UTPA team aids Reynosa ministry hurt by drug violence
EDINBURG — Ray Hansen of Rio Bravo Ministries never used to have problems finding supplies and volunteers for the orphanage and school he runs in Reynosa, but as problems in Mexico increased, the groups stopped coming to help.
“We never had any money problems before and we never had any work problems before,” Hansen said. “It got to be very big and then all of a sudden the money stopped because of the violence.”
Now, with the help of University of Texas-Pan American students and FibeRio Corp., the Rio Bravo Ministries is taking a different approach: using business networking to gain support.
Ellery Buchanan, president and CEO of FibeRio, originally came to the Rio Grande Valley because of involvement in ministries programs, then started the nanofiber company using technology developed at UTPA.
A three-student business consulting class has partnered with both organizations this semester to use corporate networking and marketing approaches to expand the ministries’ support base. Dr. John Sargent, the professor leading the course, said there are many Valley nonprofits that are doing well, but could use businesslike structures to touch more people.
“I think there’s a natural fit for the college of business,” he said.
Buchanan said consulting groups are an important way to bridge the gap to help nonprofits operate in a businesslike way.
“The missionaries doing this kind of work don’t necessarily have that business mindset and don’t think along those lines, so this is very helpful to them,” he said. “This is a great example of business and academia working together to support nonprofits.”
One of the first things the class zeroed in on was the opportunity presented by the location of Rio Bravo Ministries. The 220-student school, which is also home to about 60 orphans, sits in an industrial park surrounded by maquilas, some of which employ parents of the students.
A key project goal has been helping the ministries to network with those businesses by figuring out how to get access to them and talk about the benefits of working with a nearby organization. Not all of the support is monetary.
“We tried to get in contact with some of the companies that have their plants out there and try to contact the CEOs, so we’ve contacted LG Electronics and they said they would donate a few of their (items) they produce there,” said Judith Carrizales, a student in the class.
Another regional company has agreed to supply the school with instruments for the music program.
“It won’t just happen this year, it will happen for many years,” Carrizales said. “We’re creating relationships with companies.”
Other deliverables the consulting team is working on include better promotion in the form of videos and campus networking at the university. One organization that has embraced the nonprofit is the Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization, a group Sargent advises.
Hansen credits Buchanan and Sargent’s class with opening doors for the nonprofit.
“We’ve never been in (the business) arena,” Hansen said. “We’re excited and we don’t know what the endgame is.”
Elizabeth Findell covers Pharr, San Juan, Alamo, the Mid-Valley and general assignments for The Monitor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and (956) 683-4428.
Follow Elizabeth Findell on Twitter: @efindell
Visit Rio Bravo Ministries website and Facebook page
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