Last evening, at the city’s Centro San Juan Diego center, two members of Denver’s Hispanic Catholic community were honored for their lives of service and self-sacrifice at the First Annual Archbishop Jose Gomez Amistad Awards.
Proceeds from the evening are going to support the groundbreaking Cantro San Juan Diego mission, a ministry founded in part by Archbishop Jose Gomez--now Archbishop of San Antonio--when he was in Denver, to provide the area’s Catholic Hispanic community with spiritual, educational and social services.
Centro San Juan Diego has received national recognition and is being talked about as a model for other centers of its kind around the country.
Last night’s awards went to Jim Garcia, a local man who founded the La Clinica Tepeyac--a medical clinic which serves the uninsured working poor in inner city Denver, and to Socorro Garcia (no relation), who organizes Hispanic activities and ministries for the growing immigrant community at St. Augustine’s parish in nearby Brighton.
Jim, who grew up in a family of 12 in Albuquerque, New Mexico told the Denver Catholic Register, that, "my pastor told me there was this incredible need in the Hispanic community for affordable healthcare.
"It was something they were dealing with in the office every single day," he said. "These were hard working people who simply did not have access to health care."
Jim, who is married with two children and works as an admissions director for nearby Arrupe Jesuit High School decided to act.
"A contractor told me it would cost a minimum of $150,000 to renovate the house to the point that it would be suitable as a medical facility," he said. "We had $10,000 to work with, so we were short $140,000."
The following weekend, Jim explained his vision and implored his fellow parishioners at all the Masses asking for volunteer carpenters, bricklayers, plumbers and electricians.
"The next weekend", he said, "we had more than 100 people show up to start the renovation…The entire renovation was done with volunteers and donated materials."
Socorro, who moved to Denver in 1992 with her family from Chihuahua, Mexico, humbly says that it is her joy to do a small part to help bring people closer to Jesus and help her fellow Hispanics find comfort in a foreign land they may not understand.
"The culture here is hard for a lot of Hispanics," Socorro told the Register. "People are always looking at the clock and running around in a hurry. In Mexico, people spend more time with each other and their families. It’s hard to adjust, so I try to make the community a family that’s centered around Jesus."