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.
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 Decade, The 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'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 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 Paisano, El MaÃ±ana
"On Thursday evening, King spoke to over 100 adults who are either participating in the Valley Interfaith GED program or waiting to do so. The house meeting was held at St. John the Baptist's in San Juan. Speaking in Spanish, King praised those participating in the GED program and spoke about his vision for scaling up what Valley Interfaith has started....
....asked if the GED en EspaÃ±ol program could be scaled up to match the obvious demand, King had no doubts. 'I have no doubt at all. We will find a way to do it.'"
King Plans to Scale Up Valley Interfaith Efforts, Rio Grande Guardian
In civic academies on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Valley Interfaith leaders learned that there were almost no Spanish GED classes or testing sites in the County of Hidalgo and a lack of classes to prepare. This led some to travel hours to Brownsville â€“ the only available site in the Rio Grande Valley.
Leaders worked with the McAllen Independent School System and St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church to expand Spanish language GED preparation classes, and with South Texas College to begin Spanish GED testing in Hidalgo County. Today, more than 60 students are enrolled.
Valley Interfaith Plans to Expand GED En Espanol Program, Rio Grande Guardian
"Hundreds of people gathered Tuesday on the front steps of the Capitol to rally in support of Medicaid expansion....Willie Bennett, along with 45 other members of the Dallas Area Interfaith, turned up for the march that snaked down Congress Avenue and up to the Capitol. Bennett said more than 3,000 individuals and 38 institutions had signed up in favor of Medicaid expansion."
"Anderson and her 66-year-old mother, Martha Anderson, were among about 60 Tarrant County residents who gathered at the St. Andrews United Methodist Church in Fort Worth ... for the 200-mile bus trip to Austin. The trip was organized by the Allied Communities of Tarrant (ACT)" in coordination with the Network of Texas Organizations, including Austin Interfaith, The Border Organization, EPISO, Border Interfaith, TMO, WIN, WTOS, Valley Interfaith and COPS / Metro Alliance.
Protesters March on Texas Capitol for Expanded Medicaid, Star Telegram
Hundreds March to Capitol to Show Support for Medicaid Expansion, Dallas Morning News
"...Valley Interfaith members were at Hidalgo County Commissioners Court to urge commissioners to pass a resolution in support of Adult Medicaid. In a news release, Valley Interfaith said it urges other counties in the Valley to stand also in support. The Rev. Javier Leyva, a Valley Interfaith leader, pointed out that expanding Medicaid would bring over $400 million in Medicaid funds to Hidalgo County and nearly $670 million to the Valley overall."
Hidalgo County Passes Resolution in Support of Medicaid Expansion, Rio Grande Guardian
"Valley Interfaith leader Rosalie Tristan gave two personal healthcare stories to highlight the need for expanding Medicaid. Tristan...spoke of her 55-year-old brother, David Contreras, a husband and father of two. He has a tumor on the back of his head the size of a melon. He has been told he has to come up with $10,000 in order to see a doctor. He does not have $10,000.
He has also been told he cannot go to the emergency room of his local hospital until the body tissue bursts. He earns too much to qualify for Medicaid...."
Tristan Offers Personal Story to Highlight Need for Medicaid Expansion, Rio Grande Guardian
"Valley Interfaith held its first ever accountability session in Pueblo del Palmas, north of Penitas, on Thursday evening. Over 50 colonia residents attended to ask questions of the two candidates running for Texas House District 35, Oscar Longoria and Gus Ruiz. Valley Interfaith leaders said they intend to build civic engagement in the community."