Sherri Ornelas has the heart of a volunteer.
But for most of the 10 years Ornelas has lived in Brownwood, finding time “to get involved” was tough. Being a mother, wife and working full time filled the calendar to capacity.
One of Ornelas’ strong suits, however, is to find a way. A job change and opportunity afforded that.
Two weeks ago Ornelas became the executive director for The Ark, the shelter for victims of domestic violence, a position that gives her the time, opportunity and place to be involved in an important cause.
Most recently Ornelas has been the financial aid director for Texas State Technical College in Brownwood, and most of her life career has been in banking or financial-type positions.
“I was enjoying my job at TSTC,” Ornelas said. “I just felt this was where I needed to be.”
She joins, she said, “a phenomenal team” of people whose outreach “is so important and, unfortunately, necessary. They have a heart for what they do.”
This last year, The Ark has sheltered 90 adults, 137 children and had outreach involvement with another 189 adults and 106 children.
Ornelas’ job — mainly — is to oversee operations. She will serve as a liaison to the community to educate about domestic violence, consult with law enforcement about legal issues, and, always, to continue fund-raising for the center.
“October is domestic violence awareness month,” Ornelas said. “Unfortunately, we cannot ever be ‘not aware.’
“We want people to know that this shelter is here and available. We have resident and nonresident outreach, not just in Brown, but for Coleman and Comanche counties as well. Our services are available to those who need them. Our phones are answered 24-seven and there is always someone on site who can help.”
In addition to its “phenomenal staff,” Ornelas complimented the “incredible board” which includes Jason Nicholas, chairman; Troy Carroll, vice chairman; JoAnn Snow, secretary; Esmeralda Riojas, treasurer; John Propst; Ron Watson; and Billy Works. The Ark is a Brown County United Way agency.
The Ark executive director’s job entails setting goals for the shelter’s abilities and services. It requires visionary thinking, and especially strategic planning, Ornelas said.
Her first few days on the job had provided a few challenges, such as a pipe break under the floor in the main office, and a roof leak.
“An inconvenience, certainly, but we’ve been very fortunate,” Ornelas said. “Everything’s getting fixed and getting done and the people fixing the problems are donating their services and time.
“That kind of help makes you feel good about this community.”
Ornelas had lived most of her life in small communities near Bryan/College Station. Ten years ago, she married Vince Ornelas, whose home town was in Brownwood, and who is the financial center manager of Citibank in Brownwood. At the time of their marriage, Sherri’s two daughters were in high school.
Now, the girls are grown and gone, and Ornelas has a 10-month old grandson.
“We’re doting grandparents, and we manage to see the baby fairly often,” she said. “But I have time, here, that I wouldn’t have had even five years ago, and I see the opportunity, which I’m glad for.”