Somewhere, in a tiny niche of Northeast Tarrant County, rests a place that not many people are immediately familiar with. Its body of work far outweighs any pre-conceived notions about its importance. The Community Enrichment Center, in North Richland Hills, has been a bright hope for many past and current tenants across Tarrant County. The CEC, as it’s referred to, has set its sights on a single goal: to be a partner in change for Northeast Tarrant County low-income families.
“The CEC works directly with these families and individuals to move them out of crisis and into stability through employment readiness, high school equivalency, financial coaching, counseling, safe housing, food, and basic necessities.”, says Bryan Downer, CEC’s Vice President of Property and current AATC IRO Chair. “These tools and Christ-centered resources help the CEC coaching staff restore hope and share God’s love while guiding families toward a bright future, which will end their cycle of poverty and/or family violence.”
CEC started in a closet at Richland Hills Church of Christ in 1975. It didn’t take long for people to realize that something bigger was needed to help struggling families through Northeast Tarrant County. Originally designed to be a food pantry, over time, CEC has been able to tackle more areas of need in the area and in 1990, they started the Adopt-A-Family Program for homeless families by leasing HUD foreclosed homes for $1 a year. Three short years later, HUD issued CEC a grant which allowed the program to grow and flourish, leading to what it is today.
Starting in 2000, CEC began building a portfolio of properties purchasing 16 townhomes & 64 houses from HUD and by 2002 CEC was debt-free and owned 80 housing units across the area. In 2006 Open Arms, an organization with similar goals, merged into CEC bringing better resources and services for victims fleeing domestic violence. Property used by Open Arms before the merger was sold allowing the CEC to add an apartment community to their portfolio.
With the rebound of the U.S. housing market, starting in 2017, CEC began to sell homes outside the area of the central office allowing them to purchase 50 condominiums in Hurst allowing CEC families to be closer to general services and the pantry.
To date, CEC currently owns 206 places for folks to call home in Northeast Tarrant County, they have zero property debt and operate in a way that allows them to provide services and housing for families in crisis more efficiently than ever.
“The CEC has been an AATC member since we became property owners, but it has only been within the past couple years that I’ve been able to get involved.”, says Downer, “We value our partnership with the AATC… The staff at the AATC has always been warm and welcoming!”
For more information about the Community Enrichment Center, contact Bryan Downer at firstname.lastname@example.org.