Catholic Charities, Mother Theresa Shelter seek dedicated volunteers
Celia Mendez considers her work as a program manager for Catholic Charities of Corpus Christi Inc. a calling.
“It’s a ministry to us — not a job,” said Mendez, who is in charge of the organization’s Ministry and Life Enrichment for Persons with Disabilities Department. The department teaches spiritual, educational, and social skills to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities as well as the blind, visually impaired, deaf, and the hard of hearing and their families.
Catholic Charities and the Mother Theresa Shelter provide a variety of services, including disability development programs and helping immigrants apply for green cards. In 2017, Catholic Charities served 120,336 people. The Mother Teresa Shelter served 81,703 individuals.
Some of the organized activities offered by the Disabilities Department include Monday meetings for a group of deaf women who come to sew and socialize.
“It’s their opportunity to be understood,” Mendez said. “Their communication is very limited. They like to talk.”
A support group for the blind meets on Tuesdays, while Wednesdays are fun days with Zumba and educational programs, including sign language. On Thursdays, a special-needs volunteer group comes in from the Mary Grett Transition Center in the Corpus Christi Independent School District to assemble food bags for the Catholic Charities pantry.
“They’ve started cleaning and sweeping and helping with recycling, too,” Mendez said. “We really appreciate it and depend on them.”
The Mother Teresa Shelter is a separate organization but is operated by Catholic Charities of Corpus Christi. Together, both organizations offer services to help to the homeless, emergency aid for utility services and rent, family and individual counseling, HUD-approved housing counseling, and more.
The private, nonprofit social service agency serves the counties of Aransas, Bee, Brooks, Duval, Jim Wells, Kenedy, Kleberg, Live Oak, McMullen, Nueces, Refugio, and San Patricio and provides help for anyone in need, no matter their religious background.
“We’re a Catholic organization, but you don’t have to be Catholic to be served,” Executive Director Kevin Branson said. “We serve all based on need, and anyone can apply.”
Branson joined the organization in July after serving in two positions for the Diocese of Marquette in Michigan and also in the Diocese of Venice in Florida. His professional background includes service as a U.S. naval warfare officer and working as a practicing attorney.
Other programs include Emergency Aid and the Immigration & Refugee Services Department, which offers low-cost legal services such as green card (legal permanent residency) and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) renewal. Staff also assists clients applying for a Family Based Immigration Petition for a parent or a spouse and for American citizenship.
“Every Thursday, we offer a walk-in consultation for new clients to see if we can help them,” said Kimberley Hall Seger, attorney and director for Immigration Services at Catholic Charities. “There is a $25 fee for the walk-in consultations, which begin at 9 a.m. Signups begin at 7:30 a.m., and we see the first 15 people.”
Clients can also get help with applications for T visas and U visas, which help victims of human trafficking and violent crimes, respectively. They do not prepare asylum cases or help with employment visas. Those cases are referred to another agency.
“We are brutally honest with people, and we go over all options,” Seger said. “If we can’t help them, we refer them out.”
The small staff of three people opens about 200 cases each year.
Another Catholic Charities of Corpus Christi program helps parents of young children through a special, state-funded, school readiness program called Parents as Teachers. Participation in the program is voluntary, said Angie Garcia, director of Texas Home Visiting Program/Parents as Teachers. “It’s all about how to build a nurturing, child-centered relationship.”
The program is free and open to parents of children from prenatal to 5 years of age. Professional parent-educators go into homes to talk to parents about how to keep their homes safe for children and how to help a child develop fine-motor skills. Parents learn to make up songs, stories, and how to promote early literacy. Parent-educators give every family a new book to read each month with their children.
“We screen them and about their children’s developmental milestones,” Garcia said. “If they aren’t reaching those, we refer them to a pediatrician.”
Parent-educators are trained to do vision and hearing screenings.
The department has four full-time home visitors and provided services to 96 families and a total of 125 children in 2017. The home visitors also made a total of 837 personal home visits in 2017.
HOW TO VOLUNTEER
The first step to becoming a volunteer is to fill out the online form on the Catholic Charities website.
“We look at their skill set, do a criminal background check, and all volunteers take a class,” said Communications and Marketing Director Shannette Hoelscher.
To volunteer at Mother Theresa Shelter, visit motherteresashelter.org/volunteer-form to complete the online application.
“We couldn’t do it without the help of our volunteers,” Mendez said.
Catholic Charities of Corpus Christi Inc. is located at 615 Oliver Ct. in Corpus Christi. For more information, call (361) 884-0651 or visit catholiccharities-cc.org. Mother Teresa Shelter Inc. is located at 513 Sam Rankin Ave. in Corpus Christi. Call (361) 883-7372 or visit motherteresashelter.org.
Find more articles like this in Volunteer Guide