UTPA's Stronger Together Initiative awards over $400,000 in grants to 23 RGV nonprofits
Posted: 11/05/2010
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Twenty-three nonprofit organizations in Hidalgo and Starr Counties will be able to better serve their clients, thanks to federal grants they were awarded Nov. 1 by The University of Texas-Pan American's Southwest Border Nonprofit Resource Center (SBNRC).

Directors, board members and volunteers of nonprofit organizations receiving funding were joined by UTPA President Dr. Robert S. Nelsen, U.S. Congressman Rubén Hinojosa (TX-15), and State Representative Veronica Gonzales at a gathering at UTPA to announce and celebrate the awards.

Pictured with one of the checks presented by SBNRC's Stronger Together Initiative (STI) Nov. 1 to 23 area nonprofit organizations are left to right U.S. Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, State Representative Veronica Gonzales, UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen, Dr. Hector F. Adalpe, president/CEO of Abriendo Puertas Parental Communication Initiative, Inc. (grant recipient); and STI director Lucila Lagace.
"The awards today are addressing broad economic needs, the needs of the (Rio Grande) Valley," Nelsen said. "This University reaches out and touches people."

The funds, in the form of competitive grants ranging from $10,000 to $20,000, are part of $46 million in funding awarded to 84 grantees nationwide by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under a new program called the Strengthening Communities Fund, created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Locally, the SBNRC's Stronger Together Initiative (STI) oversees the funds. The UTPA grant was one of only two awarded in Texas and the recipient of the largest grant - $982,111, $600,000 of which was made available to nonprofit organizations who apply and meet the criteria. The remaining funds will allow STI trainers to be provide no-cost training and technical assistance to groups considered for non-competitive participation in the program.

Both Hinojosa and Lucila Lagace, STI director, talked about the important economic impact of nonprofit organizations on the community and nationwide. Lagace pointed out that the number of nonprofit organizations in the United States has doubled in the past 15 years to 2 million, they receive $300 billion in donations annually and generate $1.1 trillion nationally each year.

"Together we (nonprofits) are dynamic, passionate, powerful agents of change. Together we change lives, we contribute to the economy, we address social needs, we drive systemic change and we revitalize our community. Together we collaborate, we innovate, we empower, and we serve," Lagace said.

Hinojosa described nonprofit organizations as the backbone of the family and communities in Texas.

"I look forward to seeing these 23 organizations flourish and strengthen the community together," he said.

This first round of funded grants totaled $431,790.99. The awards are designed to increase the capacity building of the organizations, Lagace said.

"The focus of the recovery and reinvestment funding is to build the capacity of nonprofit organizations, whether secular or faith-based, to address the broad economic recovery issues present in their communities," Lagace said. "Those issues may include helping low-income individuals secure and retain employment, earn higher wages, obtain better quality jobs, or gain greater access to state and federal benefits and tax benefits, including ARRA benefits."

Capacity building activities, which are critical to increase an organization's long term viability by increasing the effectiveness of its programs and operations, Lagace explained, include organizational, program and leadership development, collaboration and community engagement and the evaluation of effectiveness.

On hand to accept a grant of $19,798 for her organization was Myra Caridad Garcia, executive director of VIDA (Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement). VIDA's primary mission is to help low-income, unemployed and underemployed Rio Grande Valley residents get the education and training they need to secure high-skilled, high wage jobs.

"These funds are going to make a huge impact," Garcia said. "All the dollars we receive are very focused on the training component of the work that we do. These dollars will be used to increase our capacity from the technology standpoint."

Her organization intends to use its funding to buy laptops for all seven of its career counselors located at five satellite locations and increase the capacity of its servers to provide better access to and maintenance of its database management programs. The funds will also go toward technology training for VIDA's IT personnel, Garcia said.

Other nonprofit organizations receiving grants include the following: Abriendo Puertas Parental Communication Initiative, Inc.; Advocacy Resource Center for Housing; Affordable Homes of South Texas, Inc.; AVANCE, Inc.-Rio Grande Valley; Boys and Girls Club of McAllen; Boys and Girls Club of Pharr; Community Council of the Rio Grande Valley, Inc.; Easter Seals Rio Grande Valley; Edinburg Child Care, Inc.; Holy Family Services Birth Center; Community Hope Projects, Inc.; McAllen Literacy Center, Inc.; One Hand-Una Mano, Inc.; Pharr Literacy Project, Inc.; Rio Grande Valley Diabetes Association; Rio Grande Valley Empowerment Zone Corporation; Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Rio Grande Valley; South Texas Empowerment of Women Center; South Texas Literacy Coalition; Southwest Community Investment Corporation; Starr County Industrial Foundation; and Valley Alliance of Mentors for Opportunities and Scholarships.

As the prime grantee, UTPA is responsible for the sub-granting, monitoring, training and technical assistance to the community nonprofits. UTPA also supplied a 20 percent funding match through staff, facilities and materials. The SBNRC is one of many outreach programs under the Community Engagement unit at the University.

Lagace announced at the event that a second round of competitive funding opened Nov. 1; the deadline for nonprofit organizations to apply is Dec. 3, 2010. For more information, go to the STI website.