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The Pathway To Independence: Bethlehem United Way Family Resource Center

United Way of Metropolitan Nashville is making a better Nashville by creating strategic, scalable solutions focused on education, financial stability and health. United Way invites Nashville residents to help make an impact in three unique ways: Volunteer, Advocate, and Give.

Over the past year, the Nashville community has wrapped its arms around the Bethlehem United Way Family Resource Center. Hundreds of volunteers have donated their time and energy at United Way events like Dirty Hands, Big Hearts Days of Action and the Stuff the Bus Days of Action.

United Way also introduced the Bethlehem FRC community to the Sport-Play-Active-Recreation-for-Kids (SPARK) program in 2014. Our newest program aims to improve the health of children through structured physical activity and nutrition. 

These are just a few examples of United Way at work in the community. Steve Fleming’s story of paying it forward demonstrates the power of partnership at work in the John Henry Hale neighborhood. 

Nashville, TN - Joy, empower and faith. Inspirational words Steve Fleming connects with Bethlehem Centers of Nashville. Those are some of the motivational messages on the painted canvases that line the hallways of the 121-year-old facility located just blocks from a completely transformed neighborhood where Fleming once grew up.

Steve reflects on the ever-evolving area of Nashville and points out the constant cornerstone in his community.

“The one thing that stands out to me is just the continuous changes from year to year. The continuous changes that I’ve seen from the 1970s to now 2015 and how Bethlehem Centers has evolved over the years and weathered the storm,” says Fleming. 
Steve recalls his early years growing up in the John Henry Hale community and his first experiences with Bethlehem Centers.

“As a child who came in to get his first immunization shots, to after school programs and youth programs. I received my first volunteer opportunity at Bethlehem Centers and my first working opportunity, where I earned a paycheck at the age of 14, through a summer youth employment program.”

Bethlehem Centers also helped Steve earn a scholarship to Wilberforce University near Dayton, Ohio, where he majored in Child Psychology. After graduation, Fleming had an opportunity to come home. In 2003, about the same time United Way of Metropolitan Nashville’s partnership helped the more than century-old facility transform into a Family Resource Center, Steve moved into the director position.

“Bethlehem Centers has always been near and dear to me because it’s always been a part of my life. Being a participant and now serving as a lead servant, my journey has come full circle,” says Fleming, now CEO of the historic facility.

Steve estimates he’s helped more than 1,200 at-risk children become productive citizens in the Nashville community. During our conversation, he pauses to look over at a picture collage on one of the walls in his office. It features some of those children’s smiling faces. “It gives me the inspiration to serve people because it says I had a hand in the success of some of Nashville’s most productive people.”

Fleming acknowledges the common belief that it takes a village to empower people in this day and age and that his community’s needs continue to change and evolve, very much like his neighborhood. He then talks about the power of partnership with United Way and its life-changing effects on his clients.

“I can’t say enough about United Way. It’s one of the great community partners in all of the world, not just Nashville,” says Fleming. He adds, “Bethlehem Centers is very fortunate to be partners with United Way because United Way truly is a change agent for our neighbors.”

Fleming singles out United Way funded programs like SPARK (Sport-Play-Active-Recreation-for-Kids), as well Meals on Wheels, which provides home-delivered meal services to those in need, as specific examples of United Way’s efforts to change outcomes at the Family Resource Center.

These United Way programs and partnership, combined with Steve’s community connection to his clients, and the facility’s history in the John Henry Hale neighborhood bring to mind another inspirational word for this community in transition: hope. 

United Way of Metropolitan Nashville partners to operate 18 Family Resource Centers in Nashville. These Family Resource Centers work to assist at-risk children and their families with specific health and human service needs. Each United Way Family Resource Center is tailored based on the specific needs of residents in each neighborhood. United Way Family Resource Centers have served close to 158,000 clients over the past five years.