Dallas-based Buckner International has a 143-year history of serving communities across the U.S., but the Buckner Family Hope Center at Aldine’s history tells a story of generational struggles and gaining community trust through dedication to service.

Sylvia Bolling

“The Buckner Family Hope Center at Aldine began as the Aldine Youth Center by Sylvia Bolling, who lived in the community with her children,” said Whitney Nico, director of the Christian faith-based non-profit organization’s Buckner Family Hope Center at Aldine. “She wanted a safe place for her children and their friends to go after school.”

Bolling was dubbed the Outstanding Woman of 2015 in the category of Community Service by the North Harris County chapter of the American Association of University Women. She has been a treasure within her community since 1990, when, after realizing that Aldine offered very few afterschool programs for students, she began what would become the Aldine Family Hope Center.

“She was gifted the building and she grew the program and her heart for the community,” Nico said.

In 2012, Bolling’s passion for community service attracted the attention of Buckner International, seeing in the Aldine Family Hope Center a shared mission of uplifting the community’s youth.

“Buckner acquisitioned the Aldine Youth Center and knew we had to continue the tremendous work that had been started in the community,” Nico said.

In theory, continuing Bolling’s work seemed like a streamlined process. However, winning over the trust of the Aldine community proved to be a challenge.

“[Aldine] is a tight-knit community that can be wary of outsiders. We had to let families know we were invested in the community and them,” Nico said. “We are here for the long term and want to see this community thrive.”

The learning curve was steep for the Buckner family as well. For one, dispersing information within such a tight-knit community proved difficult.

“Letting the community know about all of the great services The Buckner Family Hope Center at Aldine has to offer and them feeling like they can trust us [was challenging],” according to Nico. “It is a very close community and word of mouth is a big factor.”

To address the area’s poverty rate of 38 percent, the Center at Aldine sought set out to expand on Bolling’s original after-school programming to also include “classes and activities for everyone in the family, so everyone feels welcome and is experiencing growth,” Nico explained.

But generational change is a massive undertaking, particularly when each generation inherits its predecessor’s trauma and struggles.

“We must pour knowledge and opportunities into the children of today and tomorrow by assisting and strengthening the family unit. If there is a need then we must help or provide resources to fill in those gaps,” Nico said.

The Center now offers resources for job readiness, financial literacy, GED and ESL classes and parenting classes, along with a food pantry clothing for families with needs for the basics. Also on hand is a resale shop with gently used clothing.

Armando Walle, the area’s elected representative in the Texas House, said he grew up nearby in the kind of family that often needed such assistance.

“That type of family really needs, sometimes, an advocate. I would not be in the position that I’m in without the work of centers like this (that) offer the opportunity for a kid to blossom and to fulfill their full potential, and that’s being productive citizens and also giving back to their community.”

The organization is also stepping in as childcare and other costs of living.

Moreover, the Center — located near the East Aldine Town Center — provides free counseling services to help clients address mental health issues.

“They say it takes a village to raise a child and the communities across Houston should take that motto personally,” Nico said. “I’d like for Houston to provide an environment where kids have great opportunities at their fingertips to be successful in life.”

Buckner Family Hope Center at Aldine
4700 Aldine Mail Route, Houston 77039


— by Caroline Cabe