PEÑITAS, Texas – Hector Flores has been a single dad for the past three years, officially. He lives in a tiny, trailer-like home that he slowly assembled by himself in an attempt to give his four children a safe place to live.
Unofficially, he’s been a single dad for seven or eight years. His ex-wife would leave to go back to Mexico without telling him where she was or when she was coming back. She was into “bad things” according to Flores and was not the mother she needed to be to Hector Jr., 13, Rene, 9, Sandy, 6, and Tania, 5.
Growing up as an orphan himself, Flores wants security and stability for his children. He remembers what it was like to have parents who weren’t around and he desperately wants a better life for them.
Flores knew his then-wife was not going to provide that kind of atmosphere. She accused him of abuse and threatened to blackmail him. They were involved in a lengthy CPS battle for several months until the judge finally granted Flores full custody.
Raising four children on his own is hard but not being able to work because the youngest wasn’t school-aged made it even harder. He did odd jobs when he could but struggled to make ends meet.
Flores heard about Buckner from neighbors in his community. It took him a long time to muster up the courage to ask for help, but when he did, he found it immediately.
He caught Ricardo Brambila, director of the Buckner Family Hope Center in Peñitas, one day in the parking lot at the end of the day. Flores explained his situation and asked if Buckner could help him. Brambila talked to him about being a single dad, the classes offered at the Hope Center and volunteer opportunities.
“When Hector approached me, he was scruffy, unshaven and tired,” Brambila said. “I could tell he was desperate. It’s so rare for a man to come forward and admit that he needs help, especially in Hispanic cultures. We could see that he was determined to help his children.”
The following day, Flores went to the market at the Hope Center. At first, Brambila didn’t recognize him. He had shaved and cleaned himself up, wore clean clothes and held his head high.
“I came to life,” Flores said. “I felt more youthful, when Ricardo said ‘Hey, you have changed a lot, you shaved, you came back with a changed mind and I hardly recognized you.’ When you go for help, because Buckner brings shoes and clothes and many things, you start thinking, those are new things, they are not little things; they are big things, incredible things, the things Buckner does.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Flores will start fatherhood classes and a job readiness program at the Family Hope Center at the end of June. The Buckner editorial staff will be following the Flores family through their transformation with the Family Hope Center in Peñitas, Texas.
Story and photography by Chelsea White