What is Kohlrabi, Anyway?
Food Pantry Volunteer helps clients, experiments with unusual ingredients
Our Food Pantry volunteer, Donna Pace, knows a thing or two about cooking meals on a budget. Author of The Frugal Kitchen: Cooking on a Shoestring, Donna helps Food Pantry clients make selections for their families and is known to provide cooking and meal-stretching tips from time to time. She even encourages families to try vegetables they aren’t familiar with, such as kohlrabi.
Born and raised in Beaumont, Texas, Donna’s parents owned a neighborhood grocery store so she was exposed to all sorts of produce. She watched her mother, Josie Lomonte, cook with unusual ingredients, preparing meals that were inexpensive and nutritious. “She taught me the value not wasting anything, if possible. She would come home with ingredients no one else I knew would eat like tongue, brains and liver which were either free or extremely cheap,” she said. “It is possible to feed a family without spending a lot of money.”
To prove her point, Donna embarked on a study of sorts, enlisting a family of nine in an experiment including several teenagers. “I fed them for one month on less than $120.00 per person for the month,” she said.
However, Donna is a realist. She understands that sometimes saving time can be as critical as saving money. After her father passed away, her mother ran the store alone, working 16-hour days. “My mom also saw the advantage of using some convenience items like dried pasta and store bought bread rather than homemade. She used to say the outlay of a few pennies was preferable to spending time and energy she didn’t have.”
Most people want to feed their families well but another barrier they face, besides lack of funds, is a lack of information. Some aren’t sure about which ingredients to use or how to prepare them. So Donna loves it when The Caring Place Food Pantry receives fresh produce donations from local garden communities; it’s her opportunity to tell clients about cooking with fresh—and sometimes unusual—vegetables.Take kohlrabi for example. Once when The Caring Place received a large donation of this stem vegetable—that looks more like an alien with a half dozen antennae—Donna realized that a lot of people didn’t know what it was or how to cook it. Actually, Donna didn’t know either! So she decided to experiment. “I roasted it with other vegetables in olive oil and salt. It was very good. It tasted like a mild squash. It only took 30 minutes,” she said. “If one never tries anything new, they are poorer for the lack of the experience.”
That’s pretty much how Donna developed the content for The Frugal Kitchen – experimenting with different kinds of ingredients. She also mixed in a few family recipes. “Our cultural heritage is Italian and several of the recipes in The Frugal Kitchen are family recipes.” This also explains, at least in part, why Donna decided to volunteer in The Caring Place Food Pantry.
Besides wanting to help working people in particular, she wanted to test some of her theories about meal preparation. “I wanted to find out what foods people preferred, determine if there was a need for cooking instruction, and see how many people were open to new foods and recipes.”
Donna learned that basic staples such as canned and dried beans, corn, tomato products and canned fruit are most popular in the Food Pantry. “I’ve met some who would like to cook with ingredients they aren’t familiar with and will ask for information on the preparation of those foods,” she said. “After St. Patrick’s Day, we got a number of pounds of corned beef. I had a couple of people who wanted it, but didn’t know how to cook it and asked for instruction. That was fun because there isn’t much to it except to remember to cook it low and slow.”
More than anything, Donna loves that her cooking experience is being put to good use in The Caring Place Food Pantry and that she is doing something to give back to the community. “I find it gratifying to see people get what they need.
Room to Grow!
You think you know a building after working in it for a year or two. Then you run into someone such as Marie Young, a 16-year volunteer, and you realize that you don’t know the place as well as you thought. Because of Marie’s long tenure, we invited her to share her memories about the physical transformation of rooms and the expansion of buildings at The Caring Place. Each room and building has a distinct history and in each case, that history is rooted in the astounding growth experienced by The Caring Place over the past 30 plus years.
Take the fabric department where Marie has worked for several years. It had its humble beginnings in a space less than the size of a card table in a high foot-traffic area, in what used to be the main building at 2001 Railroad. One volunteer measured and priced donated fabric in the same room with clothing, linens and books. “We had outgrown our space; donations filled the back parking lot from the back door to the street and often had to be left uncovered overnight and on weekends,” Marie says.
The building housed everything from donated clothing, furniture, appliances, mattresses, household goods and the few faithful volunteers who sorted and priced them. The Client Services department, Food Pantry and pantry storage were also located in this building. Shipping containers without heat or A/C were added behind the building for processing shoes, handbags and toys. Oftentimes, the sales area was “expanded” to the front parking lot for large items.
In 2004, The Caring Place constructed a much larger facility across the street at 2000 Railroad Avenue. Donations increased at an amazing rate and within a year an expansion for the sales area was in progress. In time, The Boutique was added for finer clothing, then Re-Finds for antiques and collectibles, and Outdoors and More was created for items such as garden accessories and landscaping tools. “We became The Shops at The Caring Place,” Marie says.
In addition to increased donations, the number of people coming to The Caring Place for assistance also increased. “The more we expanded, the more we grew out of space,” Marie said. As part of the 2011 expansion, the nonprofit found it necessary to build a second floor in order to provide adequate space for the Client Services department and added a wing for the Food Pantry and Administration.
Marie has seen significant growth at The Caring Place. She vividly recalls her first visit nearly 17 years ago in that small building at 2001 Railroad Avenue when she came with a church group that was volunteering for the day. “The Caring Place got in my blood,” Marie said. The next thing you know, Marie was a full-fledged regular volunteer at The Caring Place. Over the years, she has served the organization as a volunteer, assistant store director, store manager and board member. She continues to volunteer in the fabric department and is now assisting with the selection of merchandise in our newly opened second thrift store, Second Helping.
Because the number of people seeking services from The Caring Place continues to grow, and the search for storage space is an ongoing challenge, The Caring Place is once again evaluating the best use and availability of space. In addition to opening Second Helping, it will relocate its Client Services department to the (previously remodeled) Annex across the street in order to meet the space needs for serving a growing community. As The Caring Place completes this remodel, new histories will be created, room by room.
Back on My Feet
If you’re wondering how to pronounce Mark Rzasa’s last name, “It’s pronounced Smith”, he says jokingly.
A quick witted man, Mark’s sense of humor belies the fact that less than a year ago, his financial situation found him hungry and nearly homeless.
A handyman by trade, Mark is usually able to manage his expenses. However, losing his job last Thanksgiving drove him to seek help from The Caring Place. “Work dwindles to nothing around the holidays,” Mark said. “People don’t want you thumping and hammering and making a big ol’ mess when they’re celebrating the holidays.”
Mark says he’s experienced in electrical, plumbing, carpentry and general construction. “I’m also a truck driver,” he said. But between losing his job 2 days before Thanksgiving and getting a whopping $600 bill because the transmission on his truck blew out, he found himself short on food and rent. “Things went left instead of right,” he said.
Like so many people who come to The Caring Place for assistance, Mark found out about the organization by word of mouth. “My neighbor told me about The Caring Place. The Caring Place helped me with my rent and gave me groceries. I was able to keep a roof over my head. The Caring Place got me back on my feet,” Mark said.
Mark’s experience at The Caring Place was positive. “It’s easy to work with the people at The Caring Place. They’re real kind and understanding,” he said. Mark tells people he meets to donate their furniture to The Caring Place. “It’s real simple, of all the places to give to, give to The Caring Place. They are good people and are out not for themselves but for the community.
ANOTHER VALUABLE VOLUNTEER!
It’s All About Relationships
Calvin spends two days a week at The Caring Place, sorting CDs and DVDs and testing the usability of luggage and electronic toys. His critical thinking, materials management and problem solving abilities, gained from his work as an engineer, make him a perfect fit. However, if you ask Calvin, it’s the opportunity to be around and learn from others that bring him the greatest joy.
As a chemical engineer, Calvin Spencer spent his time traveling around the world, managing and implementing refinery updates. Whether he was installing new equipment in Curacao and Aruba or managing processes to extract sulfur from oil in Alaska, it was the people he met on these jobs that made his work satisfying.
One of his favorite work assignments was in Lithuania. Coming from the United States, he was amazed when he learned that everyone in Lithuania was of the same ethnic group. “No one spoke English and they didn’t understand the melting pot of the United States,” he said. During his off time, Calvin would roam the city with his translator and strike up conversations with the locals. It made his job that much more fulfilling.
It’s no different for Calvin at The Caring Place. He loves conversing with customers and volunteers and he enjoys keeping track of special requests for certain CDs and DVDs. When he isn’t selecting, pricing, and sometimes fixing items to be merchandised in The Shops at The Caring Place, he takes the time to get to know the people he works with.
What else do we know about Calvin? He’s been married for 42 years, has 4 children, 14 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren! But here’s something that will surprise you: Calvin is a singer! He started in the 5th grade boys’ choir as a soprano and was hooked! More recently, he sang with the San Gabriel Chorale, and was in the church choir at Houston Lutheran for 15 years.
“When you sing in a choir, you have to follow specific vocal rules that make it all work with everyone else’s voice,” he said. One person’s voice alone is insufficient in a piece designed for harmony. Like Calvin’s time as a volunteer at The Caring Place, it’s collaborating with others that makes the experience rich and satisfying.
Sidebar: “It’s the relationships you have with people that make for a successful outfit. Without good relationships, it’s not going to work.”
What Brought You Here?
If the live music and Circuit of The Americas don’t bring a person to Austin, the mild weather and nearby tourist stops will. That’s what brought Midwesterner Cindy Triggs and her husband of 39 years, to the Austin area, and eventually to Georgetown in 2014.
After 60 years of living in Wisconsin and Minnesota, Cindy has finally begun to thaw out. She is enjoying all that the area has to offer, including abundant opportunities to give back.
“I had worked in a thrift store for an organization that served the developmentally disabled for 12 years,” she said. So when she discovered The Caring Place, it was a natural fit.
“Our real estate agent told us about The Caring Place and we started bringing our donations there,” she said. Cindy had also attended a Georgetown fundraiser and sat across from Rita Turner, Community Engagement Manager for The Caring Place, who told her about the work the organization was doing to serve people in financial crisis.
“I love that The Caring Place offers so many types of services in one location,” she said. “The Caring Place really is a one-stop-shop for so many needs to be met.”
In preparation for the free time she would have after retiring in April from a national financial institution where she was a Risk Management Consultant, Cindy began her training at The Caring Place as a Client Service Advocate in February.
The timing and position were a perfect match.
As a recent retiree, Cindy finds that the skills she leaned in her career come in handy when she’s working with clients at The Caring Place. In financial services, Cindy had worked with people across the country.
“My job required that I have good listening skills and empathy – that I seek to understand other points of view.” These skills have served Cindy well as she helps assess client needs. She’s also taking a Spanish class to better communicate with our Spanish speaking clients.
“I enjoy volunteering at The Caring Place. The clients are really remarkable. Even though they may be struggling, they are so humble and are willing to make sacrifices for their children,” she said. “The volunteers and staff are all concerned about helping people and identifying each person’s unique needs. There is so much generosity and kindness here.”
Cindy volunteers one shift per week and the rest of the time enjoys exploring Texas.
“So far, we’ve visited Fredericksburg, The Texas Rangers Museum in Waco and the Waco Mammoth National Monument and dig site,” she said. “It was fascinating seeing real Mammoth bones in the ground.” What’s next on the couple’s list? A European River Cruise next spring! Big Bend and Houston are also on their bucket list.
Cindy and her husband also take time out to enjoy the live music scene in and around Austin. She enjoys blues, rock, classical, jazz. “And I’m starting to get into a little country music.” Good job, Cindy. Texas is starting to wear off on you!
A Direct Transfer From Your IRA to Charity
An Opportunity Not to be Missed for Some
By Dr. Stephen Benold
After several years of 1 year only extensions, the Congress finally made permanent the ability to transfer all or part of an individual’s required minimum distribution (RMD) from their IRA directly to a qualified charity. There are 2 groups of individuals who can definitely benefit from this.
The first group are individuals/couples who do not normally itemize deductions. Since the direct transfer of all or part of the RMD to a charity is reflected on the first page of the IRA Form 1040 as a reduction in the income from a RMD, it essentially now acts like itemizing the same charitable deduction.
The second group are individuals/couples who do itemize deductions, but have fairly high incomes; “high” being defined as an adjusted gross income greater than $85,000 for a single filer and $170,000 for joint filers. Adjusted gross income is the amount on the last line of the first page of Form 1040. By using the direct IRA-to-charity transfer, reflected in a smaller RMD, this reduces adjusted gross income. Keeping adjusted gross income below $85,000 (single) or $170,000 (joint) saves having to pay a Medicare Part B surcharge premium every month. Obviously, this is not of benefit for persons younger than age 65.
Finally, for individuals/couples wishing to make large charitable gifts in a given year, generally the charitable gift itemized deduction is limited to 1/2 of your adjusted gross income. This limit can be exceeded somewhat by using the direct IRA-to-charity transfer, in addition to itemizing other charitable gifts (the same transfer gift cannot be “double-deducted, however).
If any of these situations seems to be of value to you, be sure to consult a tax professional first.
If you saw Sean Jump, you’d think he didn’t have a care in the world. He smiles when he speaks and has a playful, happy voice. But Sean’s journey has been anything but carefree. He is on disability and unable to work. Each month, he finds himself short of meeting his living expenses.
Sean learned about The Caring Place a few years ago and received help with supplemental groceries. About once a month, he visits The Caring Place to shop for non-perishables and fresh produce in our Food Pantry. It gets him through the month. “If I didn’t get food from The Caring Place Food Pantry, I’d have to fast a whole week out of the month to make the food last,” he said. Fortunately, because of donations from the community, The Caring Place Food Pantry is able to provide supplemental food to families.
Sean finds basic staples at The Food Pantry including the easy to chew foods he needs. Sean underwent 13 surgeries on his left ear; six to remove cancer and seven for reconstruction. Because of the harsh effects of radiation, Sean’s teeth had to be extracted. “It was so hard to eat,” Sean said.
“I felt like Job from the Bible,” he said. Sean had also lost the hearing in his left ear. The uncertainty about the cancer, the surgeries, and then the loss of his teeth left Sean feeling depressed and alone, but not defeated. “I kept praying every day and reading the Bible.
“I learned how to talk and eat some foods without teeth,” he said. Yet, Sean could no longer eat many of the foods that required biting or chewing. Fortunately, he found a selection of soft foods in The Caring Place Food Pantry. “We serve many clients who have teeth missing and can only eat soft foods,” said Food Pantry volunteer, Pet Clark.
The generosity of people who donate to The Caring Place, also made it possible for Sean to receive upper and lower dentures, just in time for the holidays! “I am so thankful to The Caring Place,” he said. “I can chew food now. I can take a bite out of a sandwich. I can chew meat and vegetables I couldn’t eat before.
Sean also learned that the surgeon was able to remove all of the cancer. And with the dentures, he can eat nearly anything. “And I can smile at my girlfriend now,” he said.
One Good Turn
Grateful clients become donors
H.D. strenuously maneuvered his wheelchair. Beth was at his side, clenching her walker with both hands. It wasn’t the first time this married couple of 57 years had come to The Caring Place for help. About a year ago, they came to get assistance with paying for the insulin H.D. desperately needed. “The Caring Place helped us get the insulin the next day. They have also helped us with an electric bill,” Beth said. “I sing their praises to everybody.”
This time, the Lees were here to apply for HOPE, a program that provides supplemental food to people over 55 years old who meet the income eligibility requirements. Both Beth and H.D. struggled with several health issues and were unable to keep up with the medical bills and daily living expenses.
The couple sat hopefully across the table from Rebecca Orozco, The Caring Place Case Manager, as she asked the usual questions and completed the forms. Beth mentioned that H.D. needed a new, more manageable, wheel chair. “We had gone to another agency to try to get a wheel chair and we were number 130 on the list,” Beth said. “H.D. has no balance at all and has to have a wheel chair.” They had also tried Medicare. “They said we had to wait 6 months. People could die waiting for these services,” Beth said.
Overhearing the conversation, Erin Becnel, Client Services Director, had the image of a specific wheel chair flash across her mind. “I remembered that we had a chair donated a couple of months ago, so I ran back to the warehouse to check,” Erin said. As it turns out, the chair was still available and it was just the kind that H.D. needed. “It’s wonderful and the seat is larger, much more comfortable,” he said. “I told Erin that I would ‘shine her halo anytime,’” Beth said. “The chair is such a blessing.”
Beth began volunteering at The Caring Place a year ago as a way to show her appreciation for The Caring Place. “I work in the book department. I really like the customers and the people I work with,” she said. “I volunteer here because you helped us first.”
The Lees have also decided to donate H.D.’s previous wheelchair and a chair lift to The Caring Place. Perhaps it will be just the kind of chair someone in need has been looking for!
“Any place like this that is willing to help you has to be a good place,” Beth said.
Another Valuable Volunteer!
Tillie Pope began volunteering at The Caring Place as a receptionist in Client Services three years ago. She loved meeting new people. However, when she was presented with the opportunity to work in The Boutique, she accepted the challenge of a new position.
Tillie first learned about The Caring Place from long-time volunteer and previous board member, Sherrie Madden. “Sherrie told me about The Caring Place and a fabulous jewelry show that I must attend,” Tillie says. The Shops at The Caring Place supports services to people in financial crisis. And Tillie wanted to be a part of the important work The Caring Place was doing in the community. She attended a volunteer recruitment meeting in Sun City and shortly thereafter, took her first job as a volunteer receptionist in Client Services, doing intake and answering the phones.
“Everyone in Client Services is so friendly and I loved meeting new people. But Tillie, a woman drawn to fashion and decorating, couldn’t resist working in a department full of donated famous-label garments and fashion jewelry. It’s also not uncommon for Tillie to find a treasure to purchase for herself. “Kathy, Julie and Diana help me pick out my outfits,” she chuckled.
It’s common to find Tillie and other volunteers helping customers choose a mother-of-the-bride dress or tops and shorts for an upcoming vacation. “People look at us as experienced retailers,” Tillie says. Indeed, many of the volunteers in The Boutique come from a retailing, decorating or fashion background. Occasionally, Tillie gets to use her Spanish skills. “I love interpreting for our customers,” she says.
If you visit The Boutique with any frequency, you’ve undoubtedly heard Tillie’s command of the Spanish language. What you may not know is that Tillie learned to speak the language as a missionary in Mexico for three years. She also taught English as a Second Language in Mexico and in the U.S. “I’m an ordained minister,” Tillie says. “I’m a Jack of all trades and a master of none!” Her co-workers and friends would probably disagree with that statement. In any event, her varied talents are appreciated at The Caring Place!
Why You Matter . . .
A heartfelt story from a volunteer
To all my friends and fellow workers at The Caring Place:
Like so many of you, employees and volunteers alike, I have spent many hours working at The Caring Place to assist others in doing the work there without ever coming into direct contact with our clients. In spite of the friendships we develop in those shared experiences I know it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture over the years of working behind the scenes. Folding socks, operating a computer, pricing donated goods and stocking shelves is not the most inspiring kind of work but it’s all a necessary part of making our services to clients possible.
I have had the opportunity over the past three months to travel around our service area and meet directly with clients as part of our pilot outreach program to determine the extent of need outside the immediate Georgetown area. That experience has proven to be so inspirational in reminding me why I came to The Caring Place in the first place and what we are here for that I’d like to share one client’s story with you.
She came in early one morning, she is a senior citizen, not elderly but certainly old enough to be retired. She was sleepy because she had worked all night and needed to go home and rest so that she could go to the hospital later to visit her husband who was suffering from a severe medical condition. After visiting with a Client Advocate, she came out to the reception area where Kerstin Cochran and I were seated.
She told us how much she appreciated what we were doing at The Caring Place and prayed a blessing over us in spite of the fact that she had just been told that we could not provide her with any additional financial assistance for her rent. She said she wasn’t worried, that God would provide for her needs and then went quietly on her way.
That gratitude and that blessing belong to each and every one of us. Kerstin and I were your representatives that day because all of you are a part of making what we do every day possible. There is no way we could assist all of the people we do with all of the services we provide if you weren’t willing to do your part day in and day out.
Thank you for being a part of this great enterprise and God bless you.
Membership Council Representative, Mary Meyer
5 Words, Most of All Hope
There are at least a quarter of a million distinct words in the English language. Five of those words are the guiding principles behind Mary Meyer’s life.
Three years ago, Mary and her husband Steve looked for a church they could call home. They wanted to be part of a congregation where they could serve and give hope to others. They didn’t use the words Compassion, Service, Professionalism, Hope and Excellence in their internet search, but when the couple visited Saving Grace Christian Bible Fellowship in Georgetown, Mary saw each word come to life. They are the same words that brought Mary to The Caring Place.
The Meyers knew right away that Saving Grace was a good fit. “The people at Saving Grace were so welcoming and loving,” Mary said. The couple soon found that the members also had a great deal of compassion for others, and a desire to serve the community.
Some of the church members have received services from The Caring Place. “That’s why we try to encourage our members to give back to The Caring Place by volunteering there,” she said. Three of the church’s members volunteer regularly at The Caring Place in addition to Mary’s work on The Caring Place Membership Council. Pastor Harriett Jones is also on the board of The Caring Place.
Mary started serving right away by compiling the praise books and church directory. She now serves as Pastor Jones’ Executive Secretary. “My main job is to assist Pastor Jones on projects she is working to see accomplished.” Mary’s husband Steve also serves the church as a guitarist and manages the church’s sound system. “The late Pastor Leroy Jones and Pastor Harriett have been so willing to let us serve them,” Mary said.
When Harriett Jones asked Mary if she wanted to serve as the church’s representative on The Caring Place Membership Council, Mary prayed about it and said yes. “I believe that The Caring Place does wonderful work in the community. They give people hope in a non-judgmental way,” she said.
For a retired homeschool mom of 5, Mary Meyer is as busy as ever. When she’s not doing the liaison work between Saving Grace and The Caring Place, or assisting Pastor Jones, she takes care of church business.
A typical week for Mary entails running the sound board during services and videoing and editing church sermons and making announcements to the congregation about community services such as those available at The Caring Place. She’s also an ambassador for The Caring Place, letting the congregation know about what The Caring Place needs and spreading the word about its outreach locations. Most of all, Mary looks for ways that she can put her 5 guiding words, especially Hope, into action.
“People cannot get up from where they are unless they have hope,” she said. “Saving Grace believes in Hope for everyone. That’s part of our motto and it aligns with the mission of The Caring Place.”
Tikkun Olam – Repair the World
“Tikkun Olam” is a concept important to the Jewish faith. It means to repair the world. The desire to make the world better is the thread connecting Susan Foncell’s life experiences; first as a high school English teacher for 37 years, now as a representative on The Caring Place Membership Council for Congregation Havurah Shalom of Sun City. “‘Havurah’ means friendship,” Susan says.
Congregation Havurah Shalom (CHS) was founded 20 years ago when approximately 19 people gathered to meet in homes in Sun City. Today, the almost 300-member group meets twice monthly in the Georgetown area for Friday night Sabboth services. The congregation also holds educational and social events throughout the year and is involved in community outreach services.
Susan joined CHS 9 years ago and serves on the community outreach committee. She was attracted to the group because of its mission to provide services to the Georgetown community at large. So Susan’s connection to Havurah makes sense as does Congregation Havurah Shalom’s connection to The Caring Place.
In addition to being on The Caring Place Membership Council, CHS supports The Caring Place in other ways. Each year they collect over 700 pounds food and toiletries during their semi-annual food drives. They are also instrumental in disseminating information to their members about needs of The Caring Place and encourage support of TCP. “I love the diversity of what The Caring Place does in the community. It made us want to get involved,” Susan says.
She is busier than ever trying to make the world, or at least her immediate sphere of influence, a better place. Although she has technically retired from teaching, you can still discern her love for sharing knowledge. ‘”Tzedukah’ means to help those in need,” she notes. “That’s what makes The Caring Place and Havurah Shalom such a good fit,” she says. “You help people in so many ways.”
Sidebar: Besides its support of The Caring Place, Congregation Havurah Shalom supports many other community groups including Backpack Buddies, The Nest, The Locker, and Brookwood in Georgetown. To teach tolerance, anti-discrimination and anti-bullying, CHS recently brought the Dr. Seuss exhibit from The Center for Humanity and Holocaust Education in Cincinnati, Ohio to the Georgetown Library.
Your Support Helps Us Show A Little Love!
Last fall, Ashia and her four children left Arizona with little more than the clothes on their backs. “We left a 4 bedroom home in Arizona and my kids and I had to move into a small trailer,” she said. “It was hard not having a washer and dryer with 4 kids.”
Besides the harsh adjustment of forced downsizing and no family to lean on, Ashia had to find a way to feed her children. She heard about The Caring Place and came in for help. Barbara Bell, Client Services Crisis Manager, helped Ashia and her children by making sure that their basic needs were met. “The food helps us to be a little more comfortable getting through the end of the month,” Ashia said.
“The people at The Caring Place are so kind and resourceful. They really care!”
Ashia is thankful that The Caring Place was able to help her with other needs as well, including getting a washer and dryer. “The Caring Place helps with so many resources like food, school supplies and coats for children. They do so much more than provide food,” she said.
The Caring Place was also able to help Ashia with job referrals, but this help was bitter-sweet. “What’s the purpose of getting a job when you don’t have childcare,” she said. However, The Caring Place was able to help with that too. “We provided a referral to CCMS (Child Care Management Services) to help Ashia with childcare,” Barbara said. “It was a pleasure working with Ashia. She needed support with getting her family situated. I am delighted to be a part of an organization that can help families in need.”
Sidebar: “Barbara has been so wonderful. She even helped me get childcare so I could work. Please tell Barbara that I really love her. She has been there for me 100%!”
What’s Behind the HOPE?
On the second Tuesday of each month, the parking lot at The Caring Place Annex fills with people coming to receive supplemental food and self-care supplies through HOPE (Healthy Options Program for the Elderly). Clients receive staples such as peanut butter, rice, beans, shelf stable milk and more. And once a quarter, The Caring Place holds A Day of HOPE where in addition to providing food and supplies, partner vendors such as Breast Cancer Resource Center and Family Eldercare are available on site to share information with HOPE clients about various resources and benefits.
So what does it take to pull all the supplies together and get things organized before the doors open? Rebecca Orozco, the new Case Manager for The Caring Place, found out just what it takes. After starting only a couple of months ago, Rebecca was tasked with organizing not only the monthly HOPE program but also the simultaneous Day of HOPE. And she only had a few weeks to get it done!
“I was very nervous,” Rebecca said. I had participated in the monthly HOPE distribution but had never organized it or Day of HOPE before.” This was Rebecca’s first big project at The Caring Place and she wanted to get it right.
Rebecca’s first step was to do a little detective work. She scoured the records from previous case managers and discovered lists of community partners who had been invited to Day of HOPE in the past. Having previously worked for the Texas Department of Health and Human Services as a Texas Works Advisor processing eligibility for SNAP, Medicaid and TANF, Rebecca knew that clear and concise communication is key to successfully implemented projects. So she put her networking chops to work. “I emailed an invitation to all the partners to introduce myself and to remind them of our target audience,” she said.
Whew! One giant step completed. Rebecca started to breathe a bit easier but knew she had many more tasks to check off of her to-do list. She decided to make direct contact with the people who would be coming for services and sent them a letter reminding them about HOPE and a shift in the hours that had recently occurred. “People really appreciated getting a letter ahead of time,” Rebecca said.
Next, Rebecca had to figure out the floor plan, including tables and chairs, for the partners and sufficient space for the guests as well as tables for food distribution. “It took a little bit of creativity. We needed to make an open floor plan, especially in consideration of people with disabilities,” she said.
A Day of HOPE arrived on Tuesday, June 14, 2016 and Rebecca and the volunteer crew began welcoming clients at 9:00 a.m. Will everything go as planned? She wondered. By the end of the day, Rebecca was amazed by how many people they served. “I couldn’t believe that we served 75 people in 3 hours,” she said. “Frank Espinosa made the signs and we had a lot of help from our volunteers.”
As Rebecca looks back with a sense of gratification about her first big project at The Caring Place, she is amazed at all the moving parts that make up just one program, like HOPE. “The surprise for me was realizing just how much work it takes,” she said.
Raising a Hand for The Caring Place
Holding up your hand in a crowd can have interesting results; winning a bid on a rare find, answering a
question, or getting a slow restaurant server to finally bring your bill. In Dr. Bill Holden’s case, raising his hand at a Georgetown Sertoma Club meeting got him a position as Alternate Representative on the Membership Council of The Caring Place! “I held up my hand to volunteer because I’ve always had a positive impression of The Caring Place – how they help families in need with food, clothing and money for housing.”
Formerly known as the Advisory Council, The Caring Place Membership Council helps The Caring Place in several ways, including disseminating information about the organization’s activities and needs.
A Sertoma Club member for around 20 years in total, Dr. Holden sees many similarities between The Caring Place and the Sertoma Club, a fellow nonprofit. Chartered in 1979, Sertoma “exists for the high and noble purpose of service to mankind . . .” Like The Caring Place, the Sertoma Club is dedicated to helping people in the community.
Georgetown Sertoma’s primary service project is assisting individuals with speech, hearing and language disorders in Williamson County, by providing resources for testing, treatment and equipment to help with hearing disorders. Sertoma also raises funds for various community efforts, such as the Williamson County Children’s Advocacy Center, provides bicycles to the police and fire departments, and scholarships to high school seniors. “We want to do good for the community,” Dr. Holden said. “Our goals are similar to those of The Caring Place.”
Sertoma has been a consistent supporter of The Caring Place over the last three decades with donations and food drives. Several of The Caring Place past board members have also been Sertoma Club members.
When Dr. Holden isn’t helping out with Sertoma projects or attending Membership Council Meetings at The Caring Place, he continues to pursue his career in psychology which has included providing psychological counseling, therapy and behavior management to children and adults at Ft. Hood and other military bases in Texas, Oklahoma and overseas. He also does some part-time private practice, and provides psychological services at a local area nursing home. In a few days, he’ll be taking a sabbatical and flying to Japan to work with children at an army camp. Starting in the fall of this year, he will head the Sertoma Club Scholarship Committee.
Full retirement doesn’t seem to be immediately on the horizon for Dr. Holden, who has been married to Nancy, for 44 years. “At some point when my wife and I retire, we want to volunteer at The Caring Place,” he remarked.
A Heart for Serving
Kelly Downing, Human Resources Manager for The Caring Place, developed a love for serving at a very young age. Right out of high school, she volunteered with a crisis hotline, helping people with all kinds of needs. “That’s where I first realized that one person really could make a difference in someone else’s life,” Kelly said.
After college, Kelly joined the Peace Corps where she worked through the Ministry of Health in Costa Rica, providing services like nutrition classes and ESL. She also coordinated a food for work program to build a health post in the community. Kelly has worked many years in the nonprofit sector, and was Human Resources Director for AIDS Foundation Houston, Inc. before joining The Caring Place.
The Human Resources Manager was a new position at TCP when Kelly saw the ad online. “I had visited a friend in Georgetown many times and loved the city’s charm,” she said. When the opportunity became available, she joined The Caring Place and moved to Georgetown. She will celebrate her two-year anniversary in July, 2016.
“I really enjoy building the human resources department at The Caring Place,” she said. If she had to pick one thing that she really likes about her job, it would be working with new volunteers and employees. “They are always very enthusiastic and ready to start a new life chapter. Their enthusiasm is contagious,” she said. Kelly’s only complaint about moving to the area is navigating Austin. “I get lost every time I go to Austin,” she said. “I guess I’m just directionally challenged!”
Kelly is the mother of two young men, ages 21 and 24. “Being a mom has been the highlight of my life,” she said.
Student Drawn by Good Reputation
And learns the details behind the scene at The Caring Place
Southwestern University Senior, Thuy Truong, spent her last days with us this week as an intern in Client Services. By this time next month, she will have received her degree in Psychology and traveled back home to be with her family in Fort Worth, where she was raised.
Thuy (pronounced “Twee”), joined The Caring Place this semester to fulfill her senior project requirement at Southwestern. The Caring Place was one of the top nonprofits she considered. “The Caring Place has such a good reputation in the community. I was so excited when Erin responded to my email,” Thuy said.
Thuy had always wanted to work for a local nonprofit and the experience proved to be beneficial to both her and The Caring Place. “I learned a lot about interacting with populations demographically different from me,” she said. “In college, you’re sort of in a bubble. This experience gave me an opportunity to take a step into the real world.”
While interning at The Caring Place, Thuy learned that there are many moving parts at The Caring Place. “It’s a much bigger organization than I realized,” she said. Thuy learned how to assess client needs and identify resources during her time with us. However, her greatest take-away may be the empathy she witnessed at The Caring Place. “I always thought of myself as a pretty compassionate person,” Thuy said. “But watching the client advocates, I learned what empathy really means. I experienced a whole new level of sincerity and kindness. The client advocates try in every way possible to provide, and not restrict, services to clients.”
Thuy is taking a gap year before moving on to graduate school where she plans to major in Industrial Organizational Psychology. In the meantime, she’s looking forward to unpacking and reclaiming her own bedroom at home in Fort Worth, reconnecting with her 5 sisters, and enjoying her mom’s homemade meals!
Best wishes, Thuy. We’ll miss you!
Martha Hoflich and Gabriele Madison
The small crowd waits by the door near the Children’s Department every Tuesday and Thursday. Some carry little ones on their hips, some grip empty shopping carts. When the door opens, the expectant shoppers back up slowly, making room for volunteers Gabriele Madison and Martha Hoflich as they roll racks of little clothes from the warehouse to the sales floor. The shoppers gaze at the racks like kids in a candy store.
Gabriele, a retired HR Manager for the publishing industry, and Martha, a retired IBM project manager, have worked as a team in the Children’s Clothing department for about two years. Twice a week, sometimes more, they parse through bins of donated clothing—sizes newborn to teen—inspect the items to make sure the clothes are in good condition, then hang them on garment racks according to type and size.
Gabriele and Martha get everything from socks and shorts to party dresses and bow ties. They also discover unexpected items like doll clothes and doggie outfits. Gabriele and Martha even see brand new items. “The price tags are still on them and some of the items are brand-name,” Martha says. “Higher end items are transferred to our Boutique.”
The pair receive the greatest volume of donations just before the seasons change. “Right now we’re getting a lot of winter clothing, and we get Holiday clothing all throughout the year,” Gabriele says.
The cost of new kids’ clothing can add up. But at The Shops at The Caring Place, gently-used (and sometimes new) items are so reasonably priced, it’s no wonder people line up to see what choice garments Gabriele and Martha will be rolling onto the sales floor. Most items are less than $2.00.
Whether you’re a new parent looking for onesies or searching for t-shirts and bathing suits for summer break, you’ll find variety and value at The Shops at The Caring Place. And if you’re lucky, you’ll also glimpse two hard working volunteers, peeking from behind rolling racks of this week’s newest children’s additions.
Thank you Gabriele and Martha for all you do for The Caring Place!
Did you know that volunteering can have healthy benefits including stress reduction? Click here to read the Mayo Clinic article on Stress Management.
Considering volunteering at The Caring Place? Click here to learn more about how you can join our fun team of volunteers!
Another Valuable Volunteer!
Sharon has volunteered at The Caring Place for 8 years, the last 4 of which have been in the book department as well as the food pantry. “My philosophy is ‘get it out there,’” referring to the donated books that need to be sorted, cleaned and shelved.
Sharon is an avid reader herself and loves a variety of authors and genres. She really enjoys reading biographies and Rosamunde Pilcher and John Grisham are two of her favorite authors. “But I’m really into Sudoku right now,” she says.
Before coming to The Caring Place, Sharon worked in accounting for the United States Post Office and in the corporate aviation industry. Now, she keeps her eyes on the book shelves in The Shops at The Caring Place along with other volunteers, making sure there is a well-stocked variety of books for our customers. “It makes me feel good when I can help a customer find a book,” she says. “I really feel like I’m helping.”
Thank you Sharon, for all your work in our Book Department and food pantry. We appreciate you!
The Caring Place Advisory Council Member: Jenny Carswell
“I can’t fix the world, but at least I can help at The Caring Place.” Jenny Carswell
Jenny Carswell comes from a long line of volunteers. Born in Scotland, her father served as president of Meals on Wheels in his community and her mother was the woman everyone came to when they needed a shoulder to cry on. So it’s no wonder that Jenny would also lead a life of service.
Jenny started volunteering at The Caring Place over 12 years ago. “I had been feeling frustrated about all the people in the world who don’t have enough to eat. One morning as I was praying about this, I opened my eyes and there was a church bulletin sitting next to me that said help was needed at The Caring Place.”
Jenny volunteered as a Client Advocate for one year, then began representing First Presbyterian Church on The Caring Place Advisory Council. “I deeply believe in the mission of The Caring Place,” she said. “There is such a need.”
Amazingly, Jenny also spends her time visiting the sick and shut in from Austin to Temple for her church and provides transportation when needed for doctor’s appointments. She enjoys spending time with her 14 grandchildren and traveling to Scotland each year. Playing tennis twice a week helps her stay in shape for such a busy schedule.
What you may not know about Jenny is that she is a Registered Nurse, was a midwife and has worked in hospice care!
Jenny, we appreciate your caring heart and service to The Caring Place!
If you ask Kelly Long what she likes about being a member of The Caring Place Advisory Council, she’ll tell you that there is a great deal in common between her job at First Texas Bank and her volunteer position. “I like to help people. That comes from my HR background,” she said.
Kelly Long joined First Texas Bank as Human Resources Manager 10 years ago and at just about the same time became the bank’s representative on The Caring Place Advisory Council.
Kelly knew about the The Shops at The Caring Place but had no idea of the complexity of The Caring Place operation. “When I took the Lunch ‘n Learn tour, I got to see how household goods are processed before going out to the thrift store. I was amazed at the production of this place. What a huge operation it is.”
Kelly has learned much about The Caring Place over the past 10 years having served not only as an Advisory Council representative but also several terms on the nominating committee. And she’s seen how The Caring Place has grown to help more and more people in financial crisis over the years. “I continue to be impressed and amazed at what The Caring Place does. I’m continuously referring people to The Caring Place.”
First Texas Bank has been a long-time supporter of The Caring Place by providing volunteers from their staff to help with Fresh Food For Families, conducting food drives, sponsoring events and more recently, partnering with The Caring Place for the Alternative Loan Program.
Many people know Kelly Long because of her 10 years volunteering at The Caring Place. What they may not know is that Kelly is a big hockey fan. Her favorite team is the Dallas Stars!
Kelly is married, has 3 children (and a dachshund named Luigi) and is anxiously awaiting grandkids!
Thank you Kelly and First Texas Bank for all you do for The Caring Place.
A few First Texas Bank facts:
Founded in 1898
Eight branches (3 in Georgetown)
Barry Haag is First Texas Bank President and also President of The Caring Place Board of Directors.
The Caring Place Advisory Council Member: Don McManus
Don McManus came to Georgetown in 2005 to begin his retirement. He had lived in Lufkin, Texas for 25 years where he taught music theory at Angelina College and Stephen F. Austin State University, and served as organist at St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church. Georgetown was the perfect place for retirement.
A few years later, Don received a job offer from Grace Episcopal Church for the Organist and Music Director position. Don had had an illustrious four-decade career in music and academia, including earning the prestigious professional certification of Fellow of the American Guild of Organists, and having a scholarship named after him at Stephen F. Austin State University. The sound of music still rang loud for Don. He heartily accepted Grace Episcopal’s offer.
One of the things that attracted Don to Grace Episcopal Church was its long history of service to the community. “Grace Episcopal Church has 57 to 58 ministries, one being a long-standing relationship with The Caring Place. And many of our parishioners volunteer here,” Don says.
One of Don’s favorite activities is the peanut butter and jelly drive Grace Episcopal holds for The Caring Place. “I love peanut butter but it has to be extra-crunchy,” he says. A grocery store cashier once asked Don if he was having a party when he checked out with a full cart of 18 jars each of peanut butter and jelly for The Caring Place!
In May, Don was diagnosed with a debilitating health condition. “This is the hardest roller-coaster ride I’ve ever been on,” he says. Despite this major life transition, Don continues to support The Caring Place and Grace Episcopal’s mission to love our neighbors as ourselves. “If I have a resource and I don’t answer the need, I am disobedient,” he says. “Let’s not wait. Let’s do now what needs to be done.”
We thank Don McManus and Grace Episcopal Church for their ongoing support of The Caring Place!
PEO Georgetown Chapter GZ Presents Check to The Caring Place
Client For Dental Work!
The Caring Place client, Kathy Menville (center), was overjoyed when she received the money she needed to have her teeth fixed. “This means everything to me,” Kathy said. “There’s no way I could afford to pay for this.” The Georgetown Chapter GZ of P.E.O., Philanthropic Educational Organization, presented Kathy with a check to cover the full cost of dental work. The grant is funded by the Texas Star Oaks Fund, Inc. PEO celebrates the advancement of women though educational scholarships, grants awards, loans and stewardship of Cottey Collge in Nevada, Missouri.
Thank You P.E.O. We appreciate your support!
A snapshot of The Caring Place Advisory Council members
The Caring Place Advisory Council is tasked with ensuring that The Caring Place stays true to its original mission of helping families in economic crisis in Georgetown and rural Williamson County. The Advisory Council is made up of representatives from member churches and organizations, such as Main Street Baptist Church.
If you’ve ever visited Main Street Baptist Church, you’ve seen John Sullivan front and center, directing the choir at the 8:30 a.m. service or leading the worship team during the 10:50 a.m. service. From a young age, John was more interested in clefs and trebles than anything else and began playing the piano at age 6 and performing at churches by the time he was 7! “Music has always come natural to me” John said.
Have you ever noticed that some people just seem to smile all the time? Sheryl Rich is one of those people! Whether she’s working as a volunteer Client Advocate or in her newly appointed staff position as Support Services Coordinator, you can always count on Sheryl for a positive and caring attitude.
Sheryl joined The Caring Place 4 years ago and has served in the Donations and Client Services departments as well as contributing as a Success through Opportunities And Resources (SOAR) Mentor and Fresh Food for Families worker. In her new role as Support Services Coordinator for The Caring Place, Sheryl will support Crisis Care Operations including Intake and Quality Assurance and Food Pantry volunteers. She will also coordinate our seasonal programs.
“I’m looking forward to continuing my work with all of the volunteers, even though it will be in a different capacity,” Sheryl says. “I’m glad to continue the work of The Caring Place as a staff member.” Sheryl is the mother of 2 and has 2 grand babies.
A Gem of a Shop
Your baubles and bangles support The Caring Place!
If you’ve recently been to The Shops at The Caring Place on the second Thursday of the month, you’ve undoubtedly heard the cheerful calls over the loud speaker; “Please come to our fine jewelry sale. We have something for everyone, and it’s not too early to shop for Christmas.” This announcer with the distinct East Coast accent is none other than Lorraine Uhrig, head of The Caring Place Jewelry Department.
Before joining The Caring Place 8 years ago, Lorraine had a successful multi-decade career in the East Coast fine jewelry industry where she executed intricate detail work, including hand painting and appraising. She worked at companies such as Speidel, Bulova and Monet. So it makes sense that in her volunteer role at The Caring Place, Lorraine can easily spot the real thing! Speaking about cameos, Lorraine says, “They’re not all the same; you have to look at the nose. Some have a Roman nose and some have a European nose.”
Supported by a volunteer group of 9, the department sorts fine jewelry from the costume selections. “All of my girls have jobs,” Lorraine says. Much of the jewelry they receive is not sale-ready and requires cleaning, repairing and even re-designing certain pieces to make them available for sale.
Lorraine’s husband, George Uhrig, is the watch specialist; he cleans, repairs and tests every watch. “We place a new battery in every watch we receive and keep an eye on it for 3 weeks to make sure it’s working well before we make it available for sale,” Lorraine says.
For more intricate repairs or research on brand and vintage, Georgetown Jewelry lends a helping hand. “Rick and Cyndee Poe volunteer their time to help us identify certain pieces,” Lorraine says. “They are so kind and helpful.”
What’s most important to Lorraine is that customers feel they’ve gotten a good buy. “We do everything we can to make our customers happy,” she says.
When you buy an item from The Shops at The Caring Place, you are helping to support the organization’s mission of serving families in need.
Photo: Lorraine (r) with volunteer, Ann Boone.
Volunteers not shown: George Uhrig, Gayle Shaw, Minnie Vasquez,
Sharon Brown, Maggie Sulllivan, Genny Stam, Bob Stam.
Georgetown View Magazine
A story by volunteer, Rusty Hollier
I saw the article about the peanut butter (and was reminded about something which happened way
before your time at TCP. . . This was probably in the late 90s. The Food Bank in Austin received some
28 barrels (Yes – 55-gallon barrels) of peanut butter. Of course there was no way we could
distribute anything that big but this was in the days when any kind of available food was
a big deal with us. We found that we could purchase plastic tubs, the type that two or
three pound soft oleo comes in. So we ordered a barrel and one afternoon about four
of us stayed at TCP after our normal noon closing time and armed with big cooking spoons,
ice cream scoops, ice cream “spades”, and other weapons of mass destruction. The “spades”
worked best and we repackaged the barrel that afternoon into sizes we could handle. We
shared our experience with the Food Bank, and they in turn shared it with all their other
agencies. At the end of the year we were recognized by the Food Bank at their annual
meeting and received a certificate of appreciation which hung on the wall at the old pantry
across the street and is probably still in a file somewhere!