By GREG RUSSELL, Register Staff Writer
The staff of the ever-developing Abigail’s Arms women’s crisis center recently grew by two — and the agency’s outreach possibilities have grown with it.
Carmen Rubio joined the agency as a primary prevention specialist on Dec. 3, and former Cooke County Home Hospice official Kathi Kirby is set to become an Abigail’s Arms volunteer coordinator and program specialist on Jan. 2.
Rubio, a former North Texas Medical Center employee, will offer bilingual service to an incoming clientele that doesn’t always speak English.
“There’s a language barrier; that’s what’s going on,” Rubio said Friday. “And so they don’t know there’s an option out there, that there’s help.”
Abigail’s Arms Volunteer Coordinator Kelly Fiore-Watson said one aspect to the agency’s outreach situation is that not enough clients show up in person, possibly since they don’t speak English and may expect that none of the staff speaks Spanish.
“We do a lot of outreach but we don’t get a lot who come in,” Watson said. “And that’s really not our fault. But it’s our responsibility to educate so that they do come in. That’s why we need someone who’s bilingual and has such great connections to the community. And everyone knows her. And so if Carmen says, ‘This is wrong and you can get help,’ they’re going to listen to her.”
Prior to Rubio’s arrival, Spanish translation was possible but scarce; Watson had to use Google or the occasional bilingual visitor in communicating with clients.
But with the Abigail’s Arms shelter facility scheduled for a summer 2013 opening and a broader clientele, Rubio’s abilities will be put to good use.
“There’s so much to speak for the children and the adults,” Rubio said Friday. Kirby is expected to officially join Abigail’s Arms on Wednesday. Similar to her work with Cooke County Home Hospice, she will organize shelter volunteers, stay involved with educational outreach and help generate new programs that profit the crisis center.
“For 13 years, I was a volunteer,” Kirby said Friday. “I can relate to the volunteers. And it’s really, really important with volunteers that you build a relationship and I feel like I’m really good at that. I have no qualms whatsoever about talking to a stranger. You never know when you’re going to meet either someone who is a victim, or someone who knows a victim, and doesn’t know what to do. So I’m looking forward to learn about a whole new area of life.”
Watson said Kirby’s career change from end-of-life care to the process of aiding abuse victims will create a benefit for everyone involved.
“She comes to us with a long history in this community of leading volunteers,” she said. “And at Home Hospice, it’s not that she was unhappy there, but she was ready for a change. And we’re blessed, since she comes with an insight and education about people.”
Currently, the new employees are operating alongside Abigail’s Arms administration in an office at 114 N. Dixon St. in Gainesville. But as reported in recent Register stories, the official and full-scale Abigail’s Arms shelter is on track to opening by mid-2013, with nothing poised to prevent that.
“It looks phenomenal,” Watson said about the facility in development on East Highway 82 in Gainesville. “Every day, there’s more that’s added, and there’s nothing to explain the enthusiasm you have when you walk inside that building, knowing how this is going to impact families and generations of families.”