Bobbie Nelson never thought she would be going to a food pantry. “You never know when you might be the one to need help.” Four years ago when her sister died, she promised to take care of her sister’s two grandchildren, now 9 and 4. For the past two years, Bobbie, who is on a fixed income of less than $1,000/month, has relied on help from the Cathedral of Tyler’s St. Vincent de Paul food pantry and two other local pantries to feed and clothe herself and the children.
In spite of feeling initial shame – she’s always been a hard worker, never needing or asking for help – Bobbie realized that her babies needed to be fed, and she is thankful for the generosity and compassion of local food pantries in East Texas, many of which receive financial support from Catholic Charities.
These pantries have also helped her to recognize the importance of helping others in need. “I thank the Lord, and hope that someday, some way, if there’s somebody else who needs food, or a fan, or a mattress or anything…. I would be honored to help.”
Elsa was only nine when she arrived in the U.S. with her parents. As an undocumented immigrant, she faced numerous obstacles in school, but still graduated high school in the top ten percent. Although she graduated from UT Tyler with a Bachelor’s degree and teacher certification, as well as a Master’s degree in Special Education, she was unable to work due to her lack of legal status.
Enter Catholic Charities and the DACA program, which gave Elsa the opportunity to live and work legally in the U.S. for a renewable period of two years. Elsa credits the professionalism and passion of Catholic Charities for justice and the dignity of each person for the success of her application. According to Elsa, Catholic Charities “ impacted my life to the point that I decided to come be a part of this organization” and began volunteering, assisting other applicants at Catholic Charities DACA workshops.
“My life after I was granted the work authorization has changed dramatically. I am able to work as an elementary teacher and now receive all the benefits from working legally in this country. I thank Catholic Charities for their continuous support and encouragement to follow my dreams and meet my life goals. I wish others had the same opportunity. The impact that will be made in their lives is immeasurable. Opening the door to legalization is like opening a world of dreams and opportunities.”
When Ignacio Herrera made the hard decision to leave Mexico for the U.S. in 1985 to provide for his wife and twelve children, he never dreamed it would take twenty-eight years to be reunited with them as a family. After becoming a legal permanent resident in 1990 and only able to visit them in Mexico once or twice a year, Mr. Herrera continued to struggle with the loneliness and the need to have his family together.
With the help of Catholic Charities East Texas, Mr. Herrera became a U.S. citizen in 2011 and began the legal process to bring his wife and children to him. In October 2013, after 2 ½ years of petitioning and 28 years of living apart, Mr. Herrera is now reunited with his lovely wife and 3 of his 12 dear children and is waiting for more to be approved.
Mr. Herrera states, “If it wasn’t for Catholic Charities I don’t know how my life would be right now. I am very blessed and can’t explain how happy I am. I want to thank Catholic Charities and those who give to them with the bottom of my heart. I want to ask that God will bless you with strength, abundance, health and love. I would also like to add that my journey does not end here. I am waiting for the rest of my family to become permanent residents, and I know with the help of Catholic Charities and God we will make this journey successful.”
Disaster Relief Volunteer Ken Mings expresses his thoughts on serving those in crisis: “Some of the places visited were in impoverished neighborhoods. We saw people trying to do the best they could with the little they had. As we installed the A/C units, many expressed thanks for the air conditioning and a break from the unforgiving Texas heat. In some instances, people receiving the a/c’s were elderly on fixed low incomes. My wife went with me to do the installations. While I was installing the window unit, she would listen to the person’s story. In some cases, I think they were thankful for the a/c, but were even more thankful to know someone cared. Just to have someone to listen for a moment meant everything. It was very humbling to hear, repeatedly, from those who have so very little, ‘Thank you for what you are doing! We are so blessed! Thank you, God!’
I was honored to have the opportunity to serve the needs of others through Catholic Charities. Joy is truly found in the selfless service of others. The most common excuse for not volunteering to help is: ‘I don’t have the time to commit to this the way I would want to…’ Many hands make light work. If everyone gave just a little, no one would have to give all…”