CHUD’s Laredo office earns TDHS Community
Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service
The Texas Department of Human Services (TDHS) recently presented
a group of volunteer social workers from the Laredo Regional Office
of the Texas A&M College of Architecture’s Center for Housing and
Urban Development (CHUD)
with the 2003 Community Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service.
The award honored CHUD volunteers for demonstrating extraordinary
initiative and originality in supporting the state’s Colonias
Managed by CHUD, the program offers assistance to the residents
of impoverished border communities, or colonias. These underdeveloped,
unincorporated communities usually lack one or more major physical
infrastructure elements, such as running water, sewer systems, paved
roads, electricity, safe and sanitary housing and storm drainage.
In Texas alone, there are more than 1,500 colonias, with
nearly 500,000 residents. Those numbers are expected to nearly double
by 2010, according to CHUD officials.
“All of us in the Center for Housing and Urban Development, and
in the College of Architecture, join in celebrating and congratulating
the staff of the Laredo Regional Office of CHUD for this well-deserved
recognition,” said Robert Segner, CHUD’s interim director. “Their
outstanding work is certainly emblematic of the dedicated efforts
of our center employees and partners, in behalf of the Texas colonias
“I was surprised and very honored,” said Oscar Munoz, the director of the CHUD Central Rio Grande Region. “It is very heartwarming to see a group of people being recognized for doing good things.”
Colonias outreach workers are trained by the TDHS staff to
mentor colonias residents who have recently started new jobs. The
volunteers periodically check on their clients, assisting them with
skill development and adjusting to the workplace environment. The
outreach workers have mentored approximately 500 clients in the
five years the program has been in existence.
In addition to the mentoring program, the volunteers assist the
South Texas Food Bank, sorting and bagging food donations twice
a week. In return for their work, the food bank donates 50-pound
bags of food to colonias residents at CHUD’s regional community
centers. These centers facilitate community activities and house
meeting rooms, classrooms, libraries, medical clinics and playgrounds.
Munoz and his staff at the Laredo office have also developed the
“Colonia Student of the Month” program, through which the high schools
recognize outstanding students from the colonias. Additionally,
universities and junior colleges have established over $25,000 in
scholarships for colonias students. In 2004, the Colonias
Program partnered with the University of Texas Health Science Center
to provide information on health careers to students.
“What distinguished the Webb County Colonias Program was the innovative ways they volunteered and partnered with the food bank, other service providers and area school districts,” said Gloria Jackson, a volunteer coordinator at the Laredo DHS office.
The 2003 Community Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service was presented to Munoz and volunteers from CHUD’s Laredo Regional Office at an April 13, 2004 ceremony at the TDHS office in Austin.
“This is great positive recognition for us,” Munoz added. “This gives our office a sense of accomplishment that what we are doing is being recognized by, not only the people who get the services, but others who watch and have seen what we do.”