Blessed to be a blessing in the heart of San Antonio
December 10, 2019
Our Christmas Season Spotlight is shining a light on the life-changing work of faith-based organizations in Texas, New Mexico and beyond. Our TMF Grants Ministries team led by Jacki Lammert is proud to have had opportunities to support the work of these ministries in 2019. These leaders and organizations are meeting the needs of all sizes of ministries in their communities.
Corazon Ministries in the heart of San Antonio celebrated its 20th year in 2019. Corazon Ministries began in 1999 when the Travis Park UMC youth group started a pancake breakfast on Sundays to minister to people living on the street. Today Travis Park Church hosts the office of Corazon Ministries and provides volunteer and fundraising support.
Corazon serves San Antonio’s homeless and marginalized neighbors by providing hot meals, clothing, warm showers, hygiene items, access to primary medical care, optometry and dermatology care, barber haircuts, art therapy, recovery and prayer groups, and Bible study. Each year they serve over 25,000 hot, nutritious meals and rely on over 75 enthusiastic volunteers each week to provide unconditional love and life-giving support to their neighbors.
Corazon Ministries Board President Kristen Salazar speaks on achievements in 2019 and vision for the future:
What are you most proud of accomplishing in 2019?
We are proud of the relationships we have continued to develop with our street friends, volunteers, other ministry leaders, and other community leaders who are serving our downtown Travis Park area. We are on the same page and have the heart to serve alongside each other. It is not a competition. It is a collaboration. We have a great relationship with the Centro Crew, a city crew that cleans up the trash around downtown San Antonio. Their office is across the street from Travis Park Church, and we've created a great relationship with them. Anytime we hold an event at the church they are always willing to send staff over to help us serve meals to our volunteers or clean up after an event.
Describe the qualities of the people who are contributing to your organization's success. As a leader, how do you sustain and nurture these qualities?
The heart of the volunteer is so sincere and is motivated by wanting to do for others, serve others, and love others. Our ministry operates because of our volunteers’ commitment and investment in the lives of our street friends. They lead with their heart and do not worry that they must sometimes reach out many, many times before they get a response. But once there is a connection – that is the sweet spot! We have spent a lot of time encouraging our volunteers to engage with our guests, to take time to talk with them, hear their stories, let them develop relationships in the safe place we call our “community.” That is the most important part of volunteering at Corazon.
We’re partnering with great businesses to connect them to our mission. For example, we’ve had success in getting volunteers from USAA to help us with serving food and participating in a Chef for a Day event we held in 2018. During that event, various volunteers came in to help us prep enchiladas and lasagna that we could freeze and then easily cook and serve during our busy summer months.
And our volunteers thank us! We are always moved when we receive thank you cards from volunteers. Some of them we featured as a display at a recent volunteer mixer.
Can you share an experience or observation that influenced how you pursue your mission?
Every person has a story, some are similar, but all are unique. When they finally open up to you – when they let you clean their feet with blisters so bad that they can’t walk, or when they allow you to let them shower by themselves because you realize their severely anxious about being with others in close proximity, when you get to hear what happened – what brought them to the streets, and when they feel safe and not judged to share their stories . . . that brings a love for His children that only He can give.
Do you have a favorite quote, Biblical or secular? What is it, and why?
“He’s (God) teaching us that we are poor too, for every last one of God’s children is dependent on God for everything, even for life itself . . . God’s care for all of us means that everyone in need merits help from those in a position to give it.” (Rev. Katie Hargis at St. Cornelius’ Episcopal Church in Dodge City, Kansas.) Our board, staff and volunteers live from the heart the belief that our street friends are NOT throwaways, and we have the duty to care for them, as they are His children, as well. In doing so, we are the ones who are blessed!
What are you most looking forward to in 2020?
We look forward to continuing new programs and engaging in new conversations with our wider community. When we added the street choir to our Wednesday night program in September, the joy that came from that has been overwhelming! That is our sweet spot! Feeding their souls is the most important part of our ministry and we will strive to continue to do more of that, alongside all of the excellent things we do for their practical needs. We also plan to be a part of the broader community conversation around Housing First initiatives developing in San Antonio.