LIVE OAK — A recently opened gas and convenience store is offering a safe haven to runaways and at-risk teens.
QuikTrip debuted in early October at 7501 N. Loop 1604 East, and serves as a designated Safe Place for troubled teenagers through a collaboration with Roy Maas Youth Alternatives in San Antonio.
“This partnership allows our employees to give back to those in the communities in which we work and live,” said Mike Thornbrugh, a spokesman for the Oklahoma-based QuikTrip Corp., also known as QT. “The minute we open those doors we’re ready to help people in any way we can.”
QuikTrip provides another link in the chain to help kids stay safe, said Charles “Chuck” Paul, outreach specialist and Safe Place coordinator at Roy Maas.
“Through our partnership with QuikTrip, we hope to provide an opportunity to get more youth off the street and help youth who are currently being exploited,” Paul said.
Founded in 1958 in Tulsa, QuikTrip branched into the Texas market in 1999 and has nearly 150 stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, a spokeswoman said. The company has 21 other San Antonio-area sites in development; one already opened in Leon Valley and a second is coming to Kirby.
The partnership to assist teens is a community initiative under Safe Place, a national-outreach and prevention program in which businesses and organizations provide sanctuaries for young people in need of immediate help and safety.
QuikTrip has been a member of the Safe Place network since 1989. Company officials said they look forward to working with Roy Maas — a regional crisis center for ages 5 to the early 20s offering protection from cruelty, abuse and neglect.
Youth advocates said QuikTrip is a good refuge because it’s open 24/7. Upon entering the store, a person seeking safety alerts an employee and asks for help.
QuikTrip staff are trained whom to contact for assistance. In this case, Roy Maas will come by and take the troubled individual to Centro Seguro, an emergency-shelter affiliate.
While waiting for transport, the QuikTrip worker makes the youth feel at home, provides free food and drink, and talks to him or her.
Once at the center, the young person gets checked in, is assigned a case manager and an advocate, receives counseling, a meal, clothing and toiletries.
According to Paul, last year the center assisted 260 young people; 40 were victims of sex trafficking.
“They have no money and no way to protect themselves,” Paul said of the victims, who he added are often lured into unsafe situations by internet predators and recruiters on the street looking for sex slaves.
The majority of those passing through Centro Seguro, a 24-hour drop-in facility for kids 11 to 17, are runaways from sexual abuse, child abuse, bullying and domestic violence, counselors said.
Roy Maas’ services, which include transitional living, family counseling and skills-building programs, mesh perfectly with QuikTrip’s mission, Thornbrugh said.
The relationship comes just as Roy Maas prepares to open a 21-day facility called La Porta, Spanish for doorway, set up with 16 beds.
“We really spend a lot of time and research looking into who to partner with in this program,” Thornbrugh said. “We really try to take our time to find the right agency that is trained to handle issues. Roy Maas appears to be really good at that so we’re pleased we could partner with them.”
Thornbrugh said thousands of kids per year receive assistance when they arrive at one of the 750-plus QuikTrip stores nationwide; all shops are affixed with a yellow Safe Place emblem posted on the outside.
“We’re not counselors or therapists, but we are smart enough to know if somebody’s in trouble and asking for help, to help them until expert help arrives and guide them to the right place,” Thornbrugh said.
He added, “We’re really good listeners.”
With the Live Oak store open less than two months, neither Thornbrugh nor Paul is familiar with anyone asking for aid yet.
QuikTrip in Live Oak is part of the Safe Place network for ages 5 through 24 who need help and somewhere to go. The store is partnering with Roy Maas Youth Alternatives in San Antonio. Photo by Collette Orquiz