Giving Grace

Moving mountains: Corpus Christi Metro Ministries

By: Jessica Dusek
Photos by: Paul Marshall

“We are here and we are ready when you are – my mother used to say that,” said Patty Clark, CEO of Corpus Christi Metro Ministries and their mission. The organization has reached milestones in the Corpus Christi community by conducting an integration program helping homeless women and children back into society. The national average homeless person is 9 years old, explains Clark – a growing statistic that tends to go unnoticed.

The organization’s Loaves and Fishes program serves 400 to 600 meals per day at noon and from 5 to 6 p.m. to residents and community members needing a warm meal. “The family dining really spoke to me – knowing how much can happen in a very positive way at the dinner table,” Clark said. “I don’t want those kids standing in the line to think that that is their only future.”

Clark was amazed by their impact when she saw several different families out walking near the property. “I thought, how nice that families still get out and walk around together,” she said. A coworker corrected her and said, “Patty, they are coming over here to eat.” Clark realized an opportunity to reinforce family unity and self-expression at the dinner table – icebreakers with favorite superhero discussions are encouraged at the Gathering Place on campus. “No matter what is going on in their lives,” she said, “they have the peace and quiet to sit down and enjoy a meal together.”

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CC Metro Ministries was established in 1982 as a collective effort on behalf of churches and synagogues to find a better way to feed the hungry. “All churches didn’t have ways to respond in a significant way,” Clark explained. Celebrating her third year with the ministries, Clark maintains an enthusiastic and uplifting reputation, fueling the program toward their purpose. In 2013, their Rainbow House Program for Women and Children housed 137 families. The same year, their Rustic House for Senior and Disabled Men served 35 residents.

Clark credits her employees and the community for the organization’s momentum: “The terrific staff brings their heart to work every day,” she said. “We get some of our best ideas from people who come on our tours. We do a lot of collaboration to serve similar population(s) … When you think of a woman who says, ‘I haven’t had a place of my own in 10 years,’ you are doing something right. When it changes the trajectory of a child’s life, you are doing something right.”

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CC Metro Ministries allows residents to stay up to two years. Case managers meet with residents that need help and life goals. They help mothers find work, fund schooling and save money. Program graduates are guided toward job stabilization, as well as integration into independent housing.

Delores, a recent graduate and former Rainbow House resident, was integrated within a year-and-a-half. She was homeless and without work or support when a local business directed her to CC Metro Ministries. “I felt taken care of – safe and secure,” she explained. “They helped me to save money and to really build myself up. The things you take for granted [such as] having your own home, your own car, having a job – that should be the norm, but for me, it was the exception.”

Delores was dedicated to going to Texas Workforce, learning computer programs and taking Excel courses. She began taking classes at Del Mar College, and underwent the three-month Christian Women’s Job Corp program, an in-depth curriculum on spiritual foundation, job information and life skills. After finding short-term employment, her perseverance and the support of CC Metro Ministries staff helped her gain fulltime employment.

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The year-and-a-half it took Delores, has taken others several months or the full two years. Delores recalls watching other residents become stable with fulltime employment, yet remembers engaging each step of the process, including education of financial savings. But above all, having faith in the process and one’s potential is a common thread among the success stories. “It is like a relationship,” Delores said. “You have to find a relationship. Something you can live with. Something that is good for you.”

Community projects
CC Metro Ministries involvement matriculates into the community, launching a Little Free Library project that it allows community members around Corpus Christi to “take a book, read a book, return a book.” According to Clark, “With the help of volunteers, including a club scout troop, we constructed and planted three little libraries around Corpus Christi.” They have five requests to have additional locations in front of schools and businesses around the community. “If we can get a book into the hands of children, we could change their lives.”

CC Metro Ministries continues to move mountains. In 2014-15, generous scholarship money from a local Corpus Christi donor has already helped nine families, serving a total of 23 people. This covered rent and utilities up to 12 months – and one of those families went from homeless to owners.

Their 24th Annual Poor Man’s Supper will take place this November, which donors and supporters of the community attend. “Guests que up to receive a meal as a reminder of the humble meal many receive each day,” Clark said. Stew is served in a bread bowl. Guest speakers have included Holocaust survivors, celebrities, authors and fellow humanitarians.

So what fuels Clark’s passion to bring the ministries to new heights? “My simple response is God’s grace,” she said, as she recalled having the “heart” for the work that makes all the difference.

To learn more about Corpus Christi Metro Ministries, visit www.ccmetro.org, or join a Tuesday with Metro Tour, held the second Tuesday each month, at 1919 Leopard St. You may also email aramirez@ccmetro.org.

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