CLOVERLEAF – Celebrating its six-year anniversary in February, Project Cloverleaf has been meeting the physical, mental and spiritual needs of local residents with plenty of success stories to back it up.
Founder and executive director of the program, Cyndi Burks, a missionary for the North American Mission Board working through Woodforest Baptist Church, says she’s just doing God’s work.
“The goal of the program is to lead people to the Lord,” she said. “To make a long-term change in their life, it requires meeting the physical, mental and spiritual needs. If you only provide the physical needs, and don’t treat the body as a whole, everything is only a short fix.”
Project Cloverleaf offers a variety of different programs including housing a food pantry, which serves 450 to 500 families per year and a clothes closet, which often aids fire victims.
There is a uniform recycling program in which the organization accepts used uniforms for area schools and distributes one used uniform and one new uniform to each needy student per school year. Last August, 457 students received school uniforms as well as supplies for their trek back to school.
In July, the organization holds a major health fair. Last July, more than 1,000 people received immunizations, hearing examinations, eye examinations and other testing. In November, the mini health fair is held which provides flu vaccinations, HIV testing, glucose and cholesterol testing.
At Christmas, Project Cloverleaf participates in Adopt-a-Child. More than 135 children received at approximately 7 to 12 gifts each. Two children from one family even received 27 gifts each. Christmas dinners donated by the organization fed 49 families during the holidays.
By far, the most popular program offered by Project Cloverleaf is the GED program, which offers high school equivalency tutoring. Since 1999, Burks has personally tutored more than 600 students.
Burks, who became a Mission Service Corp missionary last year, says Project Cloverleaf provides the hope and encouragement some people were never provided.
“We give them a reason to believe in themselves. Sometimes, we create a different person. Then, they can pick themselves up off of the group and provide a better life for themselves,” she said.
Burks has won two Bell Ringer Awards, which is the most prestigious award offered for literary. She also received the Dorothy McClinton Award for more than 1,000 hours given to literary per year.
With eight computers, Project Cloverleaf also offers Microsoft Office and general skills training.
“We train them on some minimums of Word and Excel?just some basic computer skills for a receptionist or date entry clerk job,” said Burks, working out of her office at Woodforest Baptist Church.
In addition, the organization makes thumbprints and photo identification for children. This program called “Kid Proof,” was added six months ago and has serviced more than 2,000 children.
Project Cloverleaf helps the low-income family, no income family, homeless or according to Burks, the spiritually lost.
“We have applications and conduct personal interviews. We try to find out why we need to help them and the reason for their financial situation. Sometimes we’re misled, but everything is in the name of Jesus,” Burks said. “We try to take people for their word.”
Burks said though the organization does not push religion on anyone who seeks help, they do speak about it to them.
“We always speak about Jesus to these people. We tell them ‘no glory goes to us, it goes to the Lord. You’re getting this because Jesus loves you,'” Burks said. “You can’t talk about Jesus to people who are hurting or in need. You have to show them the love of the Lord. When Jesus fed the multitudes of people, they followed him for days and when they finally stopped for him to give his sermon, the first thing he did was feed them because he knew they were hungry. He met the physical needs first, then was able to share his message.”
“I want people to know the Lord Jesus really loves them. It’s amazing what God has done with this ministry,” she added.
More than 100 people served by Project Cloverleaf have had a profession of faith, Burks said.
“Some people come in and work in the church nursery, some have gotten saved and become members of the church. Some just help out when we need it,” added Burks.
One of these cases is 23-year-old Sunshine Goode. More than two years ago, Goode began working with Burks to get her GED. Goode, who is planning on becoming a bilingual elementary teacher, also received help from Burks with her 1-year-old baby.
“Cyndi is like a second mother to me. She takes all her time to help me improve my self-esteem,” Goode said. “I got saved at the church. I go every Sunday, and I also help them in the daycare.”
In an interview with the Southern Baptist Texan, Burks unveiled plans for a 10th ministry of Project Cloverleaf, called “Beating Heart.” This ministry, a crisis pregnancy center will offer pregnancy tests, sonograms, counseling, and parenting classes. Women will also receive referral information for maternity homes, shelters, financial resources, and adoption agencies. The target date for the center, Burks said, is April 1.
“We can sit back as a church and talk about how wrong abortion is, but what are we doing to step up to the plate to make a difference?” she asked, adding that it is only Jesus that can make a difference in the lives of women. “But we must be willing to open our doors and heart with these young women to show them there is a light.”
Debbie Byerley, mother of 21-year-old Chris, also credits Burks with helping her family.
“We took our three kids in as foster kids 17 years ago. Because of their living conditions, they were behind. They call it environmentally retarded. Because they were behind, they had no self-esteem. I home schooled them,” Byerley said. “When Chris was turning 18, we took him to the social security office and he was two points shy of receiving social security for a mental disability. Now, with Cyndi’s help, he’s two points shy of receiving his GED.”
Byerley added that her children volunteer at the church and help with the organization when needed.
“For Christmas, my oldest daughter helped wrap presents. After [a] recent flood, my kids were up at the church sorting out clothes and helping when they could. Cyndi is good at building self-esteem and reaching out. Cyndi believes in people and makes them believe in themselves. She believes nobody is worthless,” she said.
Burks said though sometimes the situations are uncomfortable for families, Project Cloverleaf tries to assist as best as they can.
“We’re not judgmental. We go into some really bad situations. People are really leery about letting us in, at first. We go in and I think they’re amazed because we make them feel comfortable about where they are in life. We don’t belittle them. That really surprised some people,” Burks said.
This article used with permission from the North Channel Sentinel. Texan staff contributed to this article.