Buckner International was the recipient of a $300,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture. The two-year grant will allow Buckner to expand its Healthy Housing program by sustaining operational overhead costs such as staff salaries, office and storage space, and administrative expenses while also ensuring at least 13 new homes are built for families in the Rio Grande Valley.
“We are thankful to USDA for investing in Healthy Housing in the Rio Grande Valley,” said Diego Silva, director of strategic projects at Buckner International. “Throughout our service in the Valley, we meet hundreds of families who need a healthy home. This grant will allow us to help some of these families over the next two years and continue to equip and elevate them. USDA is supporting our goals of strengthening families and transforming generations.”
Special guests and families celebrate receiving grant
The grant was announced June 6 in Peñitas at the Buckner Homeowner Celebration, a special event celebrating National Homeownership Month for many of the families who plugged into programs at Buckner, transformed their lives and received a new home.
Featured speakers included Buckner International President and CEO Albert Reyes, Calvary Baptist Church Lead Pastor Julio Guarneri, USDA Rural Development State Director Lilian Salerno, and USDA Texas Single Family Housing Program Director Allen Lambright. The event included a special video from Senator John Cornyn commending the work of Buckner in the Rio Grande Valley.
The USDA Rural Development Mutual Self-Help Housing Technical Assistance grant is provided to qualified organizations to help them carry out local self-help housing construction projects. Grant recipients supervise groups of very-low to low-income individuals and families as they construct their own homes in rural areas. The group members provide most of the construction labor on each other’s homes, with technical assistance from the organization overseeing the project. These requirements, along with a long history of success in the Rio Grande Valley, made Buckner a qualified recipient for the grant.
New homes are possible because of funding and volunteers
“In honor of home ownership month, we want to recognize our partners who make homeownership attainable to rural Texans,” said Lilian Salerno. “While USDA provides financial assistance, we also need strong partners to make our programs work.”
Buckner Healthy Housing helps families have access to a safe and healthy home, leading to lasting change in the family’s social and emotional well-being. The program includes home builds, healthy homes, bathroom builds and home repair workshops, and seeks to help families move to a healthier lifestyle together while reinforcing self-esteem and improving health and hygiene basics.
“In many cases, it can take 15 or more years for families living in the Texas colonias to build a home on their own,” said Silva. “With the help of Buckner Healthy Housing, this process can be expedited to just a few months.”
Families can become eligible for the Healthy Housing program by participating in classes and more at the Buckner Family Hope Center®. While enrolled, families take classes like financial empowerment, ESL, child and youth development, and spiritual development. Family coaching and counseling services also help elevate families toward self-sufficiency.When a family completes their goals and secures their land, they can apply for Healthy Housing. Buckner then connects churches and groups to come alongside approved families as they construct their homes and add their own sweat equity.
“The work to provide healthy homes to families in the Rio Grande Valley is not finished,” said Silva. “There are many additional costs beyond what the grant covers that go into building each home and we still need churches and donors to walk alongside us to help cover the costs of construction materials and provide volunteer labor and skills.”