Education and employment will be the focus of a $2,000 grant recently awarded by Walmart to the Housing Authority of the City of Del Rio.

“On Sept. 24, Walmart presented us with a $2,000 Walmart Community Grant. We had applied with Walmart to use the grant for educational purposes, and we had in mind that we needed to assist our residents with more educational options,” Isidro Valdez Fernandez, Housing Authority executive director, said Monday.

“Our plan for the grant is to invest and create a computer lab,” Fernandez added.

He said the local housing authority properties currently have only one such computer lab, located in the Casas Del Rio Community Center in the Casas Del Rio Development. There are three computers and one printer, fax and copy machine in the facility for housing authority residents.

“What we have seen with the computers is that they serve multiple purposes,” Fernandez said.

He said the computers complement the after-school tutorial programs currently being offered by the housing authority.

“The teachers, under the after-school tutorial program, can utilize the computers to provide extra sessions or other opportunities to their students,” Fernandez said.

The Walmart grant monies will be used to establish a computer lab in the offices of the San Jose Development in south Del Rio.

“Since we have one already at Casas Del Rio, we will be establishing another lab at San Jose,” Fernandez said, adding that San Jose is the Housing Authority’s oldest and largest facility.

“We want to spend the money in San Jose because it’s going to complement our after-school tutorial program,” he said.

The housing authority also partners with Southwest Texas Junior College to provide GED classes to residents.

“This is the first time we’ve done GED classes on-site, so the computer lab will be available for residents who are taking those classes, if they need to practice for their tests or anything else they need to do,” Fernandez said.

The computer lab at San Jose won’t be solely used by students.

“We decided to place the new computer lab in the San Jose office so the computers could also be used by the residents in general, and it will be great because they can use it for job searches and anything that will assist them in applying for or finding a job, such as creating a resume,” Fernandez said.

Fernandez said bringing in the computer lab is part of the housing authority’s wider responsibility in assisting its clients.

“Housing is not just about providing housing assistance. I think we have moved beyond that point. We have been doing that for more than 75 years now. It’s also about creating a platform for residents to become self-sufficient, so they can move forward and not just stay in public housing. We are trying to educate and bring opportunities to our tenants so they can improve, and education is the number-one priority for them to be able to move forward in life,” Fernandez said.

He thanked Walmart for its generous support of the program.

“I think this was an important way for Walmart to give back to the community, and it’s a way for us to be able to provide assistance to the community as well,” he added.

Fernandez said he believes it is important for housing authority residents to know there are many agencies and businesses working on their behalf.

“I would like to thank our local Walmart and the local store manager, Mary Rose Jimenez, for this opportunity, and we look forward inviting them and rest of the community to our facility to see the results when the program is complete,” he said.

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