Fun Fest Targets Youth Crime and Gang Violence in Border Town of Harlingen, TX

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As the threat of drug cartel violence looms a few miles away in Mexico, Harlingen, TX, community leaders are working on a project to ease the threat of youth crime and gang violence. The project gets a boost Nov. 13 at the Fun Fest to Help Harlingen Youth, an outdoor fair to benefit Harlingen’s Community Outreach Center, a one-stop shop for services targeting at-risk youth, providing educational, counseling and job training to give them tools to make a productive life and career.

A community-wide project designed to ease the threat of youth crime and gang violence gets a boost Nov. 13 at the Fun Fest to Help Harlingen Youth, an outdoor fair to benefit Harlingen’s Community Outreach Center.

The event is part of an effort to raise $200,000 to renovate the old Harlingen Police Department building on Commerce Street, to convert it into a center that will target at-risk youth, providing educational, counseling and job training to give them tools to make a productive life and career.

The outreach center project is the result of collaboration between the HPD’s gang unit and the Cameron County Juvenile Justice Department. The city recently agreed to a lease agreement for the old police building, and has also agreed to pay the utilities for the center for the next 20 years, according to Chief Probation Officer Tommy Ramirez, a planner and representative for the working group.

Funds raised from the public will be used to repair the roof, air conditioning and other renovations.

The Nov. 13 event, spearheaded by Harlingen Family Dentistry, kicks off at 8 a.m. in the office’s parking lot at 1214 Dixieland Road. Visitors can enjoy food, music, a furniture sale and games, including a water balloon toss, bouncer, pony rides, and many others.

Game and food tickets will be sold at the festival, with all proceeds going toward the renovation of the outreach center. Festivities last until 3 p.m.

“This fundraising festival gives our community the opportunity to unite in force and show support for our youth,” said Harlingen dentist Juan Villarreal, DDS.

While the HPD’s gang unit has made inroads in enforcement, law officers are looking to longer-term solutions, Ramirez said. The goal for the center – which includes not only law enforcement, but various service providers and ministries – is to make a positive intervention into the lives of youth and redirect them into education and employment.

The need for such a center is underlined by the wave of drug cartel violence across the border, Ramirez said. “The time is now; crime is growing tremendously because of the spillover from the drug cartel activity in Mexico. We are seeing cartels recruiting youths for drug trafficking and stolen vehicles.”

The Harlingen Outreach Center will provide a number of services to take kids off the street and direct them into a productive future, including:

  •     GED program
  •      Vocational program
  •     General counseling
  •     Job training
  •      Job placement
  •     Home construction program
  •     Spiritual counseling and ministries
  •     Drug Counseling
  •     Life Skills
  •     Family services

“It’s time for the village to come together and make it happen,” Ramirez said, underlining the need for community donations. “We’ve got it into the red zone and it’s time for the community to step up and put it in for the touchdown.”

Dr. Villarreal added: “Our staff at Harlingen Family Dentistry knows the importance of working with youth for a brighter future.”

What: Fun Fest to Help Harlingen Youth
When: Saturday, Nov. 13, 2010
Where: Harlingen Family Dentistry parking area, 1214 Dixieland Road
Why: Proceeds to benefit Harlingen Community Outreach Center

About Harlingen Family Dentistry

Under the direction of Dr. Juan D. Villarreal, Harlingen Family Dentistry, located in the extreme southern tip of Texas, has expanded into one of the largest private dental practices in the United States. Dr. Villarreal is involved in many youth support services, including a scholarship program and dental education in schools.

On the Web - http://www.harlingenfamilydentistry.com/
Personal - http://drjuanvillarreal.com
HFD History - http://harlingenfamilydentistryhistory.com
Company Blog - http://www.harlingenfamilydentistryblog.com/

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Gail Thomason
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