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PECOS, MARCH 11, 1988 - One important role that Christianity plays in
life is that of being a catalyst for the growth of good will and
cooperation among people.
Inspite of the negative publicity, bad feelings, and compound
frustrations generated by the relief and rebuilding Are Interfaith, an
ecumenical religious group, continues to fulfill this important role and
provide prompt and effective support to the families struggling to
The Interfaith was organized by Church World Service shortly after the
devastating tornado struck the town on May 22, 1987. The group is made
up of representatives from the area religious denominations: Catholic,
Seventh Day Adventist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Southern Baptist, United
Methodist, Disciples of Christ and Episcopal.
When other agencies were prevented by their guidelines form meeting
important needs, the Interfaith, because of its flexibility, was able to
In heat of the summer, the homeless families were placed in temporary
house trailer and informed the families that they were their property
and could be moved to new homes when built.
The Red Cross made it clear that no rebuilding could begin for their
county or school taxes. The Interfaith, aware that these families were
unable to pay, paid these back taxes and keep the rebuilding moving
One family had a severely injured son who needed treatment in Houston;
the Interfaith made possible several airplane trips so the mother could
be with her son in Houston.
In October, it appeared that a social event function was needed to raise
the morale of the community, to provide entertainment, and to thank all
the volunteers who had worked so hard over the past months. The
Interfaith sponsored a community concert and barbecue which included the
reading of a letter of encouragement from President Ronald Reagan.
In cooperation with Catholic Charities, the Interfaith paid for the
first year home owners insurance on each rebuilt home. During the
process of securing insurance bids, it was discovered that a major
problem is that Saragosa had no fire department. Consequently, the
Interfaith purchased and installed fire extinguishers and smoke
detectors in each new home and trailer, and began brainstorming on ways
to establish a volunteer fire department.
The Interfaith has tried to be farsighted and attuned to grassroot
needs. Since the economy in the area is depressed and employment
opportunities are minimal, the Interfaith is currently working on
developing a cottage industry, a small handicraft enterprise, that could
supplement family income. Another project currently underway is the
providing of shade trees for all the new homes.
While some relief and rebuilding agencies are no longer working at
Saragosa, the Saragosa Are Interfaith remains quietly on the job,
undergirding the rebuilding efforts and working for a positive community
The Interfaith has demonstrated what can be accomplished when different
religious groups work together and act decisively to meet human needs.
If only this kind of goodwill and trust could eventually become the
lasting legacy of the rebuilding of Saragosa.
PECOS, MARCH 17, 1997 - Attorneys this week continued taking depositions
of sheriff's office employees regarding donations for victims of the
County Attorney Scott Johnson said that Deputies Andy Gomez and Ruben
Gonzales and Jesse Baeza, a jail supervisor, testified Wednesday.
Jann Adams, Charles Oats and Susan Spence are among those remaining to
testify, along with Sandra Kelley.
Mrs. Kelley began her testimony two weeks ago, but it is so lengthy that
it had to be continued, according to Texas Rural Legal Aid Attorney
Mrs. Kelley received and disbursed donations to the sheriff's office and
Pecos Jaycees, along with material goods trucked into the devastated
PECOS, MARCH 25, 1988 - Attorneys are nearing the completion of
depositions from county employees and others who handled donations
following the Saragosa tornado.
County attorney Scott Johnson said that Felipe Lopez, Jr. was the only
person questioned Thursday.
Lopez was involved in relief efforts, Johnson said, and he decided to
question him, "based on other testimony that has previously been taken."
"There has been no surprises," Johnsons aid. "I've heard no evidence of
theft of funds donated to Saragosa.
Texas Rural Legal Aid attorneys representing Saragosa citizens said they
have "a couple" more depositions to take, with no definite date set as
They are seeking an explanation of records detailing donations and their
PECOS, MARCH 25, 1988 - The Multi-Purpose Center in Saragosa has been
completed, and a formal dedication ceremony followed by an open house is
planned for Saturday beginning at 1:30 p.m.
Numerous dignitaries from across the state as well as others who helped
contribute to the building of the center will be in attendance, and the
people of Saragosa are to be the special honored guests of the day.
A plaque dedicating the building to the 30 people who lost their lives
in the May 22 tornado will be permanently affixed to the building.
Each room and every facet of the multi-purpose center represents
services that will be provided to the community because of groups and
individuals who cared enough to make it all possible, noted Mary
Mitchell of the Reeves County Community Council.
The 10,072-square foot building itself was erected at a cost of
$290,000, while equipment, furnishings and other additions probably
bring the total close to half a million dollars - none of which are tax
The Meadows Foundation of Dallas provided a $250,000 grant, and another
$40,000 came from the El Paso Community Foundation through a separate
Meadows Foundation grant.
Months of building efforts have paid off, with the center now lacking
only a few furnishings and completion of its playground before the many
programs that will be offered will begin going full-swing, Mrs. Mitchell
The buildings available to all county residents, although the center is
expected to most benefit Saragosans and Balmorheans - from those less
than a year old to the elderly and handicapped.
The brown brick building is in a `U' shape, upside down facing the south
with a courtyard between the two wings.
All landscaping the courtyard and around the center - at a cost of about
$2,500 - was provided by the Fort Worth Fire Department, which has also
made arrangements with Bryan's Nursery of Pecos for maintaining the
trees and bushes.
Beginning with the west wing, residents will be using the large public
room for meetings, meals, elections and educational courses.
Voting in the May 7 school board elections has already been scheduled
there, and atleast two colleges and technical schools are hoping to
start classes that month in job training, GED high school diplomacy
equivalent, and English as a SEcond Language.
The room features a raised stage with a speaker system, hooked up to a
satellite dish in back of the center that is to be used for receiving
The back half or so of the west side of the building is the cafeteria
line, kitchen and pantry to be used for serving congregate meals to the
elderly and for preparing meals to take to shutins.
The kitchen features a steam table and commercial size stove,
refrigerator, freezer, ice maker, deep fryer and other equipment, all
provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, sponsors
of the Head Start program.
The tables and chairs for meetings and congregate meals were furnished
by donations for the rebuilding of the Head Start in Saragosa. The
$17,000 in donations came primarily from other Head Starts across the
country, Mrs. Mitchell said.
The Head Start program has continued in Saragosa in a building near the
ballpark. Before the tornado the program was held in the old Saragosa
schoolhouse, of which only the foundation remains to the east of the
The U.S. post office trailer sits just north of the old school
foundation, and a new office has been reserved for the postal service in
the multi-purpose center.
Other areas in the back of the center building include an office for a
community council worker and a medical clinic with two exam rooms and an
The Permian Basin Regional Planning Commission through the Job Training
Partnership Act is hoping to send at least one Saragosan who may be
interested for training as a Licensed Vocational Nurse.
In the meantime at least, the medical clinic will be served by
professionals with the Texas Department of Health in Pecos, Mrs.
"We're going to be able to have clinics like we've never before been
able to have in southern Reeves County," she said, citing clinics for
pregnant woman, young children and screening for adult problems.
A cooperative day care center, the first of its kind in rural Texas, is
being developed to serve primarily Balmorhea and Saragosa parents. Those
who can pay for the services will do so, while the option is also
available to pay by paying back time in working as a caregiver.
Training of caregivers is continuing through funds provided by Save the
Children, and plans for the workings of the day care should be completed
by May. Depending on available funding for start-up operations, the day
care could open that month, Mrs. Mitchell said.
The day care features a separate nursery for infants and toddlers in
addition to the children's day care room, which takes up about half of
the east wing of the center.
A larger room at the front of the center's east wing will be the
location for the Head Start classes.
Outside and to the east of the center, a large playground area to be
shared by Head Start and day care students is nearing completion. All
equipment for the playground is being provided by the federal D.H.H.S.
Under the entire east wing of the center is a basement storm shelter,
which will be equipped with water towels and pillows.
The Midland Hispanic Chamber of Commerce purchased and installed the
early weather warning system for the center, which is hooked up to the
Pecos Police Department and the national Weather Service. The siren and
hookup cost about $6,000.
Saragosan Tomas Martinez is one of two - the other not yet designated -
who will be contact people should the alarm be sounded or need to be
As far as the center itself, some citizens of Saragosa will be asked to
serve as advisors in its operations, Mrs. Mitchell said.
In the meantime, some Balmorheans and Saragosans have been talking about
possible fundraisers to help finish off and start up the Multi-Purpose
PECOS, MARCH 28, 1988 - People of Saragosa were the honored guests
SAturday at the dedication of the new Multi-Purpose Center there.
The dedication ceremony began at 1:30 p.m. in the large public room of
the center's west wing, followed by an open house that convened in the
storm shelter below the east wing.
Those speaking at the dedication included Santiago Martinez, president
of the Community Council of Reeves County board of directors, Bill
Walters, Texas Baptist Convention Church Building and Support Section,
Stan Burnham, Texas Department of Commerce, Sally R. Lancaster, the
Meadows Foundation, Dodie Livingston Borup, Commissioner of
Administration of Children, Jerry Stover, U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services, State Representative Larry Don Shaw and U.S. Congressman
They all had something positive to say about the future of Saragosa,
which has been steadily rebuilding itself since the May 22 tornado that
killed 30 of its citizens and destroyed the vast majority of its
"While the dedication of the building is in memory of those who lost
their lives," said community council director Mary Mitchell, "The
purpose of the ceremony is to illustrate and emphasize the effort which
has been made to rebuild the town and the shattered lives of those still
A host of dignitaries and contributors to the center were on hand at the
dedication. About 30 state and federal officials were invited, along
with local leaders.
"These are all people who had a special, important role in getting this
building and its furnishings and equipment," Mrs. Mitchell said.
The Multi-Purpose Center is a 10,072 square foot building that was
erected at a cost of $290,000 and furnished at nearly $200,000. All
funds were donated by individuals and organizations, and no tax dollars
were needed for the center.
The Pecos-Barstow-Toyah school district has granted the community
council a 50-year lease for the land on which the center stands.
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