This is one of a series of stories about the 15 nonprofit agencies that receive money from The Gazette/El Pomar Foundation Empty Stocking campaign that runs through the holidays.

Vonzette Brown took a 16-hour bus ride from Texas to Colorado Springs to escape a bad relationship. She knew her sisters lived in the area, but she wasn’t sure exactly where they were. She needed to leave her home, though, and chose the Springs.

Brown started visiting Catholic Charities for lunches, and the agency helped her with not only food, but finding her spiritual connection in life, jobs, housing, and her sisters — who she says she will never lose again.

Brown said she couldn’t have made it without Catholic Charities.

“Every last one of them,” she said. “They were so helpful with anything.”

Brown has had some criminal troubles in the past, which made it difficult to find an apartment, but Catholic Charities stood by her.

“They opened their doors,” she said.

She said that this kind of help never comes from people who don’t know you — but it came from Catholic Charities.

Brown landed a couple of jobs. She walks to work at Bruegger’s Bagels for a 4:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. shift, and then heads to the Antler’s Hilton in downtown Colorado Springs to work until 10 p.m.

Brown credits Catholic Charities for so much of what she has.

“They’re like family,” she said. “I’m stronger now because of them.”