joe Almanza, Ben Thompson and Becky Almanza to develop a mentorship program and social service network.


Develop benevolence policies

Work with Becky Almanza on a project to explore best practices in administering benevolent funds.


Poverty simulation project

Highland members are encouraged to engage in initiatives to restore Abilene. In order to help equip our hearts and minds for the work, we would like to offer a training module, including a poverty simulation exercise. A project opportunity available is to research various ways poverty simulations are structured and propose a format for Highland. A second phase to this project could include the actual scheduling, set up and execution of the experience for members.  Contact a minister to work with on this project. 

Serve Youth In Abilene

In spite of the numerous churches in Abilene, a child could grow up in this town and never learn of God's love for them. For students attending public schools who do not live in a Christian home, it will be up to churches to let them know they belong to God's story. These are ideas to help connect in meaningful ways with youth in Abilene.


Mentor a GED Student

Highland partners with the Adult Education Program within the Abilene Independent School District to provide opportunity and encouragement to those in our community who wish to earn a GED.  Highland provides one-to-one mentorship for students and pays for the GED tests.   The following video shares a story from this ministry.  

Highland members mentor students in various ways with various timetables.  Following are some possibilities and considerations for those considering becoming a mentor. 

  • GED classes are held at Alta Vista Learning Center at 1929 S. 11th and are tested at Region 14. 
  • Mentors could simply commit to calling/texting students or giving rides to classes. 
  • The work seems most successful though when mentors can commit to 1-3 hours a week, visiting the center to talk with students in between classes. 
  • As an example, Royce Curtis, ministry leader, stops by to talk with students every Tuesday for a couple hours.    
  • Classes are offered on various days in the morning, afternoon and evening.  The following link is helpful to understand the scheduling.  https://www.abileneisd.org/adult-education/adult-secondary-education-ged/
  • There is not an expectation for Highland mentors to tutor.  Highland primarily provides support and encouragement.
  • However if a mentor would like to support this work by tutoring, this could be a helpful arrangement also.  Students test in for areas:  English, Science, History and Math - with math seeming to be the area in which tutoring is most often needed. 

Since this ministry began in 2014, approximately 225 students have completed their GEDs, paid for by Highland and supported through mentorships.  Contact Royce Curtis for more information. 


Teen Life

Teen Life is an AISD approved organization that provides on campus support to students.  Volunteers must go through the Teen Life training to become a facilitator.  Once trained, the volunteer serves for one hour per week for an 8 week commitment, facilitating a small group of teens as they work through curriculum together.  Hours are variable and the facilitator's schedule is accommodated as much as possible.  For more information talk with Ashley Stirman.

Boys & Girls Club

Each weekday during the school year, elementary and middle school students are bussed to Highland for after school care provided by the Boys & Girls Club.  As the oldest chapter hosted by a church, chapters throughout the nation hosted by churches follow what is called, “The Highland Model”.  

Most of the after-school care and activities are provided by the Boys and Girls Club nonprofit.  However, involvement and interaction from Highland members is welcome and encouraged.  At various times, Highland members have hosted a weekly “chess club”, art classes and given pizza parties for holiday seasons, just to name a few examples. Others have simply come to shoot baskets in our gym with these children. The students are at Highland from approximately 3:30 to 5:30 each day.  Involvement with these students requires a background check and approval from the site director. After covid, reach out to a Highland minister to help get you connected. 


Wednesday Night Neighborhood Kids

Each Wednesday night, students from the neighborhood around Highland come to eat together and learn about God.  Adults are needed to serve in this ministry.  Contact Ashley Stirmand or Susan Pierall for more information.


CarePaks4Kids

Highland joins other community partners to provide bags of food on weekends and during the summer to AISD students experiencing food insecurity.  Two ways to serve in this initiative are to assemble bags and deliver bags.  Assembling bags is coordinated by Love & Care Ministries and works well for groups.  Communities in Schools is responsible for delivering a number of bags to homes during the summer and need volunteer help.  For more information contact Paul Wallace. 


Summer Meals Feeding Program

The AISD continues its free and reduced lunch program through the summer except for the last three weeks of the summer.  Highland coordinates churches and other groups in town to fill this gap.  During this time frame, volunteers are needed for the cooking team (all cooking is done at the Highland kitchen) and the delivery team (various locations in Abilene).  Contact Becky Almanza for more information.


Pop-Up Pantry - Thanksgiving

We anticipate offering the second annual pop up pantry for AISD families identified by counselors this coming Thanksgiving season.  Opportunities to serve will include pre-assembling bags on a few nights leading up to the scheduled pick up day.  Becky Almanza organizes this effort.


Backpack booklet

Highland members could work together to create a little booklet, with a collection of profile-type stories of Bible characters that teens can identify with.  (For example, Joseph was an unaccompanied youth who was trafficked.  The story of his life might offer hope and God’s love to a teen in a similar life journey.)  This project will entail choosing stories and writing them in an accessible format and "published" for sharing with teens to read if and when they feel like it to help communicate with them their own belonging to God's story.  Contact Carin Ezzell for more information.   


Safe Families

Safe Families is a network of Christians that provide host homes for children who need a home to bridge a gap for a period of less than one year.  The Safe Families network offers training and support for a variety of roles.  Abilene's chapter is developing and needs additional members.  Follow this link for more information. https://abilene.safe-families.org/

Christmas Store

Each Christmas season, Highland creates a Christmas Store for members of Freedom, Grace and others in the community to purchase gifts with coupons earned through volunteer service.  Highland members donate toys and other gift items and then volunteer to set up the store and work during open hours.  Contact Becky Almanza for more information. 


Sort clothes for AISD Homeless Liaison

A good service project for groups is to sort donated items for the AISD Homeless Liaison.  Darrin Cox receives numerous donations on behalf of homeless students and in order to distribute them effectively, sorting is a needed task.  Contact Carin Ezzell or contact the AISD directly to set up a time.

Promote Peacemaking in Abilene

The Peacemaking team partners with the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS) in Lebanon to promote peace in the Muslim majority world. One way to partner is to promote peace in the Abilene / Highland context.

Consider engaging in the work to apply this model, created by ABTS, to divisive matters in our local context:

  • Form a group of approximately 12 members.  The group should consist of approximately half of the members holding a particular view and the other half holding a different view. 
  • Work to create adaptations of the 8 week curriculum used by ABTS.
  • Follow the guidelines for conversation, adapted for the local context, laid out by ABTS.  Click here for the list of guidelines:   https://abtslebanon.org/peacemaking/khebz-w-meleh/guidelines-for-dialogue-transforming-interfaith-encounters/

For more information, contact Garry Bailey.