As someone who has been in the position of the needy and less fortunate people of Palestine, area native Tracey Perez feels she is adjusting well to her new role as executive director of Caring People of Palestine (CPOP).

Perez, already serving for the past four years as head of the government-funded help organization Community Services Inc., took on the additional role at CPOP in November.

“For several years Community Services and CPOP have shared office space here in Palestine,” Perez explained. “When CPOP’s former director left, they asked me to take over as executive director.”

Founded and funded 11 years ago by a group of local churches and individuals, CPOP is a not-for-profit organization that assists locals with paying bills and other immediate needs they might have.

“It allows people in need to go to a single location instead of going from church to church for help with bills,” Perez explained. “CPOP also receives funding from the Anderson County commissioners’ court.”

Community Services is a government-funded community action organization that offers help with medications, bills and emergency home repair to people in Anderson County.

“While Community Services funding is released only once a year to qualified applicants,” Perez explained, “CPOP gives as-needed emergency assistance throughout the year.”

Perez, a now-married former single mother, vividly remembers the financial struggles she had trying to raise her three children on a single income and uses those experiences as her motivation to help others in similar situations.

“What gives me the most satisfaction is helping the people in crisis that come in to the office,” she said. “So many of them are on fixed incomes and sometimes the help we give them decides whether they stay in their homes or live in a nursing home.

“I think it takes someone who has been there to have compassion for them,” she said. “I know what it is like to not have $5 at the end of the week.”

Before working at Community Services, Perez was a finance manager at a manufactured home company once located in Palestine. In addition to her three sons, Perez and her husband Ricky recently added a fourth son to the family.

“My husband is in the military and is training to get his RN license at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio,” she said. “The kids and I usually go visit him on the weekends.”

CPOP, located at 109 Old Brushy Creek Rd. next to Gleason’s Computing in Palestine, is always in need of monthly or one-time support from individuals and organizations in the community.

Donations may be sent by mail to Caring People of Palestine, P.O. Box 4078, Palestine, Texas 75802. For more information about CPOP or Community Services Inc. call 903-729-4750 or 903-729-7994. Office hours are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.

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Mary Rainwater may be reached via e-mail at mrainwater@palestineherald.com

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