As Touching Miami with Love (TML) celebrates twenty-five years of faithful work in 2020, it’s a great time to celebrate our impact while also taking a glance forward towards the future. Since 2005, Jason and Angel Pittman have served in leadership at TML through the support of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF). Working alongside each other, they have brought their unique gifts and educational backgrounds to allow TML’s growth to serve more children and youth in more impactful ways for fifteen years.
No matter what role Angel has held at TML, her motivation has always been to support students holistically. From her first years at TML serving as Overtown’s Children’s Director to moving towards fundraising and organizational leadership, it has always about helping students get the support they need. Her passion for students is what has made her so skilled at developing new programs and projects for TML and made her an effective fundraiser. Whether in a personal conversation, a written story, or a grant application, it’s not hard to miss Angel’s love for the students at TML. Angel has also worked hard to shape the culture of TML from building a strong sense of family within the staff to the students at TML. Both staff members and TML participants have both created fond memories over meals and games in the Pittman’s home in Overtown for many years. Through her efforts, Angel has supported TML’s strategic plan by helping the organization grow exponentially, and her impact has gotten her notice. She was named a “Miami Leader” class of 2017-2018 by the Miami Foundation, a “Woman to Watch” by Global Women, profiled by Baptist Women in Ministry in “This Is What a Minister Looks Like” and named AXA Advisors 2013 Businesswoman of the Year, in the Non-Profit category.
Angel will be transitioning out of her role at Touching Miami with Love and is excited to continue her eighteen years of service with CBF as she begins to advocate for students more broadly as an Educational Advocate. This multi-faceted role will include supporting students in Miami, building capacity for local advocacy efforts, and working on behalf of public-school children on a state level all to reduce educational inequities. She will also have the opportunity to use her experience at TML to support CBF’s national educational programming efforts.
While her departure is undoubtedly a loss for TML, she’s excited to step aside to allow Trina Harris to become Touching Miami with Love’s next Vice President. Trina brings her eleven years of leadership at TML, along with a fantastic set of skills, gifts, and passion for our communities, to this new role. While her duties will be different from Angel, her work will be vital for the continued growth of TML’s impact. Angel begins several months of transition from July to September to ensure a smooth and successful conversion. You can learn more about Angel’s new work HERE.
As we gear up for Spring Break, nearly 400 students are continually being served in Overtown and West Homestead at Touching Miami with Love.
Thanks to great supporters we have a new and engaging STEM curriculum and during Spring Break we’ll be enforcing different skills and topics! Last month Brave Church provided items necessary for the upcoming STEM projects and assembled the kits! Supplemental to our STEM activities, is “Structured Free Choice” where our students play to reinforce the skills they’ve learned throughout the day. For example, after learning Human Anatomy, their structured free choice will be playing a game of Operation.
In addition to STEM activities, we will offer a fun approach in our Children’s devotional, fitness, visual arts, social skills, and literacy. Another fun addition to our Spring Break week is the opportunity to explore Zoo Miami. At the zoo, we will enforce previous lessons about animal habitats, differentiating between predators & prey, and really giving them a hands-on experience.
The children don’t have all the fun, it’s Camp OASIS time for our middle and high school youth! During Spring Break, our youth will embrace a change of scenery in Central Florida where they will get to connect with one another and grow spiritually. This years’ theme is “Disrupt” and coinciding verse is Mark 16:24 “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
During this spiritual retreat, the youth get a chance to disconnect as they have no access to their cell phones, allowing God to “disrupt” the normal day-to-day hustle and bustle. Some of the activities available to our youth are swimming, archery, boating, and crafts. Being exposed to different activities really opens up the youth’s mind as they learn more about themselves and what they enjoy.
Looking back at past Camp Oasis pictures has us excited for what’s to come!
This Valentine’s Day Touching Miami with Love celebrated with some special treats! Our youth showed love for their TML family, and children and youth both practiced some self-love too.
Just a few days before Valentine’s day, we welcomed the Stephanie Rubinstein Foundation as they conducted a mindfulness workshop for both children and youth. The students learned breathing techniques, how to calmly acknowledge their feelings and to accept their thoughts. They also received a take-home to practice their mindfulness techniques along with some Valentine’s treats.
When Valentine’s Day came along, our youth prepared goodie bags for our children and sweetly distributed them to each class as the children celebrated with a pizza party. The youth also handed out flowers to each staff member as a reminder too of the command in 1 Corinthians 16:14: “Do everything in love.”
February in Miami is all about the Super Bowl coming to town, and our students were buzzing with excitement for the big game! We are utilizing the spotlight on the Super Bowl to “tackle” pressing issues facing our youth as well as have some football fun.
The month began with a visit from a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader teaching our Kindergarten through Fifth-grade girls a cheer routine during their fitness time.
We then hosted a Super Bowl themed Fun Friday which included a friendly series of flag football and hot dog and popcorn feast for our children. Our youth didn’t miss out on the fun as we hosted Super Bowl watch party on game day for them at TML.
It’s not all fun and games when it comes to the Super Bowl, though. As you may know, whatever city the Super Bowl is in, human trafficking increases. To ensure our students understand the dangers, as part of our holistic programming, our middle and high school youth will take part in a three-day human trafficking workshop led by Unitas, whose mission is to prevent human trafficking and exploitation through education and awareness.
We are very thankful for our current partnerships that continue to help us provide a fun yet safe, secure, and healthy environment for our children and youth at Touching Miami with Love.
At TML, we believe in sowing into our youth so that they bear the fruit of long-term impact. While it is no surprise to have students visit us after they’ve graduated from our program, it is always rewarding to see them return for a simple “hello,” others invest and become part of our staff team. If you’ve ever called our offices, then you’ve likely talked to Brittney. She gave us permission to share her story.
Brittney was in grade school when she moved to Overtown with her grandmother when she and her two sisters began attending our children’s programming. By the age of fourteen, Brittney was already showcasing her leadership skills and became one of our summer Jr. Interns are working alongside our children’s program. During the summer, our Vice President, Angel Pittman gave Brittney one of the most precious yet valuable opportunities to babysit her own children while she would debrief with summer teams. Not only had Brittney become a leader, but she earned trust as she always showed signs of love, loyalty, and commitment through her actions.
As Brittney matured into a young woman, she consistently proved herself as a calm and caring individual. After graduating from high school, Brittney began volunteering at TML, which eventually led to a regular position as a receptionist. Our programs grew and we discovered the need for a Program Assistant. Brittney was the obvious choice as not only had she first hand experienced our programs as a student but now her son would be joining as well. While serving as Program Assistant, Brittney discovered many things, from having more confidence in herself and how to communicate professionally and effectively with her colleagues. Five years later, we are excited to announce that Brittney has become our new Office Manager. While this role has more responsibilities, we firmly believe in her ability to continue to learn and grow alongside the rest of our staff.
Having Brittney transition from a child in our program to a staff member years later is another example of the tremendous work our teams dedicate themselves to. We believe in our students, even on the days, they don’t believe in themselves. We are confident in the leader Brittney has become and are excited for her as she takes on her new role.
By, Amanda Knight
Mycah walked up the steps of our apartment one night. When I opened the door she was wet from running through the rain and I quickly invited her in as we both embraced. In her hands, she held a gift bag and her usual big beautiful smile. She handed us the gift and told my husband Gavin and I that we needed to open the gifts in front of her so she could see our reaction.
As I opened the gifts, I took out beautiful baby onesies full of colors, with dragons, cute sayings, and adorable prints. Since Gavin and I announced our pregnancy, these were some of our first baby gifts so the feeling of gratitude was especially powerful. But the clothes didn’t stop! More and more outfits, all thoughtfully selected. I noticed a card still in our bag. I eagerly reached for the card, but she stopped me. “…You have to wait until I leave to read that,” she said.
Instead, we chatted about her upcoming summer job. She was looking forward to returning to work at Kids Across America—an inner city summer camp. This would be her second year to serve. Gavin and I were happy to congratulate her in person on her amazing grades in college (straight A’s!), her leadership on campus as a Resident Assistant, and her involvement at her church.
After chatting, we realized her ride was still waiting for her in the parking lot. We thanked her and hugged goodbye. She ran back through the rain while Gavin and I both sat down to look again at the beautiful clothes that God had blessed us with. It was more than just gifts we were admiring, but more importantly, the beautiful relationship that God had been molding for so many years. The relationship had impacted both Mycah and me! It was humbling to think back on all the Bible studies, outings, trips, and stories Mycah and I had gone through together. I gave God praise and then remembered the card still in the bag! As I opened the card, I read Micah’s note. These words stuck out boldly: “You’ve supported me…now it’s my turn to get to support you.”
In my training as a social work major, there was always talk of boundaries, which indeed are especially important. Some understand boundaries to mean no contact with people you serve outside of work hours. As Christians though, I think there are significant times when we need to evaluate if our boundaries are keeping others from using their God-given gifts for the kingdom.
Those of us who are used to giving, or “providing services,” often can feel very awkward receiving. But in the same way that Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” we cannot be selfish and always be the giver. We must also allow others the opportunities to serve and to give, even if that means we are the receiver. It is indeed a humbling place to receive.
It reminds me of the feeling Peter must have had when Jesus said He must wash Peter’s feet. Peter’s initial reaction was, “No Way! You can’t wash my feet! Jesus, no! I serve you! You don’t serve me.” When we are usually the ones that give, it can feel so wrong receiving–like things are out of order. But we need to remember that Jesus told Peter, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” Then Peter said, “Then not just my feet but my hands and head as well!”
We don’t always know where we will see the Lord in our everyday lives. If we are open to both giving and to receiving, we may see Jesus through the interactions of people all around us.
Amanda, far left, with a group of TML Alumni.