The Mamie George Community Center where a Giving Presence Abounds Year Round
The end of January means different things to different people. For students, it marks a return to academics and a countdown to spring break. For parents, it’s a period of thankfulness for surviving another hectic Christmas, and getting prepared for a host of extracurricular events. All the while, most of the world goes back to business as usual. Yet for people at the Mamie George Community Center, located in Fort Bend county, that business as usual is helping people in our community year round.
Since it’s doors first opened in 2011, the Mamie George Community Center has been meeting the basic needs for both area seniors and low-income families. This marvelous center came to be thanks to combined efforts of the Albert and Mamie George Foundation and Catholic Charities. The George Foundation donated the land in Ft. Bend County in an effort to make sure that it benefitted the residents and that the area thrived. Catholic Charities took on the task of building the actual structure. The end result is a spacious, multifunctional facility that offers an assortment of programs such as health and wellness screenings, legal assistance, exercise, nutrition, cooking and dance classes, educational presentations and art therapy. In addition to showcasing so many great events and services, the Center also features the Gracious Gifts Boutique, Trini’s Corner Market, and a spot that captured a foodie like me right away, Patty’s Cafe.
Shayne Baker, the Market Coordinator for the Mamie George Community Center, underlined a driving theme for their vision, “In addition to striving to provide basic needs and services, we want to maintain a genuine community environment where people can take ownership on getting a gift for somebody special, meal planning on a limited budget, and just coming together to grab a bite to eat in a safe, friendly and comfortable setting.”
The Boutique is a perfect spot for area seniors to browse and buy something special for their grandkids or other loved ones. This cute shopping spot accepts new and gently used items from generous individuals and area parishes. All of the items ranging from clothes, jewelry, and precious keepsake items are all affordably priced.
Trini’s Corner Market, open Tuesday thru Thursday, from 9am to Noon, and 130pm to 4pm, with occasional Wednesday night shopping by appointment, is a vital component of the Center that enhances budgeting skills and ideally self sufficiency over time.
Ft. Bend county families who may be dealing with hard times, economic setbacks and such, can come to MGCC for assistance.
Shayne explained that use of Trini’s Corner Market is a comprehensive process with an ultimate goal of being a means to an end, “Our philosophy is, of course, to be here providing basic needs and services, but with the mindset that you ultimately help people the most not simply by giving them fish indefinitely but rather teaching them how to fish and provide for themselves.” Use of Trini’s Corner Market is a process that begins with an interview that allows each particular family’s needs to be addressed. Educational finance classes are offered that encourage creating a budget and teaching ways to stick to it. Based on each particular family’s size and situation, they are given vouchers to come in, by appointment only, to shop from a wide variety of canned goods, drinks, fresh meat and produce, and bread products. During my brief visits to this marvelous pantry, it warmed my heart to see mother’s leaving with their children and the sincere smiles knowing that they’d be enjoying a home-cooked meal that evening.
After my first two visits to the Mamie George Community Center, there remained one portion of this complex that I wanted to better familiarize myself with, that being the extremely welcoming indoor/outdoor eatery, Patty’s Cafe. I’d made arrangements to come and meet Sam Burnett, the steady hand that has overseen operations of the Cafe for nearly 3 years. A former school teacher for over three decades, Sam invited me to come up for lunch so I could not only experience the well thought out and always well balanced meal that’s provided, but also the genuine and lively conversations that are taking place all around. Getting the opportunity to sit inside Patty’s Cafe was indeed a treat, especially since I happened to pick Catfish day!! My lunch consisted of crispy tender catfish, potato salad, southern style greens, and cornbread. It was a good amount of food and quite satisfying.
Normal lunch service runs from 11am to 2pm, Monday through Friday, and is open to the general public. The cost for the hot meal, made from scratch each day is a very affordable $6.50; however, Senior Citizens who live in Ft. Bend and are at least 60 years old, can eat get free lunch each day. Sign up for the free meals is required and only takes about 15 minutes!
Being the kitchen coordinator for a cafe that provides about 90-120 lunches each day means a lot to Sam Burnett, “For many of our patrons, this is the ONLY real meal they’ll get each day.”
The Cafe does close on all Catholic holidays, but if that happens to fall on a weekday, people are still provided a frozen meal, a few days ahead of the holiday to make sure they have something to eat.
Sitting and enjoying my lunch, pausing every so often to look around and also enjoy the smiles, the laughter, the serious conversations, it reminded me why my wife and I treasure the tradition of breaking bread with family and friends at every chance we get. Whether you’re dining outside under the covered patio, or sitting inside, you feel immersed in that shared sense of community. Sam told me,
“One of our unwritten rules or preferences here is that when you come to us, and get your meal, that you stay here and eat with the community. Of course there are occasional exceptions, but in general people come up, eat, then end up getting together and heading off to play dominoes, watch TV, or go workout.”
As a former airline customer service manager, I’ve become an avid people watcher. Whether it’s at an airport gate, sitting in Times Square or dining in Las Vegas, I enjoy seeing folks from all over just embracing life and interacting with each. During my visits to Mamie George, the essence of community that Shayne mentioned was indeed prevalent. From watching a precious group of ladies all helping one of their friends find that perfect gift for her granddaughter that was coming into town for a visit, to seeing a group of very determined seniors actively involved in dance class, or another group of aspiring artists all sitting beside each other giving equal amounts of constructive suggestions and moral support, that sense of belonging was undeniable.
I’m so very thankful that Ft. Bend County is the home for such a wonderful facility like the Mamie George Community Center. That very special partnership between the Albert & Mamie George Foundation and Catholic Charities was a truly blessed union that has blossomed into the thriving, vibrant multipurpose center that it is today. And yet there is still so much to do, and so many people who need help. While they continue to offer classes, provide services, and address the rising challenges facing Ft. Bend Seniors and low income families, Shayne Baker knows that when new community problems appear, as they tend to do, they’ll respond accordingly.
She states, “One of the great things about Catholic Charities is that it’s very adaptable. They have a very good pulse as to what’s going on in area communities, and can address specific issues as a result.”
It goes without saying that a huge reason why the Mamie George Community Center can be so many things to so many people is because of the tremendous caring and giving spirit of others. Donations from parishes, businesses, and individuals are so appreciated, as are the high number of hard working, compassionate volunteers that get the jobs done.
There will be an Open House at the Mamie George Community Center on Thursday, February 21, from 530pm to 7pm. There will be tours, and the chance to witness for yourself some of the great works that I’ve shared in this feature.
For more information on the Open House, contact Mary Ann Procopio 281-202-6258 or via email at: MProcopio@catholiccharities.org
To find out about how you can get more involved as a volunteer, contact Volunteer Coordinator, Dottie Bateman at 281-202-6222, or via email at: D.firstname.lastname@example.org