A New Vision, A New Voice ~ The North Texas Conference
Chelsea White brings new energy to Dallas Bethlehem Center
She urges strategic thinking on the center’s partnership with South Dallas/Fair Park families and children.
Chelsea White recently became director of Dallas Bethlehem Center, which partners with South Dallas/Fair Park families and children on education, food security, empowerment and neighborhood development. Here is a Q&A on her plans.
Please tell us about your background and what drew you to service, broadly and specifically, at Dallas Bethlehem Center.
I grew up in a family with deep Methodist roots. I was fortunate in that my family really prioritized service over self. Giving back to the community wasn’t just something we thought about around the holidays; it was truly a way of living for us. My grandmother — with no applicable experience whatsoever — started a nonprofit in 1987, so of course I spent my youth volunteering with her organization. I’m clearly using “volunteering” loosely here, as I really didn’t have a say in the matter.
I’ve always been extremely passionate about issues of racial inequality. Growing up as a biracial girl in Texas probably had a lot to do with that. When I was 9 years old, I wrote a poem about racism for school. Frankly, the poem was pretty corny, but nonetheless my grandmother had it printed in her Methodist church’s weekly bulletin. Looking back, that’s kind of the perfect foreshadowing for my position here at DBC.
Given my social awareness and service-focused upbringing, it was no surprise that I chose to pursue a career in nonprofit fundraising. Throughout my career, I’ve worked for a variety of organizations big and small. Most recently, I was a fundraising consultant for three years. I wasn’t really looking for a new job, but when I learned of this position at DBC, I just had to go after it. After a thorough application process, I was humbled to be offered the role as director of Dallas Bethlehem Center. This position is the perfect fit for my skills, experience and, more importantly, my personal passion. I’ve been here two months, and it still feels too good to be true.
In your mind, how does an investment – be it volunteerism or financial – in DBC enhance the community’s well-being?
We’re a lean operation, so every dollar, every hour of volunteer service and every donated item truly makes a difference. Donations of all types and sizes go a long way in helping put food in hungry bellies, providing early education for the youngest children in our community and teaching necessary life skills to older kids and teens.
What is something about Dallas Bethlehem Center that the public may not know but should?
The first words of our mission are: “In partnership with South Dallas/Fair Park children and families.” To me, that’s what makes Dallas Bethlehem Center so special. We’ve been a beacon of this community for more than 70 years, so there’s a sense of generational ownership. We are intentional about working shoulder to shoulder with the neighborhood residents. Several DBC programs, such as our food distribution program and our four annual community events, are community-directed.
In what areas do you see opportunities for Dallas Bethlehem Center to extend its outreach and impact?
While our mission has always centered around partnering with the community, we recently formed a Community Advisory Committee to help us determine existing program or service gaps. The needs in South Dallas are seemingly endless, so we must continue working strategically, making sure we’re not just having programs for the sake of having programs.
Right now, DBC offers strategic service delivery, with services designed to give our neighbors a leg up. They’re drowning in a river of generational poverty, violence, food insecurity, teen pregnancy, racial inequality … this list goes on. Our services are essentially a life raft, helping pull them out of the river. Under the forward-thinking leadership of Rev. Katherine Glaze Lyle, our new board chair, we’d like to help create large-scale systemic change to prevent our neighbors from falling into the river to begin with.
What does the future hold for Dallas Bethlehem Center in 2018, and what recommendations do you have for those who want to get involved?
Over the remainder of the 2018, DBC will be buzzing with activity. We will continue our weekly programs of food distribution on Thursdays, weekly athletic and life skills educational programs with Rae’s Hope and Elite Ballers, and, of course, early childhood education with ChildCareGroup. Adding to the summer schedule is our eight-week summer camp kicking off in June, followed by our annual back-to-school community event in August. Needless to say, there are so many opportunities to help serve our South Dallas/Fair Park neighbors with your financial support, in-kind support or volunteer support. Give us a call! We’d love to talk with you about how you or your church group can get involved in a meaningful way.