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JBSA News
NEWS | Oct. 1, 2019

340th FTG volunteers help San Antonio abused women, children

By Janis El Shabazz 340th Flying Training Group Public Affairs

More than 70,000 Reserve Citizen Airmen daily answer their nation’s call, including the men and women assigned to the Headquarters, 340th Flying Training Group at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph.

Far more than "weekend warriors," they are vital contributors to the mission, and to the civilian communities where they live and serve. A perfect example of community service was their recent support of the Family Violence Prevention Services/Battered Women and Children’s Shelter’s 42-year legacy of delivering life-changing services to San Antonio victims.

According to Marta Pelaez, FVPS president and CEO, one in three woman will be affected by domestic violence in Texas, and more than half of the people helped by the BWCS are children.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health, people in abusive relationships often attempt to break up with their partner several times before the breakup sticks, with the most dangerous time in an abusive relationship being post breakup. On average, a person in an abusive relationship will attempt to leave seven times before finally leaving for good.

“Making the decision to get out of an abusive situation can be difficult and dangerous,” said Blanca Uribe, BWCS Director of External Affairs and Volunteer Relations. “Many times, leaving an abusive relationship is not only emotionally difficult, but it can also be life-threatening. When an abuse victim does get the courage to leave we want them to know we are waiting with open arms to provide shelter, compassion, counseling, and assistance to rebuild their life. We are so grateful to have the members of the 340th FTG partner with us in this charge.”

That support was evident when seven 340th FTG members spent half of the day Sept. 11 sorting and packaging clothing at the donation center. Pricilla Mendoza, who’s worked at the center for 12 years, said that volunteer effort saved the center a week of work.

The seed for the women and children’s shelter, sowed in 1977 by a social worker and a local minister in a three-bedroom house on San Antonio’s north side, has grown to include a 60,000 square-foot emergency residential facility, a 15,000 square-foot non-residential facility, the donation center, a court and military liaison program at Bexar County Civil District Courts, a community-based counseling program at Haven for Hope and the first accredited batterer intervention program in San Antonio.

Mari Ayala Sandoval, donation center coordinator, has been affiliated with the shelter since its infancy in that little house in north San Antonio. She was working as a community relations representative for Walmart when she read an article about the original shelter’s opening. She learned that clothing that did not sell at the retail outlet was cut up and discarded as damaged goods. Sandoval went to the uncle of Walmart’s founder and asked if the clothing could be donated to the shelter, rather than being destroyed.

In a surreal way, Sandoval’s inquiry would change her life in ways she never imagined. Six months later she suffered a stroke, and found herself despondent and just languishing at home, not keen to venture outside.

“The shelter director reached out to me and asked me to, at first, come volunteer and eventually I became the first overflow shelter manager,” said Sandoval. “He (the director) told me just because I had a setback, my life was not over. He said I still had a lot to give. After a while, help was needed at the donation center so off I went. I have now been the donation center coordinator for more than 20 years.”

Sandoval revealed that 340th FTG members would be sorting the complete inventory from a local store that had recently closed.

Generosity like that is typical of the San Antonio community, she said, but the need to restock never ends. The center accepts all new or gently used adult and children’s clothing.  

Folks at the shelter try to create as normal an environment as possible for the mothers and children. The main campus has a school for children up to middle school. Students can attend school on campus or be driven to a bus stop for the school where they're already enrolled.

There is also on-site child care to help parents with their younger children. And that enables parents to attend various classes provided by the shelter, as well as the opportunity to seek medical care and counseling, also offered on-site.  The shelter also offers 24-hour emergency housing and services, violence intervention programs, substance abuse prevention program for adolescents, and community-based counseling for the homeless.

When families are ready to leave, the shelter helps them find transitional housing, provides them with primary household goods and some small appliances, and an initial supply of food to get them started in their new home.