In San Antonio, BCFS Health and Human Services operates a transition center which provides teens and young adults, between the ages of 16 and 25, services that promote healthy development including workforce assistance, dropout prevention activities, self-esteem and leadership activities, and more. Here, a team of social workers, case managers, counselors and invaluable volunteers help program participants reach their full potential by providing services that promote their transition into adulthood.
Additional free services offered at the transition center to families in the community include parenting education and counseling services.
For two years, Maria Dobson has served as one of these vital volunteers to the BCFS Health and Human Services Transition Center. Twice per week, Maria handles phone calls and greets visitors to the building with a smile. Both humble and generous, Maria acts as a welcoming gatekeeper to the center, connecting struggling youth with the services they need to succeed.
It’s volunteers like Maria that help make BCFS what it is to so many — a stable resource for young people that have no other place to go. “Maria is dependable, always smiling and welcoming to all visitors who enter our building,” says Miriam Attra, Director – Community Services in San Antonio. “She has stayed late on occasion to help our youth, families and staff – without hesitation.” Her commitment to the BCFS mission is evident in her daily work.
“I always wanted to do something,” Maria says of her decision to search for volunteer opportunities several years ago, which brought her to BCFS Health and Human Services. “It sounded like a good idea — healing youth, and giving them something to smile about here and there.”
As a receptionist, she bridges the gap between inquisitive visitors, youth, and callers, and the people that can assist them. “It’s like a puzzle figuring out how best to direct them,” Maria says.
“They need help, and you try to get them to someone that can help them. Being in social services, [BCFS staff] know how to talk to people and get the info they need to help them.”
Though a Texan at heart, Maria has also traveled frequently throughout the U.S. as part of her husband’s occupation. This has shaped her views greatly on people and the world.
“You always think that people are just like you,” she says. “But everybody has different experiences, values and rules.”
Her own values have been ingrained in her by her parents: her mother, originally from Brazil, and father from Pittsburgh. Maria tears up and jokes about forgetting Kleenex while recalling her childhood. “My parents taught me to work real hard to get what I want,” she says. “They said that I was the best thing in their lives. I feel sad when other people don’t have that. ‘Cause it really helps.”
The youth that make their way in and out of the Transition Center often lack the type of support Marie describes, which is one reason volunteering resonates with her. “They don’t have a good family base,” she explains. “They don’t have anyone on their side cheering them along. They got dealt a tough hand.”
This is why Maria believes BCFS’ mission is so important, especially the organization’s services for at-risk youth. “BCFS is there — they’re a constant. When someone needs them, there’s always someone around. In an emergency, it’s important to be available.”
Like BCFS, Maria has been a constant for many youth, on the phone or at the door, sharing her warmth — along with the occasional joke or word of wisdom. A little goes a long way, and her contribution has been greatly appreciated by BCFS Health and Human Services for the help it’s been every step of the way.