Proyecto Juan Diego located at 3910 Paredes Line Rd. Brownsville, TX 78526. Pictured are some of the leaders helping the project that were present. All photos by Roberto Hugo Gonzalez. Rendering provided by Roberto Ruiz, AIA.
Project has received essential grants, still needs your help for a one-million-dollar matching grant
By Roberto Hugo Gonzalez
As originally published in Texas Border Business newsprint edition September 2018
Brownsville, Texas – On Thursday, August 16, 2018, the groundbreaking ceremony of Proyecto Juan Diego, a new Community Center took place in Brownsville.
The event has no precedent and shows the hard work that many have done to get to this stage. The two-story 18,996 SF facility will house program spaces and staff offices that will benefit its participants and the local community.
This has taken many years, according to what was said, plans for Proyecto Juan Diego started in 2003.
Sister Phylis Peters, one of the principals of the project, said as she stood at the podium that this time the planning was done differently. To plan for this community center, they surveyed 5000 households asking people what they thought their needs were. “It’s a new beginning,” she said.
People’s response quickly defined the services to be provided by the facility and also solutions to enhance other services in place.
Sister Phylis said, “Health care was their top priority.” She continued, “We started going into the homes and teaching people about health care. While we were doing that, many other needs exposed themselves.”
Sister Phylis Peters, Proyecto Juan Diego in Brownsville and Rene Capistran, President and CEO of Noble Texas Builders.
The groundbreaking ceremony was a momentous occasion, so unique that the treasurer of the Province, Sister Tricia George came from St. Louis. She is also one of the Provincial Councilors of all the Daughters of Charity of theUnited States.
Sister Tricia said, “The fact that we’re here to turn soil on this new building is a testament to 15 years. We talk about now, but it began 15 years ago. We blessed this site and those who brought us to this day.”
The needs of low-income families are multiple, the survey showed three significant targets, where Sister Phylis and her staff are concentrating on proving the proper services to help the families.
She spoke about the Integrated Family Program (IFP), its goal and mission are to educate parents on basic parenting skills, stress management, relationships, nutrition, and finances. These classes teach and empower the families to communicate effectively and strengthen their family bond. Also, the IFP helps children improve their academic performance and develop their non-cognitive skills such as problem-solving and coping techniques which allow them to build self-esteem and resiliency.
The second program of equal importance is the Healthcare for Diabetes & Pre-Diabetes. Sister Phylis said that they help out participants who have already developed diabetes to manage the disease and prevent it from controlling their lives. This program includes nutrition classes, cooking classes, aerobics classes, mother and child competitive aerobics, walking club, one and three mile runs, zumbathon, male support groups, formal diabetes classes, and laboratory testing. It is crucial for the public to know that Proyecto Juan Diego is accredited by the ADEA (American Diabetes Educators Association) and has a master trainer in the D.E.E.P. program.
Their third family service program is the Outreach & Civic Engagement, which offers Preparing for the U.S. Naturalization exam. “We cover everything from civics to the format of the exam, teaching participants their responsibilities to the local community and how to keep it more secure and stable.”
She said, “These classes fill up fast, but most graduates of this program pass the exam and become naturalized citizens of the United States.”
So, in a few words, Proyecto Juan Diego is a blessing for the Brownsville community, especially those in need.
Sister Phylis pointed out that these last years, she made new partnerships. For example, a new partner is The University of Texas from Houston School of Public Health. Also, Methodist Health Ministry and Legacy Foundation from Valley Baptist, that have supported Proyecto Juan Diego in many ways and by providing a one-million-dollar grant towards the project.
It was also announced that Mission & Ministry in St. Louis, one of their organizations, have also given a million dollars. Sister Phylis explained that this donation is also a grant but has to be matched by November of this year.
She emphasized that they have received individual donations, one of them is from the Daughters of Charity with $500,000 besides the cost that it took to purchase the property located at 3910 Paredes Line Rd. Brownsville, TX 78526.
“We are halfway to our goal.” She said, “We still have halfway to go.” She continued, “I’m going to beg each of you to help contribute to last 2.5 million.”
She noted that the grant matching comes first and then a bit more to go. “If you invest in us you invest in our vision. Our vision is to educate, to engage, and to empower low-income families for the future,” she said.
Sister Phylis also said that they will look into Telemedicine. “The University of public health from Houston will help in this endeavor.”
The participation of leaders of the community has also been a blessing. Rene Capistran, president, and CEO of Noble Texas Builders have been involved with the project. During the ceremony he highlighted vital individuals helping in this project as follow: Joe Munguia, City Commissioner in Brownsville; Cameron County Commissioner and soon to be Texas State Representative Alex Dominguez; Cameron County administrator David Garcia; Maricela Cortez, from the office of Congressman Vela; Senator Eddie Lucio; Terry Alarcon, BISD; and David Betancourt, county treasurer.
Capistran added, “You know I’m in the business of building brick and mortar, but there is no building more special than this one.” He continued, “When you understand the mission of Proyecto Juan Diego and the countless amount of families they have helped to progress in Cameron Park and throughout our beautiful city of Brownsville.”
He pointed out that the great leadership of the administration, the volunteers, and everyone that’s involved in the program makes this an honor to be a part of it. “You know there is a quote that I often used, but today it is that much more special. Mother Theresa said, “I can do things that you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.”
He thanked the board of directors for having the vision and said, “Trust me we’re going to be making phone calls because I’m the first one to pledge to support this program, and I’m going to be calling every one of you asking you to help to match the one-million-dollar grant,” he finalized.