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By Elena Macias

On May 25, Bishop Rojas will honor two non-profit community organizations, Building Resilient Communities (BRC) and Training Occupational Development Educating Communities (TODEC), for their excellent work in maintaining the social fabric of the region. Both will receive the Amar Es Entregarse Award, named in honor of Bishop Emeritus Gerald Barnes’ Episcopal Motto, which means “love is the total giving of oneself.”

Building Resilient Communities:

Building Resilient Communities was established in 2013 after its founder, Debra Williams, was inspired by a pastor’s sermon on emergency preparedness. Recognizing the urgent need within the Inland Empire community, Williams initiated outreach efforts, and led the charge on disaster preparedness within local faith-based communities.

Since 2013, BRC has tirelessly worked toward its mission to provide training and resources to ensure equity in disaster preparedness, addressing climate change, promoting health equity, and response and recovery for underserved communities with an emphasis on African American communities.

In 2014, BRC and Williams were responsible for leading a team of volunteers to help remove debris from houses and transport vital resources to homeowners during the Mount Baldy Flash Flood.
“There is something about ‘boots on the ground,’” Williams said. “Seeing the faces of people and hearing their stories after such a devastating disaster had a profound impact on me. It underscored the mission of BRC to help communities recover from disasters.”

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, BRC distributed more than 160,000 pieces of personal protective equipment to the community. Throughout the year, BRC holds many free educational events for the community such as the Ark of Safety Community Resiliency Summit, Brother2Brother Fellowship program, African American Health Equity Collaborative, and health and safety fairs.

“It is through serving communities in this capacity that I feel that I am truly fulfilling my purpose of raising up the foundations of many generations,” Williams said in reference to a scripture passage from Isaiah 58:12. “Building Resilient Communities is committed to ensuring a legacy of resilient communities for generations to come.”

When reflecting on the Amar Es Entregarse honor, Williams highlights the staff and partners at BRC who embody what the award represents.

“Love permeates every aspect of the organization’s work,” Williams said. “The dedicated staff members, board members, and partners at BRC wholeheartedly commit themselves to the cause of BRC. Their work is an embodiment of love for God and service to the community.”

Williams thanks Bishop Rojas for the bestowing of the award and says it will serve as an uplifting reminder and motivation for years to come.

“To be uplifted with the Amar Es Entregarse Award and recognized for the hard work and service to the community motivates us to continue our mission with renewed passion and determination,” Williams said. “In the future, BRC will continue striving toward the vision of a world where communities are filled with hope, overcome adverse conditions, are prepared for disasters, and recover from disruptive experiences.”


TODEC was established in the early 1980’s by Luz Maria and Antonio Ayala, two immigrants and members of the United Farmworkers and Civil Rights Movement in Los Angeles. When the couple moved to the Inland Empire, they witnessed injustices toward immigrants. In response, they founded TODEC to help their fellow recent immigrants learn English, secure citizenship, and create new connections in their chosen community.

Since its establishment, TODEC opened a free legal clinic, provided a range of free classes, and civic engagement programs that would help families attain their U.S. citizenship status and become engaged and active community members. Notably, over half a million people have benefited from TODEC’s Immigrant Integration programs and TODEC has organized efforts to help win multiple statewide policy changes that impact immigrants.

In 2020, TODEC received a new Executive Director, Luz Gallegos, daughter of the founders of TODEC. In her first year of leadership, Gallegos witnessed the deadly impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on immigrant farmworkers in the Low Desert.

“When the pandemic hit our region in March 2020, right away we at TODEC activated our 24/7 hotline,” Gallegos said. “At the same time, we were reaching out to our partners, reaching out to the Diocese and letting them know if there’s anything we can do to support and vice versa.”

TODEC received many calls about undocumented community members having symptoms but feared going to the hospital because they did not want to hurt their U.S. citizenship opportunity. Gallegos recalls receiving a call in late March 2020 from a young daughter of an undocumented farmworker. The daughter explained that her father had become very ill with COVID-19 but refused to go to the hospital.

“I told him, ‘get ready because we are going to send an ambulance and don’t worry, we will pay for everything,’” Gallegos said. “He told me, ‘thank you for calling, but… I can’t stop working because if I don’t work, then my family doesn’t eat.’ This is something that we heard constantly from our undocumented immigrants. He was one of our first farmworkers that died and his story and the pain of the family and our pain, that has been our conscience.”

This story became TODEC’s and Gallegos’ personal motivation to make a commitment to fight for legislative changes in honor of the farmworkers in the region who passed away due to COVID-19.
“I told his family, ‘In your dad’s honor, we’re going to change things here in our region and our state to make sure that we have justice, in his honor for all the farmworkers like him here that passed away. And that was our story that convinced the governor to sign the Medi-Cal expansion. That’s how we now have full-scope Medi-Cal in the state. We were able to bring vaccinations to the fields and we were able to bring over $75 million of financial assistance at one time. We were able to do all that we could through his story, through his honor.”

When told TODEC was selected as one of this year’s Amar Es Entregarse Award recipients, Gallegos said she felt “speechless” at the beautiful surprise and blessing. She said TODEC’s mission and efforts reflect the award’s definition.

“The whole concept around the vision that Bishop Barnes envisioned with this award reflects the work that we do within communities that we are serving our most vulnerable population and meeting the community where they are at,” Gallegos said. “We see the alignment that this honor gives us. It’s a huge and humbling opportunity that was bestowed on us because we do the work that we do without expecting anything in return and when we receive this type of news, it’s a blessing from God.”

Elena Macias is the Managing Editor of the Inland Catholic BYTE and El Compás Católico.