BROOKSHIRE, Texas – The streets of Brookshire, a town of just about 5500 people in Waller County, are often slow and sometimes empty. The same can be said for many of their households that are empty of a critical segment of the population: fathers.
Ninety percent of the children in Brookshire are being raised without fathers in the home. Sixty percent of those kids are being raised by a grandparent or great grandparent.
A Houston-based Christian nonprofit is planting roots in this community, in an attempt to cultivate stability and promising futures.
The Hangar Unity Center looks like a music arena on this Tuesday night. A performance, part of Star Players, is a mentoring program for teenage boys through the hip hop ministry Eyes On Me.
The center was created at the site of the former segregated Ralph Bunche High School but today it draws boys from different ethnicities with a common bond. Most are being raised without their dads at home.
“I ain’t never had no type of role models to teach me correctly,” said 16-year-old Jayln Brookins.
Brookins has been in the program for nearly a year. He says before coming to The Hangar he was placed in alternative schooling on several occasions and was having trouble making the right decisions. At The Hangar, he’s getting direction.
“My favorite part about being here is getting to talk to people I know that can give me actual good advice,” Brookins said. “Give me the information to me.”
Jayln’s mother Brandi, who has another son in the program, says the mentors make a difference in the kids’ lives because they go the extra mile.
“They do more than just talking,” said Brandi Brookins. “They actually show up. Even outside of activities. They call, they text.”
And every Tuesday night they meet face to face at The Hangar to share a meal, a message, and small group time to discuss life.
The boys at The Hangar have even gotten the opportunity to go on camping trips to places like Colorado, exposing them to fun, new environments, and challenges.
The organization’s leaders believe they’re making a difference by employing their backyard missionary approach where their directors actually live in the communities they are serving.
These guys aren’t commuting from the suburbs. They’re living in the same neighborhoods with the families they’re hoping to reach.
“If they don’t know where you come from and you’re just trying to offer advice it’s just advice,” said mentor Ian Norman.
Norman is Jayln Brookins’ mentor. He says it wasn’t easy to earn the 16-year-old’s trust but it’s clear to see they developed a bond.
“I love this dude,” said Brookins referring to Norman. “Like, he inspires me to do better. He inspires me to do good.”
Norman says there is a formula for reaching the mentees.
“Being stern about direction but also loving,” Norman said. “That’s something that a lot of kids don’t get these days.”
In its nine years of existence, The Hangar has had its share of successful outcomes and a few not so successful. But they continue to expand their reach in this small community to make a big impact in the lives of young men and their families.
“We want every young person, every old person to know that God has a future and a destiny for them no matter what they’ve been through,” says Ryan Orbin, the director of The Hangar. “It starts with one-on-one mentorship and discipleship. So that’s what you see here tonight.”
Eyes On Me is planning to launch a ministry with the same format as star players at The Hangar in Brookshire and more of their sites that will connect young girls with female mentors.
Eyes On Me also has backyard missionaries living in Fifth Ward, Sunnyside, Greenspoint, & southwest Houston.