Simeon Resources-The Orlando Times
Despite Pandemic, Local Organization Provides Needed “Resources”
BY JALESSA NEAL, TIMES STAFF WRITER
Residents attend health classes as part of The Holden Heights Initiative. Simeon Resources has partnered with other community organizations to provide resources to those in need.
A community health assessment of Holden Heights revealed that over 75% of residents surveyed earned less than $20,000 a year in 2020. Simeon Resources and Development Center for Men, Inc., has partnered with others to provide health classes and financial assistance to them and many others.
The Holden Heights Family Health Initiative was funded by Florida Department of Health ‘Closing the Gap’-a project aimed at eliminating health disparities. Closing the Gap provides funding to community-based organizations to educate minority residents about health conditions that are common among people of color such as heart disease, diabetes, and various cancers. Simeon’s current project has been designated to educate minority residents of the Holden Heights community.
Outreach workers, practicing CDC guidelines, go into the community to screen people about the project. They ask if people are residents of the Holden Heights neighborhood, if they’re 18-years old, and if they would like to learn about health conditions that impact people of color. If they are interested, they invite the resident to a 4 week-long health education seminar. If anyone in the class does not have health insurance, Simeon Resources refers them to federally qualified community health centers so they can get care.
The second part of the program addresses the social determinants that impact health, such as lack of employment. If residents are enrolled in the program without employment, they are assisted with employment training and placement in a job that provides health insurance for them and their family. They also provide utility payment assistance, a GED program, and training at Technical Schools and Valencia College. All assistance is free of charge.
Simeon partnered with other community organizations that had deeper roots in Holden Heights such as The Holden Heights Front Porch, New Covenant Baptist Church, Kings Way Baptist Church, and others that make up a community committee.
With the pandemic, many facilities are closed. But that isn’t stopping them, to conduct the health classes for the initiative they are hosting them in people's front yards and practicing social distancing. Chairs are set 6 feet apart and masks are required. While they do the presentation, they talk about COVID-19 concerns and prevention.
“We all know that the pandemic has negatively impacted Black and Brown communities in a greater way than others. We have residents working with us to bring their neighbors together in small groups and we follow CDC guidelines and we go about educating. I think that's a very resourceful way to get the word out,” said Sharon Wiley, Holden Heights Front Porch Liaison. “Our attitude is ‘can’t stop, won’t stop.’”
Thousands of success stories have come out of Simeon Resources. A recent experience involved a family that fell on hard times and were living in their van with their two young children. The father reached out to Larry Williams (Founder of Simeon), who helped him put together his resume and fill out a job application, the father now has an interview coming up.
Another success story comes from a young man who dropped out of school due to family problems. With Simeon Resources Vernon was placed into a GED program and was later enrolled in Valencia College. He earned his bachelors and masters and is currently enrolled in UCF’s PhD program for Sociology.
“We're not talking about one story, we're talking about hundreds of stories like that,” said Larry Williams. “People just need a little support sometimes, if you're ready to move forward give us a call and we're going to work with you.”
Simeon Resource and Development Center for Men, Inc., was founded in 2002, to address the key socio-economic disparities that affect at-risk individuals. Simeon’s mission is to partner with the community to alleviate racial and ethnic disparities in health, education, employment, and incarceration among at-risk individuals in the Central Florida area by providing educational, employment, social and health programs.
Some of the programs that have been held by Simeon include: Plan of Action for Sustainable Success, ADOPT A Juvenile in Transition, The Brother’s Network, Mentoring, Education (ABE/GED), and Post-secondary program.
Many organizations and individuals have provided support for Simeon including, Florida Department of Health – Orange County, Orange County Public Schools/Orange Technical College, Holden Heights Front Porch, and a host of others.
“Simeon Resource Center is an incredible help to so many families, including my own,” said Samantha Wilson, a supporter of Simeon. “I’ve seen people who were given a second chance through this organization make things happen for themselves.”
As of 2017, most of their clients were racial and ethnic minorities: 80% African American (Black), 15% Hispanic, 3% Caucasian and 2% Asian. Seventy-five percent (75%) self-identify as male, and 20% self-identify as female.
Larry Williams is the founder of Simeon Resources. Born in Ocala, FL, he moved to Orlando to attend UCF where he earned his bachelor’s in psychology before graduating from Troy State University with his master’s in counseling.
Prior to assuming the role of Executive Director at Simeon, Williams served as the Director of the Office of Minority Health for the Orange County Health Department. He spent 25 years in public health, helping to identify and address factors that disproportionately impact racial and ethnic populations in Central Florida.
Williams is also a classically trained actor. He has written and produced several one-act plays and educational videos, including a script for an independent film. Williams has also authored a children's book dealing with race relations.
“We deal with a lot of people who’ve never had success in their lives. [My favorite part is] is seeing them get a job, get their high school diploma, and then go on to college,” said Williams. “I grew up in a poor neighborhood and someone helped me, someone came along and showed me something different, and as a result of that I was able to move forward and so I'm paying it forward.”
To benefit from The Holden Heights Initiative, you must live in the area. For employment assistance, people of all backgrounds are welcome to take advantage, the only requirement is to be motivated. Call 407.836.6730 or visit https://www.simeonresource.com/ for more information.