The Ark, a nondenominational facility, began as a project of the Missionary Sisters of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The sisters started serving youth in 1971 with the establishment of the New Life prevention program for girls, followed by the Turnaround prevention program for boys.
How Did It Begin?
Delma Trejo, who had served as administrator of the prevention programs operated by the Missionary Sisters of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, realized that youth needed a comprehensive program which would not be limited to the weekends. Rev. Msgr. Robert E. Freeman, P.A., Bishop Rene H. Gracida, D.D., and the congregation’s council discussed the idea of establishing a new program offering services 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Diocese of Corpus Christi deeded 5 acres of land for the project, which was named “The Ark.” The Ark could be the children’s salvation just as it was for Noah’s family. The Ark received its first state license in 1999 to provide assessment services and operate an emergency shelter for 13 children and youth, ages 6 through 17. In 1997, it became a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. A new 24-bed facility was opened in 2002, and the state license was amended to accommodate 37 children ages 0 through 17 years old.
Why Is The Ark Needed?
The Ark is needed because children are abused physically, sexually or neglected. It is the only licensed facility within an 80-mile radius that is contracted by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to provide emergency shelter and assessment services for the children who have been physically abused, sexually abused or neglected by parents or guardians. The shelter is licensed to care for children from anywhere in Texas. The Ark is home to infants and children as young as one day old through 17 years of age. They stay for as little as one day to 90 consecutive days. Many of the children are in the foster care system for the first time, while others already have been in the system. In many cases, infants have been removed from their parents because of drugs found in their fragile bodies at birth. The program is needed because these children and youth are taken from being traumatized due to the abuse and neglect they have endured to being evaluated for placement in an appropriate long-term site where their needs can be met. These placements may be in a foster home, residential treatment center, therapeutic treatment center or basic child-care institution. The residents may also return to their immediate family or go live with other relatives. Adoption is also a possibility. Sometimes CPS takes the children and youth back to The Ark because their first placement was not successful. We are ready to assist these children and youth who are confused and frightened. The children immediately need to feel that they are safe and loved. The first contact with them is extremely important because the manner in which they are received leaves a lasting impression.
The Ark is needed because the homelike facility provides the security and nurturing these children need to begin the healing process and to continue with their normal daily routines as much as possible. Professionals and highly trained individuals at The Ark provide: Counseling and interagency coordination, including short-term behavioral interventions.
- Nutritious meals and snacks for up to 90 consecutive days.
- Evaluations and assessments by medical doctors, psychiatrists, social workers, psychologists and counselors.
- Development and coordination of the Child’s Service Plan, which addresses the basic and specific needs to be met for each resident.
- Clothing, personal hygiene products and haircuts.
- Transportation to and from schools, as well as cultural, recreational and educational events.
- Encouragement for students to participate in extracurricular school activities, assistance with homework, school supplies and backpacks.
- Comprehensive childcare with everything needed for each resident’s well-being.
- A transition to a more permanent placement.
The Ark is committed to demonstrating to these innocent victims that even though they have been mistreated by their parents or guardians, there are people in this Coastal Bend community who are ready to treat them with dignity, love and respect.
On March 23, 2006, an open house was held to unveil the results of an expansion project that consisted of the construction of a multipurpose steel gymnasium, the conversion of a two-car garage into a game room, and the connection of the gym and game room to the main building via an enclosed walkway.
Master Site Plan
A master site plan for additional facilities has been developed for the property adjacent to The Ark. The site plan shows The Stork’s Home for infants and toddlers, a small home for boys ages 6 through 17 and two transitional homes for youth leaving the foster care system (a dwelling for females ages 18 through 21 and Noah’s Home for males ages 18 through 21). Included in the site plan is the Outdoor Therapy Area with domestic animals, which would be dedicated to Most Rev. Rene H. Gracida, D.D., Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi. It is envisioned that a basketball court, playground and pavilion will be constructed at the site of an existing stage. The pavilion could also be used for family picnics, which would increase the possibility of family reconciliation. Volleyball, ping pong and tennis courts will be added as well.