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Hidalgo County Commissioners Court approves key feasibility study for commuter rail system envisioned by Sen. Hinojosa, Rep. Martínez

Magdalena Díaz Tellez, deputy consul at the Mexican Consulate in McAllen, and Hidalgo County Judge  René A. Ramírez on Wednesday, September 15, presided over the unveiling of a plaque in the downtown square in Edinburg that helped mark Mexico’s 200th anniversary of its declaration of independence from Spain. On September 16, 1810, Catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla declared Mexican independence, which helped ignite what would become a war that did not end until 1821. Hidalgo County bears the namesake of the Catholic priest, who was captured and executed by Spanish forces. A bust of the hero priest is located in the downtown square, which is owned by the county to help handle parking demands for visitors doing business at the nearby county courthouse.

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Congressman Ruben Hinojosa, D-Mercedes (featured first on right), on Wednesday, September 15,  presented Arturo Sarukhan, the Mexican Ambassador to the United States, with a congressional resolution commemorating the important dates in Mexican history in honor of Mexico’s Bicentennial. “As a Mexican-American, I am very proud of my heritage and culture” said Hinojosa. “My parents never forgot where they came from and taught all 11 of their children to cherish our history and our ties to Mexico." Hinojosa made the presentation on behalf of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. He joined Congresswoman Lucile Roybal-Allard, D-California, in making the formal introduction of the resolution to Congress. “We have and always will be associated with our neighbor to the south and although we are facing new challenges along our border, we must never forget how much our two countries need each other to flourish,” said Hinojosa.

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Namaste Valley Magazine will be hosting a seminar on domestic violence and self-defense for women on Tuesday, September 28, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce offices, located at 3313 N. McColl Road in McAllen. Tony Torres of Torres Martial Arts will also demonstrate two self-defense techniques that all women should know. "’The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and the cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people,’" said Martin Luther King, Jr. Domestic violence robs you of your hopes and your identity," noted Lana de Leon of Namaste Valley Magazine. “We encourage ladies to attend and take a step at being safer.” An Avon Reese Witherspoon bracelet will be given away as a door prize. The bracelet helped raise $4 million nationally in 2009 to  help  reducing domestic violence. Additional door prizes will be given away from Avon in honor of Avon’s Speak Out Against Domestic Violence campaign. Call to register at the RGV Hispanic Chamber at 928-0060 because seating is limited. Featured, from left:  Lana De León, Tony Torres and Stephanie Ramírez, who is an intern with the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

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The Texas Secretary of State on Wednesday, September 8, approved a request by the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors to change its name to the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. "We intend to offer our services in all four counties and represent the area as a region in Washington, DC and Austin” said Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, RGV Hispanic Chamber Pres/CEO. "We want to be able to state that we represent the largest group of Hispanic and small business owners in the country." The business organization was initially chartered in 1997 as the RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, but in February 2001, its leaders changed the group’s name to the McAllen Hispanic Chamber.  With the growth of the business community in deep South Texas, the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber will continue focusing on key constituencies and issues, including small business, economic development, women, cultural events, health, and international and local governmental affairs. Officials with the RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce featured here are, seated, from left: Roxanna Godínez, Vice Chair of Membership and Adelita Muñoz, Vice Chair of Education. Standing, from left, are:  Ronnie Bernal, Vice Chair of Small Business and Economic Development; Celina González, Events Committee; Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, president and CEO; Hari Namboodiri, Advisory Board; and Brent Smith, treasurer.

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The University of Texas-Pan American at Starr County has a permanent building to call its own. On Wednesday, September 8, UTPA officials were joined by local and state dignitaries, as well as representatives from its new neighbor, South Texas College (STC), in dedicating the 17,391-square-foot facility located on Farm-to-Market Road 3167 in Rio Grande City. "Having a local university is sometimes taken for granted in communities because they’ve been there for generations, but they bring opportunities, they bring growth and they bring prosperity to the local communities," said Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City. "This facility, working closely with STC, will do the same for our area. This facility will enhance the ability of UTPA to touch the lives for more students right here in the Valley." Featured, during the ribbon cutting, from left: Dr. Ana María Rodríguez, UTPA Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs; Rose Benavidez, South Texas College Board of Trustees member; Eloy Vera, Starr County Judge; Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo; Dr. Robert S. Nelsen, UTPA President; Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City; Rubén Sáenz, administrator of the South Texas College Starr County campus; and Dr. Alma Pérez, director of The University of Texas-Pan American at Starr County. See story later in this posting.

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A $1 million gift from VAMOS (Valley Alliance of Mentors for Opportunities & Scholarships) that will be matched dollar-for-dollar by The University of Texas -Pan American Foundation is a boon to the university in its efforts to help more and more students succeed, said UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen. Sonia Falcón, VAMOS president, and several members of the board convened on the UTPA campus on Monday, August 30 to present a $1 million check to Nelsen, who accepted on behalf of the UTPA Foundation Board of Trustees.The $2 million from VAMOS and the UTPA Foundation will fund the VAMOS/UTPA Endowed Scholarship program exclusively for Hidalgo, Cameron and Starr county students who enter the university as freshmen. The scholarships are then renewable for up to four years as long as the VAMOS/UTPA Scholars meet the eligibility criteria. Featured, seated, from left: Alonzo Cantú, chairman emeritus of VAMOS and vice chair of the UTPA Foundation board, Sonia Falcón, VAMOS president, and Dr. Robert S. Nelsen, UTPA president. Standing, from left: Johnny Oliva, VAMOS vice president; Rodrigo Reyna, VAMOS treasurer; Maritza Rodríguez, executive director of VAMOS; Olga López, VAMOS board member; and Paul R. Rodríguez, VAMOS board member.

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Women’s Business Center empowering residents with knowledge, contacts, and vision to succeed

In the United States, there are more than 10 million businesses — with 50 percent or more of those firms owned by women – that employ 13 million people and generate nearly $2 trillion in annual revenues, according to the Center for Women’s Business Research in Washington, D.C. In South Texas, the Women’s Business Center (WBC) – headquartered on the third floor of the Wells Fargo Bank, 2852 W. Trenton Road, on the corner of Trenton and McColl roads in Edinburg – is playing a major role in helping ensure that Rio Grande Valley residents are also part of that growing national trend. “The Women’s Business Center is focused on providing services to area women who want to learn more about how to start or expand their companies,” said María “Charo” Mann, the WBC’s chief executive officer. “We feature, free-of-charge, a dedicated staff which can help guide people from all walks of life to their goals. Plus, we offer seminars, presentations, and other special events – often at no charge  – that provide South Texans with direct contact to other professionals who are experts in what it takes to start and expand a successful business.” The local Women’s Business Center has launched an Internet website at http://www.wbc-rgv.org to provide more information to South Texans, or may also be contacted at 618-2828. See lead story later in this posting.

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In today’s world where tons of trash is discarded daily, Edwards Abstract and Title Co. has taken a proactive step to protect the environment and promote recycling in Edinburg. They are among of handful of test sites within the Edinburg business community working with the Edinburg Recycling and Education Center to promote efforts to recycle without the fear of contamination, and at the same time reducing waste to preserve natural resources. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average office worker in the U.S. uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper each year, equaling to four million tons of copy paper. Recycling one ton of paper saves enough energy to power the average American home for six months, saves 7,000 gallons of water, 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by one metric ton of carbon equivalent. The City of Edinburg Recycling Center staff delivered the Clearstream containers to Edwards Abstract and Title Co. branch office located at 3111 W. Freddy González Drive. Featured from left: Mark Peña; Armando Mayorga, Edinburg Recycling Center; Vinnie García; Janie Chapa, Edinburg Recycling Center; Dolly Villarreal; Nancy Lemke; Nora Cano; Susie Mercado; Diana Kaufold; Angela García; and Libby Luis. See story later in this posting.

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The 2008 winners of the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s 2nd Annual Medical Awards Banquet, held on Saturday, November 15, at the Embassy Suites in McAllen, included two Edinburg physicians: Dr. Ben Garza, a family practice doctor, and Dr. Carlos Manrique, an ophthalmologist. The keynote speaker for the event was Dr. Filiberto Rodríguez, the first heart surgeon in the Valley. Rodríguez spoke on the positive changes of the medical care in the Valley going back to 1983, when he first arrived. Now, there are so many specialized doctors in the area that residents don’t have to go out of the Valley to seek medical attention or surgery. The event was sponsored by Aetna Insurance, New York Life/Armando Brennan, Manrique Custom Vision Center, Texas HealthSpring, BVAA Compass, Apex, South Texas Health System, IKON and Humana.  Entries were submitted for judging to a committee of medical professionals in Austin. In addition to the two local doctors, other health professionals were recognized for their contributions. From left: Gilda Romero, Hospital Administrator of the McAllen Heart Hospital, Hospital of the Year; Hari Namboodiri, Administrator of Las Palmas Health Care Center, Nursing Home of the Year; Dr. Ben Garza, General Physician of the Year; Jean Calvert of South Texas Behavioral Center, Nurse of the Year; Rose Ramírez, MHCC Vice Chair of Health Issues; Dr. Carlos Manrique of Manrique Custom Vision Center, Specialty Physician of the Year, and Orlando Velásquez, Physician Assistant with Dr. Enrique Griego as Physician Assistant of the Year.

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South Texas Nonprofit Summit continues mission to help bring resources to Valley

Dr. Roland Arriola, Ph.D., (featured at the podium), president of the Texas Valley Communities Foundation in Edinburg, praised the growing role of nonprofit organizations in the Valley for the key role they will continue to play in helping thousands of South Texas residents. Arriola made his remarks during the opening on Wednesday, October 15, of the South Texas Nonprofit Summit, held at Texas State Technical College in Harlingen. Texas Valley Communities Foundation, headquartered in Edinburg, is helping spearhead efforts, such as the summit, to help area nonprofit organizations improve their chances of landing millions of dollars for the region.  “We are going to be seeing a lot more activity in the non-profit sector. The crucial element in any community is what we call ‘civil society’ – that’s what differentiates us from totalitarian states and dictatorships,” he said. In the end, the power of human compassion will always rise to any challenge, he suggested. “We have people who get involved, whether it is in their church or clubs or other organizations, and they do it as volunteers.  That’s what gives us our democratic values,” Arriola said. “We take that for granted, but actually it is so important to our structure as a people.” Featured with Arriola, from left, are Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, Will Ripley, news anchor for KRGV-TV Channel 5, and César Maldonado, the new president of TSTC in Harlingen. See story later in this posting.

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In commemoration and recognition of the 100-year anniversary of the arrival of Hidalgo County’s court records and subsequent founding of the county seat in present-day Edinburg, Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, on Saturday, October 18, dedicated and planted a seedling from “Treaty Oak,” one of the country’s most historic trees, in the Hidalgo County Courthouse Square. The tree is a southern live oak grown from an acorn hand-selected from the historic Treaty Oak in Austin. Treaty Oak is believed to be more than 500 years old and is the lone survivor of the “Council Oaks” a grove of 14 trees that served as a revered meeting place for Apache and Comanche tribes of Central Texas. Featured during the dedication, from left, are: Ed Kuprel; Charlene Kuprel; Mark Peña; Michelle Peña; Esteban Peña; Sofía Montero-Aguilar; Anna Peña; Juliette Peña; Harlan Bentzinger; and Aaron Peña. See story later in this posting.

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Rey Anzaldúa, featured standing, a South Texas College business computer systems instructor, ain’t no dummy, but he writes for them. His bestselling new book (#1 in the Forensic Category on Amazon.com), Computer Forensics for Dummies, hit the shelves in October 2008 and is helping consumers sleuth their own digital trails. “People underestimate the amount of digital information they leave behind on digital devices and throughout the Internet during the course of their lives,” said Anzaldúa. “Computer forensics gives people the ability to retrieve data and literally piece together their lives and, sometimes, highlight their mistakes. The book will help you understand your digital footprints and how you can take steps to protect your privacy.” Anzaldúa, who has earned undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of Texas-Pan American, is shown here at STC assisting student Sergio Rodríguez.  See story later in this posting.

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The McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce was awarded the “2008 National Medium Hispanic Chamber of the Year Award” at this year’s annual United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Convention in Sacramento, California in September. The MHCC also won the Regional III award in August. “We are fortunate to have hard working directors, staff and committees who are abreast on the issues that concern our chamber members. The workshops and events that the MHCC promotes focus on key issues that concern business, education, legislation, health, women’s issues, etc.” said Cynthia Moya Sakulenzki, MHCC Pres/CEO.  “Our partnership with the Small Business Administration, the University of Texas Pan American HUB Program, the UTPA Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and the Women’s Business Center makes it easier for us to accomplish our Program of Work that focuses on business and women’s issues. We owe a lot of our success to our partnerships.” For more information on how to join or become active in the MHCC, call 928-0060. Featured with the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce National and Regional Awards are, from left: Diana González, Vice Chair of Education; Hari Namboodiri, Chair Elect; Sakulenzki; and Rose Ramírez, Vice Chair of Health Issues.

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Dozens of area leaders receive education on how to apply for $45 million in grants

State and local leaders met in Edinburg on Wednesday, August 27, as part of a two-hour session sponsored by the Texas Valley Communities Foundation to help area nonprofit groups apply for $45 million in AmeriCorps grants that will be awarded in Texas during the next three years. Featured, from left: Dr. Roland S. Arriola, Ph.D., president of Texas Valley Communities Foundation; Rosa Moreno-Mahoney, Associate Director of Service and Volunteerism for the One Star Foundation; Dr. Beverly Ashley-Fridie, Ph.D., a gubernatorial appointee from Edinburg who serves on the board of directors for the One Star Foundation; and Courtney Suhrs, Senior Strategic Communications Specialist for the One Star Foundation. “One Star Foundation is looking for partners to invest an anticipated $45 million in grant funding to support programs for the educational success of Texas’ youth over a three year period through AmeriCorps funding,” said Arriola. “One Star will partner with organizations that focus on quality early childhood education, school-readiness programs, improving literacy rates, increasing the obtainment of high school equivalencies, increasing grade level achievement, and increasing post-secondary attendance and completion.”  See story later in this posting.

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Congressman Rubén Hinojosa was the special speaker on Thursday, August 21 for the legislative luncheon hosted by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce’s Public Affairs Committee, led by Ramiro Garza, executive director for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation. Hinojosa talked about recent legislative issues, including education priorities, that will emphasize financial literacy, encourage financial partners in student loan programs, increasing need-based grant aid through Pell grants, and other measures. Sponsors for the event were Rio Valley Realty, and Edwards Abstract and Title Co.  Featured, back row, from left: Johnny Rodríguez; Hayden Prater; Flo Prater; Jared Prater; Elva Jackson Garza; Marty Martin, and Imelda.  Front row, from left: Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg; Mayor Joe Ochoa;Hinojosa; Byron J. Lewis; and Maggie Kent.

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The Edinburg Volunteer Fire Department will collaborate with the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, and the Dustin Michael Sekula Memorial Library in celebrating Edinburg’s Centennial on Monday, October 6, at the Edinburg Municipal Park. As part of its participating, the fire department will host National Fire Department Week, and provide – for free – live entertainment, music, dancers, a karate show and demo, fire safety, cokes and hot dogs, as well  ice cream, courtesy of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce,  and Edinburg’s biggest birthday cake, courtesy of the Dustin Michael Sekula Memorial Library.  The event will be from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., with a Fire Prevention/Caravan/Parade to kick off the celebration at 5:30 p.m.  The fire department will also work in partnership with the Museum of South Texas History, on Sunday, October 5, and kick off the week with “Museum Day”.  Residents will be welcomed to visit the Museum of South Texas History on McIntyre and Closner, and then walk one block west to the Edinburg Volunteer Fire Department Museum located on McIntyre and 10th street.  Both museums will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with free admission. Featured, from left, are: Fire Marshal Richard Drewery; Centennial Chair Evana Vleck; Library Director Letty Leija; Lucy Robinson; Fire Chief Shawn M. Snyder; Fire Inspector John R. Ovalle; and Assistant Fire Marshal Omar Garza.

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Dust off those boots and sharpen your casino skills as the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has scheduled their 2nd annual “Back to School Casino and Dance Scholarship Fundraiser” for Saturday, September 6, at The Tower Club, located in the Chase Tower, 200 South 10th Street in McAllen. The event is from 7 p.m. to midnight, with Country Western band Crossfire performing, food and refreshments, and a Casino with Black Jack tables, Craps, Roulette and Poker.  Local merchants are also providing gifts and certificates for the silent auction. MHCC’s Education Committee schedules several fundraisers during the year to help raise funds for scholarships.  Sponsorships for the Back to School Casino and Dance are: Title $5,000, High Roller $3,000, Dealer $2,000, Bookie $1,000 and Casino Table $300.  Reserved Tables are $750 for a table of 10 with individual tickets $50. For more information, to inquire on sponsorships and tickets call the McAllen Hispanic Chamber at 928-0060. Featured, sitting: Diana Gonzáles, Vice Chair of Education. Standing, from left: Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, MHCC President/CEO; Hari Namboodiri, Chair-elect, and Verónica Vela, Vice Chair of Women’s Issues.

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