Case manager Cristina Anguiano and Captain Lisa Smith vow to continue serving the Mesquite area with help for families in need for as long as they can. Photo by Stephanie Frehner.

Being a parent isn’t easy and whether you have an absolute angel or a child that challenges you daily, extra tools and support to help you do the best job you can as a parent are always a good idea.

The Salvation Army Mesquite has historically been the agency to help Mesquite parents in need of the extra tools obtain them but with the relatively new regime, short staffing and a ton of other social needs to tend to, the availability of those parenting tools has fallen to the wayside.

With other projects and programs on their plate the parenting meetings got put on the back burner and not without punishment. The Salvation Army has unfortunately lost the grant money for that program but Major Lisa Smith hasn’t lost her hope. Major Smith said, “Now that we have the staff and the additional resources we’re going to go for it whether we have the grants or not, even if I have to ask for private donations, I’m not going to give up helping those who may need this type of help or any other for that matter.”

The Major is refocusing her attention and securing the future of the program for Mesquite by asking for help from the experts, Mesquite Behavioral Health Center and more specifically Caseworker Kimberly Gilbert.

Gilbert has many years’ experience working with family issues on all levels from being an Adult Parole/Probation Officer to working as a Caseworker for the Department of Health and Human Services and many positions in between. She is also a parent herself and wouldn’t dream of telling another parent that they are doing something wrong but in today’s world, she says, “Everyone, even me, could use a little extra help in some way and that’s what I’m here to offer; help, some information, an empathetic ear, and a lot of support.”

Gilbert says that she, Major Smith and Mesquite Municipal Judge Ryan Toone met several times to address some of the subjects that would be offered in the new 12-week group that the SA and MBHC have teamed up to create. The outline was set by the three but Gilbert says ultimately it will be the group that decides the direction of information that’s discussed in the meetings.

The SA and MBHC also work with the courts to offer parenting information to court ordered individuals or families but anyone is welcome to join the group.

Right now, the group is comprised completely of parents who face the issue of raising a “Tween-ager”, a child between the ages of 10-13. Issues such as childhood development, that they thought they would address just don’t apply. Gilbert says, “In raising a tween-ager, the parents have already been there and beyond the developmental stage, it’s not as important as other issues they want or need help with so we tailor the group to discuss what is important to them.”

Gilbert has completely taken on the task of facilitating the group as the Major and other staff have decided to sit in the background and learn from Gilbert so they can feel completely comfortable moving ahead with future groups in which they can facilitate and offer the same, consistent information that Gilbert is offering this first group.

Both Smith and Gilbert urge parents who need help to put aside stigmas, nobody is there to judge or call anyone a bad parent, they just want to help those in need find new ways to cope with the different challenges they face as parents today. Gilbert says, “I’m not here to teach anyone how to be a parent, we all struggle, even me, it’s just the more information you’re armed with, the more likely you’ll be to find ways to be successful in meeting those challenges and we have the resources to gather lots of helpful information.”

Life adjustments like having adult children and grandchildren move back in create new issues for some of Mesquite’s residents. Raising children today is very different than it was 30 years ago, from learning to language and technology, everything is worlds apart; the group is there to help those in that situation and all others. Gilbert says that sharing information, no matter what the subject, is the key to success in almost anything.

If you find yourself in a little need of some extra parenting tools, Parenting Information and Issues Classes are held at the Salvation Army offices, 355 W. Mesquite Blvd. on Thursdays from 6-8:30 p.m. For more information on this and other programs contact the Salvation Army at 702-345-5116.