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.
In just a few days, I will have completed 90 days at Touching Miami With Love. However, I feel like I’ve been here forever since it all seems so familiar; from sharing God’s love and heart to empower people to working with leaders on building a legacy in our community. For the most part, “Impact Stories” make their way to my desk for review, but this time I thought I’d write my own.
Over the holiday break, the office was quiet as students weren’t around. One of the highlights of it being slow around the office was the opportunity to connect with a few of the coordinators that were also working. I got to see how they prepared lesson plans, bulletin boards, and cleaned so the instructors and students could come back to tidy class rooms. The air was filled with hope for the future and new beginnings as we neared New Years Eve.
I missed seeing the students, but I realized how much work goes on “behind the scenes” to prepare for them and their success in and out of our program. This time without Children and Youth Program running was necessary, even God rested on the 7th day right?
On December 31st, 2019, I walked into work and found a note on my desk that read “You’re amazing and valued! Feel like I’ve known you forever!” I smiled and held back thankful tears as I thought to myself “It’s too early to cry”. At that moment that feeling of being at TML forever made sense. Yes, the faces and experiences at TML were new, but it was the same God behind them all. I realized that even in the quiet restful moments, He’s also doing “behind the scenes” work to set us up for success. I am blessed to work for an organization where people and their ideas are valued. I am eager to celebrate TML’s 25th anniversary this year and seeing the positive impact in the community grow. If you’re reading this, here’s your reminder that you are also amazing and valued!
-Vanessa Urrego, Fundraising Coordinator
A new decade is around the corner and if you are wanting to make some resolutions for your business in 2020 – how about adding “giving back” as one of them? In 2019, MIAM Café raised $1,034.50 one dollar at a time for Touching Miami with Love.
How did they do it? Miam Café partnered with us in creating a “Drink of the Month” project and pledged to donate $1 for every purchase made. In turn, we promoted their partnership online and in our social media. Does your business have an item or service that you could designate a portion of the sale to be donated to Touching Miami with Love?
Need more ideas? Here are other ways to support TML while you determine your New Year goals.
Be a Guest Speaker
Do you or a co-worker have an inspirational and empowering message? Would you like to inspire our students? Then, we’d love to have you. Sharing your story can be vital as it could help young people in ways you never knew possible. Empower and forge connections with our middle and high school students through your story.
Come Out and Play with Us
In 2020, TML celebrates our 25th Anniversary with a series of tournament events. Kickball, Top Golf, or Bowling—what’s your game of choice? Find out how you can create comradarie while supporting a great organization. See all tournament events online on our 25th Anniversary page.
Denim Days at Work
Do your employees dress up for work? Consider supporting Touching Miami with Love in exchange for giving employees the option to wear jeans on a particular day of the week. You can even ask to make it a regular Friday event and pledge your support for a year. Need help pitching the idea? Invite your team to one of our monthly TML impact tours, and we’ll do a “show and tell’ for you!
Touching Miami With Love has many opportunities for you to volunteer as an individual or with a group. As we celebrate our 25th anniversary year, there are various events where your company’s helping hands and willing heart would be appreciated. Head to our website and complete our Volunteer Inquiry form, and we will schedule a follow-up phone call to see which program or event you’d like to volunteer.
Donate an Item or Service
Does your business have items or a service you provide that could be donated to TML? In 2020, TML is hosting several tournament events and an online auction. We will gladly receive your item(s) for use in our events and provide you a tax receipt for the value of your donation.
Be a Guest Chef
Have someone in the office that loves to cook or even an employee with take-out ordering skills? Have representatives from your company serve as Guest Chefs for our Youth Evening Program. Each Wednesday evening in Overtown and Thursday evening in West Homestead we serve dinner to our youth before programming. We encourage our “guest chefs” to eat with the youth as a great time to get to know our students over a delicious meal. Past companies serving as Guest Chefs have shared how much they loved the experience bonding with our students and each other.
Now that you have some ideas for smashing your resolution on giving back, let us know which one best suits you. Ask to receive our 25th Anniversary sponsorship packet for more information on how you can celebrate with us in 2020!
At this year’s Thanksgiving Showcase, we had a packed house at our Overtown site as parents and relatives gathered for dinner and a show. We host this event as an opportunity to get to build stronger bonds with our families outside and bless our community with a memorable meal as Amanda, our Spiritual Formation Director leads the show each year.
Every class had a different song they performed, each with a powerful message on the love of Christ. Our students practiced for weeks, and when it came down to performing, they really rocked out! It was terrific seeing the crowd record the show on their cell phones, stand up and clap, and sing along. Not only could you see all the families beaming with pride, but you saw each instructors’ eyes light up watching their students perform.
One particular performance stood out –our 4th -5th-grade “Marlins” group. One minute into the song, the music unexpectedly stopped, the class looked over at their TML instructor, Ms. Ashley with concern on their faces. Ms. Ashley kept her cool and encouraged her students to keep singing and continue their choreography without the music. As everyone else cheered them on, the children belted out lyrics,
“In every circumstance
no matter where I am
I will trust you
I will trust in You!
It’s so sweet to trust in Jesus.”
At that moment, the words seemed to come alive for everyone under the sound of the students’ voices. Singing passionately, even amidst the technical difficulty, the children reminded us that no matter what the situation, God has everything under control. What could have been a disaster and awkward ending to their performance, turned into a great lesson of overcoming and victory. It was beautiful to see the teamwork and self-confidence we teach our students on display.
We are so grateful for everyone who participated at our annual Thanksgiving Showcase– from volunteers, staff, parents, and students. As we continue to celebrate the holiday, let us remember the real reason for the season and carry the lyrics within us – “It’s so sweet to trust in Jesus.”
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.
Payday Lending Practices Harm Communities
Join Touching Miami with Love, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and CBF FL and faith leaders across the country to stop harmful predatory lending practices. Read more about CBF’s advocacy efforts on payday lending HERE.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is rolling back a recently created rule that requires predatory payday lenders to make affordable loans. Without this rule, payday loan sharks can prey on vulnerable consumers with debt trap loans causing default on other bills, overdraft fees, and even bankruptcy. The CFPB must protect families and stop the debt trap – not enrich payday loan sharks.
In my first months of ministry, I remember a faith leader offering a challenge to not simply create programs and services that serve people who are caught in tough situations in the river of life, but instead to go upstream and see who is pushing people into the river. That analogy stuck with me. Heading up the river is what advocacy is all about.
Recently I was able to be a part of CBF’s training event, Advocacy in Action, held in New York City. Throughout the four-day event, pastors, faith leaders and seminary students from across the country joined together to learn practical ways to put faith to action while impacting the most pressing issues of the day including immigrant and refugee issues, religious liberty and human rights.
Our group visited the United Nations to learn about global advocacy and hear about interfaith work being done from a panel of UN advocate experts. During our week, we viewed refugee stories up close at the Tenement Museum and stood beneath Plymouth Church in Brooklyn in the same room as those escaping slavery through the Underground Railroad. All of this was a great reminder of both the importance and the investment required for advocacy.
It seemed fitting that the following Monday, I would get to be a part of putting my new advocacy learning into action at a Pray-In and Press Conference to denounce the abusive practices of the payday lending industry.
This gathering brought together the Center for Responsible Lending, the Florida Council of Churches, the 11th Episcopal District of the AME Church, and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Florida to protest outside of the Trump National Doral Resort in Miami as the national payday lenders association, The Community Financial Services of America (CFSA), held their annual meeting.
Touching Miami with Love joined this effort years ago and continues to learn about the industry that grows wealthy off a debt trap designed to force borrowers to take out increasing loans to pay off previous loans. It was encouraging to join prominent leaders in this movement as we prayed and called for justice to uphold the rights of the poor. We held signs attracting the interest of the police and media as we condemned the industry for their 400% APR rates and predatory practices that lead to an average of ten loans per borrower.
Following this experience, I was invited to join a researcher from the Center for Responsible Lending to be a local voice on Miami’s local public radio station WLRN’s show, “Sundial.” It was a privilege to shine light on the abusive practices of payday lending because no one should be thrown in the river drowning in debt.
Angel Pittman is a CBF field personnel serving as the Vice President of Touching Miami with Love. Since 1995, Touching Miami with Love has been serving the neighborhoods of Overtown and West Homestead, sharing the love of Christ through providing hope, opportunities, and resources.
Reset! Oasis Camp, hosted by Branches, was truly a “reset” for our youth. God’s presence was at camp this year and the youth were blown away by their experiences. Surrounded by nature and with no technology for four days, they have an opportunity to connect with Jesus in new ways.
The theme this year was centered around Hebrews 12:1-2:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.
At camp, the youth and counselors had a chant that focused our attention on this verse.
“Hebrews Twelve. One two, One two…
Drop the weights.
Run the Race.
Set your eyes on Jesus’ face.”
After a few rounds of the chant, everyone would yell: “RESET—right now, right now” and the chant would begin again from the top. Reset.
Camp is an opportunity for our TML staff to connect on a deeper level to youth. During Cabin Devotions, one youth was really struggling with if she could stop a bad habit. She said she didn’t want to “drop the weight” because she didn’t think she’d be fully committed. “I want to follow Jesus, but I need to stop sinning first.” TML staff encouraged her that despite our human attempts, we are not the ones to clean up our lives. Jesus is. Reset. Jesus didn’t come for healthy people, but the sick. Reset. He died for us while we were sinners. Our bad habits might not change overnight. The more we learn more about Jesus and His love for us, the more we walk closer with Him, the less attractive those heavy sins will become.
The last night that same youth wrote these words, “I realized I don’t have to be perfect in order to follow Jesus.” She said she wanted to “put two feet in, instead of one foot.” She wanted Jesus to reset her life.
The truth is, we all need a reset. Not just our youth, but all of us. Omar, one of the staff from KIX, another participating ministry, said it like this: “We don’t need just a daily reset, but a moment-by-moment reset.” That is true for all of us. Reset.
Choosing to follow Jesus is a journey. It happens over time. There are days we will mess up, and we will need to reset. So, we will start again giving God the stuff holding us down, getting back to our purpose, and fixing our eyes back on Jesus.
Here’s what other youth shared from their experiences at Oasis camp,
“I don’t want to go back home; can we stay another week?”
– N. G.
“I’m going to make an effort to be different when I get back.”
“After tonight’s worship service, I felt a weight lift off of me!”
Drop the weight.
Run the Race.
Set your eyes on Jesus’ face.