● By Alexis Harborth
By: Alexis Harborth Photos by: Rachel Benavides
Tony Reyes had been working for Office Depot for 13 years when he suddenly felt a calling.“God touched my heart and said, ‘There’s something that I want you to do,’ so I just quit,” Reyes recounts.
In April of 2000, he founded Mission 911, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the homeless population in Corpus Christi. He purchased his former elementary school, located at 911 Park Avenue, to serve as Mission 911’s office, a shelter, and more.
The shelter helps in many ways, including offering temporary housing for men, coordinating apartments for families, maintaining a clothing and furniture closet and dentistry program, and hosting a series of classes.
“One of the programs we put into effect is called Ruby Payne’s Getting Ahead,” says Reyes. “It’s a 15-week course with an 85 percent success rate.” He describes how classes such as these are at the heart of Mission 911’s work, because they’re dedicated to educating and empowering people to make choices and create lifestyles that will help them get out – and stay out – of homelessness or poverty.
“We aim to teach people to see the barometer of what behaviors or habits are hurting them. If you can teach that, and they want to continue getting ahead, that means they have to take on the challenge that’s preventing them from getting ahead.”
Over the last 19 years, Mission 911 expanded to not just actively help the homeless, but also proactively support those on the poverty line. Their outreach efforts help prevent many from becoming destitute or homeless. One such way is a partnership with TXU Energy to help pay electric bills – an expense that many cannot afford.
“If we didn’t help with their light bill, they would lose their house or be unable to afford food,” Reyes explains. “You have to be proactive if you are on the poverty line. Last year, we paid $120,000 worth of electric bills.”
Mission 911 will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2020, and Reyes’ hope for his organization is to simply continue to do what they do: help people.
On average, 650-750 people will benefit from these programs and services each year. Since its inception, he estimates that thousands upon thousands have been reached.
Mission 911 is not state funded, making community support crucial. There are many ways to get involved; from annual fundraisers, such as the Coastal Bend Day of Giving and a Golf Tournament, to volunteer and donation opportunities year round. And in December, donation needs increase – including coats, warm clothing, and holiday items.
“We need help with toys for kids so they have Christmas presents,” says Reyes. “And we are also looking for gift cards, because we will give a child a gift card, like to Wal-Mart, so they can pick out exactly the toy they want.”
As 2019 draws to a close, supporting an organization that does so much for those in need may be the best gift given all season long.