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Flagship newspaper of Freedom Communications, owner of McAllen Monitor, Valley Morning Star, and Brownsville Herald, agrees to pay as much as $42 million in a settlement with newspaper carriers and carriers’ attorneys over employment lawsuit

Edwards Abstract and Title Company, headquartered in Edinburg, was recently recognized as the 2008 Affiliate of the Year by the Greater McAllen Association of Realtors (GMAR) during its Annual Installation Banquet, held at the McAllen Convention Center. More than 300 of the region’s leading real estate professionals attended the Saturday, November 22 banquet and the installation of the officers who will serve their terms during 2009. Roxanne Rydell-González, the outgoing GMAR president, announced the honor, which is bestowed upon a non-realtor member of the organization in appreciation for outstanding service and commitment to the organization during the past year. “The Greater McAllen Association of Realtors shines year after year because of the incredible volunteers and leadership that give of themselves and their time to face the challenges and tasks necessary to carry this great association forward and service buyers and sellers in the real estate industry,” said Rydell-González. Several members of the Edwards team were on hand at the installation banquet and they were honored to receive the award. Featured, seated, from left: Marilyn De Luna, McAllen branch manager; Mary Arce, Weslaco branch manager; Elva Jackson Garza, vice president/marketing manager and Mary Barrientos, Mission branch manager. Standing, from left: Clarissa Basaldúa, escrow officer; Lydia Gámez, examiner; Dick Henry, 2009 GMAR president; Roxanne Rydell-González, 2008 GMAR president; Vickey Terveen, escrow officer; Clay Sánchez, examiner; Norma Cano, escrow officer; Libby Luis, escrow assistant, and Miriam Lozano, escrow officer.

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Santa Claus is shown passing out one of the 24 bicycles donated to students at Robert E. Lee Elementary during a pre-Christmas event celebrating family literacy. Also present was keynote speaker, Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, along with Principal Nelda Gaytán, Eddie Gonzáles, Operations Manager, and Paul Arrendondo, Assistant Manager, of Edinburg’s Academy Sports and Outdoors.

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An American soldier bravely stands at his post during this holiday season, protecting America from the forces of tyranny while bringing closer the dream of freedom to oppressed people throughout the rest of the world. A poem, featured later in this posting, captures the courage and sacrifice of tens of thousands of U.S. military veterans overseas, who have volunteered to put themselves in harm’s way, which ensured a safe Christmas 2008 for millions of Americans here at home.

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Christmas inspires precious memories, divine hope for Dolia González, others who have lost loved ones

Hidalgo County leaders have joined forces recently on several projects of mutual concern, including pushing for environmental planning for the eastern portion of the Hidalgo County loop project and urging President Bush to wave any associated costs local governments incurred during the aftermath of Hurricane Dolly. In this photograph, taken during the December 6 meeting at Mission City Hall of the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority, Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, Hidalgo County Precinct 1 Commissioner Sylvia S. Handy, and Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas, III, successfully encouraged the RMA Board of Directors to speed up plans for the eastern portion of the proposed county roadway loop. See stories on Hurricane Dolly recovery requests and on a successful prescription discount card that recently went into effect in Hidalgo County.

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South Texas College has been selected to participate in the Community Colleges CAN Mentoring Program, which is a national program to link community colleges across the country in unique ways for the betterment and continued pervasiveness of higher education. Through the program, STC will work closely with El Paso Community College to develop an outreach program tying together all higher education institutions and school districts across Hidalgo and Starr counties to address the college readiness needs of all current and future students in the counties. Ultimately, STC hopes to facilitate increased college-going rates, increased college readiness rates, and increased degree attainment rates by creating a seamless system to transition students from high school to college. Featured in this shot, taken during the fall 2008 orientation at STC’s Pecan Campus in McAllen, are high school students from McAllen who are part of the South Texas College McAllen I.S.D. Achieve Early College High School program, one of the many initiatives the college has created with Valley school districts to create a seamless path to college. See story later in this posting.

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“I heard my song while I was watching Fox News the other day,” said Christopher Holloway, South Texas College history instructor. “Who would have known that more than 20 years later it would still be a hit? I think you can say it’s become a Christmas classic!” Holloway, a man of many talents, has not only taught history for more than half a century, but also had a prosperous career in singing and songwriting. A natural vocal talent and composer, he was signed by Playback Records. He wrote several songs, including Man From Galilee, which caught the attention of Christian singer Cristy Lane. Eight years after the song’s birth, Lane released a Christmas CD in 1985 featuring her version of the song, which sold 250,000 copies in the first year. Holloway poses with a record of his songs and the songs of Cristy Lane. See story later in this posting.

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This year will mark the 40th Christmas that Dolia González of Edinburg has spent without her only child, American war hero Freddy González. But instead of sitting alone with her memories, she reaches out and is like a star shining for those around her. That is her sense of decency, honor, and civic duty, says John Flores, author of a book about the Edinburg family. Last February, Dolia González and her son were the center of attention in Edinburg, when Gov. Rick Perry, to her left, came to the three-time All-America City to bestow Texas’ highest honor in memory on her son’s courage in battle. From left, are: Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg; Edinburg City Councilmember Noé Garza (back row); Dolia González; Edinburg City Councilmember Alma Garza (back row); Gov. Perry; and Edinburg school board president Omar Palacios. See lead story later in this posting.

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Gov. Perry to offer $1.5 million economic incentive to help land Verizon Wireless facility for Edinburg

Rep.Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, second from left, offers advice to the Edinburg City Council and top city administrators on Friday, December 5, during a legislative workshop held at City Hall. The preliminary legislative agenda, which has not yet been formally adopted by the city council or the EEDC, was presented to her, Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Rep. Aaron Peña, Jr., D-Edinburg. Strategies dealing with the city airport received top billing at the legislative work session. Edinburg wants the 490-acre facility to be enhanced so it can also protect the public safety while it promotes international trade and commerce. About a dozen legislative initiatives were discussed. Featured, from left, are: Ricardo López-Guerra, chief of staff for Gonzáles; Gonzáles; Hinojosa; Peña, and Orlando Salinas, chief-of-staff for Peña. See story later in this posting.

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It’s the Holiday Season and the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is making plans for their Christmas Luncheon scheduled for Thursday, December 18 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Renaissance Casa de Palmas Hotel.  The luncheon is being sponsored by Armondo Brennan of New York Life/Nautilus Group. The gathering will give new members an opportunity to introduce themselves to the membership. A short presentation will be made by Brennan on his services with New York Life and The Nautilus Group. Everyone dressed in some holiday attire will receive a special holiday gift courtesy of New York Life/Nautilus Group. Door Prizes will also be given away courtesy of the McAllen Hispanic Chamber and New York Life. Tickets to the luncheon are $15. For reservations and/or to purchase your ticket call the MHCC office at 928-0060. Featured, from left, making the final preparations for the luncheon, are: Armondo Brennan and Hazel Caraveo of New York Life/Nautilus Group; Rose Ramírez, Vice Chair of Health Issues for the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, MHCC President and CEO of the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

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Once again, South Texas College’s Business Office has gone above and beyond, this time earning the college accolades from the Government Treasurers’ Organization of Texas. The organization awarded STC its Certificate of Distinction for the college’s investment strategy.

The GTOT conducts an elective Investment Policy Certification Program, which is designed to provide professional guidance in developing an investment policy and to recognize outstanding examples of written investment policies. The program’s Certificate of Distinction is awarded by GTOT to entities that have developed an investment policy which meets established criteria. The certificate is awarded for two years and then may be renewed upon review. STC’s investing team poses with GTOT certificate. Featured, from left, is STC’s investing team: Myriam López, STC senior account; Mary Elizondo, STC comptroller; and Alma Church, STC senior accountant. See story later in this posting.

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Councilmember García, Mayor Ochoa support plan for trailblazing medical conference center by Doctors Hospital at Renaissance

Dr. Blandina “Bambi” Cárdenas, featured first row, second from left, on Thursday, November 20, outlined some of the key measures that she hopes to secure for the University of Texas-Pan American during the upcoming regular session of the Texas Legislature, which convenes on Tuesday, January 13.  Cárdenas, the first female president of UT-Pan American, made her presentation during a legislative luncheon at the ECHO Hotel and Conference Center coordinated by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. She noted that graduates from UT-Pan American who apply to medical school have a higher acceptance rate than students from other Texas universities, a key point that will be used by area state lawmakers, who have pre-filed legislation to build a UT medical school in the Rio Grande Valley. In a related move, Mayor Joe Ochoa, featured to the left of Cárdenas, has pledged the city’s support for plans by Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, which is considering building a cutting-edge medical conference center that would feature world-class medical professionals who would provide unprecedented seminars, including onsite surgeries, in the three-time All-America City. City Councilmember Agustín “Gus” García, Jr. (not included in this portrait) has been a key player in promoting Edinburg’s participation in the discussions about DHR’s medical conference center. “I do not want to identify just yet who the players are, but this project, if brought to fruition and marketed properly, could very well put Edinburg in a national spotlight,” Councilmember García said. “I have been assured by the investor group that with the city’s participation, they would name it the ‘Edinburg Medical Conference Center’.”  See lead story later in this posting.

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In a time of challenging national economic data, positive news was recently announced at the Edwards Abstract and Title Co.’s annual economic outlook symposium. “Jobs are everything to an economy, and Hidalgo County has delivered for more than a decade,” said Ted C. Jones, Ph.D., Senior Vice President and Chief Economist for Stewart Title Guaranty Company. “Hidalgo County and the cities therein have grown jobs at 4.5 times the rate of the U.S. per year, compounded annually for the past 10 years,” added Jones. “In the latest twelve months ending September 6, nine hundred net new additional jobs were created in the local economy.” Another highlight of the forum was the participation of a panel of economic development experts from the cities of McAllen, Edinburg and Weslaco who shared their views regarding the factors that are contributing to the continued commercial and industrial growth of the region. Participating in the economic development panel were, first row, from left:  Dr. Ted C. Jones;  Elva Jackson Garza, Edwards Abstract and Title Co.; Ramiro Garza, executive director, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; Byron Jay Lewis, president of Edwards Abstract and Title Co.; Stewart Morris, Sr. with Stewart Title Guaranty Company. Back row, from left: (back) Stewart Morris, Jr. with Stewart Title Guaranty Company; Keith Patridge, President and CEO, McAllen Economic Development Corporation; Pat Townsend, Jr., President and CEO, Mission Economic Development Authority; and Hernán González, Executive Director of the Weslaco Economic Development Corporation. See story later in this posting.

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Young ladies who are seniors at Edinburg High School were recently addressed by prominent Texans during the Young Women’s Summit, a forum which allows the students to interact with some of the most successful women in their respective fields. The Young Women’s Summit developed from research completed by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) which found that Hispanic girls are the most under- represented group of post-secondary graduates. Featured, from left: Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen; Gloria Cotton Wells; Deann Craft; María Piña; and Jennifer Ruiz, Miss Galaxy International 2009.

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Miss Edinburg 2009 and her counterparts were recently honored by the Edinburg school district for their outstanding efforts in representing the city and school district, and for bringing honor to their respective families. Featured in this portrait during a recent school board public session were, from left: Gilberto Garza, Jr., superintendent of the Edinburg school district; Alexis García, Miss Edinburg 2009; Avery García, Miss Pre-Teen; Anahi García, Little Miss Edinburg; Rachel Tgunberg, Junior Miss Edinburg; and Omar Palacios, president of the Edinburg school board.

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G&C Avanti Trucking LLC in Edinburg is partnering with South Texas College on an experimental project that calls for students in the Precision Manufacturing Technology Program to help fabricate prototypes of several automotive parts that will enable vehicles, such as this GMC 5500 truck, to travel in up to five feet of water. Pictured are (front row, l-r): Chente Aguilar from G&C Avanti Trucking LLC; Leticia Reyes from the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; Mario Reyna, STC division dean of business and technology; Efrain García, Jr.; Efrain García, Sr.; Rodolfo Sánchez from G&C Avanti Trucking LLC; Alberto Díaz from Santos International; and G&C Avanti technician Marcelo Cantú. STC Precision Manufacturing Technology instructor Harold Bernard and PMT students Zeke Sáenz, Erick Vega, Ricardo García and René Vera are pictured on top of truck. See story later in this posting.

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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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