A partnership began years ago between Teresa Campos, a Latina resident of Wood Village, and pastors at the Wood Village Baptist Church, to unite their communities across Arata Road. Informational sessions with local police and immigration attorney progressed to summer programs for youth, English and leadership programs for parents, and seasonal celebrations such as Las Posadas.
The county-sponsored partnership has since earned a name — Building Toward Success, with Campos and her son Jairo Rios-Campos at the helm. That’s fitting for an intergenerational program that extends throughout the school year, with older youth coordinating programs for their younger neighbors, and integrating Spanish-speaking parents from the town’s three trailer parks with the English-speaking congregants at the church.
“One of the basic components is that we are part of the community. We live in the community,” said Campos. “And we are community health workers with the basic philosophy of liberation Theology, popular education, using empowering community to identify their own needs and find their own solutions.”
The program takes direction from its community members; so when kids wanted to play soccer, Rios-Campos started a soccer club that serves up to 40 kids a week at the church, and brings out parents as well. Last year, after Donald Trump was elected, parents who lacked legal immigration status wanted directives on what would happen to their children if they were suddenly deported. So Campos and the church sponsored an event for families to formalized safety plans.
The Latino residents regularly prepare large dinners and invite congregants to community events.
“Governments spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to do placemaking,” said Commissioner Lori Stegmann, who attended an event at the church last month. “Wood Village has organically created a community that honors one another and truly wants all their community to succeed. They rely on friends and neighbors, they look to one another.
“It’s not about someone coming in to save them. But it’s about saving themselves.”