Buckner International celebrated the completion of 130 home builds for families over the past 15 years in the Rio Grande Valley through the Buckner Healthy Housing program in Penitas, Texas, one of the 500 colonias along the Texas-Mexico Border. Wow! What an amazing milestone for vulnerable children and families. Buckner has carried out its mission since beginning as Buckner Orphans Home in Dallas in 1879. We have served in the Rio Grande Valley since 1971 when we opened a foster group home in collaboration with First Baptist Church of Brownsville. We organize our work with children and families across three pillars:
Today, we have expanded our ministry in the Rio Grande Valley to include community-based foster care and adoption, prevention and early intervention services, like Family and Youth Success (FAYS), family strengthening programs, like the Buckner Family Hope Center® in Penitas and now in Donna, and our Missions ministry focused on Buckner Healthy Housing.
On average it takes a family living in the colonias 15 years to build a home to live in. Yet, Buckner can get one built in six months with $45,000 with the help of churches, government agencies, businesses, and mission groups like the Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) of Texas, augmented by sweat equity of the family themselves.
Our Missions team, led by Chris Cato, works with Jorge Rodriguez, Director of the Buckner Family Hope Center at Penitas and local families once family coaching is completed and families qualify for a home-build project.
Families who qualify for a home earn their way toward home ownership by completing family coaching through the Buckner Family Hope Center and taking a home ownership class and other economic development classes. On June 6, 2023, we celebrated these families and our supporters with a celebration of National Homeownership Month in Penitas, Texas.
Part of the celebration included an announcement by Jillian Salerno, Texas State Director of the USDA of a $300,000 grant to support the Buckner Healthy Housing Program to continue providing this service.
Ana Garcia and Larissa Sanchez, representing U.S. Senator John’s Cornyn’s office, were present to celebrate the event, as well as Mr. Terry Palacios, Hidalgo County District Attorney, and his wife Hope. The LIFT (Leadership in Forestry Training based at the University of New Mexico) team, and representatives of Edward D. Jones Company, who contributed were also on hand to celebrate these families.
Our Buckner RGV team, led by Cris Cuevas, Monica Salinas, Jorge Rodriguez, and their staff, did an amazing job of celebrating this event. We enjoyed a ceremony led by Diego Silva that included an outstanding meal, fantastic Mariachi music, and comments by Buckner International board chair, Dr. Julio Guarneri, who serves as lead pastor of Calvary Baptist Church and president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
The local ABC station, KGRV, Telemundo, and Patch.com carried this story of collaboration between the U.S government, local churches, donors, volunteers, and Buckner staff to serve vulnerable children and families. We can help protect more children, strengthen families, and transform generations when we work together. I could see it in the eyes and faces of many families that evening. This is what “bringing the Kingdom near” looks like.