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Heart House is a place for refugee and underprivileged children to move from chaos to calm. The nonprofit provides safety, education and opportunity to children living in the low-income neighborhood of Vickery Meadow. Cultural embracement and celebration is incorporated through the programs of Heart House to reflect the diversity of their students. A majority of their students are non-native English speakers and have been displaced from their country of origin due to crime or political instability. The vision of Heart House is to use education as a catalyst to combat poverty and level the playing field for some of the most vulnerable children in our city while assisting the family as a whole. They provide after school programs, tutoring, mentoring, counseling and play therapy services through their Head, Heart, and Hands (H3) program. Head embodies their focus on students’ cognitive development which helps to build academic skills. Their concentration on social-emotional learning and counseling represents the heart. Hands is symbolized through acculturation and experiential learning. Using an integrated educational-mental and behavioral health model to establish a pathway to success in school and life, the organization is the only of its kind in Vickery Meadow.

Lenita Dunlap is the Heart House CEO and has been with the company since 2014, explains, “Providing mental health and trauma informed care to refugee children in the afterschool space completely free” is the organizations greatest impact on the community. Heart House has become indispensable in Vickery Meadow by offering a safe environment for disadvantaged children, as well as, radically changing the lives of their students. Working with the organization for four years has really given Lenita, “a greater passion by purpose to advocate for access to mental health.” She believes that, “everyone, regardless (of) their socio-economic status, should have access to mental health.” Refugee children that have been exposed to war-related trauma can have behavior problems, mood and anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and a range of other adjustment difficulties. If these problems are tackled early, the children can successfully acculturate. Lenita explains how her work at Heart House, “has deepened (her) passion and call to promote and provide equality, to work hard to ensure all children are well provided for, in doing so, we have a stronger future in our city.”    

During September, the nonprofit was highlighted on the Ruthie’s food trucks and social media to inform our customers of their devotion to the refugee and underprivileged children of Dallas. The Heart House team and volunteers dedicate hours to improve the terrible conditions these children face. Ruthie’s was able to serve some of the volunteers and employees our comforting grilled cheeses during one of their training sessions, as a thank you for all their selfless work.

The incredible people of Heart House could not continue their essential work without the help of the community. The cornerstone of the organization are the volunteers and donors who sacrifice their time, money and resources to make an enormous difference in the lives of the students. The non-profit is in constant need of financial donations, supplies and volunteer hours. Please visit the Heart House website for more information.

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