On Saturday, September 5, the Julia C. Hester House (JCHH) was presented with a generous donation in the amount of $100,000 from Dr. Ruth Simmons, the President of Prairie View A&M University. The event took place at their community center located in Houston’s Fifth Ward neighborhood in an intimate, socially-distanced environment. Her gift will help the organization continue to serve residents with a variety of programs from child development and education to community swim classes and Senior Services and meal distributions. Many of the programs are available at no charge as Julia C Hester House primarily serves an under-resourced population.

“My siblings and I owe a great deal to Julia C. Hester House,” said Simmons. “It serves as a beacon of hope for the community and we spent many years here as children, participating in their programs in a healthy, productive environment created specifically for those of us in the neighborhood. My hope is that the legacy of the organization remains strong and faithful, and that they continue to help shape lives, like they did mine.”

The JCHH Auditorium will be renamed The Fannie and Isaac Stubblefield Auditorium_to honor the parents of Dr. Simmons. The funds will be primarily used to continue program operations and help cover some of the loss in donations as a result of the pandemic. Nonprofits such as JCHH, which celebrates 77 years of service this year, have seen a significant decline in corporate sponsorship and grant funding over the past six months.

“We were both surprised and elated with gratitude when we received the news of this thoughtful donation. To see the direct impact of our services through the years and the impression our programs have on people like Dr. Simmons is a great reminder of why organizations like ours are essential,” said Daisy Stiner, Executive Director of the Julia C. Hester House.

In the community, older African Americans have come to rely on the JCHH as a source of health, wellness and camaraderie in a neighborhood where such resources are sparse. Due to COVID-19, many programs have been suspended or moved online, though JCHH has embraced the change by pivoting its service model while continuing to maintain relationships with and provide support to the Fifth Ward community.

As early as April, JCHH worked to support food sorting and distribution. In June, JCHH held the first of several food distribution events sponsored by Harris County Precinct One and the Houston Food Bank. Food distribution continues to take place weekly on Tuesdays beginning at 9am at JCHH and offering meals until the 300-500 food boxes run out. Those served include local Fifth Ward residents.

JCHH strives to serve the Fifth Ward community the best way possible, regardless of challenges. As in-person programming has moved to online connectivity, the center’s Facebook page also offers current and past residents and participants a space to share memories and spotlight a history of resilience and community engagement that are hallmarks of JCHH.