Coming full circle: New Center of Hope CEO committed to build upon the legacy

From left, outgoing Center of Hope CEO Paula Robinson and incoming CEO Staci Markwardt point out items inside the center’s food pantry. Center of Hope relies heavily on generous donations from the community, especially through the holiday season.

Parker County Relations Officer Staci Markwardt will officially be stepping into the shoes of longtime Center of Hope CEO Paula Robinson on Dec. 1.

Markwardt began working as a volunteer at Center of Hope in February of 2011. A year later she joined the staff as the marketing manager and was then promoted to director of development where she served for six years. Most recently, Markwardt served on the board of directors and has now been named the new chief executive officer.

“I feel incredibly blessed and excited to be in the position to lead Center of Hope beginning Dec. 1. I have a true passion for helping others and I strongly believe in the Christ-centered mission of the center,” Markwardt said. “I am incredibly humbled by this opportunity and am committed to build upon the legacy the center has developed over the past 20 years.”

Markwardt, a graduate of Texas A&M University, has more than 25 years of management and marketing experience, most recently as the Parker County relations officer. She has also worked for the East Parker County Chamber of Commerce.

Robinson has been involved with Center of Hope since 2003 and has been the CEO for the past 10 years.

“Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, I will move into the position of board chair and help with the CEO transition process,” Robinson said. “As CEO, I have loved seeing God at work as he performs miracles helping people and providing for those in need. What an honor it has been to see God work in so many ways.”

Parker County Center of Hope offers short and long-term poverty assistance. This year, Center of Hope moved into a new building on Clear Lake Road in Weatherford, which allowed the nonprofit to expand its services. The new building includes a large pantry area, a bigger kitchen and commercial grade residential appliances, an enlarged dining room, additional classrooms and private meeting areas and an upgraded space for job training programs like The Hope Chest Internship and Careers Now — Construction Industry.

“To me, Center of Hope is all about community. Where else can you find over 70 churches, 50 businesses and thousands of individuals coming together to help those in need? The support of the community feeds directly into our integrated service model,” Markwardt said. “This approach is unique and it works. By helping individuals holistically, we are able to address their physical, emotional and spiritual needs. The program offers real solutions that will equip and empower individuals to live a more successful life.”

Robinson said Markwardt has a willingness to learn and works hard.

“I know that Staci was called by God to take this position and she has the passion, integrity and commitment that Center of Hope needs to take it to a higher level,” she said. “I have seen God change and grow the center through the support of our churches, staff and programs. The biggest change is our philosophy of being a hand up rather than a handout.”

Markwardt said as CEO she will continue the good work that has been set before her and keep the board, staff and volunteers all moving forward with those plans.

“I had the privilege to take part in a nine-month process that helped identify the center’s strategic direction, vision for the future, mission and goals,” she said.

Center of Hope relies heavily on generous donations from the community, especially through the holiday season, and always accepts financial donations, food pantry donations and items for The Hope Chest resale store.

“For the past month, schools, businesses, churches and individuals have been donating food items to help feed 700 to 800 families this Christmas,” Markwardt said. “During a two-day period, participants will be able to gather these special items to make their own Christmas meal. The pandemic has been hard on many families this year and Center of Hope is hoping to make this time very special for them.”

Robinson said although the COVID-19 pandemic shut down their kitchen and dining room in March, families had the opportunity to obtain food through Center of Hope’s drive-thru grocery line.

“We had families come through the food line 9,271 times. Also, we were able to continue our educational programs through Zoom,” Robinson said. “I love Center of Hope because I believe in what it does and what it stands for. Center of Hope gives second chances and equips and empowers people to live successful, joy-filled lives.”

For more information about Parker County Center of Hope, visit centerofhopetx.com

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