Volunteer work inspires RLC student

Carmen Rivero, 28, found a way to use math and science to help the disabled. Rivero has an associate degree in science from Richland and is working toward another in biomedical engineering. She plans to transfer to the University of Texas at Dallas in the future. She found her calling through volunteer work.

“I really want to get into any field that can utilize skills with math and science to really benefit the quality of life for people in general,” Rivero said.

In addition to taking calculus and computer programming classes, Rivero works as a volunteer coordinator with the CARDboard Project, a non-profit organization in partnership with Richland, Amazon, the State Fair of Texas and others.

This semester, Rivero is volunteering with the Cornerstone Kitchen. She’s there from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Thursdays. Next semester she plans to be there two days a week.

Armando Cantu is the executive director of the organization.

“[Cantu] is pretty much teaching people to fish, as opposed to giving them fish,” Rivero said. “A huge demographic we serve is people with disabilities. You’d be surprised how eager they are to work for the State Fair because it really fits in with their limitations on how much income they can bring in.”

Rivero said she found time to volunteer even when she was busy at school.

“Cornerstone Kitchen serves about 300 homeless or at-risk people daily,” Rivero said. “These people don’t have a computer or access to one.

There are computers and help available from Rivero and others to help clients stay in touch with family members, apply for jobs, food or shelter services at the kitchen.

Rivero said Cornerstone offers services to homeless men and women between the ages of mid-30s to 60s, but few children. From, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. seven days a week, volunteers serve lunch.

There are no facilities to spend the night. People can take showers once a week. In addition, there’s a medical clinic. A doctor or a physical assistant comes in once a month to serve the public at the kitchen.

Rivero shared a story about a homeless man named Wendell who drifted into the Cornerstone Kitchen one day and said he needed to find shelter and then disappeared.

Little did he know that his sister, who lives in Georgia, was searching for him to tell him that his mother was in hospice care and wasn’t expected to live much longer. She wanted to see Wendell before she died.

Rivero helped locate Wendell by going to other shelters with his picture and eventually found him.

He was struggling with substance abuse, however, and told her he wanted “to clean up before seeing his mother.”

“Had we not had that connection with her [the sister] that possibility wouldn’t have existed,” Rivero said. “I was just open to just being there for somebody else.”

Later, Rivero found out that Wendell had a degree from DeVry University and was formerly a computer engineer. Richland students with basic computer and internet skills who are interested in volunteering with the Cornerstone Kitchen can email Rivero at volunteer@cardboardproject.org. “It can literally open up someone’s world to a tremendous amount of possibilities,” Rivero said.