When disaster strikes, Dream Center is here to help

By B.A. Belthoff / The Bulletin

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

Those words from Mother Teresa certainly ring true at the Brazoria County Dream Center, where no donation is considered too small.

“I can make your $1 donation become $10 within the community,” Executive Director Terri Willis explained. She and her staff approach their work with great love and determination to ensure the needs of those hurting are met.

The center provides necessities, such as food, clothing and cleaning supplies, and also connects people to organizations to help them get through the crisis that brought them to the Dream Center in the first place. People know about the center and donate food, clothing and bedding to assist with all disasters, not just floods.

The center redistributes what’s needed to shelters and other safe places that take in large groups of people needing a safe haven. When disasters happen, those needing assistance will come to the center, or the BCDC will take food trucks out to rural communities, such as Holiday Lakes along the Brazos River.

The idea of a Brazoria County Dream Center was birthed in the spring of 2005 after Pastor Craig Taylor of The Family Life Church in Lake Jackson attended a conference to hear keynote speaker and Los Angeles Dream Center founder Tommy Barnett. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita were the cause of so many needing assistance later that summer, but also the catalyst to make the center a reality. Pastor Craig quickly recognized that a center that connected people in need with a network of help from within the community was exactly what was needed in Brazoria County. By April of 2007, the doors to the Brazoria County Dream Center opened.

Each disaster has etched stories in Terri Willis’ mind, and she rattled off disaster after disaster, noting details about folks needing help, such as in 2008, when the fierce winds of Hurricane Ike blew through the San Luis Pass and many people lost power. They lined up at the Dream Center looking for emergency food stamps, ice, water, and food. Those needing help with registering with FEMA online were also assisted.

Willis also remembered when Damon needed clothing for children, and the Dream Center provided for their needs. And when the principal at Wild Peach Elementary School requested mental health counselors after the flooding of the San Bernard River during Hurricane Harvey, the center partnered with the Community Health Network, which has a mobile medical clinic and can provide mental health and dental services on site.

Because every community is so distinctive, the Brazoria County Dream Center partners with many different organizations, such as the Brazoria County Counseling Center, churches, FEMA, United Way, Dow Chemical, Abundant Living Faith Center from El Paso, Texas, and the Los Angeles Dream Center to ensure various needs are met.

By teaming up with those groups that already have a boots-on-the-ground operation, such as the Salvation Army’s ability to serve hot meals, a network of groups such as the Dream Center are able to pool their resources to help as many people as possible.

Willis described the operation she manages as having two versions. The post-Harvey Dream Center provides assistance to the community on a much grander scale than that of the pre-Harvey Dream Center. Pre-Harvey, the Houston Food Bank would bring MREs, or Meals Ready to Eat, twice a month and distribute them out of the back of the truck. Food is now delivered as the center requests it – about twice a week. Smaller pantries frequently use them as a resource in order to serve outer areas, because there are still so many people who can’t make ends meet.

Learning more and more as she goes through each disaster, Willis reflected on a conversation with a man from New Orleans who had called to let her know he was sending 20 cases of mold cleaner. He explained from his experience during Katrina that it was needed for eliminating mold, not just bleach. During Harvey, there were so many people who wanted to help out by donating goods, food and equipment that Willis had to rent storage containers to house the donations.

The outpouring of assistance by Texans for Texans was impressive. In fact, the Dream Center’s website lists statistics of how they received over $550,000 worth of supplies from local and Texas-based partners, businesses, and churches, in addition to 8 out-of-state organizations. 674 volunteers dedicated over 4,380 hours of service to disaster recovery efforts.

Giving isn’t just about food and funding. The donation of time is just as important. Willis assures that if you spend time at the center, you’ll be blessed by the experience. “Participating by helping people first-hand is so much more than money can buy,” she said.

The following quote, also from Mother Teresa, follows her email signature: “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”

Check out the website at: bcdreamcenter.org for ways to donate your time, talent, or treasure. The Brazoria County Dream Center is located at 792 S. Hwy 288-B in Clute.

(New-ish Texas resident B.A. Belthoff welcomes your comments. You can reach her at babelthoff@gmail.com.)