The Sonshine Outreach Center: A “One Stop Shop” For Anyone in Need in Brazos Valley, Texas
Lisa Wamsley, a coordinator at the Sonshine Outreach Center, dedicates herself to her work in helping those in need. From flea spraying an older gentleman’s house before he gets home from the hospital to paying for a kidney surgery for a young woman, Ms. Wamsley goes into work each day, unsure of what will come up, who will walk through the door, or what the day will bring, but ready to say “yes” to helping anyone in need.
“We do utility assistance, medical assistance, we have a food pantry, rental and housing assistance, those kind of programs on a regular basis. But we also do just as many things that happen to come up. We don’t really fit into a category or box. We try very hard to never say no!” said Ms. Wamsley.
Food and clothing collection began in 1984 in a Madisonville Methodist church closet. As the need for resources were realized, fellow churches throughout the county saw the need and wanted to help. Sonshine Outreach Center started when churches throughout Madisonville County decided that if they band together, they could truly help fulfill the needs within the community. As it evolved, they donated their benevolence money to one place and that one place meets the needs. Instead of a client going to the Baptist Church one month, then the Methodist Church the next, they can go to one place and get all the help they need.
“Stronger together,” said Ms. Wamsley. “It started with the idea that while one church alone may not be able to fully help an individual, if they all came together and worked through a place like Sonshine Center, we could possibly meet the need. Our board is now made up of 14 member churches. We collaborate with all different entities throughout the community in order to help anyone with any crisis they may be dealing with.”
Ms. Wamsley believes the strongest part of their work, especially thanks to the support of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas and the It’s Time Texas Collaborative Innovations for Community Health (CICH) grant, includes financial assistance.
“Our clients often have to make sacrifices. If they have an electric bill and a doctor’s appointment, they might have to pick which one to prioritize and pay for. So, they pick the electric bill and then cancel the doctor’s appointment. This compromises their health and isn’t right. We try to help them reach equity. We will cover their electric, or help them make rent, etc. That way they can prioritize these other needs that are important,” said Ms. Wamsley.
Full of heartbreaking and heartwarming stories, Wamsley recently was able to help a woman who’d been dealing with endometriosis for five years.
“The young lady came in to ask for food, and was obviously in pain. In the conversation with her, we found out she had been diagnosed five years ago with endometriosis, but didn’t have insurance or the funds to go to a doctor and get what she needed. She’d spent five years in pain.”
The Sonshine Outreach Center knew that the young lady didn’t come in that day for that reason. But ultimately, they were able to get her in to see a doctor and get the help she needed.
“In fact, her appointment is today!” exclaimed Ms. Wamsley with a smile. “We try very hard to say no. I have so many moments that have stuck with me over the past 17 years.”
The Sonshine Outreach Center has recently purchased four acres in a new location within Madisonville. Their goal is within the next five years to have a completely new, larger facility, with the opportunity to hold financial classes.
“Our goal as an organization is to never turn anyone away. Which I think is super unique. We don’t focus on just one thing. We aren’t always successful, but we try very hard to always meet the need, all day, every day,” said Ms. Wamsley.
When asked her personal goal, Ms. Wamsley admitted she went through a stage in life where she didn’t think she’d work for a nonprofit anymore. “I left Conroe, Texas years ago, and I thought I would never work for another nonprofit. But I moved here and realized God had a plan and I was going to do it. I try to help people within my career every day, to the best of my ability, knowing that is where I am supposed to be.”
It’s Time Texas is proud to have supported such an amazing, unique community-based organization throughout the 2021 grant period and hope to partner with the Sonshine Outreach Center again in the future. We look forward to seeing their growth and their impact within the Brazos Valley Region.