Customer Spotlight: Kassie

Author: Town Square

February 14, 2020

We see Kassie almost every day. Kassie lives in Orange City with her husband Alex and three kids Charlea, Oliver, & Luca. Some days she orders through our mobile ordering, pops in to say hi, and moves on with her day. Other days she lingers, and we get to hear about the work she is doing.

Kassie says her favorite thing about coming to Town Square (apart from the delicious coffee and food) is “the sense of community. It’s a place where I always feel welcome and where I can connect with others and with the staff about multiple subjects.” 

These conversations and connections are our favorite part of this job. We love getting to know our customers. Our hope is that sharing spotlights on some of those customers might help you meet them too! Hear about what’s going on in our community, and start sharing your story with us!

Kassie is a HEAL Trauma Therapy Specialist. She works with victims of crime, providing free mobile trauma therapy services. Since she is the only Spanish-speaker on her team, a large portion of her caseload consists of immigrants from Central America and Mexico. Recently she shared with us how deep the need for resources has become for her clients and how we can participate in her work with her.

Check out the full interview below, but first, we’d like to call you to action. If you can spare cash, or have some gift cards (grocery stores or Walmart) that you’d like to share, we want to challenge you to pitch in. The work Kassie does can feel so much lighter when there is a whole community contributing their resources. We have an envelope set aside for Kassie at the shop. 

Stop by and drop off whatever you can. We will pass it along to Kassie–WEEKLY. Perhaps this means when you go buy groceries for your family, that you also pick up a small gift card. Having a consistent flow will help Kassie continue to provide care to her clients while we help assist her clients with the resources they need.

Here’s the full interview:

Who are you? Who is your family? Where are you from?

 My name is Kassie Carpio. I am a Christ-follower that is an introverted extrovert, enneagram 2w1, and a bilingual, nerdy, research-loving social worker. I was born in Orange City and was basically raised here for most of my life. I live in Orange City with my husband Alex, and my three children, Charlea, Oliver, and Luca.  

What do you do in our community?  

My official title is HEAL Trauma Therapy Specialist. I work with victims of crime, providing free mobile trauma therapy services under funding from the Victims of Crime Act or VOCA. VOCA is not taxpayer-funded but instead funded through fines and penalties paid by those committing crimes on the federal level. Since I am the only Spanish-speaker on my team, a large portion of my caseload consists of immigrants from Central America and Mexico. 

What do you think most of us don’t know, see, or understand about the community you serve?  

I could hold a week-long training on this very question! 🙂 First and foremost is that being a victim of crime entails someone intentionally hurting someone else. That, alone, has a great impact on mental health and general well-being. For the immigrant population I work with, most are in legal processes with immigration. It bothers me to hear so many talk poorly about our immigrant neighbors, saying that they are “illegals.” Filing for asylum and filing for a U visa for being a crime victim are LEGAL processes with many rules and regulations that go along with them. 

One of these deals with who does and who doesn’t get a work permit. After filing for asylum, people are required to wait at least 6 months to get a work permit. 

The U visa doesn’t allow for a work permit during the wait at all. Another common misconception is that they apply for government benefits or live off of them. This is also untrue unless a person is a US Citizen, or they have been a permanent resident for over 10 years.  

This makes for a large financial hardship for individuals and their families–being unable to work and being unable to get other support.  

I have seen it on many occasions where babies have gone without formula and are instead given watered-down formula or oatmeal water made from tablets boiled in water, or families have gone a day or so without eating. The number of people sleeping on the floor is also surprising–including sweet new mamas sleeping on the floor with newborns after having a c-section.  

These are things that you would think would be unspeakable in our well-off corner of the state, but I see them fairly regularly.  

Something else that most people don’t know/see/understand about the new wave of immigrants (coming from Central America, especially) is that the stories that most people carry are heavy–stories of unimaginable violence, brutal homicides, routine kidnappings, and horrors you might only see in movies.  

It’s suffocating to carry that heaviness.  

Not only are people having to adjust to leaving their homes to have safety, but they carry a weight of significant trauma that has an impact on every aspect of their life. Moving here is hard enough without having to learn a new language and adjust (fun fact: most of our Guatemalan population here are already bilingual! English is the third language they are learning!). 

Racism, prejudice, and microaggressions are very real things. Please read about them, work on them, and verbally call it out when you see it. Please give people grace and love. 

What are some of the most significant needs of people who do your job?  

For starters, there aren’t a lot of people who do the job I do as a result of language barriers. In addition, my trauma therapy program is free and provides care coordination–something that most therapists aren’t able to do given the structures of their programs and agencies.  

We need more Spanish-speaking clinicians and in-home workers to help support this growing population.  

I would also say there is a great need for extra support from the communities to help support the families in our care. 

Other in-home providers working with the same population have also commented on how we do not have enough resources. This forces us to either try and get creative on where we get resources from (like by asking you!) or people simply go without. 

What are some of the most significant needs of your clients?  

Financial needs are great, as I noted above. 

People need money for food and hygiene items. Food boxes are great to fill tummies, but in a population that has high rates of diabetes, food boxes tend to be carb-filled. I have seen the health difficulties in clients as a result. 

Diapers are also a big need. 

Another large need is for immigration lawyers. Most of them around this area aren’t accepting asylum applicants. 

Justice for Our Neighbors, a wonderful organization that helps with immigration processes, isn’t taking asylum applicants. The financial strain of paying $1500 for a retainer, plus a monthly fee, is nearly impossible for most. Transportation and language barriers tend to be large needs as well.

How can the rest of the community support the work you are doing? In the short term and in the long term?  

Assisting with tangible needs is very helpful (through providing cash (that I use to purchase gift cards), gift cards, or other items).  

It is so helpful when I can give someone a gift card to buy food, clothes, and diapers instead of me having to track down a food donation and a diaper donation when there is an immediate need. 

It also boosts their self-esteem by being able to pick out their own food or to pick out new socks for their child. 

The Serving Siouxland Facebook page has also been helpful to my team at filling needs, as have different community groups.  

Our team’s main job is trauma therapy. I can’t help people process trauma if their bellies are empty– it’s the basis of Maslow’s hierarchy.  

Another way that people can help our program specifically, is by volunteering.  

We hold mini-retreats twice a year for those we work with. If you want to help by making bars or lunch for the retreat or create care packages for us to send home with the people we serve, that would be wonderful! We love connecting with those in our community.  

As for the long-term, one thing that comes to mind is to talk to your federal legislators about the VOCA grant in and of itself.  

There were some funding cuts this last grant cycle that reduced our service area from 19 to 9 counties. That reduced the amount of people we could serve and the amount of staff we were able to have. This also had a big impact on other victim’s service agencies in our state. At the federal level, Congress has been dipping into the VOCA fund, which has made the funding not secure for the next fiscal year. 

It’s also of top priority for people to love their neighbors–all of them.  

Get involved in your communities and be willing to learn from the new populations moving to this area–they have so much to offer and have a rich, cultural heritage. Building relationships can be messy and hard work, but it is so very rewarding!

On February 14th, we celebrate Valentine’s Day, which is a day associated with love. One of the stories told about Saint Valentine is that he was killed for aiding persecuted Christians. Aiding folks experiencing injustice is what you do every day. I am curious what you could share about why you find it important to love our neighbors on the margins, to love folks who are experiencing injustice.

As a Christian, I believe it’s one of the things that God has placed on my heart–to not only show love to those around me but to love and work alongside those experiencing injustice.  

It’s my job to hold space for people to share their stories and for them to learn that there are safe and trustworthy people. 

I also feel like it is important, on a macro level, to let people know how broken the immigration system is, and how it was set up to be a broken system. For people experiencing injustice, it is simply exhausting to carry that alone–especially when a lot of the situations are literally life and death. 

I heard a quote about how choirs can hold on to a note for seemingly forever because the individuals each take turns breathing. That’s what we need–more voices to help those experiencing injustice to be able to sustain the messages they want people to hear. 

I want people to feel empowered, accepted, and safer.  

Additionally, it’s important to love people “on the margins” or experiencing injustice, because they are, simply put, human beings. They aren’t the “other.” They are my family. They are my friends. They are my coworkers. They are my neighbors. They aren’t just people “in need.” People have so much to offer!  

Show love. 

Show grace. Listen. Make new connections. Sing with one voice. That is what really enriches our human experience.