New nonprofit reaches out to local families
By BRITTANY FHOLER
A new resource for people in need is opening up on the square in Gatesville.
The Hidden Gem Family Center hopes to begin offering much needed services such as parenting classes, online classes, counseling and more.
Jennifer Featherston, with the Coryell County Crime Victims Office, is on the board of directors for the Hidden Gem Family Center, which is located at 115 S. 7th Street in Gatesville.
“We don’t have really any services in our county for victims,” Featherston said. “We have a few, but let’s say there’s a sexual assault. They have to go to Temple, or they have to go to Waco, and if it has just happened, you’re still sitting in the same clothes and riding to somewhere.”
Featherston said that the Hidden Gem Family Center has a goal of offering a space in the old hospital building on Lutterloh Avenue in Gatesville, which houses the Gatesville office for Counties Services MHMR, and partnering with Baylor Scott and White to start offering SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) exams for sexual assault victims in Coryell County.
Featherston added that they also want to offer a space in that same building for forensic interviews for children, anyone under 17 who has been assaulted, whether it be sexual or physical, or they’re a witness to an assault, and they need to be interviewed by someone who is trained to ask certain questions.
“Most services in other counties are only during the daytime, and if you have a job, then you can’t go out and do that,” Featherston added.
The S. 7th Street location will be the main office and where the parenting classes, GED classes, various resume or career related classes and counseling are offered. The board of directors will also meet there.
Featherston said they are looking at two options for locations for other services. One option includes building a center, while the other option is purchasing land with buildings already on it for the transitional housing which would be for a minimum of six months up to 24 months.
“We have a lot of victims where their choices are, stay in the situation or be homeless, so we want to be able to provide that,” Featherston said.
The organization also hopes to partner with local Senior Centers to provide outreach services to local senior citizens who wish to remain independent but still need some assistance with things like grocery shopping.
The name Hidden Gem Family Center came from the center’s Christian background.
“This is a Christian-based organization, and we feel that a lot of times, God created us all as a gem, but sometimes people can’t see that anymore, they don’t see the good in them, but it’s hidden down in there, and we want to help bring it back up so they can see the good in them,” Featherston said.
Chris Rodriguez is also on the board of directors.
“It’s like just anything in life,” Rodriguez said. “As you’re going through life, and you’re in a bad situation, you know, all the bad things that happen to you kill your light, they steal your joy, they rob you of everything, and I think that’s what happens to a lot of these women, families and even children, and that’s how they get in trouble because they don’t have any hope.”
Rodriguez shared a story of a friend who would mine opals out of big rocks, without knowing how the final gemstone would turn out in terms of size or even quality. His friend worked at the rock carefully until a beautiful opal was revealed.
“That’s the way the Hidden Gem is, because you know on the outside, they might see themselves as just this rock, but inside, the beauty is so amazing, but it takes someone to work with them, to mine that out of that and give them hope,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said local law enforcement as well as the county officials are supportive of the mission of the Hidden Gem Family Center. Featherston said the local churches are also supportive.
“Everybody who lives in this county knows the need,” Featherston said.
Coryell County District Attorney Dusty Boyd was excited about the Hidden Gem Family Center and its goals.
“What I really love about this initiative is it’s just a different way to reach out to these victims and the people that need this kind of support outside of the traditional legal system, so kind of having this parallel program that runs with us and runs beside us and gives them a different avenue so to speak for counseling, assistance, support, information, things that we’re kind of confined on in certain ways in the criminal justice system, but to have these two parallel programs and initiatives running together really brings a broader, more comprehensive support mechanism to Coryell County,” Boyd said. “I love the platform that it’s starting from, and I’m really excited about the vision and whether we want to grow into and have the people in the community that want to support this and see that there’s a true need for this, especially as Coryell County grows.”
The center and its services would be open to all county residents, not just those who reside in Gatesville.
“We just want to take care of our own,” Featherston said. “I believe that’s what churches are called to do is take care of the widows and the orphans, and I think that families fall under that. They need to be supported, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
The Hidden Gem Family Center will be relying on donations for funding. They currently do not have a website set up to collect donations, but they are accepting checks mailed to the center’s address 115 S. 7th Street, Gatesville, Texas 76528.
Those interested in more information can reach out to Featherston by calling her office at 254-865-5911 ext. 2312.