I love that almost every time I see Jorge it’s out in the neighborhood. Whether at a Complete Communities meeting, an East End school or on the farm, Jorge’s work is in the neighborhood.
So often when we run organizations with a specific mission it can be hard for us to prioritize making time outside of our walls or fences. While El Centro de Corazon is a Federally Qualified Health Clinic that serves the East End community, it recognizes how important it is to not just be in the community but to be an active part of listening, participating, and getting to know the people and places that make that community tick.
Jorge does all of that and has been one of the most staunch supporters and advocates of growing the concept of health in our community beyond just the vital clinical services El Centro provides.
He’s a champion for gardening and community building and a great friend of the farm. We are so grateful for his handwork, compassion for others, and his commitment to the East End community.
Finca Family, meet Jorge!
Community Engagement Manager at El Centro de Corazon
Brief History of El Centro:
El Centro de Corazon was founded in June 1994 by Mary Jo May on N. Palmer St. in Second Ward as a community-based, social service organization for women and at-risk girls. In the beginning, the focus was on early childhood development and mental health services. In 26 years, El Centro has grown into a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) offering a wide spectrum of comprehensive healthcare services across 4 locations serving Houston’s East End area. Today, El Centro serves approximately 13,000 patients annually and from over 100 zip codes; all of them coming to the East End for their healthcare services. We believe that this speaks to the quality of care that patients receive when visiting El Centro de Corazon.
How does El Centro engage with the community:
El Centro engages the community where they are. We are advocates through the Complete Communities projects, as well as serve on Community Councils for various school campuses in the neighborhood. We provide programming via the GREEN Garden Collaborative and our Commit To Be Fit exercise classes. El Centro also engages through special programming, such as our Back To School Family Expo where we provide free haircuts, backpacks and school supplies; as well as our Christmas Holiday Event where we provide gifts and resources. We work with community partners to bring in programs and services like mobile mammography and after school programming via the BOUNCE program at the University of Houston.
With a deep history in the East End, El Centro seeks to address, not only the immediate healthcare needs of our neighbors through our Patient-Center Medical Home model, but also to affect non-clinical needs. Of course, internally we focus on the healthcare needs by providing Behavioral Health, Dental Health, Women’s Health, and Primary Care Services; however, we also advocate for fair and equitable housing, respond to immediate food security concerns, and provide referrals as needed. All this to say that we hope that when a person thinks of El Centro, it will not only be for its healthcare, but also for the way it advocates and responds other needs when they arise.
Favorite aspect of your position:
First, I love watching people get surprised when they expect one thing and then get more than that. Knowing that you did something to make it happen is worth everything. For example, watching kids harvest produce at their school garden, or get a free haircut in addition to a backpack filled with school supplies, or a mom going home with nutritious food in addition to medical care. My work is sometimes in the background, with limited patient/neighbor interaction, so seeing programs and activities in action is one of my favorite aspects of my position. Second, I like responding to unexpected challenges. I like to think that I am accountable, so people know they can rely on me when something comes up. For example, during a flood at one of our clinics last year, we worked to mitigate the damage, and after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we built plexiglass safety structures to minimize the spread in our centers.
Favorite aspect of working in East End:
My favorite aspect of working in the East End is that I get to connect with folks from so many different aspects of life and working fields. A result of my community engagement is that I often learn about peoples interests, I hear their ideas, and I get to connect them with one another; even when it is not related to something on which El Centro is working. Through my community engagement I get to be a connector; I get to influence work that ultimately yields services for our neighbors. I have also made so many friends through the work, that I am emotionally invested even more. My beautiful wife and I have been invited to peoples homes for dinner, to our great friends wedding at the farm and to other intimate events. East End neighbors are welcoming. The word in Spanish is “acogedor.” I google translated this and it gives me “cozy.” But cozy doesn’t do it justice. The East End neighbors bring you in, they welcome you, they make you feel at home. You become part of the fabric of the community. So my favorite aspect is definitely the people!
I don’t think I have one. I just called my wife and asked her what my favorite food is and she couldn’t come up with one either. There is just so much good food out there that it would be unfair to have a favorite one. Maybe my favorite food is all food?!
Thank you, Jorge for all that you do!