UWF Shows “Love In Action” at Dallas Bethlehem Center

Vonner with UWF

DBC's Executive Director Jamie Russell Ritter (white t-shirt) and DBC Board member Pat Simons (center back) pose with members of the United Women in Faith: (back row, from left) Katie Pryor, Cynthia Rivas and (front row) Wendy Campbell, Sally Vonner and Sharon Spratt.

Vonner, newly elected CEO of United Women in Faith, returns to help distribute food where she first got involved

United Women in Faith, across the country and here in North Texas, demonstrate that “love in action can change the world.” One of the best illustrations of their motto is found in Dallas Bethlehem Center in South Dallas, which is one of more than 90 community-based ministries sponsored by the national UWF.

During her recent trip home to participate in Annual Conference, newly elected General Secretary/CEO of UWF, Sally Vonner, served alongside 30 other volunteers at the weekly Thursday food distribution for families facing food insecurity. She reflected on the long history of the partnership between Methodist women and DBC.

Making boxes“God is providing a way for Dallas Bethlehem Center, this institution of compassion, to still be a beacon of light, to be a star in this community and part of the network of others doing this work all across the country,” Vonner said.

DBC has been a place of transformation and empowerment for decades and is now opening its doors to engage a new generation of children and families, both those from South Dallas and those who come to serve from throughout the DFW area. Thursday’s food distribution was staffed by the four employees of DBC and volunteers from as far away as First UMC Denton and as close by as First UMC Dallas.

Vonner reflected on her time as a volunteer when she was her church’s representative to DBC’s UMW Auxiliary: “The women here poured into me when I would come here as a young mother and always encouraged me to bring my babies with me [to avoid daycare]. I’m always so thankful for how many lives touched me and then how many lives Dallas Bethlehem Center has touched over the many years.”

UWF has seen the fruit of their efforts in others’ lives, as Vonner noted, “We know when we invest in the children of this community, they will go on to change the world. And when we ask for financial support, it’s because we want to make a greater impact and invest in these lives that are going to change the world. I want to see the United Women in Faith staff and board continue multiplying that blessing.”

Packing boxesDBC recently launched two weekly cooking cohorts to help families learn new skills and build community with others, and they are adding an evening women’s group as well. The community center is open regularly for neighbors to gather, with a computer lab, gym, playground and a community garden for fresh produce. These resources are vital in a food desert where it takes more than 30 minutes to get to the nearest grocery store by bus and in a community without any high-speed internet. DBC is a beacon in so many ways.

Executive Director Jamie Russell Ritter has been on the job a month and has already put key systems in place to build on the strong foundation that UWF has sustained since founding DBC in 1946.

“Every week I hear a new story about how Dallas Bethlehem Center impacted lives, whether they brought their kids here for childcare or an adult who was part of our afterschool program as a kid,” Ritter said. “One of them who went through our early childhood education program is now a principal of a high school down the road from us. So, we know that the longevity of our impact is starting to show through the generations.”

DBC is proof of UWF’s impact. Love in action is creating ripple effects that will truly change the world.

Published: Wednesday, June 28, 2023