Archive for the ‘The Nelson Center’ Category

Caring for Kids Auction Features Family Fun!

April 16, 2012

C4K auction BidNow button Keeping the kids occupied this summer just got easier! Our Caring for Kids event May 5th, features an outstanding silent auction, and you can start the bidding online NOW. The Online Auction is jam-packed with entertainment the whole family will enjoy. Whether your idea of fun is a water park or Shakespeare in the park, there’s something for every taste and temperament. If you’re a spectator or active participant, we have tickets from A (American Airlines) to Z (the Zoo). If you’ve got game or just appreciate those who have it, you’ll find some outstanding sports memorabilia up for bid, including a Texas Rangers 2011 American League Championship ball signed by Texas legend Nolan Ryan.Item Image

Oh, the possibilities: take a trip on the Grapevine Railroad, take a dip at Schlitterbahn, or just take a nap with a handmade quilt. The ladies of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Dallas made and donated five beautiful quilts for this auction. Item Image

This is a great way to shop – not only are these items irresistible and tax deductible, every penny will go toward helping and healing the more than 250 deserving children in the Metroplex who have suffered abuse and abandonment – the children served by Nelson Children’s Ministries.

After the online auction closes, further bidding for the auction items will take place at the Caring for Kids fundraiser May 5th at the American Airlines C. R. Smith Museum in Fort Worth. [Note: We can bid on your behalf at the event through absentee bidding when you give us your maximum bid amount. Email   for specifics.]

About the Caring for Kids Event:

Saturday, May 5, 2012

American Airlines C. R. Smith Museum, 4601 Texas Highway 360 at FAA Road, Fort Worth, Texas

Cocktails & silent auction: 6:00 p.m.

Dinner & live auction: 7:00 p.m.

Other: Visitors can take a flight through aviation history with interactive exhibits at the museum, including a flight lab and flight simulator

Individual reservation: $50

Baptisms & Goodbyes at the Nelson Center

September 16, 2011

Today, September 16, 2011, the last resident left the Nelson Children’s Center in Denton. As the Nelson Center closes its doors, it presents the perfect opportunity to reflect on how this wonderful ministry has impacted so many young lives over the years.

The following story was written by Ruth Drum, the spiritual care director at the Nelson Center. It is a testament to the power of God’s love, and to the promise of hopeful futures, created one child at a time.

Nelson baptism1On September 6, I was working in my office when a program manager called me to come down the hallway because of a disturbance. There was a lot of commotion from an 8-year old resident who had just found out that he was going to be hospitalized that afternoon. Staff had asked him why he was so upset, and he said, “I was going to be baptized on Thursday. No one ever loved me enough to get me baptized.”  And now he was being taken away before that could happen.

I spoke with this little boy briefly and asked him why he wanted to be baptized. He had a hard time expressing it so I reminded him of the reasons that we had studied from the Catechism: God works forgiveness of sins, new life, and salvation.  It struck me as an emergency situation in which any Christian can baptize. And so in one of the rooms off the hallway, with three staff members as witnesses and water from one of their water bottles, I baptized this boy in “The Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” After we prayed, the boy had calmed down, smiled, and gave us all a hug.

Now a new creation in Christ and my new little brother in the Faith, he was able to walk out with hospital personnel,  secure in the knowledge that Nelson Center staff “loved him enough” to get him baptized and that as God’s child, he has a great future ahead forever. Amen.

LSS to Close the Nelson Children’s Center in Denton, Plans to Refocus Children’s Programs in Dallas County

August 22, 2011

Lutheran Social Services of the South, Inc. (LSS) announced today the closing of the Nelson Children’s Center in Denton, Texas, effective in 30 days. The Nelson Center, which opened in 1996, is a residential treatment center that serves up to 65 children (ages 5-17) who have been past victims of abuse and neglect.  Most of the children are in the state foster care system and placed by the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). The property will be put up for sale and proceeds from the sale will help facilitate the potential transition of that program to Dallas County.

The decision to close the facility is based on several factors including the future of residential treatment services in the Metroplex area, pending foster care redesign in Texas, and the current placement hold at the facility.

“Given the current atmosphere of foster care redesign in the state of Texas, and the pressing need for an RTC in Dallas County, we are making the strategic decision to close the Nelson Center and begin the necessary steps to determine whether it is feasible to transition this and other programs to Dallas County,” said Dr. Kurt Senske, chief executive officer for LSS.

State foster care redesign guidelines mandate that children in foster care remain in their home communities nearer to their biological families, schools, and social support systems. When children are removed from their home community for lack of a suitable place to go, it can add further trauma to their already troubled lives, making successful recovery more difficult. Currently, there are no residential treatment centers in Dallas County where the need is greatest. LSS also recruits and trains foster families with offices in Richardson and Mesquite as well as Fort Worth, serving more than 300 children in foster care in the Metroplex.

The Nelson Center has been on placement hold since July 9, 2011, as a result of three injuries that occurred in March 2011, when children were contained by staff after acting out aggressively. Under a placement hold, children who cycle out of the facility are not replaced by DFPS. Currently, there are 27 children at the 65-bed facility which is not financially sustainable. The length of the placement hold is undetermined, but LSS estimates it could last between 9-12 months.

“The Nelson Center has been a safe haven for more than two thousand children over the years. We are very proud of the program and the positive impact it has made on the lives of so many troubled children,” added Dr. Senske. “However, under the circumstances, we feel the time is right to determine if it is possible to relocate our services to Dallas County where the need is most critical.”

LSS plans to work with the Department of Family and Protective Services to provide a smooth transition for the children remaining at the Nelson Center over the next 30 days. Employees and staff will remain another 30 days after that to finalize the closing of the facility.

LSS Earns Three-Year CARF Accreditation

August 17, 2011

TX imageIt is a testimony to all the dedication and great work on the part of Lutheran Social Service employees that LSS has earned a Three-Year Accreditation, the maximum possible, from CARF International for LSS’s Child and Family Services programs. The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) is an independent, nonprofit accreditor of health and human service providers and is recognized worldwide. The accreditation process is voluntary and provides an extensive review of the service provider’s organization, from top senior leadership to the smallest programmatic detail. The CARF accreditation applies to all 21 offices statewide affiliated with LSS’s Child and Family Services programs.

“We strive to provide high quality and innovative care to all we serve and we believe this is reflected in CARF’s decision to award us their highest allowed accreditation of three years,” said Dr. Kurt Senske, chief executive officer for LSS. “We know of no other Child Placing Agency in Texas who has passed the rigorous test of CARF accreditation other than LSS.”

The CARF accreditation process begins with the service provider’s internal examination of its own programs and business practices which is audited by CARF. It concludes with intensive on-site surveys conducted by a team of expert practitioners selected by CARF. During the survey, the provider must demonstrate that it conforms to a series of rigorous and internationally recognized CARF standards.

CARF surveyors reviewed LSS programs and interviewed primary stakeholders including foster families, foster children, external client representatives from Child Protective Services and the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement, board members, and employees, among others. LSS programs and services for children and adolescents surveyed included community housing and shelters, foster family and kinship care, legal permanency, residential treatment, and specialized or treatment foster care.

Some of the CARF finding highlights included these summary statements:

“The organization is seen as a leader in the state by the funding and referral sources for excellence in Child and Family Services.”

“The organization has done an excellent job developing sites in the communities it serves.”

“LSSS has a strong understanding of the culture of the persons and communities it serves with many of the staff members, including those in leadership positions and foster families, being bicultural and bilingual.”

“The efforts of LSSS to move toward a trauma-informed model of therapeutic services reflects a best practice and forward-thinking approach in delivering quality services to the children, youths, and families served.”

“The LSSS family support workers demonstrate commitment and compassion and are available to families whenever needed.”

“The ORR program is a unique and much-needed service.”

“The organization demonstrates exceptional programming in the areas of community-based social, recreational, and spiritual activities at New Life Children’s Center.”

These comments represent just a few in an overall glowing report in recognition for a job – we should say jobs – well done.

Spiritual Turning Point at Nelson Center

July 26, 2011

Nelson bible studyWe have a young lady, 15 years old, at Nelson Center who, from the moment she arrived, was quite upset that she had placed in a “Lutheran facility.” She made it very clear to staff – and to anyone who came to assist with spiritual care – that she wanted NO part in spiritual activities, even expressing her dislike of worship music with fingers in her ears, trying to drown out the music.

It’s not uncommon for us to have children in our care who are just like this young lady – who have either met people who professed Christianity and whose actions do not match their words, or who have not yet been able to reconcile their hard experiences with God. Despite their resistance, we continue to pray and encourage spiritual questions for them.

During the second week of Vacation Bible School, sponsored by Cross Timbers Community Church (Denton), the volunteers began the first day with a lesson about Gideon and how he was asked to face the Midianites with little supplies, an itty bitty “army,” and LOTS of faith and trust in God. God, of course, delivered him with His mighty hand. This young lady sat through the Bible lesson quietly, and at the end, went up to one of the pastors and asked where she could find that story in the Bible (keep in mind she wanted nothing to do with Bibles previously).

The next morning, when a staff member whom this young lady knew to be a believer arrived at work, the young lady approached and said, “Guess what I learned about yesterday?” “What did you learn about?” asked the staff member. “Gideon – do you know where that is in the Bible? Cause I do. The pastor showed me. If you get me a Bible I will show you.” This staff member (who had been, to no avail, trying to encourage this young lady into a relationship with God) immediately and enthusiastically ran to grab a Bible. From that point on, for the next three hours straight, the young lady began to read scripture by herself. She held on to that Bible like it was a security blanket all day.

From that day on, the young lady has been participating in Spiritual Care activities with enthusiasm. What a great joy! As the Lord reveals Himself to his children, we are honored and blessed to be a part. Praise the Lord, and thank you Cross Timbers Community Church!

Calvary Lutheran Volunteers Bring VBS to the Nelson Center

July 22, 2011

Nelson Center VBS1 Every year, Calvary Lutheran of North Richland Hills carries out a summer mission trip with their youth and young adults, led by Janelle Miller, children’s and youth pastor of Calvary. Lucky us, this year  they chose to come serve the Nelson Center and bring a building team plus a crew to do “Day Camp” (like Vacation Bible School). They brought around 40 people and came with BIG hearts, open and ready to help!

The building team worked in the heat all week and accomplished three BIG projects for us:

· Building up the exterior fence of the Nelson Center property.

· Tearing down the old pool bench area and the “shaded area” that didn’t really provide any shade.

· Building a brand new, beautiful gazebo and bench area by the pool – complete with all-day shade and storage for life jackets and pool toys.

The Day Camp crew worked with our kids from 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and created a series of activities that resembled the best VBS you could hope for. The kids rotated through five activities that kept them engaged, learning about God and how to work with and respect each other. The activities included:

· Arts and crafts– picking out fabric to making and personalize our own teddy bears from scratch – reminding us that we, too, are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”

· Bible time– making birdfeeders to illustrate how God cares for creation, making collages of Bible verses, tie-dyeing t-shirts, making prayer boxes, and having water games – all with a Bible story as the focus.

· Recreation– playing bean sack dodge, pilo polo (a favorite!), kickball, and just getting lots of energy out while working together.

· Cooking time– learning the important life-skill of cooking, making our own snacks like chocolate chip muffins, red velvet cookies, soft pretzels, rice krispy treats, and more. YUM!

· Scrapbooking time – every child began a memory book with pages dedicated to their strengths, likes, interests, hopes, and dreams.

Some other great parts of the week:

Every day the kids sang and danced and worshipped along with staff and volunteers during a closing ceremony; kids even held hands during “Jesus loves me. ”

The Day Camp crew also took on two HUGE other projects – giving the chapel an extreme make-over by bringing in new paint, art, furniture, and offering a blessing over it at the end of the week; and the other project was helping to organize my office and all the donations!

The kids were VERY excited about each new day of activities; even kids that typically refuse activities jumped right into the fun. Everyone including staff all received beautiful shirts for Nelson Center pride.

The volunteers are pumped and ready to come back! One volunteer put it best; she said, “I left on the last day feeling unsatisfied – not that we had a bad experience or didn’t do enough while we were there; but there is so much more to do! We are ready to go back.”

Calvary Lutheran, we’re really looking forward to having you back. Thanks for a great week!

Nelson’s Cinderella Story

June 22, 2011

nelson cinderella corsages Fifteen-year-old girls should be thinking about homecoming dances, first dates, prom, and what they’ll wear on all such milestone occasions. But for the teenage girls residing at the Nelson Children’s Center in Denton, these dreams are cut short or obliterated, as they deal with the emotional trauma of abuse and abandonment.

On Friday, May 27th, six Nelson Center girls were able to have their “Cinderella moments,” as 20 volunteers came with a selection of dresses, make-up, jewelry, hair products, nail polish, shoes, and corsages (from Holly’s Gardens and Florist in Denton), to prepare the girls for a special night to remember. Karen Delaney and Apricot Lane Boutique in Highland Village brought the “bling” – shimmering bracelet and ring sets that perfectly matched the girls’ outfits.

After the volunteers helped them all get ready and beautified, the girls stepped into a Hummer stretch limo provided at a special rate by Metropolitan Limo service, and dined at Olive Garden, where Claudia Aviles and her team dished out incredible service and a Nelson cinderella olive gardendelicious menu.

 Nelson cinderella limo

After dinner they attended a performance of the Dallas Symphony Nelson orchestraOrchestra, and discovered the magic of classical music. Jazzella McKeel photographycaptured the evening’s lasting memories.

Happy tears were shed and the girls said they felt pretty, elegant, and special for the very first time. This unforgettable experience was made possible by friends (or should we call them Fairy Godmothers and Godfathers?) of the Nelson Center, whose donations funded the event and whose volunteer efforts made the girls’ dreams, at least for one night, come true.

And the beat goes on … at the Nelson Center

June 16, 2011

Nelson guitar guy

In September 2010, David Adams began teaching weekly guitar lessons to small groups of Adolescent Boys (ages 12-15) at the Nelson Center in Denton. He has since added guitar lessons with our Big Boys (ages 9-11), and we are so lucky to have him lending his talents here at Nelson.

Dave is a funny, cheerful, sincere, genuine, compassionate, understanding, flexible, and creative guy. These are just a few of the adjectives that describe him.

Following is my Q & A interview with Dave:

How did you hear about volunteering at Nelson Center?

Two connections with Cross Timbers Church: Jamie Mullens with Hope for North Texas (a ministry at Cross Timbers church), and Danny Stokes, pastor of the Denton campus of Cross Timbers Church.

Why did you decide to volunteer?

I had the time to volunteer, and knowing that God would provide an opportunity, I was ready to plug in somewhere. I have kids and grandkids, so know how to interact well with kids. My wife is a therapist, so I know something about what it takes to work with an emotionally “troubled” population. I knew she could give me tips and help me with the right words to say.

What’s been your favorite moment of volunteering at the Nelson Center?

Because the boys at Nelson – and any emotionally-disturbed child, and teenagers for that matter – have such a difficult time attaching to and focusing on one thing, you have to find a “hook” in whatever activity you are doing to capture their attention. My favorite experience was when I found that “hook” in the Adolescent Boys group – teaching them a few simple chords, so they could play the chords in a continuous beat , and I could play “above” them in a bluesy-rock rhythm. This allowed the boys to play together and feel like they had made real progress. Another favorite moment was watching one young man, “K,” start to pick out chords and notes by ear. K struggles with reading and identifying notes on a page, but he had an amazing, undiscovered talent.

What has been your biggest challenge volunteering?

It’s not been an issue with patience at all. It’s just discovering that “one thing” for each boy that sets a fire in their eyes for the guitar lessons – finding the connection for each one that is the key to getting them invested in their own talent, growth, and abilities.

What keeps you coming back?

It’s like golf. When that one right swing or great shot hooks you. That one moment when you see them become invested and believe in their own potential and ability that hooks you. That one moment is awesome.


June 7, 2011

100595088 Volunteer energy is so important, especially in the prevailing winds of state and federal budget cuts. Our children’s facilities (three residential treatment centers and one refugee shelter) each have a Director of Volunteers—we call them DOVs―who coordinate the volunteer efforts of the individuals and groups generously serving the children of LSS. A DOV is also in charge of organizing foster care fundraising and special events for our 16 foster care offices throughout Texas.

At the treatment centers, the DOVs touch the lives of the abused and troubled young residents every day, arranging activities and creating memories for the kids to take with them when they leave. Recently, Nelson Children’s Center in Denton and Krause Children’s Centerin Katy both celebrated prom nights, and the excitement among the kids has never been higher.

The day before Krause’s prom, a note appeared under DOV Tawana Goodwin’s door. Scanned here (but hard to read) it says: Krause PROM note

Dear Mrs. Tawanna, I just want to say thank you for everything that you’ve been doing for me and others but most of all thank you for PROM because what I’m experiencing now I haven’t seen or done in the free and all because you, the great woman God’s made you into, thanks for working and helping me when you where busy and tired and wanted to go home. So I thank you! I admire you and preciate you also thank you. Mrs. Tawanna your awesome.

“The pampering and attention the kids get for the prom is an all-new experience for them, believe me,” said Tawana, who gets almost as excited about prom as the kids. “They may not tell you or show you, but they really appreciate what we do!”

Prom is just one example of how volunteers step in to help at the centers. In 2010 alone the DOVs worked with more than 7,500 volunteers whose tasks ranged from huge facility renovations to Easter egg hunts and guitar lessons – all labors of love on their own time. The DOVs also give tours, take on speaking engagements, and generally help to raise awareness and financial support for the centers.

Now it’s time to introduce the LSS DOVs and their habitats (flying North to South):

Rebekah Chase Poling―Nelson Children’s Center in Denton DOV Rebekah







Lisa Brown―New Life Children’s Center in Canyon LakeDOV Lisa







Tawana Goodwin―Krause Children’s Center in Katy








Joanna Villarreal―Bokenkamp Emergency Children’s Shelter in Corpus ChristiDOV Joanna







Whitney Flynt―alighting at foster care offices across TexasDOV Whitney








These professional role models devote their hearts and hands to feathering the nests of the children at our facilities, sanctuaries of help, healing, and hopeful futures.

Is There a Teddy Bear Doctor in the House?

May 26, 2011

Nelson Teddy Bear At the Nelson Children’s Center, yes there is! Her name is Anita Ferguson, a Denton resident and longtime volunteer, who serves as a mentor and surrogate parent for several kids at the Nelson Center.

While Anita doesn’t claim a medical license, she does have a big heart, a sewing machine, and very crafty fingers. That’s all we need for Teddy Bear Doctor credentials.

At the Nelson Center, children often arrive with no more than a plastic trash bag of personal belongings, because many have been bounced around half a dozen home placements throughout the previous year or so. Consequently, those few items in the trash bag are precious, as are any other belongings the kids acquire from the “Point Store” (the Nelson “rewards store” for positive behavior) or from birthdays, Christmas, etc.

Teddy bears have great value here. They represent safety, security, and innocence to children who have lacked most of these things in the past. Because of the sometimes aggressive nature of many of our children, stuffed animals often take the brunt of a tantrum or outburst. It is so important to the staff at Nelson Center to help the kids keep the few belongings they have in good condition, so we  sought out a “Teddy Bear Doctor” to fix any major or minor repairs needed. Anita has been faithfully fulfilling that role for the past two years. She has reattached limbs, reunited tails with backsides, and performed many other forms of “cosmetic surgery.” Her most recent “patient” belonged to a 9-year-old boy. The bright orange teddy bear had a detached muzzle, and you can see by the post-surgery picture (above) he is back in one cuddly piece. 

We are so thankful for Anita, her good heart, and her talent! Because of her teddy bear skills, the kids continue to have a piece of tangible, huggable security to call their own.

%d bloggers like this: