If there’s one thing that defines the people of Kerr County, it’s giving. Charity is clearly a virtue valued by residents and this community is home to a small army of nonprofits. Tucked away in a small office space in Kerrville is one of those groups, one that’s changing lives and currently in the midst of remarkable growth: the Christian Men’s Job Corps.
The group’s last graduating class was eight men. The class before that? Three. But their incoming class? 30.
The increased class sizes are partially the result of court mandates — the group now offers life skills training, anger management, job training and more to men serving probation, a fairly recent development.
“It’s free to them, it saves them money and allows them to pay restitution and court fees,” said Tom Jones, executive director.
That’s a benefit to both these men and to Kerr County residents at large.
These are men who have paid — or are in the process of paying — their debts to society. And making the right choices, whether for their careers or their own personal growth, is easier with training and resources than many of these men might never otherwise have access to.
Now, they group is reaching more men than ever. But growth comes with growing pains. And just as the corps works to support area men along their road to better lives, the corps also needs community support.
As Jones put it: “We need everything. Everything from volunteers to funds. We’re having to do some work on our space, to expand. We have no choice, we’re not set up for that.”
But there’s more to the group than court-ordered classes — as evidenced by that last, eight-man class.
The group tacked an extra two weeks on to their course — above and beyond what courts had ordered — and offered them to any of the men who wished to continue and graduate from the program.
Every one of them stayed on through graduation, Jones said.
And they’ve been changing lives since long before the court system began sending men their way.
Just ask Oscar Menchaca.
“It changed my life completely,” he said. “I wasn’t looking for work, I wanted to build my relationship with God.”
Menchaca, now a father, grandfather and owner of his own construction business, said he grew up in a dysfunctional home, surrounded by drugs and alcohol and with relatives who were in and out of prison.
“I started to follow that path,” he said. “I wasn’t the best person at that time in my life.”
But after his mother died in May 2000, Menchaca swore he’d turn his life around.
“When my mom passed, I made a promise that I would change my path,” he said.
By his own admission, that didn’t happen right away: Menchaca said he was lost after his mother’s death. But in 2002, he joined the Christian Men’s Job Corps and his life changed forever.
“I got to experience all the things they offered,” he said. “I think the world of it. It helped me build my foundation with God, with my kids and step-kids.”
Menchaca’s story is one of many such remarkable outcomes — and proof positive that the job corps program works.
That they’ve been able to expand their reach through a partnership with the local court system is truly a boon. By training men to be successful members of our community, it benefits county residents, the court system and the men themselves.
And helping them teach these men to help themselves is a worthy goal indeed.