The Ark is a home
by Alfredo E. Cardenas, South Texas Catholic
October 2, 2012
Rachel Leal-Hudson, Houston attorney who presented keynote address at the 2012 Ark Gala, can empathize with the children at the Ark because she is the eldest of 19 adopted children.
Alfredo E. Cardenas, South Texas Catholic
That was the mantra repeated by Rachel Leal-Hudson at the Ark Gala 2012, a dinner to raise funds for the Ark Assessment and Emergency Shelter for Youth begun in 1999 by the Missionary Sisters of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in Calallen. Leal-Hudson, a Houston attorney, served as the keynote speaker at the event held at the Congressman Solomon P. Ortiz International Center in Corpus Christi on Sept. 6.
“The Ark is run like a home. For many children that is their first home,” Leal-Hudson said. “The Ark does not close for Christmas, Santa is there like in your homes. They don’t close on Thanksgiving. Thirty-five children live at the Ark, nine go to school everyday like your children.”
Leal-Hudson can empathize with the children at the Ark because she is the eldest of 19 adopted children. Like the Ark children, she said, she and her siblings did not live in a “foster home” or an “adopted home,” their parents provided them a “home.”
“We were not foster children. We were not adopted children. We were children,” she said.
She urged contributors to think as her parents thought about children in need. She said that when they decide to donate clothing to the Ark for the children not to give used clothing their own children no longer wear. “You wouldn’t give your children used clothes, would you?” she asked.
Child Protective Services, a division the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, investigates reports of abuse and neglect of children and places them with the Ark when they cannot find a foster home to place them in. The Ark, said Delma Trejo the home’s executive director, is an emergency place where newborns to children 17-years-old are placed for a period of up to 90 days or until a home is found for them.
The Ark is licensed by the state and can accept children from throughout Texas, although their primary service area is Region II, a large area from Victoria to Laredo to the Rio Grande Valley. Some of the children come from Driscoll Children’s Hospital. Sometimes the children are placed there by a court order issued by a judge.
The Ark is licensed for up to 37 children but on average has 30 at any one time. The majority are boys. The typical age is from two to three years of age. Most are sibling groups. Trejo said that some children come through the Ark more than once and now some “kids of kids come through.”
“Often the children come here malnourished. We take them to the children’s clinic to get a physical and dentals,” Trejo said.
The children are taken care of by a staff of 30 that work 12-hour shifts, 24-7. The staff includes two licensed vocational nurses and a registered nurse. Volunteers are also an important part of the program. Both staff and volunteers must undergo drug screening and criminal background checks, and receive training.
School-aged children are taken to Calallen ISD schools. Trejo said the schools have been “very good” to the Ark.
Although the Ark was founded by and is owned by the Missionary Sisters of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, it is non-denominational, but a priest comes by to celebrate Mass. The children can attend Vacation Bible School at St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles and St. Thomas the Apostle. These parishes are always helping, especially during Christmas and Easter, Trejo said.
Parents and relatives cannot come to the Ark. Child Protective Services takes the children to family members, when visits are in order.
The Ark receives $115 per day per child but it costs $250 per day per child to operate the refuge. They seek grants and hold fundraisers, such as the annual gala, to supplement the needed funds. The Ark’s board of directors, which consists of 10 civic and community leaders, are also very instrumental in ensuring sufficient funding is available.
“The gala is one of our major events. We also hold a golf tournament and the Knights of Columbus are very supportive,” Trejo said.
Tax-deductible contributions to the Ark can be made online at www.ark4kids.com. The Web site also provides a list of items they need to operate the facility.
“The public needs to realize that these kids are kids and need to be treated as one of their own,” Trejo said.