A new faith-based charitable program is looking to partner with Brownwood-area churches and organizations to help meet the needs of struggling children and families.
    The CarePortal is a Global Orphan Project initiative that connects congregations directly with needy families by sending emails to participating local organizations to see if members can help directly with anything from monetary assistance to a new crib.
    So far area churches including Coggin Avenue Baptist, Southside Church and Greater Faith Community Church have agreed to assist with the program. April Conway, Southside Church member and foster care supervisor at DePelchin Children’s Center, said the Brownwood area could benefit greatly from the CarePortal program.
    “We have lots of foster care in this area. There’s several agencies, there’s lots of kids placed here, so I feel like it’s really something that we need,” Conway said.
    Speaking on Wednesday afternoon, Conway said CarePortal needed two or three more churches to sign up before they could begin operation in Brownwood.
    “But of course we can have way more than that,” she added. “I know there are tons of churches in this area, so the more the better.”
    Conway said a main function of CarePortal was helping kids avoid entering foster care in the first place. She said often a family is just a few paid bills, counseling classes or basic items away from keeping their children, and CarePortal can connect struggling families to congregations who can fill those needs.
    Chris Stuard and his wife, Amanda, run a missions program called Love Brownwood for Coggin Avenue Baptist Church. His program reaches out to the neighborhoods around the church by hosting weekly events, mentoring children and coordinating volunteer opportunities. He said the CarePortal program could be an important addition to his ministry.
    “We’ve got a church that has lots and lots of resources,” Stuard said. “We don’t want kids in our neighborhood and kids in our community to be able to be taken away from their families, and that’s kind of CarePortal’s whole thing. We want to keep kids inside of their families.”
    Stuard said that often a relative like an aunt, uncle or grandparent will take care of kids for a time and that CarePortal can help prepare these extended relatives with things like beds and clothes.
    “We basically just want to be available for whatever the needs are in our community and help out any way we can,” he said.
    Both Stuard and Conway said Herbert Brister of Child Protective Services has been instrumental in expanding the program throughout west-central Texas from his home in Graham. Brownwood native, former resident and longtime Greater Faith pastor Bishop Aaron Blake has also been involved in the program’s creation and expansion. Now with the Global Orphan Project, Blake said the CarePortal program began with a 13 Austin churches two years ago and has since expanded to nine states and hundreds of churches.
    “It’s very simple to do,” Blake said of the program. “It’s basically being willing to receive an email of the needs that come directly from a child welfare worker … and the church can respond in helping families and children. It is that simple.”
    Blake said interested individuals should go to the CarePortal website for more information. He stressed that each need was validated by a case worker before being sent to congregations.
    “That is what legitimizes the request,” he said. “It comes from a CPS case worker, so if a church is wondering if this is something that’s valid, no one can enter the request other than a CPS case worker.”
    Blake said 463 churches have responded to CarePortal requests so far.
    For Conway, programs like CarePortal are an essential facet of the Christian mission.
    “God’s call to Christians is to care for the orphans,” Conway said. “It’s a really great initiative and a concrete way for the churches to do that.”