Hospitality House adds getaway for young visitors

Volunteers work with children on an art therapy project at the Huntsville Hospitality House. (PHOTO/Courtesy of the Hospitality House)

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HUNTSVILLE—Leaders of the Hospitality House in Huntsville believe the ministry’s new children’s activities building will serve as a place of liberation for young visitors facing the harsh realities of an incarcerated father.

hospitality paula nichols425Paula Nichols from Crossroads Baptist Church in Marshall installs decorative cork to the exterior of the children’s activities building at the Huntsville Hospitality House. (PHOTO/Tyler Agnew)“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Executive Director Debra McCammon said. “It’s a safe place. They feel very relaxed.”

The building will provide designated space where children can escape through arts, crafts and games. Art therapy is a staple for the Hospitality House, a ministry that provides lodging and meals for the visiting families of prisoners. The art program, four years in the making, allows children to express themselves.

“It’s been very successful with the children in giving them an outlet to talk about their frustrations.” McCammon said. “A lot of them are very bitter against their dads for committing crimes and for what it puts the family through.”

hospitality art boys425Children cut images from magazines to create a collage as part of an art therapy project at the Huntsville Hospitality House. (PHOTO/Courtesy of the Hospitality House)The children become proud of their work and look forward to more, she noted. In fact, the children inspired many of the ideas for the new building, including a graffiti wall, a message board and decoupage ceiling boards. The art they make ranges from decorating cookies, to painting, to making a story of their life in a book format. Other projects include making jewelry, stamps and card sets to sell.

Texas Baptist Men Builders began constructing the children’s building at the beginning of the summer. They worked just a few yards away from the original Hospitality House building, which 270 members of the organization erected in an around-the-clock marathon construction project in 1986. Texas Baptists helped support that effort—and the early years of the ministry’s operation—through gifts to the Mary Hill Davis Offering for Texas Missions.

hospitality tbm425Texas Baptist Men Builders work on the construction of a children’s activities building for the Huntsville Hospitality House. (PHOTO/Courtesy of the Hospitality House)The TBM volunteers worked alongside contractor Dan Phillips and his crew on the children’s building. Phillips is the founder of the Phoenix Commotion, a building initiative that uses recycled and salvageable materials.

Phillips’ artistic mind and his emphasis on using low-cost materials were the perfect match for the project, McCammon said.

“You want it to be whimsical,” Phillips said. So, the outside of the building is decorated with items like cork and recycled CDs, giving it a unique look.

“You want it to be fun and lively for kids, because they arrive here carrying a load of stuff. They need as much propping up as they can get,” he said.

hapitality nichols saw425Brian Nichols (left) and Kenny Mathews (right), volunteers from Crossroads Baptist Church in Marshall, work on the children’s activities building at the Hospitality House in Huntsville. (PHOTO/Tyler Agnew)Various churches and groups contributed to the effort through donations and volunteer labor. At the end of July, Crossroads Baptist Church in Marshall helped insulate the building, and volunteers installed cork and CD decorations on its exterior.

The children’s activities building includes an attic, which means a storage room in the Hospitality House will become available and will be converted into an additional guest room, McCammon noted.

Students from Sam Houston State University will teach a weekly reading readiness program at the children’s activities building.

“Students who are studying in fields of education will be coming on Saturday nights to teach the children tips and tricks of reading,” McCammon said.

There’s plenty to look forward to as Hospitality House wraps up its new building, she added. With art, reading, puzzles, games and more, the children’s activity building will be, as Phillips said, “a place for magic.”

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