Latest News

Valley Interfaith Upsets Pharr Election, Community Wins Big

Las Milpas, TX - A culture of disrespect towards Las Milpas residents had become so pervasive that when Valley Interfaith leaders sought funding for a local library last year, the Mayor declared: " is not a Whataburger where you pull up and give your orders....use the school library." The disrespect extended to leaving streets unpaved in thecolonia over two decades and turning a blind eye to the 4-hour bus commutes of UT-RGV college students as they trudged on foot over a mile to the nearest stop.Rather than let the City's response deter them, leaders used the disdain to fuel a 7-month electoral brawl including a Get Out The Vote strategy that ultimately replaced the Mayor and deposed dismissive officials.

Valley Interfaith leaders Eddie Anaya, Claudia Garcia, Monse Martinez, and Mauro Hernandez launched a campaign to change the power structure in Pharr, starting with meetings held in homes and at churches. Says Anaya, "We knew, with Valley Interfaith, there was only one way to do this."

Leaders moved on from house meetings to Saturday block walking around St. Francis Cabrini Catholic Church to find out whether anything (or anyone) else needed to be added to the campaign. On these walks, leaders found other leaders and more issues. The agenda grew to include the bridge over the canal, increased funding for workforce training program VIDA, better public transport to UT-RGV, accelerated street paving and lending options beyond payday loans.

A youth contingent from St. Francis Cabrini brought 40 parents and community members to confront the Mayor and City Commission. High school student Aaron Anaya outlined the (repeated) demand for a library and recreational center and asked, "Why can't Pharr invest in our young citizens? Is it lack of planning or just lack of will?"

The youth contingent fortified the voter signup effort, signing up more than 500 registered voters after mass in favor of the updated Valley Interfaith agenda and to attend an accountability session. Other youth pushed through a rainy Saturday afternoon using Facebook and cell phone calls to sign up parents and friends of parents. Inspired parents knocked on doors alongside youth and neighborhood businesses lined up to sponsor pizza and other refreshments.

At an accountability session organized by Valley Interfaith, it was standing room only; the organization had invited all city commission and mayoral candidates to respond to their new 6-point agenda. When two of the incumbent candidates failed to show, leaders dug in. With more walks, phone calls and pulpit announcements, leaders turned out an additional 1,000 voters from Las Milpas (south Pharr) for a game changing upset that resulted in a new Mayor and slate of commissioners.

At the first meeting following the election, Valley Interfaith's 6-point agenda showed up on the City Commissioners' meeting agenda, each point passing with overwhelming support. The bridge over the canal is slated for construction in September 2015. The City hired an architect for the library, which the Mayor wants built "how the community wants it." Pharr doubled funding for VIDA from $50 thousand per year to $100 thousand. The Transportation department is now strategizing on whether rapid shuttles or buses would better meet the needs of college students. Street paving has accelerated from a 10-year plan to a 4-year plan and leaders are currently in negotiation with a credit union and bank to develop family-friendly lending programs to help people avoid the scourge of payday loan sharks.

Eddie Anaya knew things had turned around when the new Mayor said: "Valley Interfaith has a machine in place and I want to be re-elected. Let's build this library exactly how the community wants it."

City of Pharr Set to Adopt Valley Interfaith's Initiatives for Las MilpasRio Grande Guardian (05/17/15)

All City Candidates Commit to Valley Interfaith Agenda, Lincoln ParkThe Brownsville Herald (04/26/15)

Pharr Candidates Back Valley Interfaith's AgendaRio Grande Guardian(04/27/15)

Valley Interfaith Hosts Forums Across AreaThe Brownsville Herald (04/24/15)

'Accountability Session' to Feature Commission and Mayor CandidatesThe Brownsville Herald (04/18/15)

Pharr Candidates Commit to Valley Interfaith Agenda One Day Before Voting Starts, The Monitor (04/27/15)

Forum in Pharr to Focus on Las Milpas, But Only Challengers Commit to AttendingThe Monitor (04/27/15)

Valley Interfaith to Host Forum for Pharr Candidates on SundayRio Grande Guardian (04/24/15)

City to Explore Land Options for University, But Commission Does Not Withdraw Lincoln Park from Consideration, The Collegian (04/22/15)

Las Milpas Residents Turn Out for Pharr Project Forum, The Monitor

Valley Interfaith Shakes Up Pharr City Race, Advances Agenda with New Officials

As a result of Valley Interfaith's impact on the recent Pharr city comissioners race, the newly constituted city commission has placed six of the organization's top agenda items on the agenda -- all of which are expected to be approved. At an accountability assembly three weeks prior, leader raised the issue of needed investments in parks, libraries, additional job training, a bridge across a canal to link two neighborhoods, curtailment of predatory lending, street paving and additional bus routes.

The Rio Grande Guardian reports:

"In the recent Pharr City Commission election, Valley Interfaith leaders knew the races were likely to be close. They calculated that if they turned out their supporters and members, particularly in south Pharr, they could impact the election and thus have leverage on which policies get implemented."

The strategy appears to be paying off.

City Commits More Funds to Education-Based Nonprofit, The Monitor

Library, Bridge Over Dangerous Path to Benefit Las Milpas Community, Valley Central

City of Pharr Set to Adopt Valley Interfaith's Initiatives for Las MilpasRio Grande Guardian (05/17/15)

All City Candidates Commit to Valley Interfaith Agenda, Lincoln ParkThe Brownsville Herald (04/26/15)

Pharr Candidates Back Valley Interfaith's AgendaRio Grande Guardian(04/27/15)

Valley Interfaith Hosts Forums Across AreaThe Brownsville Herald (04/24/15)

'Accountability Session' to Feature Commission and Mayor CandidatesThe Brownsville Herald (04/18/15)

Pharr Candidates Commit to Valley Interfaith Agenda One Day Before Voting StartsThe Monitor (04/27/15)

Forum in Pharr to Focus on Las Milpas, But Only Challengers Commit to Attending, The Monitor (04/27/15)

Valley Interfaith to Host Forum for Pharr Candidates on SundayRio Grande Guardian (04/24/15)

City to Explore Land Options for University, But Commission Does Not Withdraw Lincoln Park from Consideration, The Collegian (04/22/15)

Valley Interfaith Celebrates in their (Recently Paved) Streets

When Valley Interfaith leader Monse Martinez (in photo, upper left)

first moved into Las Milpas he noticed the roads were in very bad conditions. Says Martinez: "The potholes were destroying our vehicles. But we started to get organized...talking about it in church, holding house meetings and demanding these roads get fixed."

When the residents got their street paved, they organized a celebration where the potholes used to be.

Said Martinez's pastor Reverend Edouard Atangana: "It is part of the Christian responsibility to participate in the life of the community." Leaders of the Los Ebanos colonia are also pushing for a recreation center and a library. To that end, Father Atangana urged parishioners to stay involved in the process. "We want our people in this part of Pharr, especially, to vote."

Colonia Residents Celebrate After Streets Get RepairedRio Grande Guardian

Celebra Valley Interfaith Pavimentación de las CallesEl Mañana

Valley Interfaith Decries Judge's Injunction, Reminds Immigrants that DACA Remains in Effect

The press conference started with the story of teacher in 2001, invited from Mexico to teach in MacAllen in 2001 -- then disinvited when 9/11 attacks led to dramatic changes in the treatment of immigrants.

Clergy and leaders of Valley Interfaith convened at St. Mary Catholic Church to call on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform, remind undocumented immigrants that the 2012 DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) executive order is still in effect and to urge potential beneficiaries of DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents) to prepare now for the event that the hold on the executive order is lifted.

Coming Out of the ShadowsBrownsville Herald

Faith Leaders Work with Immigrants Amid Hold on Immigration Action, Valley Central

Valley Interfaith Comes Together for Immigration ReformNBC News 23

Coming Out of the Shadows, The Monitor

Valley Interfaith Fights for Chemical Cleanup, Puts Weight Behind New Hospital District

 

At an assembly with officials of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Valley Interfaith leaders argued that the failure to clean up a 33-acre benzene spill is behind the cancer and other illnesses impacting families living in the area. Leader Frank Pena alerted the assembly that while a legal settlement on the spill resulted in payouts, it did not result in needed environmental cleanup.

That same week, Valley Interfaith threw its political weight behind ballot Proposition 1 for the creation of a new hospital district to drawn down additional federal dollars expand and improve care for local residents.

Organizacion Pide Respuestas Ante Contaminacion De Quimico Debajo de ViviendrasUnivision 48

Valley Interfaith Throws Its Weight Behind Hidalgo County Hospital District, Rio Grande Guardian

Local Organizations Announce Support for Hospital District, The Rio Grande Valley Monitor

Valley Interfaith Urges Pharr Officials to Address Concerns of Colonias

Valley Interfaith leader Eddie Anaya, organized a forum in Las Milpas to identify the concerns of colonia residents of Pharr. He brought 20 leaders with him to a city-sponsored forum later that week to relay their priorities: a satellite library on the Southside of Pharr, public transportation, improved police response, and identifying an alternative water supply.

"The most important thing about this is teaching our people to voice their opinion and understand the process," said Anaya.

Las Milpas Residents Turn Out for Pharr Project Forum, The Monitor

Valley Interfaith Examines Benzene Plume Near Church

Valley Interfaith is drawing a connection between stories of cancer-related deaths, three gas stations and a benzene plume moving through a neighborhood blocks from St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church in McAllen. Leaders are in the midst of a research campaign with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), Texas state legislators and County Commissioners to get to the bottom of the benzene plume. Discovery of the toxic gas plume emerged from a listening campaign about the concerns of Rio Grande Valley residents.

Nearly 900 Valley Interfaith Leaders Celebrate 30th Anniversary

Gathering at the Pharr Events Center in the Rio Grande Valley, Valley Interfaith leaders celebrated their 30th anniversary with stories of historic achievements, blessings for recent VIDA graduates, and presentations of strategies for healthcare enrollment, education and comprehensive immigration reform. Veteran leaders like Fr. Alfonso Guevara lauded Valley Interfaith as a 'university of public life' that helps people do 'what politicians can no longer do' -- tapping into local relationships, learning what matters to people and developing people's capacity to achieve extraordinary things through collaboration with others. In photo, leaders bow head in prayer at start of celebration.

Valley Interfaith 'Gave Me the Guidance and Means That I Needed'; Nonprofit Celebrates 30th Anniversary, The Monitor

Valley Interfaith Turns 30, by Fr. Alfonso Guevara, The Monitor

Valley Interfaith to Celebrate its Third DecadeThe Brownsville Herald

Guevara: Valley Interfaith Makes the Politicians Look Good, Rio Grande Guardian

Organizaciones Locales Discuten Temas de Inmigracion e Educacion, Telemundo

Photo Gallery, The Monitor

Valley Interfaith Healthcare Enrollment Meeting Draws 220

Valley Interfaith's healthcare summit in Edinburgh drew 220 leaders from member congregations and schools. The meeting was held in collaboration with three Hidalgo County commissioners and State Representative Sergio Munoz. Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia declared, "I stand with Valley Interfaith in calling for a coordination meeting...to discuss tangible strategies for educating our uninsured population about how they can access the federal marketplace." Leaders are planning a November "'check up' on the new marketplace in the Rio Grande Valley,' Valley Interfaith leader Eddie Anaya told the Guardian.

Judge, Congressman, Valley Interfaith Plan Major ACA Marketplace Meeting, Rio Grande Guardian

Valley Interfaith Launches Spanish GED Program

"Valley Interfaith consists of 25 churches of different creeds, one of eight similar organizations in the state, among a network distributed throughout the US. This organization has created a community program in which non-English speakers can obtain the equivalent of a high school diploma, also known as a GED. 'The idea is for people to be able to take the exam in Spanish,' says Lilia Garcia, a member of Valley Interfaith. 'We prepare them with intensive classes in math, social sciences and natural sciences....'"

Inicia Programa PaisanoEl Mañana