Oldest nonprofit of its kind in San Antonio also a mainstay in Uvalde for over 20 years

Family Service initially was based out of Robb Elementary

More than two decades after it started offering services Robb Elementary, the horrific tragedy at the school is what has brought families to Family Service seeking emotional and mental support.

UVALDE, Texas – Nearly a century after the oldest human service nonprofit in San Antonio began in 1903, Family Service was based out of Robb Elementary in 2000 when it brought its array of programs to Uvalde and the surrounding rural communities.

Ironically, 22 years later, the horrific loss of life at the school is what has brought families to Family Service seeking emotional and mental support.

“They trust us. And, it’s all about the trust,” said Alejandra Castro, the nonprofit’s director of rural services.

Castro said because Family Service has been in the community as long as it has, trust is especially important in a small tight-knit community and a culture that is often hesitant to talk about their problems outside their own families.

Enedelia Soto Quintanilla, a Family Service clinician with a master’s degree in counseling who had been a licensed psychologist in Mexico, said knowing the language and the culture is essential.

“I will have more access to your feelings,” she said.

Soto Quintanilla said many of the victims and students at Robb Elementary came from primarily Spanish-speaking families. Also many immigrants and farmworkers live in and around Uvalde.

Although mental health professionals arrived in the tragedy’s wake, Castro said, “We can see that it’s not enough.”

Yet Castro said Family Service now has five additional clinicians offering free bilingual services.

Watch Web Extra Video: Clinician Explains “Dicho Therapy” in Spanish

Family Service clinician Enedelia Soto Quintanilla explains the “Dicho” therapy in Spanish.

“We’ve been blessed,” Soto Quintanilla said.

They said Family Service has no waiting list with intake to get them on case management so they can access coping skills or help with whatever other needs they may have.

Castro said Family Service also has a large network of agencies that can provide other services.

Family Service receives funding from the state, private foundations and Methodist Healthcare Ministries.

Since the tragedy, Castro said Family Service still has an office within the Uvalde School District, but also has a satellite location at the entrance to the local Walmart, which she said was quick to offer the nonprofit the space free of charge.

Castro said families who are trying to overcome emotional trauma can become nervous when they think about what their futures may hold.

She said when ready Family Service explains, “What are the steps that they need to take to be successful tomorrow for themselves as parents, and for their children to be successful in life?”

Castro said Family Service assures them the agency will be here to support them.

Looking ahead helps families find hope and a sense of purpose, Castro said.

“It’s going to be a long journey,” she said. “But Family Service is going to be part of that journey.”

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About the Authors:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.

Sal Salazar is a photojournalist at KSAT 12. Before coming to KSAT in 1998, he worked at the Fox affiliate in San Antonio. Sal started off his career back in 1995 for the ABC Affiliate in Lubbock and has covered many high-profile news events since. In his free time, he enjoys spending time at home, gaming and loves traveling with his wife.