Sr. Gabi will serve as Director of Programs for the San Jose Community Center, a newly-opened facility that provides education, recreation and safety for youth and families in the Eastern Coachella Valley. She has been a driving force in planning and fundraising for the center over the past six years and will now get the opportunity to help it get off the ground.
In her typical modesty, Sr. Gabi said she looks forward to working alongside the people of Thermal, Mecca, Oasis and other communities.
“I am pleased that so many people are coming together to make it happen,” she said. “Our communities are excited to take ownership and have a place to come to.”
Built at a cost of over $800,000, the San Jose Community Center will serve 41 mobile home parks in the Eastern Coachella Valley. It includes the Bea Main Learning center, a building which houses a computer lab with 25 computers. The lab will be available for middle school and high school students. The second building, the Ross Jarrett Community Center, is a large space which will be used to offer health screenings, parenting classes, and after-school programs. The Coachella Valley Unified School District, Desert Mirage High School and Toro Canyon Middle School will provide after school programs at the Learning Center.
While the facility has been open for three months, there is still much work to be done in recruiting teachers and other mentoring figures to deliver the programs there. That will be a key early focus of her new ministry, Sr. Gabi says.
She has been a highly visible advocate for farmworkers, immigrants and struggling families since arriving in the Coachella Valley in 2003. She has ministered to residents of the embattled mobile home park known as Duroville and the many other mobile home parks in the area. She was recognized with Bishop Barnes’ Amar Es Entregarse award in 2009 and the national Lumen Christi Award, given by the Catholic Extension to one who serves the poor in an under-resourced diocese.
The social justice issues at play in the Eastern Coachella Valley will still get plenty of her attention, Sr. Gabi says. The San Jose Community Center simply provides a central place from which to address them.
“This creates a place where isolation goes away,” she says. “It’s all of us working together.”
The diocese expects to replace Sr. Gabi’s position in the Office of Social Concerns, officials said.