Buckner kicks off summer, Calder Woods names new chaplain

Buckner volunteer Vivian Warren and Calder Woods chaplain Lynn Fontenot

Buckner Children and Family Services kicked off summer with a “Splash Bash” for the children living in the pre-foster care emergency shelter and assessment center.

“All you have to have is water for them, and they’re happy,” said Damon Bowden, unit supervisor for the assessment center.

Children and volunteers gathered at 3 p.m. Tuesday, June 9 to play water games, enjoy a cookout, and make positive summer memories.

“The end of the school year can be a hard transition period for the children in our assessment center as they process not being home with their families,” said Jessica Rhodes, Buckner ministry engagement coordinator. “They don’t always know what to expect, and they’re in a new situation, while other kids at school are excited and looking forward to their summer plans. These kids are just hoping for a safe environment.”

The idea for the event came from 14-year-old Buckner volunteer Vivian Warren, who said she didn’t want the children to feel left out of any summer activities.

“Doing something for other people feels really good in my heart,” Warren said. “Helping the kids out puts a smile on my face.”

Warren, who has volunteered with Buckner every Monday afternoon since 2014, became involved with the organization after hearing about Buckner’s Hope Keepers volunteer program through her Girl Scout troop. Hope Keepers are youths under the age of 16 who want to volunteer, and Warren’s home-school schedule has allowed her to be more hands-on in her commitment to Buckner.

“I found out that Buckner was a home for children, and I just really related to their situation,” said Warren, who revealed that she too experienced issues in the past with her biological father. “I’m very happy now, and I’m very grateful.”

Warren picked dates, researched water games and planned activities for the event.

“It was pretty easy to put together because Jessica helped me, and they had everything we needed here.”

Warren, who will be a freshman at West Brook High School next year, enjoys spending time with her friends at Buckner, and plans to help with the other activities throughout the summer.

The Buckner assessment center is a 90-day temporary home for children ages 5-17. This emergency shelter offers a sanctuary from previous trauma while Buckner staff conducts a full assessment of each child’s needs. The facility houses 16 children at a time, and many residents transfer from this home to foster care or another residential children’s home. Currently there are 10 kids aged 5-17 at Buckner.

 “We try to keep their summer really full with lots of activities. It definitely takes time to break down those walls and restore them from everything they’ve been through, so we do our best to provide the essentials of a safe environment, and create a fun redeeming time for them,” said Rhodes.

Buckner has been serving vulnerable children and families in Southeast Texas since 1970. Last year Buckner served more than 1,600 individuals through community foster care, foster group homes at Buckner Children’s Village, the assessment/emergency shelter, adoption services, TRAIL (Transitioning to Responsible Adult Independent Living), STAR (Services to At Risk Youth), and the FYI Center: Fostering Youth Independence.

For information about volunteer opportunities at Buckner, which is at 9055 Manion in Beaumont, call (409) 833-1971.

Calder Woods names new chaplain

Buckner is also home to more than 175 elders at Calder Woods, a Buckner senior living community. A faith-based continuum of care community in Beaumont, Calder Woods named Lynn Fontenot as its new chaplain. Fontenot began work May 1, replacing long-time chaplain Eddie Tubbs, who retired in 2014, said Calder Woods Executive Director Ben Mazzara.

“We conducted a six-month national search, and he rose to the top,” Mazzara said. “He brings with him 31 years of pastoral experience. We look forward to him meeting the spiritual needs of residents, their families and our staff.”

Fontenot served as pastor of Forreston Baptist Church near Waxahachie the past seven years. He was ordained to the ministry in 1984 and has a long association with the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

Originally from Jennings, La., Fontenot earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in pastoral ministry at East Texas Baptist University in 1986 and his Master of Divinity degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in 1990. He also completed 60 hours toward a PhD doctoral program at the seminary.

“Calder Woods is like a church for me,” Fontenot said. “I will add a personal touch to the ministry. When residents need me, I’ll be here for them, just like a pastor.”

Fontenot conducts worship services at Calder Woods on Sunday mornings and Bible study and other religious programs during the week.

Calder Woods celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. The community has independent living apartments and luxury townhomes, plus assisted living, skilled nursing and rehabilitation and a certified Alzheimer’s and memory care area.