Says Joe Maddon: “The volunteers are the unsung heroes. Without them, none of our efforts occur.” Every month, the Respect 90 Foundation will salute a distinguished volunteer from the communities of Tampa, FL, Chicago, IL, Mesa, AZ, Southern California, or Joe’s Hometown of Hazleton, PA. Respect 90 will present a $1,000 grant to that volunteer’s charity. Should you have someone who is deserving, please let us know.
Cathy Steinman | Casa Teresa (Orange, CA)
After 30-some years in the corporate world where she at times oversaw a staff of 80, Cathy Steinman was ready for a change. I had fabulous job,” she says “I was very involved in corporate America. I met great people and traveled. I just had an overwhelming desire to give back, to do more to get better balance in my life. I wanted more and I wanted to work with children.”
Three decades of unwavering commitment to her employer, a pharmaceutical company, and with no children of her own, it may have seemed like an odd path to take in search of “more.”
Cathy, however, knew exactly what she was doing. She was going home… figuratively to the place of her childhood in Costa Mesa with her parents, six sisters and three brothers in a house where Cathy says, “You learn how to help one another as soon as you can. If you’re three of four years old and you can hold that baby, you hold that baby and change that diaper. If you are tall enough to lift the lid on that washing machine, you can do the laundry. Our parents taught us to work hard and care for one another and care for other people.”
So, while still a dedicated executive, Cathy began searching for the right place to use those life lessons. “I called places and I spoke with someone at Casa Teresa, and it felt like it would be a good fit for me. Also, when my mother passed away, she asked for donations to Casa Teresa in lieu of flowers I didn’t even remember that during my search process. One of my sisters reminded me and I said ‘My goodness you’re right. ‘”
It was perfect choice. Casa Teresa’s mission: To provide pregnant women in crisis a loving home to begin their healing journey; to break cycles: transform women and help families thrive through effective caring and residential programs.
Eleven years and one retirement later and Cathy has never been happier. The feeling is mutual.
“Cathy is an amazing volunteer who has a heart and passion for the women and babies at Casa Teresa,” says Lisa Wood, Casa Teresa’s chief executive officer. “She is always engaging her friends and family. It is people like Cathy, and countless other volunteers, that add a special layer of love and make all the difference!”
Cathy says it’s the mom’s that do the hard work. “It’s an amazing thing to see. I see them work so hard through the unification process with their other children,” she says. “For us it’s about being there and doing something as simple as just loving them and let the moms trust you. Don’t judge them and just accept them exactly as they are at that point in their life. Casa Teresa is so amazing at doing that.
“I don’t have children and I have always said there is a reason God didn’t give me children of my own. Maybe if I had my own, I wouldn’t be there with those moms. And I am so grateful to be there. I tell them ‘Thank you for sharing your baby with me.’ That’s how I feel. It’s how we were brought up. They have trust in us to care for their most precious thing, right?”
Cathy and the other volunteers were unable to attend to the moms for nearly a year due to COVID-19 and greatly missed the interaction. Casa Teresa did find ways for them to stay attached and Cathy was happy to assist remotely before things opened back up again in May.
“I’m so happy to be back for so many reasons,” she says. “On Wednesdays the moms can collect clothes for their babies. It’s more than just ‘Oh I like this, that’s a good outfit.’ The women help each other pick the clothes and we take care of the babies so they can come and pick out the clothes. We hold the babies, and it becomes a community session where we will talk, and the mothers will just be there for one another and we are for them.”
Cathy is indeed a reflection of her humble beginnings. Her father had a paint and wallpaper store in Costa Mesa. “We didn’t have a lot, Cathy recalls. “We were the family the church gave the bags of clothing to sometimes, but my parents prioritized education and caring for each other and others.”
Rick Vaughn | Executive Director, Respect 90 Foundation