Melissa was homeless, single and pregnant. She felt hopeless until she discovered Casa Teresa, a 40-year-old, Orange-based family home for pregnant women facing difficult circumstances.
“When I couldn’t see my own value, they turned me around and made me face it head-on,” Melissa wrote in a recent Casa Teresa blog. “My case manager and all the staff picked me up, dusted me off and planted my feet firmly back on the ground. I am living proof that the only time it is too late is when you are dead.”
Casa Teresa’s staff saw the potential in Melissa to be a good mother to her unborn son and gave her the strength and courage she needed to pursue the dream she had lost. Recently Melissa made the Dean’s List and graduated with an associate degree from Irvine Valley College. She started classes at Cal State Fullerton this fall.
Founded in 1976 by Sally and Neil Sullivan, parishioners of Our Lady Queen of Angels Parish in Newport Beach, Casa Teresa now has a $2.5 million annual budget that funds housing for 54 women and babies and an emergency maternity center. Funding comes from grants and private donations, according to CEO Lisa Wood.
“Casa Teresa is special because we change lives,” Wood says. “We care for women who haven’t felt loved before. We give them the tools they need to be good mothers, a safe home, and teach them how to cope with life. We take the time to care.”
With facilities staffed by housemothers and case managers — and an executive program director that is an experienced psychologist — Casa Teresa serves women who are broken, Wood notes. They are victims of human trafficking or come from homes racked by domestic violence; many were abused as children; a good number are addicted to alcohol and/or drugs; and they lack the education and training they need to land decent jobs.
“We are in the business of healing through love,” Wood says. “We take the time to make it personal. All of the women say, ‘You were the first people to love me. This is my home.’ They feel connected to Casa Teresa because it is a safe place.”
Learn more about Casa Teresa: bit.ly/2dkFjdK
An extension of Casa Teresa is a new secondhand store, The Collection, which recently opened in a fully renovated 1903 bungalow in Old Towne Orange. Stocked by donations of gently used, high-end designer clothing, shoes and accessories for women, men and children, The Collection raises money through sales but also creates much-needed on-the-job training for Casa Teresa residents.
“It’s both a revenue stream and a social enterprise,” says store manager Yvonne Lopez. The Collection gives Casa Teresa volunteers a place to serve alongside selected residents. In partnership with the Orange County Asian Pacific Islander Community Alliance, Casa Teresa residents receive retail training and devote 600 hours or six months of part-time work at The Collection under Lopez’s supervision.
Visitors can shop at The Collection, 234 N. Glassell St., Orange on Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with all sales going to benefit Casa Teresa.
Learn more about The Collection at Casa Teresa: bit.ly/2dY3TCf
In February, a Ruby Luncheon marked Casa Teresa’s 40th anniversary, said Natalie Hart, development manager, and an Oct. 21 Ruby Gala will take place at the Island Hotel. More information is available online at casateresa.com or by calling 714-538-4860.