Guidry News Service recently visited Change Happens!, a nonprofit organization headquartered in the Program Services Building and Third Ward Youth Center, a three-story, 27,000 square foot building located at 3353 Elgin Street in Houston’s Third Ward.
We were introduced to various personnel who are highly trained to work with people who need counseling, education, and health and human services for themselves and their families.
We were greeted by Volunteer Coordinator Trinell Davis and given an extensive tour of the facility. Ms. Davis explained that the building was erected on land once occupied by crack houses and condemned properties. She said that the building is more than a headquarters, "that its presence in the community symbolizes the change and rebirth that much of Third Ward is starving for."
Since 1989, Change Happens! has grown from one program to having more than 18 programs and its service area has expanded beyond the Third Ward to encompass 13 counties in the Gulf Coast region.
Each year, Change Happens! empowers and educates over 100,000 adults and adolescents, and continually positions itself to increase its impact on local neighborhoods, dedicated to transforming the lives of families and children in the highest-risk communities.
Change Happens! relies on support from individuals, foundation, grantors, and corporations interested in providing life improvements to families and communities.
After the tour we met with Chief Executive Officer of Change Happens! Reverend Leslie Smith. Listen: MP3 RealPlayer
Reverend Smith recounted how he was inspired through a dream 23 years ago to reach out to the this area of Houston that he calls "The Bottom", alluding to the desperate and dangerous conditions the Third Ward had long been known for.
He emphasized that the participation and support of many individuals and organizations
over the years has helped to provide such a fine building rising up in the midst of this neighborhood. But, he said that the intangible gifts of hope, education, and empowerment are the most important contributions made to this part of the community. "These are the kind of resources that stay with our clients for a lifetime and give them the tools they need to become independent and productive," Smith said.
Reverend Smith, who holds BA degrees in Management and Marketing from Southern University, was called to community service In 1982, when he had a life altering dream. He responded to this dream and higher calling by founding Families Under Urban and Social Attack (FUUSA), now Change Happens!
Change Happens! was originally founded as an alcohol and drug prevention/intervention and outpatient treatment program. In the early ‘90’s Smith worked to rehabilitate and provide services and resources to individuals affected by substance abuse, not only through the organization, but by personally going out into neighborhoods, counseling and mentoring to those in need and of little hope. Today there are over 50 staff members assisting Smith in making his dream a reality.
For over 20 years, Reverend Smith has been a community activist and leader, working with, for and along side of people in various communities in Houston. As CEO of Change Happens!, he manages the day-to-day operations of the agency, supervising the administration of all programs. He also serves as liaison between Change Happens! and funding agencies and handles all public/community relations activities.
Reverend Smith makes a special point to participate hands-on in the events and programs offered by Change Happens! such as: Change Happens!' Kids’ University and Children’s Health Day.
In addition, to his work with Change Happens! and other local community service organization, Reverend Smith is very active with his church. He currently serves at the Mt. Arratt Baptist Church as an associate minister.
Learn more about services provided and volunteer opportunities at Change Happens! by visiting http://www.changehappenstx.org, or call (713) 374-1200.