How Do You Help People You Can’t Find?

People tend to see servanthood as a one-way street where one person exists to have a need and another person exists to meet it. But those who have spent time serving others – parents, social workers, first responders, teachers, church members, doctors and so many more – know that while we may have distinct words for servant and friend, or teacher and student, there are countless times when the roles are reversed and the servant becomes the served.

Perla Trevino, Texas Workforce Commission Advocate

Like any other relationship, servanthood requires trust, time and a shared set of goals if it’s ever going to be successful. This is a truth that Perla Trevino admits she has spent her life learning and learning again.

Perla works at nonprofit BCFS Health and Human Services-Kerrville and leads their Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) program serving youth from foster care. As a TWC Advocate, she helps young people exiting high school and making their first big decisions as adults. She guides them through higher education applications or career selection. She helps them prepare for SAT tests or receive their GED. She connects them with employers in the area and finds job skills training.

However, it wasn’t always so easy to offer help like this.

Perla began her work with BCFS-Kerrville in November 2020, a time that in some ways felt like the first months of a new world rather than the start of another holiday season. Perla took on the job expecting she would quickly get to work finding youth in the area to help. Instead, her program was only serving half of the total number of participants it could.

“I was to the point in tears,” said Perla, remembering her first months on the job. “It’s so hard to find other kids when you’re in a lockdown, and I found so many homeless kids here in Kerrville.”

Progress came when Perla invested in the people she already had and the relationships she had begun to form with the youth she was helping at BCFS-Kerrville. One young man already in her program was able to help Perla find other youth in the community who could benefit from her work.

More people started helping identify program participants, and soon, Perla said, people as far away as Dallas were calling her because they had found her business card.

Success like this happened because Perla didn’t see clients and cases. She saw people and relationships. Perla remembered one young woman who told her she was the case manager who had been with her the longest. “It kind of shocked me and I was like, ‘I’ve only been here for a few years. I haven’t been here that long,’” said Perla, who said the girl responded that a few years is a long time for a social worker.

Before working with BCFS-Kerrville, Perla spent 10 years at Head Start, a program that helps young children from low-income families. She was also a teacher for 25 years in the public school system. In addition to her current role at BCFS-Kerrville, Perla still makes time to volunteer on the weekends, finding other ways to help her community.

“Perla has done an amazing job with the program,” said Kamaria Woods, Director of BCFS Health and Human Services-Kerrville. “She has found new ways to reach the people that need programs like ours, even in a difficult time.”