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Life of helping others
Oct 27, 2012 | 1351 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jason Collins photo
Lupe Sanchez retired from the state helping mentally handicapped learn life skills. She now heads the Beeville Vineyard helping the less fortunate clothe, feed and shelter their families.
Jason Collins photo Lupe Sanchez retired from the state helping mentally handicapped learn life skills. She now heads the Beeville Vineyard helping the less fortunate clothe, feed and shelter their families.
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Lupe Sanchez wasn’t initially hired to run the Vineyard.

But her personality and experience was a natural fit.

Born and raised in George West, Sanchez worked for 35 years with the Texas Department of Health and Mental Retardation.

“I trained mentally handicapped individuals to work and taught them independent living skills,” she said.

In 2002, she returned to Beeville to take care of her mother.

“After my mother passed in 2005, I decided I needed to do something,” she said.

Thanks to Experience Works, Sanchez was hired on at the Vineyard.

Now in its 12th year, the Vineyard unites the faith-based efforts of 14 local churches by supplying the needs of more than 1,400 families, offering clothes, food, utility and medical assistance and emergency shelter.

Bettye Hale, then executive director, saw potential in Sanchez and wanted her to work in the office.

“I started working in the office and became the receptionist,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez was only working a handful of hours a week and needed a few more.

Hale told Sanchez, “I am going to retire and I want you to apply for my position.”

Sanchez was concerned that her lack of experience in grant writing would hinder her application for the position.

“She said you don’t need them because you have the background helping people. You can learn to write grants,” she said.

Ultimately, the board selected Christy Lansford with the understanding that she had yet to hear from a couple of other places she had applied for work.

Sanchez was made an assistant.

One of those offers came through, a job at Coastal Bend College Foundation. Lansford moved on and Sanchez was moved up.

“Lansford agreed to volunteer a few hours per week,” Sanchez said.

Larry McRorey, pastor at First United Methodist Church, said that he is glad to have Sanchez heading up the Vineyard.

“She earned her stripes by working ‘in the trenches’ at the Vineyard for the past six years and knows many of the clients on a personal level,” he said.

“She has an innate ability to distinguish between those who truly need a hand up and those who are trying to manipulate the system.

“As a result, she leads with firmness but fairness, and expects the best from clients and volunteers alike. In so doing, the changes that have been implemented over the past few months have brought a sense of freshness to the Vineyard and we are already seeing the fruits of her labor.”

Sanchez is now working to clean up the warehouse and “sales floor.”

“I am trying to make this a place where people can come and shop and not feel degraded or feel bad because they have to come here,” she said. “I want it be a nice experience for the people and have nicer things put out for them.”

Just in the past year or so, Sanchez has seen the number of people coming through Vineyard doors increase.

And that is partially because of the oil boom.

“People relocate here because of the oil boom and they find the jobs don’t work out or they are finding it hard to find a place to live and they are stuck and need help,” she said.

Then there are those who do get jobs but quickly realize that the 15 days of straight work and 12-hour days are too much.

“They don’t realize the kind of work they are going to have to do,” she said. “It is not easy work.”

Then there is always the prison that draws people to the area.

“I see their case files and they are coming from Houston so I ask, ‘What makes you come to Beeville?’

“They say, ‘I have a family member in prison and I want to be close to them.’”

The hardest part of her job is when she has to tell one of those in need “no.”

It’s in her nature to help.

“It is not a physically hard job,” she said. “But it is a job where you have to make choices.

“Sometimes you have to say ‘no’ and it is very difficult.

“So I do a lot of praying.”

Like any business, she has a budget and if money isn’t in the fund to help pay utility bills, then there is nothing she can do.

“We might not have the money for that particular need,” she said. “The money may be in another fund but I cannot use it.”

With money dwindling, Sanchez is looking forward to Nov. 13 — Coastal Bend Day of Giving.

For one 24-hour period on that day, Coastal Bend residents have the opportunity to contribute to 30 charities that provide basic services for core needs.

Fifteen local foundations will match contributions that day up to $310,000.

For more information about this year’s nonprofits or funders, visit www.coastalbenddayofgiving.org or call 361-882-9745.

Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.

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