Beginning of Southcliff ESL

I also found out that an ESL program had been started by Ed Talley, the director of missions at Southcliff, in the late 1990's as part of an apartment ministry.  Don Staton taught ESL while his wife, Helene, played with the children to occupy them.  Don and Helene had a passion for missions and passed that love on to their children.  They went on several mission trips, even after they retired.  Then Don passed away and Helene moved to Oregon to live with one of their daughters and her family.  She gave me their Literacy Missions Conversational English Workshop Manual when she moved.  On the cover sheet are written the words:  "Zeph. 3:17.  Pray for churches who will open hearts to refugees moving into their neighborhood.  Muslim couple coming Sun.  Director/organizer by Dec. for Apt. ministry & for ESL dir. & team for Southcliff.  I do this because Jesus loves me so much."  I don't know which of them penned those words.  It could have been either of them.  I was excited to learn that our ESL was an answer to the prayers of others who saw the need for Southcliff to provide English classes for the refugees that were moving into our community.

In January 2002 it was decided that the ESL coordinator should be a member of Southcliff Church, and John Spear agreed to take that position and set up a website (  There were only twelve students and four teachers (John, Harry Wilson, Peter Wolf, and me) at that time.  HOPE Literacy set up an office in the community center where we met.    On June 30, 2002, Southcliff Church held a missions fair, and that fall we actually began our ESL classes.  When Harry learned that John was already taking on the responsibilities of a director, he made it official, and Sherry Critz, Roxanne Brosig,  and I served as teachers. We only had 12 students that first year.  We used two different series in our first few years, Crossroads and Expressways, before settling on our current curriculum, Side by Side.  We had three levels, and students were tested to determine their levels.  John watched the children so their parents could focus on the lesson. After trying other nights, we settled on Tuesday nights, 6:30-8:30 for our classes.  Throughout the years our students have asked why we didn't have class more often, and we know other ESLs have done that, but we didn't want to ask our unpaid volunteers to give more than one night a week.


Hope Literacy Inc | Executive Director: Harry Wilson | Phone 817.999.9357