After decades in the corporate world, Jean Dreyer decided it was time to give back to the community. By 2010, Dreyer felt called to serve the homeless of Cy-Fair and launched Cy-Fair Helping Hands.

Dreyer had served as the director of Cy-Fair Helping Hands since launching the organization, and she retired in March. Janet Ryan, the former director of development at Cypress Assistance Ministries, has stepped in as the new executive director of Cy-Fair Helping Hands. Dreyer said she will continue supporting the nonprofit as a volunteer moving forward.

This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.

How do you feel about retiring as the director of Cy-Fair Helping Hands?

It’s bittersweet because it is my passion to work with the homeless, and I will continue to work with them as long as God will allow me. My retirement is because my husband is in poor health and needs me to care for him. Plus, we had the opportunity to add an executive director who had lots of experience, and so it does seem like the right time to retire. But I’m not really retired; I will never be retired. I’m just not the kind to sit around in a rocking chair.

What motivates you to serve the homeless?

When you see one that has made progress and even if it’s not off the streets, but they’ve made progress—perhaps they’ve gotten a job, and they’re beginning to get some self-confidence, and you just see it, a change in them. And then we kind of specialize in families with children for helping them get off the streets. When you have a family that makes it, that’s so rewarding just to see the joy and the kids relaxed instead of on edge. And their behavior gets better; their schoolwork gets better; then they have a real shot at success that they would not have had otherwise.

What will you miss from this role?

Well, it’s not so much the directing part—actually, that part is work. The part I am passionate about is working with the people. And I’ll miss seeing our clients on a regular basis. And I’ll miss seeing their progress. I will miss the interactions with our clients and our volunteers. We have fantastic volunteers; you can’t find better volunteers.

What are some common misconceptions about homelessness?

One of the hardest things is educating our community that they see maybe a man with a long beard and scraggly, dirty clothes on the street corner, and that’s their picture of homelessness. But that’s not the true picture of homelessness. Yes, that person is homeless, but in Cy-Fair we have so many homeless families that you never see; the community never sees them. They might see them in the parking lot of Walmart and wonder why their car is so cluttered, but they may not even see them at all.

What else would you like the community to know about your clients?

If the community could just be aware of how many homeless families we have right here in [Cy-Fair], I just don’t think they could believe it. We know that there’s a lot of homeless children that are not registered because the parents are afraid that [Child Protective Services] will get involved and take their children away. They don’t want their child to be labeled as homeless and then possibly be mistreated at school. So there’s a lot of reasons that we have homeless students that aren’t registered. We try to educate our clients that the school district is a wonderful place to get assistance and that they’re not going to label your child as homeless.

Cy-Fair Helping Hands, 9606 Kirkton Drive, Houston. 281-858-1222.

Hours: 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (food pantry open Mon. and Thu.; homeless services available Tue. and Wed.)