Sandra Simpson moved into the first Community Renewal Friendship House 20 years ago with a heart for Highland and a passion for helping the children and families who live there. She looks back with no regrets and looks ahead with new goals.
“I sit here and fight back tears sometimes when I see what God is doing in these kids. They have learned how to minister to this community and that is so wonderful to see,” she said.
“I want them to know God loves them and has a plan and a purpose for their lives. And if they don’t give up, they can see God’s plan and purpose achieved in their lives.”
More than 700 children have come to Sandra’s Friendship House Kids Club in the past 20 years and it’s safe to say she has had a positive influence on every one of them. And in working with local churches, businesses, schools and other partners, she has also seen many positive changes in this historic Shreveport neighborhood.
“People wondered if we could make a difference here – and we have. People who were once in their own corner now come together and work together and that’s huge,” she said. One example of that is the annual Highland Picnic in Columbia Park.
“It’s been such a joy to help dreams become reality. I think of people like Paul, who at one time had no hope, and I helped him earn his GED. I think of Taquilla, who came through Kids Club and was the first person in her family to go to college. She graduated and now has a good job and happy life and that is so rewarding.”
With 30 or more children coming to Kids Club after school, Sandra quickly outgrew her Friendship House and is thrilled now with the construction of a new two-story Friendship House just a few blocks away. Funds for the new house came from the annual House for Hope campaign. A new house has also generated new ideas: carpentry and painting projects for the children and possibly even teaching them how to sell furniture they build themselves.
One of her greatest joys now is seeing former students bring their own children to Kids Club, where Sandra still teaches values like respect, honesty, integrity and discipline. She emphasizes the importance of education and service to the community.
“I have learned that riches and treasures are so much more than just money and stuff. Our treasures are in our relationships. I have people here who have become friends and volunteers. They are like family now and they have made my life so much richer,” she said.
“I know this is what God wanted for my life and that has sustained me for 20 years. I can’t imagine doing anything else. I love what I do.”