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Bishop Raymundo Pena from the El Paso Diocese recently announced that
commitment and said that more than 60 Dioceses throughout the United
States, thousands of Catholics and other concerned citizens have made
.hat commitment possible.
The Diocese of El Paso has budgeted $420,000 for a five-year plan that
will provide trauma and financial counseling, home visitation, emergency
financial assistance, community development and more, Pena said.
In addition, the Diocese through Catholic Charities has promised to
provide and install $102,000 worth of septic tanks for all the homes
that were destroyed and will be rebuilt.
The Diocese has also set aside $512,525 to provide adequate housing for
all residents who lost their homes in the May 22 tornado.
The priorities that have been set in disbursing those funds range from
housing for the homeless, land acquisition and housing for non-land
owners who lost homes, furnishings for homes to be built by the Texas
Department of Community Affairs and the Diocese, and room additions
where needed to homes built with Red Cross funds, the bishop said.
On Saturday, an afternoon has been planned as a "commemorative
thank-you" to the many people who helped with disaster relief, said
Sharon Lippe of the Saragosa-area Interfaith organization.
Interfaith, a division of the Texas Conference of Churches, has worked
with community residents through the Saragosa Foundation to plan an
afternoon of fun and food for those who have donated time, money and
needed items to Saragosa since the May 22 tornado.
The afternoon will kick off with 3:30 p.m. groundbreaking ceremonies of
the new multipurpose community center, to be located near the site of
the old building that was demolished in the tornado.
The center, being funded by the Meadows Foundation of Dallas for the
Reeves County Community Council, will include offices, a medical clinic,
Head Start classrooms, and facilities for a congregate meals program for
the elderly of Saragosa and Balmorhea.
After those groundbreaking ceremonies, Balmorhea-Fort Davis Methodist
Church pastor Larry Wilson will officially dedicate the playground at
the Saragosa ballpark to Reeves County, Mrs. Lippe said.
The playground equipment was purchased through donations by Methodists
all over the country, and was installed by volunteers of all
Following the ballpark dedication, another ceremony will award plaques
to certain officials who contributed to the relief effort.
A barbecue dinner with all the trimmings will be served at 5 p.m. to as
many as 500 people who have been invited to the event.
Reeves County Feeders have donated the beef for the barbecue, and the
Salvation Army has donated the beans. Budweiser donated the cups and
napkins, Mrs. Lippe said.
Saragosa residents are bringing dishes to help say "thank you" to those
who have assisted them.
Balmorhea's Danny Dutchover, who cooked barbecue for workers in the
weeks following the tornado, has volunteered to cook again for the event
Saturday, Mrs. Lippe said.
The area's T. Hooker Band has volunteered its talents for entertainment
that afternoon, she said.
Interfaith, a Balmorhea-Saragosa group of the Texas Conference of
Churches, worked with citizens through the Saragosa Foundation to put on
an afternoon of fun and food recently for the many who have helped with
The groundbreaking for the new Saragosa Multi-Purpose Center kicked off
the festivities, which also included barbecue dinner and live music.
A large plaque giving thanks to "all volunteers" who worked in Saragosa
will be displayed in the center along with other memorabilia when it
opens early next year.
During the festivities on Saturday, Reeves County Judge Bill Pigman read
a letter from President Ronald Reagan encouraging Saragosa in its
Reagan also reportedly began his Saturday morning radio program talking
about Saragosa, Mrs. Lippe said.
Other commemorative plaques were presented by Saragosans to Reeves
County sheriff Raul Florez and commissioner Ismael Dutchover "for going
way beyond what they'd been elected to do" in the wake of the Saragosa
tornado, Mrs. Lippe said.
Both men worked daily in relief efforts for weeks following the
disaster, she said.
"But the people aren't through thanking the many individuals who helped
and still are helping," Mrs. Lippe said.
"With all the rebuilding still going on, it was hard to recognize
everyone who deserves recognition," she said. "There will be some more
people thanked personally. "
PECOS, OCT. 8, 1987 - Reeves County Attorney Scott Johnson has gathered
Saragosa relief financial records requested by state authorities, and he
noted today that he did so willingly.
Reports today said that Johnson agreed to release files regarding
collections and disbursements of relief funds after the Texas Rural
Legal Aid threatened to take the county to court.
"No. 1, the county has never refused to hand over any records," Johnson
said. "It just took some time to get them all together..."
Bank statements were copied and gathered, and records reflecting any
county action regarding Saragosa funds were compiled by the local
treasurer, auditor and county clerk's office, he said.
The only two funds for which the county is responsible was the Saragosa
Relief Fund and the Reeves County Sheriff's office fund.
The Saragosa Relief Fund committee appointed by the county and headed by
Reeves County Community council director Mary Mitchell had submitted its
records, and on Wednesday the sheriff's office turned over another
"voluminous" series of receipts and disbursements, Johnson said.
He speculated that the records assembled "may lead to requests for more
records" by Legal Aid.
"We will cooperate to the extent the law allows," he said.
He furthermore noted that a thorough review of the records "may lead to
findings of misappropriations, but I have no knowledge of any
Reports of lost or stolen money and goods reportedly led Saragosans to
ask Legal Aid to request the financial records.
Recently, county district clerk Juana Jaquez reported that someone took
$4,000 in cash in a money bag in her purse in the back seat of her car
while she was vacuuming it at a local car wash.
Mrs. Jaquez previously reported that she had withdrawn the money with
intentions to distribute it. When those plans fell through, she was
going to redeposit the money but "didn't make it to the bank."
She said she recently received a letter from Legal Aid to provide
details about the money she collected for Saragosa.
Mrs. Jaquez said that more than $2,000 is still in the bank under the
Saragosa Tornado Victim's Fund.
She said she would certainly comply with the request for information
regarding that fund, though Johnson noted that she is likely not
obligated to do so.
"These were private funds not donated to the county," Johnson said.
"Mrs. Jaquez was doing that as a private individual and not in her
capacity with the county."
Johnson explained that while the county must disclose its financial
records, private records are not subject to the Open Records Act.
Numerous private individuals and organizations established bank accounts
here for donations to Saragosa disaster relief.
"The best course of action would have been for no county officials to
have gotten involved in collecting money," Johnson said, conceding that
commissioners established the Saragosa Relief Fund Committee for that
According to reports, Saragosans last week asked Legal Aid to file suit
against the county to gain access to the financial records.
A suit was to be filed Wednesday, but Johnson agreed Tuesday to release
the documents, Legal Aid attorney Alpha Hernandez reported.
Legal Aid, which is helping tornado victims with legal problems, filed
an Open Records Act request on Aug. 11 that the county release its
tornado relief files, according to reports.
"We had received only a partial response," Ms. Hernandez said, adding
that only county officials peripherally involved in disaster relief
Officials more heavily involved, specifically Sheriff Raul Florez, did
not respond, she said.
Most houses still lack gas hook-ups, electricity and water heaters, and
homeowners grumble that the town's building committee misled them about
which features were to be included, and at what cost.
But the head of the building committee says the residents have a
A small band of plumbers and painters, volunteers from the Texas Baptist
Men still works on the 19 houses during the day. When the sun dips
behind the Davis mountains, Saragosa is a ghost town. The only activity
visible is on the outskirts, where three gray horses ramble.
These days, one family lives in the town's rebuilt center. Their gas has
not yet been connected, so they use a portable electric grill to heat
water for bathing.
This is a sharp contrast to Labor Day weekend, when more than 500 people
from across the Southwest, led by the Baptist Men, labored day and night
to construct the houses.
"They worked for three days and they quit and left. Those houses were
started but we don't know when they're going to finish,'' said Mary Lou
Apodaca who had hoped to move into her house a weeks ago. It has no
plumbing or gas.
"My uncle is 92, on a respirator, and they haven't finished his house.
It was supposed to be one of the first," Mrs. Apodaca told the Dallas
Morning News. For now, her uncle is staying with relatives outside
Though many of the residents are thankful for the help, others have a
litany of gripes, ranging from the size of the houses to the cost.
"The Red Cross wanted the $5 ,000 grant I got from the federal
government, " said Jose Barragan, 75. "They said the money would pay for
the materials. I'm disabled, I don't have any savings. I'm starting all
over. What happened to the materials that were donated?"
Red Cross administrators said donated materials were used first, then
the agency bought what was needed. Residents were given bills from
suppliers and asked to help pay for their share with part or all of
their federal grants, said Lydia Jaggers, a Red Cross family service
She and others said the houses were just slightly behind schedule. Two
Red Cross inspectors are overseeing the plumbing, painting and touch-up
work that will make the houses habitable.
"We want them picture perfect, " said Sue Thee, a disaster reserve
John LaNoue, president of Baptist Men, visited Saragosa last week and
pronounced his volunteers' efforts "excellent." Baptist volunteers built
most of the houses, and Mennonite volunteers worked on the remainder.
Most should be ready within a week, LaNoue said.
By its own rules, the Red Cross can help build houses only for people
who owned their homes not for renters or people who lived in trailers.
Odelio and Adela Lopez found that out when they asked about a new house
to replace their 75-foot trailer, which was torn up by the May 22 storm.
They are living in a replacement trailer provided by the federal
We thought we were eligible for a house," Mrs. Lopez said.
Three more houses have been approved by the Red Cross, but the owners
still are sorting out deeds and property lines. The townspeople will
soon decide what to do about the more than 20 houses that! have not been
replaced because they were not eligible for the rebuilding program.
Catholic Charities, the Texas Department of Community Affairs and other
organizations have offered assistance with the second phase of building,
said Manuel Galindo, the state government's liaison to Saragosa.
Not everyone is satisfied by reassurances.
"Talk to the people they'll tell you they're not happy," said Tony
Gallego, president of the Saragosa Foundation, which was established
last month to raise money for rebuilding.
A few residents - a small minority have complained about design and
construction flaws. In the moist extreme case, an entire house had to be
lifted from its foundation and replaced just days after it was built.
In Pecos, Reeves County Judge Bill Pigman has heard just about enough
gripes. He is the chairman of the town's building committee.
"If I give you a loaf of bread for two weeks, you'd (complain) if I
didn't give you meat to go with it," he said. "It's the nature of the
people down there. I don't know how to explain it. They've been on
welfare all their lives, and they expect things will be done for them."
But the residents say they are hard-working, independent people trying
to get by after a devastating loss. Many, such as Mrs. Apodaca, say they
appreciate the work of the volunteers.
Pigman said $149,000 in donations from churches and individuals across
the country has been doled out responsibly and banked for long-term
PECOS, OCT. 14, 1987 - I live in Saragosa, Texas and my husband and I
lost everything we had in the tornado that struck on May 22, 1987. This
loss included 2 houses, barns, pens, fences, vehicles, etc.
I have a college education, have never been on any form of welfare and
resent seeing printed in your paper that the residents of Saragosa have
a "welfare" mentality.
The shame of the situation is not the matter of mentality of the
residents of Saragosa but the matter of the many people and
organizations taking advantage of the generosity of people giving to
help rebuild Saragosa.
So very much' has been given with so very little tricking down they had.
to the people that lost all that they had.
As a resident of Saragosa for a while, I resent the published
(Pecos Enterprise, Oct. 12, 1987) remarks of the current Reeves County
Judge, Bill Pigman.
As of today, Oct. 13, 1987, Dale and I have never been on welfare and
have never "expected things...done..." for us.
On the other hand, perhaps "it's the nature of the people down here" to
complain because I certainly am complaining about the current Reeves
County Judge's remarks about us.
Saragosa, Tx. 79780
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Copyright 1997 Pecos Enterprise
324 S. Cedar, Box 2057, Pecos TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321