Thursday, November 17, 2016

Moving Beyond Relief

David came to us looking for food. He's 51 but life on the streets made him look much older. He would park his shopping cart in the shade of our Thrift Store/Food Pantry and slept there at night. Thrift shop manager, Kay Richardson called him our night guard, protecting our properties from vandalism.

Cathy McShane, one of our counselors, worked with David to get him an ID card and a debit card so he could receive his Social Security payments. He had $1600 available but could not access it without a debit card. Once this was settled, he was able to find a place to live.

David is one of many people who are unaware of available resources such as SNAP, medical care, free dental care, etc. It is easy to provide relief in the way of food and clothes to people in need but there are other issues that are less obvious and more important. Every person that comes to us looking for food sits down with a social work student. We work with the client to discover available resources and paths to greater independence.

Most of our social work students come from Our Lady of the Lake University and University of Texas in San Antonio. The students are fulfilling their field work requirements under the supervision of our Community Ministries Program Director Elizabeth Cruz. The students gain valuable, hands-on experience and provide a much-needed service to an under-resourced community.

People come to us with a variety of needs beyond food. One woman told a counselor, through tears, that she didn't need food. She had a job interview but lacked suitable clothes. We were able to find her an outfit in her size that was appropriate for an interview. Our thrift store offers some nice items at nominal prices (most things are less than a dollar). By charging something we take away the stigma of charity and preserve our client's self respect. The thrift shop is open to everyone, not just the needy. Purchases keep serviceable items out of the landfill. Proceeds help fund the food pantry and other community ministries.

Some folks come in to our thrift shop in dire need. A homeless man came in looking for some pants. He'd been wearing the same shorts for three months. He picked out a pair of shorts and a t-shirt from the ten cent bin. We did not charge him the the twenty cents.

Our clients receive more than material help. I met a young man one Sunday morning in church wearing a nice suit and some crude tattoos. He had been referred to our thrift store by one of our deacons who volunteers at a rescue mission. He was made to feel so welcome by the seniors who staff the thrift store that he came to church the following Sunday.

Come by our store at 848 E. Drexel if you would like to volunteer, drop off a donation or shop. We are open Tuesdays (9-4), Wednesdays (9-1) and Thursdays (9-1). We are closed Thanksgiving week.