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Community Engagement awarded $1.2 million under American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
By Melissa Vasquez
956/381-2741
Posted: 10/08/2009
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Helping grassroots and nonprofit organizations in Hidalgo and Starr County improve their services will be the sole purpose of a new $1.2 million grant received by The University of Texas-Pan American Division of Community Engagement.


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UTPA was one of 84 organizations awarded grants from a $46 million pool under a new U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) program, the Strengthening Communities Fund (SCF), which was created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The goal of the grant is to improve the ability of nonprofit organizations to create jobs and drive economic improvement through job training and retention and access to state and federal benefits.

“One of the things this institution is suppose to deliver in addition to academics and research is service to the community – the three legs of the stool of higher education – and this epitomizes the service delivery mission of UT Pan American,” said James R. Langabeer, vice president for the Division of Business Affairs and acting vice president for Community Engagement.

Comprised of two programs – the State, Local and Tribal Government Capacity Building Program and the Nonprofit Capacity Building Program – the SCF awarded the one-time, two-year grant to UTPA’s Southwest Border Nonprofit Resource Center (SBNRC) under the Division of Community Engagement, which provides a wide array of services to area nonprofit organizations, for its SBNRC Nonprofit Capacity Building Initiative.

The Nonprofit Capacity Building Program, which UTPA was classified in, funds intermediary agencies, which work with community organizations to enhance their economic recovery activities.

Helping secure the grant for UTPA was Jessica Salinas, executive director for Community and Economic Development and principal investigator, Michael Uhrbrock, associate director of Economic Development, and Cristina Trevino, special projects coordinator.

“This is one of President (Barack) Obama’s major initiatives. He really believes in social responsibility and that is why a lot of money is being given to grassroots organizations,” Salinas said. “These funds are to help organizations build capacity and make them better sustaining and have them better fit to deliver their services to the community.”

Salinas said the grant will provide the 10-year-old SBNRC with tangible resources to deliver their services to the nonprofit community, which will provide technical assistance, professional workshops, board development, computer literacy and equipment and other capacity-building support to organizations that qualify for the funds.

To receive funding or assistance, interested organizations will have to apply with the SBNRC. Salinas is expecting to kick off the application process in spring 2010 after careful planning and development of the application with SCF to ensure all federal and state criteria are met she said.

Congressman Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX), who supported the funding, applauded UTPA for its efforts in helping boost the South Texas economy. Hinojosa said through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, nonprofit programs will be better able to help people in need.

“UTPA has had from the start, a dedicated commitment to its community,” Hinojosa said. “UTPA’s tremendous educational achievements joined with their expanding plans for the future of education in the Rio Grande Valley and beyond, are a tribute to their understanding of what is needed for the people. This federal funding will go a long way to help those in need.”

To learn more about SBNRC, visit http://ce.utpa.edu/sbnrc or call 956/381-3361.