Longtime Volunteer Holds Coat Drive

2021 Coat Drive
Yaisa Hagood (left), Executive Director, and Antoinette Gonzales Kern (right), Volunteer, Community Services Winter Gear Drive.

Antoinette Gonzales Kern has been a longtime volunteer of Southside Center of Hope (SSCOH) formally known as Saint Martin De Porres House of Hope. “I will always know it as St. Martin” Antoinette said.

How did you begin volunteering at SSCOH?

I have been in the hospitality business for decades. I met the founders of SSCOH, Sister Therese, and late Sister Connie, in 1983 or 1984 while working at a hotel downtown. Somehow, or another, my HR department found out about them. We’ll never know what made them choose me, but I was selected to go down and meet with the pair. They were in a storefront at the time.”

What prompted you to continue your path of volunteering?

“Those Sisters kept me going! They were amazing women. Sister Therese was quiet, and no one disobeyed her. She would give the ladies a look and they knew it meant business. Quite inspiring to see how much passion she held for the cause. Sister Connie was the face! We would see her get out there with that eyepatch on and fundraise. It really is remarkable how much these two ladies have done for the community.”

Can you tell me about the clothing drive?

“I am older now. When I began volunteering, I would lug around fifty-pound bags of ham, turkey, rice and beans for the holiday food drives. Since I can’t quite do that the same, it became apparent a volunteer shift was needed.

Thankfully, I am still a member of the PCMA (Professional Convention Management Association) and have been a part of their service committee for several years. When Covid-19 hit, we decided to donate coats, hats, scarves, and gloves. Thing’s people would need. I have a fun-size car, and when you let that back seat down, we can fit lots of goodies back there.”

What is your hope for the future of SSCOH?

“Well, change can be challenging, and at this point I am sixty-six years old making new decisions on how the next part of my life will be spent. St. Martin’s has been a part of my journey since the early 80’s and I want to see the work that Sister Therese and Sister Connie put in succeed.”