Doctors, teachers, lawyers, priests, like many other professionals, set about on course of academic preparation for their lifetime careers. For me as a wife and mother, I worked to help put my husband through college, with second consideration for my academic course of study in accounting. It was through my fortuitous meeting with the then President of the Board of Directors of Tierra del Sol Housing Corporation who encouraged me to come to work at Tierra del Sol that I started on my profession as Executive Director of a then local nonprofit organization, which provided housing opportunities on an otherwise disenfranchised and yet critically important sector to our local agricultural community, the farmworkers and the working poor.
There was no real academic course of study to prepare me for the many challenges and problems that I would encounter during the past 31 years. It was in the trenches that I learned the lessons of community work and with it gained the tenacity and passion for my work. Decades later, in reflecting my experiences, I chuckle when I think about coming from an office setting to trudging through the desert sands of construction sites in my Italian shoes. I was a female working in a male dominated construction field and I too had the additional challenge of proving myself in that environment. It’s been a good race and it is an honor to be recognized as a “Champion of Change” by the White House. I am truly honored and humbled by this award. It has been my privilege to have found my passion and to serve the people of New Mexico. I have also been blessed to have the support of so many dedicated leaders from our local communities who recognize the economic and social needs of people in rural areas of our states along the international border corridor between the United States and Mexico. My success is beholding to the people who have come to belief that collectively, we can effect change and can bring significant improvements to the lives of our clients.
Tierra Del Sol translates into the “Land of the Sun” and it is here in Southern New Mexico where we have operated our organization for the last 40 years. The legacy of Tierra Del Sol Housing Corporation (TDS) lives in the positive impact we have had on working families, farmworkers and seniors citizens. Our work at Tierra del Sol expanded from our initial housing programs under the old Farmers Home Administration, now the USDA Rural Development to multiple lines of business that include single family housing in both rural and urban areas, multifamily housing, land development, community and economic development and various programs that support youth, small businesses and entrepreneurs. Members of our community have sought the necessary tools they need in financial literacy, responsible homeowner counseling, and workforce training.
During the course of my work with Tierra Del Sol Housing Corporation I saw the opportunity to grow our organization into a leading regional nonprofit that it is today. Tierra del Sol has an exemplary record of performance. The opportunities for growth presented me an additional opportunity collaborations, coalitions and consortiums to further the work not only for Tierra del Sol, but for other like nonprofit corporations in the western area of the United States. It has resulted in Tierra del Sol becoming affiliated with the NeighborWorks America®, the National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders, productive partnerships with Rural LISC, Housing Assistance Council, and many other associations working to provide housing and related services to people in rural America. Our primary goal is providing quality housing and associated services to low and moderate income working individuals and families in the region. Our success in these areas has been predicated by our collaboration, and formation of working coalitions and consortiums with our working partners.
In our work we are ever cognizant that homeownership is the single largest investment of a family’s lifetime. Since its first housing development in the early 1970s, homeownership has become more complex and expensive.The lackluster economy has made my job more challenging and is making the American Dream of homeownership more elusive. This challenge has forced me to be more innovative, inventive and adaptive in my approaches to make affordable housing possible to those folks most in need.
As distinct from our housing initiatives, Tierra del Sol has championed community services in the rural and often times isolated areas. We are especially proud of our part of national collaboration that has been instrumental in creating 17 computer centers across the country. The initiative strives to provide equipment, software and training resources that enable low and moderate income Latinos to gain access to technology and digital literacy training. In March 2010, the Department of Commerce and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) awarded a $3.7 Million grant under the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program. Tierra del Sol was part of this award that is shared by a total of 12 Consortium Partners, bringing important technological services to Latino communities that might otherwise, be overlooked.
So, after 31 years, my work in community service and advocacy, after many ruined Italian shoes and with many lessons learned, innovation, invention and adaptation have become descriptive characteristics of Tierra del Sol. Change has not always been easy, but we have been steadfast in our mission. Grows as it Goes, Ever Stronger, Strong which is translated from the Latin Crescit Eundo and taken from the epic poem “On the Nature of Things” by the first century B.C. poet Lucretius, is descriptive of Tierra del Sol and the changes we have undertaken. As an organization, an agent of change, Tierra del Sol Housing Corporation continues to move forward, growing as we go, and becoming ever stronger, in our efforts to improve the quality of lives of all individuals and families who merely want a chance to work, live and to provide their children the best opportunities that America has to offer.
Rose Garcia is the Executive Director of Tierra del Sol Housing Corporation, a New Mexico nonprofit corporation and a leading regional affordable housing and community development organization.