First Haitian Baptist Church of Belle Glade
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Bringing Hope and Change in Belle Glade...One Child at a time
In 1994, a children’s program began in a trailer in Belle Glade. Its purpose was to tutor children in the community with their homework and to keep them safe and off the streets. This afterschool program helped parents, who often didn’t speak English and worked long hours in the fields nearby. This program was started by the First Haitian Baptist Church.
Later, the Church bought the property, which included a late 1940s building that was originally a house, converted to apartments. With the renovation, it offered a place to hold classes and a grassy area for the children to play.
The First Haitian Baptist Church and Community Center is owned by the Church and managed by Pastor Morales St Hilaire and his family – wife Anne, daughter Mona and son Morana and the church members.
Pastor Morales worked for the State of Florida for 29 years in its Outreach program for migrant and seasonal farm workers and continues to work tirelessly for the poor of Belle Glade. As Pastor and a continuous presence at the Center, he helps to make sure that many special needs are addressed. The school principals in Belle Glade know him well and call upon him to see that individual family issues can be resolved and the child, as a whole, benefits. Parents and teachers often say the kids are going to “Pastor Morales.” The nickname for the Center.
What They Do
The Enrichment Center holds classes for more than 100
students, from kindergarten to eighth grade. They are transported by the church’s
bus. Middle-high school students, plus college and young adult volunteers
help tutor the young ones at the Center expanding its reach in the community.
Grandparents and others volunteer to feed the kids and organize activities. The
Center boasts alumni, who are now attending college and becoming leaders in
their community and beyond.
Many of us have heard the stories about the children in Belle Glade. Parents working in the fields, worrying about their kids after school, hoping they are safe and that they don’t get into trouble. Parents not being able to help their kids with their homework, because they themselves speak limited English. Enough food at home? Not often enough.
We hear the kids, with their spirit and joy of learning, feeling safe, being fed. Some come to the U.S from Haiti, not knowing English and feel lost at school. They love the place where they can be taught in Creole and then in English so they can excel.
However, the old 1940's house, where these children attend after-school care, is beyond repair and too small to teach the 120+ children, who arrive every day. In the future, this number will increase. A new building is needed, urgently. You can make a difference. Let’s help these kids develop and prosper.
LET’S GET THIS BUILDING BUILT!
The First Haitian Baptist Church plans to construct a new facility in response to the growth and needs of the children in the Belle Glade community. Established as a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization in 2013, the Church has executed plans and drawings that will include classrooms, a commercial kitchen, (all students are fed,) restrooms, all-purpose room and storage.
More funding is needed, as well as in-kind donations from the construction trades, private donations, and corporate support.
Funds are being raised by the church, The Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem Knights Hospitaller, Commandery of the Palm Beaches, (SOSJ) and private individuals. The SOSJ has made a three-year commitment to raise funds needed to build the new Development Center. It is expected that the greater Palm Beach County community will support the Church to build this building for the children of Belle Glade.
The Enrichment Center will focus on education for children and young teens. Monday, the focus is reading; Tuesday, math; Wednesday, science and social studies; Thursday, Creole; Friday is church.
In addition, the Center hopes to expand programs to include a senior’s program, cultural programming, along with space for a nursery and children’s area, when church services are being held at the church.
This will be a true, community center for the Belle Glade Haitian community and all others, who wish to participate in a safe and productive environment