"To empower people to help themselves."

Change Happens! is a 501(c)(3), non-profit, community-based organization founded in 1989 with a mission to empower people to help themselves. Change Happens! has fulfilled this mission by providing a variety of programs focused on delivering education, resources and support to low-income and underserved individuals and families throughout the city of Houston.

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In 2018, Change Happens! saw tremendous success and growth in the programs and services offered to at-risk and underserved youth and families. With over 18 programs, Change Happens! made an impact on the lives of hundreds of individuals throughout the Third Ward neighborhood, Harris County, and the Greater Houston area. Change Happens! added and launched 4 new programs to meet the needs of those most underserved in the community. 

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To expand upon a partnership with Department of Justice, Change Happens! was awarded a grant to launch the Young Fathers C.A.N. (Create A New Beginning) program in 2018. Through this program, Change Happens! provides comprehensive reentry support services that address the successful and safe transition of young fathers from detention, out-of-home placement, or incarceration to their families and communities. Young Fathers C.A.N. targets 75 justice-involved fathers, under 25-years of age, residing in any Harris County detention facility. All mentoring services are free of cost and are focused on mentoring fathers, assisting families and empowering people.


Change Happens! was awarded an additional grant to provide service to Houston's homeless population. The purpose of the Service to Aid in Retaining Shelter (STAIRS) 2.0 program is to integrate behavioral health treatment and services for substance use disorders (SUD) and co-occurring mental and substance use disorders (COD), permanent housing, and other critical services for individuals experiencing homelessness. The goal of the program is to reduce homelessness among individuals’ ages 18 years of age and older living in Houston/Harris County with SUDs or CODs.

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Change Happens! was awarded funding from the Health & Human Services Department to implement the INSIGHT program. INSIGHT (Imagine Now! Standing Intently to Generate Health and Transcendence) is a Sexual Risk Avoidance Education (SRAE) program that targets African American and Hispanic/Latino youth, ages 14-19 living in Houston, TX. The goals of INSIGHT are to empower participants to make healthy decisions, and provide tools and resources to prevent 

pregnancy, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI), Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD), as well as lower youth engagement in other risky behaviors, and educate youth on how to voluntarily refrain from non-martial, sexual activity; thereby, reducing teen pregnancy in Houston, TX.


On Thursday, November 15, 2018, My Brother’s Keeper Alliance (MBK Alliance), an initiative of the Obama Foundation, announced the winners of its inaugural MBK Community Challenge Competition. The Foundation selected 19 organizations across 10 

states and Puerto Rico as national models to expand evidence-based initiatives to reduce youth violence, grow effective mentorship programs, and measurably improve the lives of boys and young men of color. There are ten winning “National Impact Communities” and nine “Seed Communities.” My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Houston and Change Happens! was chosen as one of ten communities to be awarded the Impact Community Grant! The Change Happens! MBK Houston "Each One Of Us" mentoring program at Jack Yates High School will begin in August 2019.


Change Happens! was one of only two organizations in the state of Texas to be awarded funding through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to implement the Affordable Care Act Navigator Program. Moreover, Change Happens! will be one of only 39 agencies across the U.S. to have qualified and won the grant to offer assistance to consumers navigating, shopping for, and enrolling in health insurance coverage. Change Happens! will cover 30 counties across the state in order to help enroll some of the nearly 4.5 million uninsured Texans for healthcare coverage (The Texas Tribune).


Shortly after Hurricane Harvey made landfall, Change Happens! leadership decided the agency should have a larger presence in disaster relief efforts. Upon reopening its offices days after the storm, Change Happens! began coordinating a relief response team that could serve as a "beacon of hope" for the community. To date, Change Happens! has raised over $170,000 to support the needs of the community after the storm. As a result of applications submitted, the Change Happens! Disaster Relief Committee identified over 85 families (272 unduplicated individuals) severely affected by Hurricane Harvey and provided each with $500 in financial assistance. Likewise, 14 families were approved for extended funding (additional financial assistance) to ensure they could remain housed after Federal FEMA subsidies ended.

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The Northern Third Ward Neighborhood Implementation Project had its inaugural kick-off event in May 2018 to reach residents and community stakeholders, as well as identify critical issues in our neighborhood. Through resident and stakeholder participation, the Project's plan formulates strategies and specific action steps that will lead to the successful development and enhancement of our community. The Northern Third Ward Neighborhood Implementation Project is funded by The Wells Fargo Foundation, to implement community improvements over five years in the areas of: neighborhood building, education, economic development and workforce, housing, and services for children, youth, and families.



During the 2018 calendar year, the Project FORCE team provided HIV counseling, testing, and referral services to over 2,000 individuals in the Houston area and conducted HIV test screens for 1,500 individuals. In the process, Project FORCE located 23 newly diagnosed HIV-positive individuals and successfully provided them assistance with HIV care and case management services. Moreover, Project FORCE reconnected one HIV-positive, out-of-care person to HIV care and case management. In addition to these gains in HIV prevention and education, the Project FORCE team administered 800 syphilis screenings, 400 Hepatitis C tests, and 250 referrals to other STI screenings such as TB, gonorrhea and chlamydia to ensure a more healthy and knowledgeable community.  

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In 2018, Change Happens’ HYPE 2.0 (Helping Youth Prevent Engaging in Risky Behavior) Program continued servicing African American and Hispanic youth ages 14-19 living in Harris County, Houston, Texas. In 2018, HYPE 2.0 set a goal to recruit 1,250 students to teach intervention education on abstinence, teen pregnancy prevention, HIV/AIDS, STDs/STIs, and positive youth development. This past year, the program provided intervention education services to eight schools and two community sites,

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including Yes Prep West, Yes Prep Southside, Madison High School, Kashmere High School, South Early College, Key Middle School, Wheatley High School and Young Women Preparatory Academy. The two community sites were Fifth Ward Enrichment Program and Change Happens Summer Program. From the 10 sites, the HYPE 2.0 program surpassed its goal and was able to recruit 1,885 youth, 1,473 of which fully completed the intervention curriculum.


The Rescue in Motion (RIM) Permanent Housing Programs currently have 68 unaccompanied, chronically homeless men and women housed in individual, subsidized housing units throughout Harris County.  With the support of intensive case management, 100% of the program participants maintained housing for six month or longer in 2018. And, due to the comprehensive case management provided, 100% of the program participants were able to access mental health screening to maintain stability. More notable, 80% of program 

participants with a history of substance abuse were able to maintain their sobriety by accessing relapse prevention services. Program participants accessed vocational/educational services by attending GED classes, local community colleges, or technical schools to increase their skills. Ultimately, the RIM team further empowered 75% of its participants by helping them to increase their income through Social Security awards, an increase in Social Security, or employment gained. 


In 2018, the Positive Outcome in Mentoring (POM) program successfully matched all 78 at-risk youth mentees enrolled with a caring adult mentor and hosted the first annual “You Make a Difference” mentor recognition event to acknowledge the effort and commitment of all mentors. In collaboration with The Houston Food Bank’s “Food for Change” scholarship

program, Change Happens empowered 35 food insecure families from the POM program by giving them access 60 lbs of food twice a month. Additionally, the POM program connected its mentor and mentees with over 15 activities, including the opportunity to attend the 42nd Annual Organization of Black Aerospace Professional’s (OBAP) Convention Youth Day & Luncheon, giving youth the chance to learn more about the aviation and aerospace industry from those in the field. 

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The Rescue Youth Program provides alcohol, tobacco, and other drug prevention services year-around to over 6,000 youth in Houston ISD, YES Prep Public Schools, and Alief ISD. The program focuses on character building, peer bonding, and positive youth development to promote healthy decision making among youth 6-18 years of age. During the 2018 school year, the Rescue Youth After-School Program served 30 students 

by providing homework assistance, outdoor activities, exercise, entrepreneurship training, and gardening. Likewise, the Rescue Youth Summer Program served 50 youth with with Careers At A Glance, Kids' University, weekly field trips, and a special travel trip to Stoney Creek Campgrounds, all in partnership with the University of Houston, Houston Community College, CenterPoint Energy, and Comerica Bank.


Change Happens! is governed by a Board of Directors with diverse professions and backgrounds.

All operational activities are implemented and approved by the Board of Directors.

 Board Chairperson

Vanessa T. Reed

Assistant Vice President- South Texas Community Reinvestment Act Manager


Marian Cabanillas
Vice President, Marketing
United Healthcare


Jené Guess Cash
Chief Executive Officer
Guess Group, Inc.


Cynthia Ferrell-Sample
Bennie Ferrell Catering


Martha Kennerson
Community Advocate


Carl Townsend Kidd
Vice President, Government Contracts & Advocacy
Molina Healthcare


Stephanie Magers

Junior League Outside Board Representative

Debbie Salazar
First Vice President
IBC Bank


Reva Witherspoon
Vice President, Marketing and Outreach



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Helen Stagg

Chief Executive Officer

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Ann Williams, CPA

Chief Financial Officer

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Erica Davis

Chief Operations Officer



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For more information, visit or contact:

Change Happens!

3353 Elgin St., Houston, TX 77004

(713) 374-1200


Monday-Thursday 8AM to 6PM

Friday 8AM to 5PM