One of the pastoral staff members who pondered this question with him was Lynda Zelenka, who said the church did plenty of mission work but was not necessarily making a lasting impression on the community outside its members.
Alongside local leaders, they brainstormed local gaps, and the nonprofit Cy-Hope was born out of these conversations in 2011. Its mission was to make life better for kids in Cy-Fair—particularly those from low-income families.
“Our goal was to build a highway into the community and not just fill potholes,” said Zelenka, who has served as executive director since the organization launched.
Cy-Hope’s first initiative was the Backpack Program, which sends at-risk students home with a backpack full of food over the weekend through a partnership with the Houston Food Bank.
Roy Garcia, a Cy-Hope board member since 2011 and Cy-Fair ISD associate superintendent, said economically disadvantaged students often rely on meals served at school, so the Backpack Program is a practical way to meet one of their most basic needs on weekends.
Hope Centers were also established that first year, giving students positive spaces to spend time after school and get homework help and activities in their own neighborhood.
Initiatives added later include the Providing Opportunities Program, which has funded more than $554,000 in scholarships for dual-credit, Advanced Placement and certification courses.
“When a child’s able to take a dual-credit class, that’s taking root in their dream of going to college and having a career,” Zelenka said. “When we’re giving them what they need to get that certification, those are roots that are growing deep, and eventually they’ll flourish.”
Dierker’s Champs and Devine Virtuosos make baseball and music activities more accessible for children who otherwise might not be able to afford participation.
By 2013, Cy-Hope launched its counseling center, which operates on a sliding pay scale. The Hope Chest Resale Market and venue rentals at Cy-Hope’s headquarters also generate income for programs, but the organization primarily relies on volunteers and donations.
“It’s a blessing, not just to that individual student or just to a family, but it ends up blessing the community because they’re our future leaders ... and we want them to have that good, firm foundation and that hope so they can extend that [to others],” Zelenka said.
The Cy-Fair Houston Chamber of Commerce named Cy-Hope as the 2020 Nonprofit of the Year for the organization’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which included distributing more than 5.25 million pounds of food to local residents.
Future plans include opening a second and potentially third resale market location, building baseball fields for Dierker’s Champs and community use, and launching a Hope Center in Waller ISD.
About 55% of CFISD students are economically disadvantaged. Garcia said Cy-Hope helps set them up for a successful future.
“The phrase that we talk about frequently with our leaders and teachers in Cy-Fair is ‘Every life has a story,’” he said. “It’s finding out what those stories are and being able to meet the needs that they have, and that’s what Cy-Hope has provided us that opportunity to do.”
Cy-Hope, 12715 Telge Road, Cypress. 713-466-4673. www.cy-hope.org