The Cove celebrates six years of service

The Cove celebrates six years of service. Grace Everett | Photo Editor

The Cove, a nonprofit organization that addresses youth homelessness, celebrated its sixth birthday with a fundraiser tailgate Thursday evening at its facility at 524 West Waco Drive.

According to The Cove’s press release, the tailgate was a way to celebrate the accomplishment of serving nearly 500 teenagers experiencing homelessness in the Heart of Texas Region.

The event had a variety of activities for guests to enjoy, such as barbecue and Gelü Italian Ice, a bouncy house, cornhole and a 360-degree camera. Guests could also go on a tour of The Cove’s facilities.

The Cove first began serving students as a “nurturing drop-in center” in October 2016. According to its website, it served a total of 61 students in its first year.

Since 2017, The Cove has grown. Originally, it only had a partnership with Waco ISD, but it now works with two more Waco-area school districts and is looking to add an additional two, according to executive director Tim Packer.

“We actually meet almost as many youth out on campuses as we do at evening programming now,” Packer said. “So far this school year, we’ve had contact with 55 youth.”

Packer said continued growth and outreach creates new necessities for the facility, which the fundraiser will help provide for.

“A service organization like ours, the main cost is our people and investing in our people and the services,” Packer said.

Community relations coordinator Harold Brown said the goal of the event was also to create awareness in Waco.

“If 10 new people come to this event and they go out into the community and start talking about what we do, I think that’s kind of my goal,” Brown said.

Brown said they also wanted to have a fun environment where people could come to celebrate The Cove’s work over the past six years.

“When you talk about youth homelessness, it can be very dark and grim, and the work that we do can be very taxing and heavy, and so it’s just a time to celebrate all we’ve done,” Brown said.

Former Baylor quarterback Seth Russell made an appearance to sign autographs. Russell said students should look outside the “Baylor bubble.”

“The Baylor bubble, right, I mean that’s always big that you hear, and it’s like, ‘Hey, how can you get outside of that?’” Russell said. “We’re very blessed to have the opportunity to go to a university like Baylor. It’s so close and ingrained in the community, and I think just from a student involvement standpoint, anything you can do just to help provide.”

A variety of people attended the event, including sponsors, friends and family of workers and board members and even those who heard about the event through TV.

Waco resident Pat Weaver said she came to The Cove after hearing about the event on the news.

“Thinking about the kids after seeing it on the morning news, I said, ‘Oh, that looks like something interesting to go to and give a donation,’” Weaver said.

Baylor graduate Spencer Smith said the event inspired him to get more involved with The Cove. Smith said he had never seen the reality of youth homelessness up close.

“I don’t know if I have ever thought about actually what it looks like to be a homeless kid,” Smith said.

In addition to being able to donate, guests could sign up to volunteer or receive the newsletter.

“Being informed about issues like homelessness is a really important part of what it means to be a good citizen,” Packer said.

Packer said The Cove is looking to expand its reach and staff. Packer said they are achieving this by establishing a “Bucks for Kids” program with Dutch Bros, creating partnerships and connections with McLennan Community College and Texas State Technical College and even beginning to work with a group from the management consultancy program at the business school at Baylor.

“All of the evidence and the data shows that a positive impact for youth who have experienced homelessness at this point in their life can make a lifelong positive change for them,” Packer said.