Wyatt Ranches Foundation Donates $770K to Area Organizations in Need

Melissa Cantu Trevino
Alice Echo News Journal

Wyatt Ranches, on behalf of The Wyatt Ranches Foundation, donated $772,000 in grant funds to several South Texas organizations in need during their first 2021 Board of Directors Meeting.

Ramiro “El Chicote” Perez, Vaquero, and Isai Monroy Delgado, Ranchero, prepare to gather Wagyu cross-bred cattle at the Tasajillo Division of Wyatt Ranches.

San Diego ISD Superintendent Dr. Rodrigo Peña, accompanied by Trustees Belinda Vera, “Libby” Vela, and Carlos Espinosa, expressed the need for an improved gateway to the newly built athletic complex. Dr. Peña and the Trustees stated that bond-generated funds were insufficient to provide for the entrance; and, there is a safety concern where both vehicles and pedestrians use the same entrance. The new entrance would streamline guests’ entering and departing and also reduce the risk of an automobile-pedestrian accident. A grant in the amount of $100,000 was awarded to San Diego ISD to construct the improved entryway. With over 1,500 students enrolled, San Diego ISD has three campuses. Their recent bond election allowed for the construction of the new sports complex.

From Starr County, Fr. Juan Manuel Salazar, Pastor, and Parish President Velinda Reyes, of the St. Isidore Catholic Parish in San Isidro, presented a request for climate control and electrical system upgrades desperately needed for the sanctuary. The Starr County church is known for its European tapestries, which hang from the sanctuary’s ceiling. Without climate control, the art has deteriorated and is in need of restoration before becoming a total loss. Father Salazar told the Foundation, “I’m not looking for a hand-out, but I am seeking a hand-up.” The Foundation’s board awarded an $87,000 grant for the air conditioning and electrical system upgrades, and also for the professional restoration of the tapestries.

Unable to have their annual Duval County Fair due to the pandemic, the San Diego Rotary Club could not receive their annual revenues generated from the event. Without this income, the improvements to the Rotary Park were stalled. During their presentation, Rotarians Melissa Cantu Trevino, Sheriff Romeo R. Ramirez, and Belinda Vera stressed the need for lighting in the parking lots, improved exhibition facilities for students showing animals, and a desire to enhance the park’s entrances. A grant in the amount $40,000 was provided to the Rotarians for these improvements. Both the Foundation and the Rotarians expressed their sadness relating to this year’s fair having been cancelled due to pandemic and the Foundation acknowledged the Rotarians' concern for everyone’s health. Both the Foundation and the Rotarians then paused to mourn the death of several persons in the community, who unfortunately succumbed to the virus.

Mayor John Howard and City Marshal Jose Rene “Joe” Martinez, from the western Nueces County community of Agua Dulce, made a presentation to renew grant funding to support the City Marshal’s Office. Mayor Howard discussed the advantages of the Marshal’s Office and how the entire community around Agua Dulce benefited from the previous grant, which was provided by the Foundation for area law enforcement in 2019. The Foundation also acknowledged the invaluable assistance provided to the Marshal’s Office by Nueces County Sheriff J. C. Hooper, Jim Wells County Sheriff Daniel J. Bueno, and Duval County Sheriff Romeo R. Ramirez. Marshal Martinez discussed the expanded jurisdiction of the Marshal’s Office through agreements with area agencies; and, he also touched upon the fact that he and his deputy are also Nueces County deputy sheriffs. The Marshal gave examples of how their office assists with protecting the communities of Banquete, Calallen, Bentonville, and eastern Jim Wells County. The Mayor feared an environment of lawlessness would return to Agua Dulce and the surrounding communities if the grant was not renewed. The Ranches’ Foundation awarded a grant to the City of Agua Dulce in the amount of $200,000.

Albert “Esco” Escobar opened the first homeless shelter of its kind in Starr County, where the organization now serves over 4,500 people in the area. Casa Esperanza provides food, hot meals, shelter, and hot showers to those in need. During his emotional presentation, Mr. Escobar told the Foundation that Casa Esperanza had experienced a thirty-percent increase in those who are seeking urgent assistance due to the pandemic. Although he had requested $40,000, the Foundation awarded a grant of $50,000 to the shelter.

Duval County Sheriff Romeo Ramirez and Sheriff’s Captain Matilda Almanza appeared before the Foundation and discussed their concerns regarding a second year of budget cuts and how this adversely affected certain operations at the Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Ramirez stated his office used to have 12 full time patrol deputies and now must function with only eight. With less deputies on the road, Captain Almanza stated that supportive law enforcement equipment is needed to ensure the safety and efficiency of the remaining patrols. She requested a variety of advanced technology items, including a drone to assist with locating stolen property, surveillance equipment to deter human trafficking and the resulting crimes, a new patrol vehicle, as well as a myriad of officer safety gear. In addition, Sheriff Ramirez requested renewed funding for the Community Oriented Patrols which provide overtime for deputies to patrol neighborhoods and residential communities to increase their interactions with residents and to deter crime. A grant in the amount of $155,000 was awarded to the Duval County Sheriff’s Office.

Support was once again provided to the Immaculate Conception School in Rio Grande City to assist the school with their educational operations. Principal Maria Elena Olivarez and local internist, Dr. Gauri Kanhere, MD, and school alumni Ale Vazquez Kanhere expressed their gratitude for the previous $115,000 grant; however, the virus and other circumstances had resulted in a need for continuing support. A grant in the amount of $60,000 was awarded to the school.

Hidalgo County Sheriff J. E. “Eddie” Guerra, Chief Deputy Mario Lopez, and Sheriff’s Lieutenant Dr. Colin Ashburn requested funds for a variety of needs relating to the Sheriff’s desire to support the less fortunate people of the Hidalgo County, who often struggle below the poverty line, as well as other services relating to the sheriff’s deputies. Funds were requested many initiatives, such as school supplies, toys, and thanksgiving meals for the underprivileged, officer training and recognition, scholarship funds for those interested in law enforcement, acknowledgement of women in law enforcement, neighborhood watch programs, fallen officer family support, and a variety of other services relating to Community Oriented Patrols. A grant in the amount of $50,000 was presented to the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office Community Foundation.

Lastly, $30,000 was awarded to the San Isidro ISD for three $10,000 scholarships. Schools Superintendent Mario Alvarado expressed his appreciation for the past scholarships as well as the previous grant for the community swimming pool, constructed at the campus.

Situated in South Texas and also in West Texas, Wyatt Ranches has six cattle ranching divisions. These cattle ranches are scattered south from Agua Dulce to the Rio Grande River; and west from Marfa to Valentine, with some ranches supplemented with agricultural farming operations. The Wyatt Ranches Foundation has made numerous donations to governmental entities and non-profit organizations in the rural areas of both South and West Texas…as well as donations for hospitals and teaching universities in the metropolitan areas of Texas. The Foundation’s Board of Directors include the Hon. Ana Lisa Garza, Robert T. Sakowitz, Billy C. Wells, Oscar S. “Trey” Wyatt III, and Bradford A. Wyatt.