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UTRGV to the rescue Students and faculty help the Good Neighbor Settlement House

Monika Garza 

THE RIDER

Local residents shop for clothes at the Good Neighbor Settlement House’s thrift shop. ANA CAHUICHE/THE RIDER PHOTOS
Local residents shop for clothes at the Good Neighbor Settlement House’s thrift shop. ANA CAHUICHE/THE RIDER

Earlier this year, UTRGV faculty and students sought funding for the Good Neighbor Settlement House agency, which was having financial problems.

The Good Neighbor Settlement House is a nonprofit agency at 1254 E. Tyler St. that serves the homeless community of Brownsville with basic needs such as warm food, showers and a place to sleep.

Last September, social work graduate students Erica Campos and Judith Rodriguez were sent by UTRGV faculty to serve an internship at the agency.

When the director of the Good Neighbor Settlement House died last April, the agency’s board asked Jack White, a UTRGV lecturer in the Social UTRGV to the rescue Work department, to be interim volunteer director at the agency, and he agreed.

During Spring 2016, White said the nonprofit agency started having financial problems, and this is when the UTRGV graduate students and faculty members came up with new donors. The organizations asked for statistics that showed how many people are served by the agency.

“Organizations, like, look at numbers, they want to see the percentage of how many individuals, how many children and how many women benefit from the Good Neighbor Settlement House,” Campos said.

During 2015, 83,000 units of service were offered at the agency. Each unit is one free service, such as one shower or meal.

“What brings tears to my eyes is that, specifically, we asked for funding from the United Way and from the Legacy Foundation but I had never written grants in which somebody gave me twice as much I asked for,” White said. “For United Way, we asked for $30,000 and they were like, ‘Wait a minute. We want to give you $60,000,’ and Legacy, we asked them for $4,000, and they said, ‘We think you need $8,000.’”

White said that without the help from the UTRGV social work graduate students, the agency could never have accomplished what it did.

Although the students admitted that it felt scary the first time being at the Good Neighbor, little by little, they started to build real-life relationships with the homeless community and eventually the homeless were able to open up to the students.

“We are here to help,” Rodriguez said. “We love to help.”

One person who benefits from this agency said she is satisfied with the service it offers.

“The Good Neighbor Settlement House has helped me to get ahead and to pick myself up,” Cynthia Dominguez said. “I was in a bad situation and they helped me. There is nothing I would change from this organization.”

There are many ways in which students can volunteer to help the Good Neighbor Settlement House. White said students studying such majors as culinary arts or education can help the organization.

“There is a lot of need here,” Rodriguez said. “There is medical need, there is people who are undocumented, there is children, basically, people who need assistance,” Rodriguez said.

For more information on volunteering at the Good Neighbor, call 542-2368.

 

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