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Aug 06, 2013 | Luke Blount

Bayou City Service Corps Launches with Ambition for Change

(l-r) Philip Ballard, Max Farrar and Tyler Losen will 
spend a year as a Fellow for Bayou City Service Corps

Less than a year ago, leaders in the Diocese of Texas began planning a branch of Episcopal Service Corps in Houston, and after months of diligent work, Bayou City Service Corps officially came to fruition on Monday night as the new Fellows, board members, mentors and community partners joined for a welcome dinner.


According to their mission statement, Bayou City Service Corps seeks to "provide young adults the time and space needed to search for truth, work for social and economic justice, live in community, and be challenged into a more deliberate way of life." In their first year, BCSC will support four Fellows as they live together in community and work for different non-profit partners throughout the city. BCSC has teamed with The Beacon, Avenue Community Development Corporation, Generation One, and Community of the Streets to offer employment for the Fellows. Those organizations contribute to the program in exchange for the labor. The rest of the funding is provided primarily by the Bishop Quin Foundation along with funding from St. Luke’s Health Charities.


Nikki Blount serves as the managing director of BCSC. As a former intern for Texas Episcopal Disaster Relief in Galveston, she understands the impact that a year of service can have on the community and individuals.


“I learned so much about myself and who I wanted to be,” Blount said. “It was a chance for me to sort of step back and have a year focused on other people. I just realized how transformative intentional community is in the context of everyone doing something good for the world. It was so transformative for me that I wanted to make sure as many people as possible have that experience.”


Together with Archdeacon Russ Oechsel, Blount gathered a diverse steering committee to guide the project. The team recruited young adult Fellows ranging in age from 18 to 25. The Fellows come from different backgrounds, but share a common goal. They are all seeking to make a positive impact in the community while discerning and examining their own life trajectory.


"I feel strongly that I was put here on this earth to love," said Casandra Swain, who will work with Community of the Streets. She recently moved from California to the Houston area with her mother and has aspirations to be a high school theater teacher. "I feel like this is a way for me to figure out how to get out there and love and live my life for others."


Tyler Losen joined BCSC from Iowa, and at 18, he is the youngest fellow. "I joined Bayou City because I’ve always enjoyed helping people and making people’s lives better,” he said. “ And I’ve always liked to be involved in the church, so I thought this was a good opportunity.” Losen will spend the year working at The Beacon.


Philip Ballard grew up near San Antonio and graduated from Texas A&M in 2010. He sees BCSC as an opportunity to learn other people’s stories. “I like to be able to relate to people and relating to people is how I care about them and love them,” he said. Ballard will be working with Generation One.


After graduating from DePaul University this year, Max Farrar, sought out BCSC as a way to gain valuable work and service experience while taking some time for think about his future. “I think culturally we lack a sense of service often,” he said. “I think that it is really important for people like us to make that a value in our lives and our work. And I think that’s what drew me to the service aspect of this. Just graduating school and not knowing exactly where I’m going, I think that an experience like this will help me to have a period of discernment.” Farrar has partnered with Avenue CDC.


Each fellow will meet weekly with a mentor, and the Rev. Patrick Hall will serve as house chaplain. Blount emphasized that the program is as much about forming community leaders as it is about helping the less fortunate.


"I think it is really important to focus on social justice,” she said. “But to me, the great work of the program is learning to live with themselves and with each other. I think the most important part of the program is going to sneak up on our Fellows, and it is going to be the intentional community part of this. They will learn a lot about themselves and each other and the way the world operates.”


Bayou City Service Corps is a pilot program of the Diocese of Texas. Diocesan leaders hope to expand the program in Houston and deploy similar programs in other cities in the Diocese.