Cindy McCall is the first executive director of The Gabriel Project of the Crossroads, of which the Bethlehem Maternity Home is an extension. She said she is excited at the prospect of helping the organization expand since her appointment earlier this month.
Cindy McCall is the first executive director of The Gabriel Project of the Crossroads.
The Catholic Diocese of Victoria describes the organization’s inception in 1973 as a response by a Houston priest to the Roe v Wade decision in 1973 to help women who wished to have their babies but were in crisis. In 2002 Barbara McCain from Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church brought the project to Victoria. Today it includes 17 Catholic parishes and missions.
McCall calls herself an “East Texas girl.” She grew up in Bloomington and moved to Tyler in 1991. She has family in the Victoria area and considers her move just part of “coming home.”
The inside of the donated storage building looks a lot like a small shop. The air conditioned shed keeps everything fresh and clean.
She has extensive experience as an educator and in nonprofits. Most recently she was executive director of Starbrite Therapeutic Equestrian Center in Tyler. Before that she was senior development manager for the American Cancer Society of East Texas. Her early career involved 16 years working in the Tyler Independent School District, first as a classroom teacher, then as an instructional technology specialist and finally as the elementary math facilitator supervising more than 600 education professionals. In addition to her position with The Gabriel Project she is a private consultant with the University of Houston-Victoria.
She said when she wanted to move to Victoria to be close to a family member who needed her support, she found herself the recipient of enthusiastic recommendations from her former colleagues to area nonprofits who were hiring. “I’m so humbled and grateful,” she said about that support. “I’m very passionate about what I do. I just know that God created me to serve.”
Although The Gabriel Project of the Crossroads is under the auspices of the Catholic Diocese of Victoria, McCall is not a member of the Catholic church. She was raised in a Pentecostal household. “I grew up knowing I was gonna go to Hell no matter what I did. I mean, hellfire and brimstone and running up and down the aisle,” she joked.
McCall explained her focus is on providing the support a woman in crisis needs to achieve a successful pregnancy and childbirth, as well as to help them on the road to independence. Each woman is assigned “an angel” — a volunteer to help them along that path to independence.
Little shoes await the babies at Bethlehem Maternity Home.
“We’re going to teach you how to fish,” McCall said, “we’re not just going to give you stuff.” It might include anything from learning how to breastfeed or mix formula to taking coursework to obtain a GED or study for an associate’s degree.”
Bethlehem Maternity Home provides structure, safety, and a place to grow as a person and a parent. Some of the women make lifelong friends during their time there.
The work of The Gabriel Project relies on the generosity of the community. “All of this takes time, money,” McCall said. “Volunteers are the lifeblood of what we do. Obviously, funding is always helpful. We never know when, on any given day, if we’re going to have an influx of, you know, five or six brand new moms in one month.”
“I’m so excited to be here and to get to be a part of something so worthy and so worthwhile,” McCall said of her new position. The Gabriel Project’s board of directors advised her to begin by getting to know her staff, the system and the city. The biggest initial goal is building the volunteer program.
The Bethlehem Maternity Home provides a safe and comfortable environment for pregnant women in crisis.
“I really, really want to be able to build that volunteer base. And then on top of that, of course, there’s always funding. I mean, I’d love to be able to pay the staff because some of the staff members have been there for five or six years. … volunteering out of the goodness of their heart.”
Another area of expertise is McCall’s experience with grant writing, something that requires accurate data showing such things as how many mothers have been served, how many hours of volunteer work is being done and how they plan to build capacity. This is data the organization has effectively maintained, she said.
The Gabriel Project receives help from other faith organizations who are looking for worthy projects. First United Methodist Church’s Twice Blessed charitable group donated a $10,000 storage building for the Bethlehem Maternity Home. That small building was converted into an air-conditioned space filled with diapers, wipes, clothes, baby shoes, infant items and other important needs for mothers and babies. It is conveniently placed on the home’s property. Pastors Wade Powell and Amanda Banda blessed the building on July 7 and learned more about the work being done at the maternity home.
Twice Blessed is a shop that regularly raises money for charitable efforts. It was formed by a group of women at First United Methodist about 10 years ago. The shop sits on the property near the church in downtown Victoria. However, it started with a simple garage sale to generate seed money, which led to a small shop and eventually, after outgrowing its space, someone asked the church’s trustees if they might want to build on the empty lot near the church.
Marcia Kauffman, a longtime volunteer for Twice Blessed and master gardener, said the “plight of these young women really tugged on our heartstrings.” Each month, their board hears from speakers who recommend a possible recipient for a donation. Over the past decade, the group has raised almost a half-million dollars for charity.
Baby items are always needed at the Bethlehem Maternity Home.
Twice Blessed also runs on the shoulders of its volunteers. “We are always on the lookout for new volunteers. Usually, a volunteer will do one three-hour shift a month in the shop,” she said.
“We keep the donations local,” Kauffman said. “But we always have to have information. We don’t just donate a bunch of money … we do our research.”
McCall said working with an organization such as The Gabriel Project allows her to make a real difference. “I just want to help anyone, in any way we possibly can. … If we don’t go out and minister outside of those doors (the church), we’re not doing our part. And I mean, I just feel like I’m called to that capacity.”