Community Starts With a Gift Card

The gift card drew her in.
But once she got started,
she was hooked,
excited to be learning
new parenting tools.

Having already raised two of her four children, Cati Escobedo didn’t think she needed a parenting class at Empower House, a nonprofit that provides an array of community health and youth programming.

Angelita Negron, Community Health Program Manager, checks the afternoon schedule at the Healing with Love event held at the Empower House on February 18, 2022.

She did take a class, she admits, for the gift card the participants would receive once they completed the month-long commitment.

“I went in thinking, ‘What can they possibly tell me?'” said Escobedo, 41,  who’s still raising a 5- and 7-year-old. “I have already gone through this with my older kids. I already got this down. I already know the tricks up their sleeve, I thought. But no, they surprised me with all this other information.”

The gift card drew her in. But once she got started, she was hooked, excited to be learning new parenting tools.

“And then you go home and actually put one of those (tools) to use,” Escobedo said. “The biggest thing that we did learn, and it sticks in my head, is consistency. You got to remain consistent.”

Escobedo first learned about the class because her kids are enrolled in Head Start, the City of San Antonio program that provides early childhood education for students attending schools at Edgewood and San Antonio independent school districts.

At Empower House, parenting classes are one of a number of services they offer. 

The nonprofit began as the Martinez Street Women’s Center in 1999 on the East Side, with an emphasis on reproductive health services mainly for women of color.  Earlier this year, the nonprofit changed its name to Empower House because it has matured into a multi-faceted social services organization.

Andrea Figueroa, Empower House’s executive director, talks about the importance of building community to support people who have not received consistent support from our society and institutions. 

“So youth can have a place to talk about their own experiences, sort of learn from one another, and increase their social emotional learning, and to be able to think about how we show up for each other in the world, which is probably No. 1,” Figueroa said.

Today, Empower House has two locations, one on the East Side at 801 N. Olive St. and one on the West Side at 200 Donaldson Ave.

Empower House, 200 Donaldson, San Antonio, Texas.

These are areas of San Antonio still recovering from the inequities of the past, Figueroa said.

“That really translates into poor health outcomes for the folks who live in these areas, lack of opportunity for youth,” Figueroa said. “Organizations like ours really focus on lifting the community.”

Figueroa said nonprofits like Empower House are important to fill the gaps sometimes not filled by local government.

“We’re filling in those gaps where people really need them,” Figueroa said. “We’re on the ground with folks listening to them, and helping them sometimes get out of crisis.”

Kelly Hernandez, Community Health Parent Educator, stands next to an Empower House poster on February 18, 2022.

“We do not turn people away,” she said.

People like Escobedo, a self-employed reseller of cosmetics who wants to be a better parent for her younger kids.

“Hopefully, when they get older,” Escobedo said, “they know they can talk to me and, you know, not run away from their issues or problems. I’m trying to do it differently
with these other two little ones that I have now.”

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