She used to be one of them.
The founding director of River City Hope Street—a Cedar Park nonprofit that for two decades has provided support, education and job skills to the community—Rowley remembers growing up in a single-parent household.
“I see single moms trying to make it. I was in that family,” she said. “I grew up in a single-parent home. My mom was working two jobs. I was lonely, and I was hungry.”
Rowley oversees the nonprofit and teaches advanced English classes in the Christian Resource Center at Twin Lakes Fellowship, a large church campus off South Bell Boulevard. The Center also houses an array of other nonprofits—from food distribution to car repair—to meet the needs of struggling individuals and families.
Rowley calls the center a one-stop shop.
“A family has so many needs; it’s never just one,” she said. “There are different organizations housed here ready to help the same family.”
River City Hope Street has five “ministries,” or programs, that focus on high school equivalency, English proficiency, job training, craft sales and faith building in nontraditional settings.
On a recent Tuesday, two different English as a Second Language students brought in friends wishing to join the classes. Rowley held a brief conversation with each and sent them to ESL classes based on their conversation.
“By just talking to them, you get a pretty good idea of what level they are,” she said.
Rowley said those seeking help at River City Hope Street are not who one might expect.
“They’re mostly Asian—from China, Korea, Taiwan. Others are from Venezuela, Mexico, even Syria,” Rowley said. “Some are escaping either religious or political persecution.”
In recent years, Rowley said she has seen an uptick in the working poor in Cedar Park.
“The mom and the dad are both working, but they’re making $9 or $10 an hour. It’s not a living wage,” she said. “My goal is to provide career tracks ... so we can get people out of those minimum-wage jobs.”
Rowley said the plumbing and electrician classes are made up of mostly men, but she hopes to eventually offer job training for markets more popular with women, such as medical billing and coding, pharmacy technicians and certified nurse’s assistant.
River City Hope Street also operates out of Great Hills Baptist Church at Arboretum, and English language “ambassadors” go into the homes of immigrant/refugee communities, mostly along the I-35 corridor, to teach English, according to Rowley.
A Christian her entire life, Rowley said it is never too late to pursue a better life.
“People say he’s a God of second chances, but he’s really a God third and fourth and fifth chances.”
River City Hope Street provides faith-based aid through five “ministries.”
Career life: electrician and plumber training classes
English language ambassadors: volunteers come to the home of refugees to help them learn English
Hope Street Market: sells upcycled apparel and accessories made by refugees who live locally
Life bridge: ESL and high school equivalency classes Simple church: community meetings for those uncomfortable with typical church services.
3 ways to help
Donations can be made via PayPal at www.rivercityhopestreet.org/donations or in person at the Cedar Park location.
Opportunities include: job readiness and life skills teachers, child care helpers in the classroom, Bible study and worship leaders, mentors for adults, and GED and ESL instructors. To fill out a volunteer form, visit www.rivercityhopestreet.org/volunteer.
Businesses, churches and other nonprofits partner with River City Hope Street by offering goods and services. For more information, visit www.rivercityhopestreet.org/community-partners.