Charity thrives under 'temporary' leader
When Joan Christiansen became executive director of the Cypress-based Cypress Assistance Ministries, it was supposed to be just a temporary position. Christiansen had begun volunteering at CAM through a connection with her church, Christ the Redeemer Catholic Church in Houston.
Two months into her volunteer time, the CAM executive director at the time fell ill and had to take a leave of absence. Again, it was supposed to be just temporary. But “temporary” turned into “permanent” pretty quickly, and Christiansen is in her 23rd year as executive director.
When asked to point to her proudest achievements in those 23 years, Christiansen is quick to point to the monumental growth CAM has experienced during her tenure. “When we started, we had one office, with a shelf filled with foodstuff. That was the CAM Food Pantry, and that was all we had,” she said recently. Fast-forward to today, and Cypress Assistance Ministries has grown to fill an entire strip mall, with additional office space across the street.
Also under Christiansen’s direction, CAM has expanded its offerings from the original food pantry -- which today has grown to occupy the site of a former restaurant -- to include educational opportunities to assist with employment and a thrift shop. “Cypress Assistance Ministries is a faith-based organization that serves individuals and families in financial crisis, those on the brink of homelessness, the elderly, the unemployed and anyone who needs hope for a better future. Our goal is to restore our neighbors, regardless of religious or ethnic background, to self sufficiency,” said Christiansen.
When Christiansen married her husband Darrell, she had three children by a previous marriage, and he had two. They added a sixth to that brood, and today they are the proud grandparents of 12 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. And speaking of children, what better way to treat mom -- and support a great cause at the same time -- than by attending the Mother’s Day Brisket Sale, sponsored by the Rotary Club of Cypress-Fairbanks. The Rotary Club of Cypress-Fairbanks is hosting a Mother’s Day Brisket Sale on May 12, 2012, to benefit Cypress Assistance Ministries’ New Mothers Fund. For a $50 donation, participants will receive a fully cooked brisket (approximately 7 lbs.) prepared, seasoned and smoked by the cooks at Carl’s Bar-B-Que, including a pint of Carl’s barbecue sauce. For more information, contact Ray Young at firstname.lastname@example.org or 713-582-7564.
Andrew Spencer is a freelance writer and the author of “Tower of Thieves: Inside AIG's Corporate Culture of Greed.”
Name: Joan Christiansen
Profession: Executive director of Cypress Assistance Ministries
Community Connection: Cypress resident who aids the needy
Fast Fact: The grandmother of 12, according to her husband, "will do anything -- ANYTHING -- for her grandchildren!"
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